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On ne naît pas femme: on le devientThe Life of a Sentence$
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Bonnie Mann and Martina Ferrari

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190608811

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190608811.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 23 November 2020

Before Beauvoir, Before Butler

Before Beauvoir, Before Butler

“Genre” and “Gender” in France and the Anglo-American World

(p.11) 1 Before Beauvoir, Before Butler
On ne naît pas femme: on le devient

Karen Offen

Oxford University Press

This chapter reveals and documents a centuries-old but long forgotten history of pioneering French thought about “genre masculin/genre féminin” (which we refer to in English as gender) that alludes not strictly to grammar but specifically to the social construction of sex. The recuperation of this history antedates the publications of Simone de Beauvoir and, later, Judith Butler. It suggests that Beauvoir’s famous sentence in Le deuxième sexe, whose interpretation is the subject of this book’s essays, fits into a venerable French tradition of acknowledging the social construction of masculinity and femininity, or the male/female dichotomy. Nevertheless, it was received by Anglophone intellectuals, especially feminist intellectuals of the 1960s–1970s, as a startling innovation. Indeed, it may well be that the notion of “gender/genre” is not an unwelcome American invention, as the French have stated in recent years, but Anglophone writers initially appropriated the notion from this older French usage.

Keywords:   Key words, Simone de Beauvoir, gender/genre, Judith Butler, feminist, male/female dichotomy

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