KoolKill

de Beauvoir “ruthlessly self-absorbed … she was not a good person

de Beauvoir “ruthlessly self-absorbed … she was not a good person

this is like when women post the DMs they get on twitter except with more “milady”s and less (but probably not zero) feet guys

posted by JauntyFedora at 8:11 AM on October 25 [1 favorite]

Also, I thought the very ’90s use of “drama” to trivialize interpersonal or social conflict stemming from real injustices had slunk off to a well-deserved death. But apparently not. How have it’s vestiges not yet been burned up in the dumpster fire that is the US in 2020?

posted by eviemath at 8:40 AM on October 25 [7 favorites]

But to answer my own question: here’s some of the relevant background on the sexual predator description that is missing from the fpp.

posted by eviemath at 8:51 AM on October 25 [7 favorites]

It’s a bit of both, but my view is that bad writing is definitely more common in academic philosophy than most disciplines (which is saying something). But it’s worth remembering that, unless we have mastery of another language, our ability to assess the quality of writing in a highly complex work in a foreign language depends on a translator, and that translating philosophy, which requires immense precision and nuance, as well as deep understanding, is an exceptionally difficult and little possessed specialist skill.

posted by howfar at 11:23 AM on October 25 [5 favorites]

a necessary acknowledgement of a very well-known aspect of an extraordinarily well-known figure’s life is an unremarkable feature of reviews both in and out of “style.” people who weren’t already aware of such aspects might be pleased, rather than indignant, to be informed of them. it’s been known to happen.

posted by queenofbithynia at 12:09 PM on October 25 [3 favorites]

Right, but I would have liked to hear something else about the allegations, because she is not like, say, Picasso, whose use and abuse of women is visible and much better known. I looked her up in Wikipedia, and apparently she seduced young female students, at least one of whom was underage. That’s certainly enough to merit the term “sexual predator,” but an extra sentence to explain would not have hurt.

posted by Countess Elena at 12:34 PM on October 25 [4 favorites]

hey eviemath, my aside was in response to polymodus’ speculation about philosophical writing in general. I have read Sartre and not “Ethics of Ambiguity”, which is why I talked about that. If I had carried on from this with a general Sartre derail in the thread, you gratuitously scolding me would perhaps be appropriate and inoffensive.

posted by thelonius at 2:27 PM on October 25 [6 favorites]

Thank you eviemath. Had similar concerns

posted by Wichienmaat at 2:33 PM on October 25

Similarly, if I’d offered the LRB article primarily as a “source” for de Beauvoir’s ethical transgressions, rather than making that explicitly secondary to it being a better written article that covers the same ground and more, your condescension towards me would make more sense. The whole thread isn’t yours or all about you.

posted by deeker at 2:38 PM on October 25 [2 favorites]

But the LRB link is a review of three different books than the work reviewed in the fpp (eg. the works mentioned on the links I provided)? Please forgive me for thinking that the relevance and common ground was thus de Beauvoir’s ethical failings. I was indeed focused on that and not looking for alternate commonalities. And frustration with having someone else seemingly ignoring my (gender: woman) contribution to raise the same topic themselves seems on point in a discussion of de Beauvoir, at least, no?

posted by eviemath at 3:17 PM on October 25

Ah, correction/retraction: some other things I read referenced the works in the LRB review, but not the review or other link that I ended up actually posting.

posted by eviemath at 3:23 PM on October 25

FWIW I’d recommend de Beauvoir’s A Very Easy Death as a very easy starting point for reading her work. Like The Stranger by Camus, it starts immediately with a message about the narrator’s mother, and I suspect it’s an intentional parallel, because the memoir as a whole implicitly reflects a similar concern with something like Stoic equanimity toward ethical questions, accidents, responsibility, etc. throughout–only it’s waaaay more relatable and realistic, out-existentializing a key text of existentialism.

posted by Wobbuffet at 3:37 PM on October 25

Her first mistake was to be female. Then she insisted on being in intellectual heavyweight, and then I never knew about her seductions. But giving her fans the intimacy they craved seems OK to me. I am a fan of her work, The Second Sex, it gave me a life. Sartre is also a fave of mine, his spare writing, “Like five sharp knocks on the doorway of unhappiness.” Of course the French were snotty about her, she was not Bardot, not eye candy, not a pouting, petulant sex goddess, she was an anti sex goddess and messed with the national mood about the great treasure, French women, and everything else they enjoy as a nation. Of course she got bad press, excuse me, what? The kill environmentalists straight out, all over the place in this day, surely they hated feminists back then, especially if they dared to be contemporaries and equals of high philosophers, oh snap! Wait a minute, they still hate feminists, of any kind, a certain strata, comprised of many confluent strands of classic misogyny. This article is probably a subtle, or not even subtle political hit piece, saying that egotistic women or however she is characterised, or decharacterised, women with inner strength not derived from their relationships with even more powerful men, are undesirable, still. Warning off the next generation of young women who might stumble onto her books. Anyway.

posted by Oyéah at 5:08 PM on October 25 [1 favorite]

I’m also interested in hearing more about why Arendt didn’t like “The Second Sex”, or about the intellectual relationship between these two philosophers in general. Arendt was also a mixed bag: with some exceptionally well-reasoned and important analyses in certain areas, but eg. a huge blind spot around race relations in the US. (Though I haven’t (yet? :/ ) heard of Arendt acting as unethically or abusively toward others as it sounds like de Beauvoir did toward some of her students.)

posted by eviemath at 5:12 PM on October 25

I still have no idea what the appalling behavior was supposed to be


In 1994, writer Bianca Lamblin, who had been involved sexually with Sartre and Beauvoir when she was 16, wrote a memoir (titled A disgraceful affair in English) where she described how she had been the victim of what would be called today a predatory sexual behaviour from both writers (I discovered that Simone de Beauvoir would select ripe young flesh from among her female students and have a taste herself before palming them off, or should I say more vulgarly, thrusting them upon Sartre. (source). It made some waves at the time, in France at least. The story has been weaponized since by anti-feminists (“ha ha Beauvoir was a pedo”), but this doesn’t make it less credible.

posted by elgilito at 6:38 AM on October 26 [2 favorites]

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