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Beauvoir and Her Sisters

Beauvoir and Her Sisters: The Politics of Women's Bodies in France

Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 128
  • Book Info
    Beauvoir and Her Sisters
    Book Description:

    Beauvoir and Her Sisters investigates how women's experiences, as represented in print culture, led to a political identity of an "imagined sisterhood" through which political activism developed and thrived in postwar France. Through the lens of women's political and popular writings, Sandra Reineke presents a unique interpretation of feminist and intellectual discourse on citizenship, identity, and reproductive rights._x000B__x000B_Drawing on feminist writings by Simone de Beauvoir, feminist reviews from the women's liberation movement, and cultural reproductions from French women's fashion and beauty magazines, Reineke illustrates how print media created new spaces for political and social ideas. This sustained study extends from 1944, when women received the right to vote in France, to 1993, when the French government outlawed anti-abortion activities. Touching on the relationship between consumer culture and feminist practice, Reineke's analysis of a selection of women's writings underlines how these texts challenged traditional gender models and ideals._x000B__x000B_In revealing that women collectively used texts to challenge the state to redress its abortion laws, Reineke renders the act of writing as a form of political action and highlights the act of reading as an essential but often overlooked space in which marginalized women could exercise dissent and create solidarity.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09322-7
    Subjects: Sociology, History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xxiv)

    THIS BOOK EXAMINES a perennial political question: Are women citizens, and if so, how can they speak and act together politically? Recent research in the area of gender and politics has started to shed light on the questions of when and how women participate in political terms. However, studies in the area of democratic theory and citizenship rights have only begun to address the central question of how citizens make themselves into political agents. Arguably, we can better understand how women participate in the political realm by understanding how female citizens—who are traditionally marginalized from the public and political...

  5. 1. The Body, Writing, and Citizenship Rights
    (pp. 1-18)

    BEFORE I TURN TO ANALYZING how three specific types of women’s writing—high feminist literature (chap. 2), popular women’s magazines (chap. 3), and feminist reviews (chap. 4)—helped create an alternative social space for women to gather information and exchange experiences about female sexuality and reproductive rights in postwar France, this chapter will provide important historical and contextual background information. This information will help in understanding how the political exclusion of women based on a disembodied concept of citizenship sparked very specific political strategies by women as they attempted to rectify this exclusion. As I hope to show in the...

  6. 2. Secondary Citizens
    (pp. 19-34)

    THIS CHAPTER EXAMINES how the French philosopher and novelist Simone de Beauvoir complicated and worked through projections of female corporeality in two of her major works,Le Deuxième sexe(1949) andLes Belles images(1966). My reading of these works presents Beauvoir as a feminist critic of French postwar consumer culture who forcefully wove together analysis of women’s experiences with economic and social alienation and their objectification as wives and mothers. It is important to note that Beauvoir did not consider herself a “feminist” until after the publication of her major works in the 1970s, even though she had already...

  7. 3. Citizen Consumers
    (pp. 35-53)

    IN NOVEMBER 1970, the women’s magazineEllestaged a unique publicity event outside Paris. The magazine’s staff organized a series of conferences or meetings, called a “Women’s General Assembly” (États généraux de la femme), with the objective to zero in on French women’s expectations for social change, and to bring their claims to the attention of the political elite. The assembly’s meetings were preceded by the distribution of some 8,000 surveys toEllereaders throughout France. Now the time had come to take stock and to discuss what, according to these surveys, French women had identified as their foremost concerns...

  8. 4. Dissident Citizens
    (pp. 54-70)

    ON AUGUST 26, 1970, nine women trespassed at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier underneath the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, where they laid a wreath in memory of the soldier’s unknown wife. (They had chosen this date because it marked the fiftieth anniversary of women’s right to vote in the United States.) Although the women were immediately arrested by the police, the media grasped the symbolism of their act. The next day, the newspapers called attention to how the women had violated a major symbol of French nationalism, referring to them as the women’s liberation movement (MLF). Arguably, this...

    (pp. 71-76)

    MY MAIN POINT IN WRITING this study was to show how women’s writing has contributed to feminist political contestations that have challenged the abstract concept of citizenship to include women’s rights in postwar France. The feminist political contestations I examined are exemplified in the political struggle for reproductive freedom, in which women collectively challenged the French state to abandon its laws criminalizing abortion and to recognize women’s rights. As my analysis of three different types of women’s writing—elite feminist theory, women’s magazines, and feminist reviews— shows, feminist political contestations still produce ambivalent images of women’s identity. Throughout this study,...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 77-80)
    (pp. 81-98)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 99-102)
  13. Backmatter
    (pp. 103-104)