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This review is taken from PN Review 43, Volume 11 Number 5, May - June 1985.

REALLY A FEMINIST Alice Schwarzer, Simone de Beauvoir Today: Conversations 1972-78, translated by Marianne Howarth (Chatto & Windus/Hogarth Press) £6.95, £2.95pb.

Those who found the Simone de Beauvoir film transcript in PNR 35 interesting should enjoy this book. It consists of interviews with de Beauvoir conducted between 1972 and 1978 by Alice Schwarzer, a prominent West German feminist. Like the film, these interviews complement, and to some extent complicate, the portrait of herself, and her relationship with Sartre, which she built up in her autobiographies. They also offer some lively insights into debates within contemporary feminism. De Beauvoir, throughout, is tough, trenchant, categorical, and sometimes scathing.

At the end of The Second Sex, published in 1948 - the 'bible of feminism', as Schwarzer calls it - de Beauvoir affirmed that socialism would automatically result in women's liberation: a separate women's movement was unnecessary. The abuse heaped on the book, from left as well as right, might have warned her: Camus, then still a friend, but very much the macho man, bellowed: 'You have made a laughing-stock of the French male!' And when she visited Russia she found that women's estate there was little better, and in some respects worse, than in France. Now she holds that socialism is a necessary but not sufficient condition for female freedom; she has involved herself actively in the Mouvement de la Libération des Femmes; in 1972, she declared: 'I really am a feminist'.

'One is not born a woman, one becomes one': this was the key statement of The Second Sex. Anatomy is not destiny. De Beauvoir rejects the revival, ...


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