Simone de Beauvoir & Radical Feminism

Simone de Beauvoir (1908 – 1986) was the most staunch and influential of the second wave feminists. Whilst first wave feminism fought for the legal rights for women to own property, divorce and vote, it gave rise to second wave feminism or radical feminism, that believed women still needed ‘liberating’ from their roles as maternal caregivers and wives.

De Beauvoir was influenced by Freudian and Marxist thought and is famous for writing ‘The Second Sex’ and saying “One is not born, but rather, becomes a woman”. She formed a powerful and strategic alliance with Sanger, IPPF, Kinsey etc. and was anti-motherhood, anti-men and viewed pregnancy as mutilation and the foetus as a parasite.

Radical feminists fought for ‘equality’ but were fervently against marriage, family, child and mothers and called for the deregulation of sexuality. In a nutshell, they fought against everything that lesbians could not have. They battled to transform society that would free them from their abnormality by deconstructing the binary sexual identity of man and woman and what they called ‘compulsory heterosexuality’.

The radical feminist agenda that she espoused fights for the:


  • Rejection of sexual morality
  • Rejection of marriage
  • Rejection of motherhood
  • Rejection of family
  • Abortion as a woman’s human right
  • Career woman as only role model
  • Power struggle against men

Both radical feminists and and gay rights activists are ultimately driving the sexual revolution by shifting political discourse from economic and racial agendas towards the social and particularly the sexual. According to Baskerville, this “marks a truly new kind of politics, the most personal and potentially the most total politics ever devised: the politics of sexual and family life”.

Radical feminism is in essence totalitarian because it enters the private and personal sphere of one’s life and denies the individual any sense of privacy. As Bork says, “every thought and every action becomes public and therefore political”.

Baskerville, S. (2017). The New Politics of Sex. OH: Angelico Press, P.14

Bork, R. ‘Slouching towards Gomorrah’, Chp 11, p.193, accessed 2017

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Brief explanation of Radical Feminism

1975 interview with de Beauvoir