Simone de Beauvoir (1908–86) was a leading existentialist and feminist philosopher of the twentieth century. Born and educated in Paris, de Beauvoir, also became famous for her lifelong relationship with existentialist philosopher, Jean-Paul Sarte, to whom she credits as a major philosophical influence on her life. De Beavoir never married, claiming that marriage and children would infringe on her freedom to pursue her desire to be a writer. Together, de Beavoir and Sarte contributed significantly to the development of existentialism.
In her book, The Second Sex, de Beavoir surveyed the history of male oppression throughout history and discussed how the female sex has been portrayed as the “other” sex by males. A predominant theme in her writings is freedom. In line with existentialist thought, de Beavoir argued that people have the right to create their own existence. This includes women who should not just passively accept the stereotypicl roles that Western society has impressed upon them. According to her, women themselves have been largely responsible for the oppression they have received. Interestingly, she argued that being female is a matter of choice and not biology. “One is not born, but rather becomes a woman,” she declared.
Along with Sarte and a few others, she was the editor of the left-wing magazine, Les Temps modernes. She is considered to be one of the leading feminists of the twentieth century.