Thursday, January 22, 2009

How was Book Group?

Good question! This time we read Simone de Beauvoir's Introduction to The Second Sex. Not easy material if you aren't tuned up on your philosophy (that would be me and, apparently, most of the rest of the group). We struggled a bit with the concept that she was using logic and personal experience to make generalizations about men and women, instead of basing her assertions on a "scientific study" cited in a footnote at every turn. We also managed to talk about existentialism, sexism, roles, liberty, deference, political power, and "what women want" without anyone losing his or her temper. The tone of the discussion was set right from the beginning. We warmed up by dissecting rather forcefully Beauvoir's most-quoted statement, "One is not born, but becomes a woman."

Yes, we negotiated a veritable minefield. The groundwork was laid when, instead of grouping around in a casual mix of men/women like last time, we managed to sit down without any plan or prearrangement: men on one side, women on the other. No co-ed seating arrangements for us! We had a good laugh when someone pointed that out.

If you have read Beauvoir, who has been called "the twentieth century's preeminent feminist writer and a leading figure in French existentialist thought" (read more about her here), you will also enjoy and perhaps despair at hearing that during the week I mentioned to several people (male and female) that I was reading her excerpt for Book Group. They all responded with some variation of "Wasn't she Sartre's girlfriend?" Oh, the irony of that remark! The more things change . . . .


  1. Wasn't she also Nelson Algren's girlfriend?

  2. Very funny, Mr. Smartypants.

  3. I have to go and read her has been so long I cannot comment, but I'll just have to...good book group if you can get through all those topics without friction.

  4. Times have changed, but she is still relevant and well worth a re-read. I'm sure you will enjoy it, Oreneta.

    I sure lucked out with this group! Everyone reads carefully and has an opinion, but we are respectful and defuse tension with humor. It's a delicate balance.


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