Feminism as a movement has evolved dramatically since its popularisation in the mid twentieth century. Today, modern Western feminists use their keyboards as their weapons substituting for the more provocative arson attacks and hunger strikes employed by those for whom women’s suffrage was the leading battle. The fight for gender equality in the western world has become a steady andbetter calculated movement in recent years, reminiscent of the first reports presented by second wave feminists,perhaps the leader of whom was Simone de Beauvoir.
In her renowned piece of work‘The Second Sex’, de Beauvoir, reflecting on her recent observations of American culture, constructs a narrative of the position of women throughout history. She argues that discrimination against the marginalised, born from institutionalised inequality, is perpetuated by the enduring socio-economic segregation of society by the class system.
When questioned on the influence of her work twenty five years since its publication, de Beauvoir maintained that it was not she who was to thank for the influx of feminist thought and activity among society in the mid twentieth century. According to de Beauvoir it was the more exciting work of those women writing decades after her who had inspired the masses. This is put down to her work being somewhat inaccessible to the majority of society at the time and thus the common woman would not be able to relate or react. However, despite de Beauvoir’s assertions that her work was not seminal in the creation and progression of second wave feminism, many would now beg to differ.
In ‘The Second Sex’ women are, for the first time, revealed as the ‘other’ and this, writes the author, is the fundamental cause of their oppression. This focus on,and celebration of,genderdifferenceis one that is becoming a major contributor to the work of modern feminism. We are noticing an increase in genders supporting one another as they reach towards equality, from the battle to end the tampon tax, to the implementation of shared parental leave this year and the contentious ‘He for She’ campaign.Despite Simone de Beauvoir’s self-deprecating approach to her own legacy, her contribution to our understanding of gender difference and discrimination has been invaluable; her work continues to shape the fight for equality by all genders and for all genders in the name of modern feminism.