Situating the Subject: Simone De Beauvoir and the Beginnings of the Feminine Subject

24 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2011 Last revised: 15 Mar 2011

See all articles by Susan Hekman

Susan Hekman

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: March 13, 2011

Abstract

De Beauvoir and the New Materialism:the Subject in Feminist TheorySince de Beauvoir's bold pronouncement that One is not born a woman feminists have been struggling with the subject in feminist theory. Each new iteration of the subject has been advanced by its adherents as the right definition, superseding the flawed definition that preceded it. This pattern aptly describes the reception of de Beauvoir's subject. Feminist theorists since de Beauvoir have been disdainful of her subject, rejecting it as a tainted example of existentialism that has nothing to offer contemporary feminist theory. In this paper I will challenge this judgment, arguing that de Beauvoir's approach to the subject reveals a highly nuanced understanding of the interaction of the social, natural, and psychological that has much in common with the new materialists writing today. I argue that, far from rejecting de Beauvoir's subject, we can learn much from her approach. My broader argument, however, is that feminist theory is better served by a sympathetic approach to the theories of our foremothers. My thesis is that we can and should build on the work of our predecessors particularly in our on-going effort to define the subject in feminist theory.

Suggested Citation

Hekman, Susan, Situating the Subject: Simone De Beauvoir and the Beginnings of the Feminine Subject (March 13, 2011). Western Political Science Association 2011 Annual Meeting Paper , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1767024

Susan Hekman (Contact Author)

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