Analyze the strengths and limitations of Beauvoir's The Second Sex.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One strength of Beauvoir's work is how it is able to demonstrate existing social constructs of patriarchy.  One of the most thought- provoking lines that she composes is  "One is not born, but rather becomes a woman.”  Such a notion is almost as valid then as it is now.  Her idea of the social appropriation of women into roles and objects was groundbreaking.  Beauvoir's notion that women are denied "transcendence" by being "bored to death" was extremely insightful as it helped to better articulate the woman's experience. Modern construction of feminism owes a debt to Beauvoir's work because the language she uses becomes the basis for the discourse in gender studies.

In examining the limitations of the work, it should be noted that any criticisms offered of the work are only because she was right.  We are able to criticize the work in that it did not "go far enough" because of the distance it went in proving the presence of patriarchy in women's lives. One of these realities is that Beauvoir did not fully articulate was the global condition of patriarchy that seeks to silence women's voices.  Beauvoir's work speaks to a "Western" woman, when in reality the condition of patriarchy is worldwide.  Beauvoir does not take into account the social construction of race and ethnicity that help to conceal patriarchy, sometimes adding to it.  In this, one sees how there is a particular limitation in her work, something reflective of the dialogue that her work started.

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The Second Sex

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