For the final installment of The Authors (for now) I’m featuring French writer and feminist Simone de Beauvoir. Writer of the groundbreaking text The Second Sex, she was an advocate for women’s rights and sexual emancipation from 1908-1986. Ironically, although she discounted clothing and makeup in her writings, she always wore her hair perfectly styled and often featured a red lip. In this way I think she unintentionally shows the harmony that can exist between feminist values and traditionally feminine pastimes such as fashion.
I went with a simple, elegant, all-black outfit for Simone to emphasize her own personal style and her French heritage. My updo and red lip are an homage to her favorite fashion tricks. Of course I couldn’t style a feminist writer without my Pamela Barksy clutch. The simple statement echoes Simone’s own call for equality. In The Second Sex she discusses the difficulties women face as social minorities. Simone was one of the first feminist writers to discuss the difference between sex and gender, pushing forward the idea that gender is something forced on women (and men) by society and the patriarchy. She was an advocate for extended women’s rights and a believer in women’s sexual freedom. She herself had an open marriage and carried on several affairs with men and women as well as polyamorous relationships with her husband and other women. That being said, Simone isn’t the ideal feminist role model. She’s been criticized for discounting transgender persons and for displaying unconscious misogyny in her writing. Deirdre Blair said that it’s clear from her writing that Simone doesn’t like women or being a woman. These kinds of criticisms are inevitable in any writing about gender. Having done some of that writing myself I understand that it’s impossible to please all parties. Certainly The Second Sex wasn’t perfect, but I do think it has significant value in the field of white feminism. I emphasize white because the text, and much of her writing, is geared towards middle-class white women, neglecting a significant part of the female population that should also be included in discussions about being female. It’s extremely difficult to articulate an all encompassing feminism, even if that’s what we believe in. I respect Simone for her boldness in her writing and her life, choosing to have her own thoughts and make her own decisions in a man’s world. You can read more about Simone here.
Leggings: H&M, Jacket: OASAP, Shoes: Primark, Lipstick: NARS, Clutch: Pamela Barsky
Photos by Stephanie Krist.