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“One is not born, but rather becomes a woman.” Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, with Kate Stimpson.

"Woman is not born but made." This is only one of the powerful sentences in Simone de Beauvoir’s magisterial The Second Sex (1949). It means that there’s nothing natural about the fact that 50% of humanity has been oppressed by the other half for millennia. There’s nothing natural about the secondary status of women as either inferior or as helpers, assistants, supporters, care-givers, or objects of reverence, fascination, desire, etc. I spoke with Kate Stimpson, one of the academics who was instrumental in establishing the field of women and gender studies in America. “It’s a total book that calls for total change,” Professor Stimpson explained to me. She talks about the impact of de Beauvoir’s masterful book: what it has done for what is today called gender studies, and what de Beauvoir does for thinking about the whole of the human condition. This is one of my all-time favorite books, and one that everyone should read. It’s also over 800 pages, so this conversation might be a good introduction.