What myths about women does Simone de Beauvoir refer to in The Second Sex?

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choucksolace | College Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

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Book One, part three of Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex, entitled "Myths" explores how myths and misconceptions have led to women's oppression.

The author argues that women are shrouded in mystery and portrayed as "Other," implying that they are either alien and therefore cannot be understood or less than human and therefore do not deserve equal treatment. She describes the many myths about menstruation, all of which suggest that women who are menstruating are unclean and will spoil or corrupt anything they touch. Thus women are feared and stigmatized based on their reproductive functions.

Refering to the works of Henry de Motherlant, D.H. Lawrence, Paul Claudel, Andre Breton, and Stendhal, as well as a variety of other texts, de Beauvoir demonstrates that the majority of male writers cast women in the role of wife and mother. Women are taught that their anatomy is their destiny and that their sole purpose is to serve as helpmates to their husbands and care for children in the home. Women are denied the education and career opportunities enjoyed by men because of the myth that they are only capable of performing domestic duties. 

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