Simone de Beauvoir Quotes

Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986)

Simone de Beauvoir 1947
Simone de Beauvoir 1947. Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Simone de Beauvoir was a writer on feminism and existentialism. She also wrote novels. Her book "The Second Sex" is a feminist classic. It is based on the idea that, while men and women may have different tendencies, each person is unique, and it is culture which has enforced a uniform set of expectations of what is "feminine," as contrasted to what is "human" which is equated with what is male. Beauvoir argued that women can free themselves, through individual decisions and collective action.

Best Simone de Beauvoir Quotations

• One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.

• To emancipate woman is to refuse to confine her to the relations she bears to man, not to deny them to her; let her have her independent existence and she will continue none the less to exist to him also; mutually recognizing each other as subject, each will yet remain for the other an other.

• Man is defined as a human being and a woman as a female - whenever she behaves as a human being she is said to imitate the male.

• This has always been a man's world, and none of the reasons that have been offered in explanation have seemed adequate.

• Representation of the world, like the world itself, is the work of men; they describe it from their own point of view, which they confuse with the absolute truth.

• The most sympathetic of men never fully comprehend woman's concreted situation.

• Society, being codified by man, decrees that woman is inferior; she can do away with this inferiority only by destroying the male's superiority.

• When we abolish the slavery of half of humanity, together with the whole system of hypocrisy it implies, then the "division" of humanity will reveal its genuine significance and the human couple will find its true form.

• If her functioning as a female is not enough to define woman, if we decline also to explain her through "the eternal feminine," and if nevertheless we admit, provisionally, that women do exist, then we must face the question: what is a woman?

• To catch a husband is an art; to hold him is a job.

• Few tasks are more like the torture of Sisyphus than housework, with its endless repetition: the clean becomes soiled, the soiled is made clean, over and over, day after day.

• Defending the truth is not something one does out of a sense of duty or to allay guilt complexes, but is a reward in itself.

• I tore myself away from the safe comfort of certainties through my love for the truth; and truth rewarded me.

• That's what I consider true generosity. You give your all, and yet you always feel as if it costs you nothing.

• I wish that every human life might be pure transparent freedom.

• One's life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, indignation and compassion.

• The word love has by no means the same sense for both sexes, and this is one cause of the serious misunderstandings that divide them.

• The writer of originality, unless dead, is always shocking, scandalous; novelty disturbs and repels.

• However gifted an individual is at the outset, if his or her talents cannot be developed because of his or her social condition, because of the surrounding circumstances, these talents will be still-born.

• To show your true ability is always, in a sense, to surpass the limits of your ability, to go a little beyond them: to dare, to seek, to invent; it is at such a moment that new talents are revealed, discovered, and realized.

• Since I was 21, I have never been lonely. The opportunities granted to me at the beginning helped me not only to lead a happy life but to be happy in the life I led. I have been aware of my shortcomings and my limits, but I have made the best of them. When I was tormented by what was happening in the world, it was the world I wanted to change, not my place in it.

• From the hour you're born you begin to die. But between birth and death there's life.

• Change your life today. Don't gamble on the future, act now, without delay.

• There is no justification for present existence other than its expansion into an indefinitely open future.

• If you live long enough, you'll see that every victory turns into a defeat.

• Since it is the Other within us who is old, it is natural that the revelation of our age should come to us from outside -from others. We do not accept it willingly.

• Retirement may be looked upon either as a prolonged holiday or as a rejection, a being thrown on to the scrap-heap.

• Life is occupied in both perpetuating itself and in surpassing itself; if all it does is maintain itself, then living is only not dying.

• It is not in giving life but in risking life that man is raised above the animal; that is why superiority has been accorded in humanity not to the sex that brings forth but to that which kills.

• It's frightening to think that you mark your children merely by being yourself. It seems unfair. You can't assume the responsibility for everything you do -- or don't do.

• The ideal of happiness has always taken material form in the house, whether cottage or castle. It stands for permanence and separation from the world.

• Society cares for the individual only so far as he is profitable.

• In the face of an obstacle which it is impossible to overcome, stubbornness is stupid.

• One is not born a genius, one becomes a genius.

• I am incapable of conceiving infinity, and yet I do not accept finity.

• In itself, homosexuality is as limiting as heterosexuality: the ideal should be to be capable of loving a woman or a man; either, a human being, without feeling fear, restraint, or obligation.

• All oppression creates a state of war.

• In order for the artist to have a world to express he must first be situated in this world, oppressed or oppressing, resigned or rebellious, a man among men.

• Art is an attempt to integrate evil.

• [About Liberation Day] No matter what happened afterward, nothing would take those moments away from me; nothing has taken them away; they shine in my past with a brilliance that has never been tarnished.

Quotes About Simone de Beauvoir

• [Kate Millett on Simone de Beauvoir] She had opened a door for us.

• [Betty Friedan on Simone de Beauvoir] I had learned my own existentialism from her. It was The Second Sex that introduced me to that approach to reality and political responsibility ... [and] led me to whatever original analysis of women's existence I have been able to contribute.

• [Betty Friedan on Simone de Beauvoir] I wish her well. She started me out on a road on which I'll keep moving. . . . We need and can trust no other authority than our own personal truth.

• [Gloria Steinem on Simone de Beauvoir] More than any other single human being, she's responsible for the current international women's movement.

About These Quotes

Quote collection assembled by Jone Johnson Lewis. Each quotation page in this collection and the entire collection © Jone Johnson Lewis. This is an informal collection assembled over many years. I regret that I am not be able to provide the original source if it is not listed with the quote.

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Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Simone de Beauvoir Quotes." ThoughtCo, Mar. 25, 2017, Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2017, March 25). Simone de Beauvoir Quotes. Retrieved from Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Simone de Beauvoir Quotes." ThoughtCo. (accessed January 17, 2018).