Over the last few weeks, the French media have been reminiscing a lot about Simone de Beauvoir, because she was born in Paris exactly a century ago.
Countless female admirers throughout the world have described how Simone de Beauvoir's ground-breaking study entitled Le Deuxième Sexe, published in 1949, helped them become aware of their profound nature and feminine specificity. Indeed, it's so common to hear women extolling the merits of this female intellectual that observers might be lulled into believing that her celebrated book about women was intended exclusively for female readers. Well, as a male, I insist upon the fact that a mediocre American translation of Le Deuxième Sexe happened to be my unique personal guide book back in the days when I was an awkward youth in Sydney, striving constantly and somewhat vainly to gain insight into those exotic creatures known as "girls". Consequently, in the beginning, I naturally imagined naively that all females surely thought and behaved in much the same style as Simone de Beauvoir. By chance, at the age of 21, I left Australia and settled down in Paris. Not surprisingly, from my Australian viewpoint, many of the splendid young women I encountered in France were indeed not all that different to the mysterious creatures who had seemed to emerge, back in my Sydney days, from the pages of Simone de Beauvoir's guide book. So, all in all, I had the privilege of receiving a relatively coherent introduction to individuals of the First Sex.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
This is the amusing juxtaposition referred to by cm in her comment [see below]:
On the left, there's the actual front page of the French weekly Le Nouvel Observateur. Simone de Beauvoir is adjusting her hair in front of a mirror and a washbasin, while offering the photographer a charming view of her backside. The document on the right is a publicity poster of the kind displayed by French news agencies, designed to persuade people to purchase a copy of the weekly. The message of the ad is clear: If you want to read about two outstanding women (Simone de Beauvoir and Benazir Bhutto), then you should purchase the latest issue of Le Nouvel Observateur. In the poster, insofar as the graphic stuff concerning Bhutto is now hiding most of de Beauvoir's buttocks, the ad designer seems to be saying, too: The only way you'll get the full picture of Simone's arse is to buy the weekly. My own guess is that the publisher of Le Nouvel Observateur may have been a little upset to discover that so many observers expressed their surprise that such a serious (?) weekly would resort to the marketing strategy of putting the photo of a naked celebrity on the first page. In that case, the poster might be thought of as a last-minute attempt to attenuate the shock of Simone's bare bottom.