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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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Beauvoir Against Objectivism

Beauvoir Against Objectivism

The Operation of the Norm in Beauvoir and Butler

(p.37) 2 Beauvoir Against Objectivism
On ne naît pas femme: on le devient

Bonnie Mann

Oxford University Press

What is Beauvoir’s relation to contemporary feminist commitments to poststructuralist and/or social constructionist understandings of sexual difference? How does understanding this relation help us negotiate the contemporary controversy over the translation of Beauvoir’s famous sentence as “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman,” (1953) and “One is not born, but rather becomes, woman” (2010)? To answer this question, the author retraces Beauvoir’s critical stance toward realism/objectivism. Beauvoir’s antiobjectivism has implications for how she would respond to now widely accepted versions of social construction (the idea that women are “produced” by and through power). A comparative reading of Beauvoir’s account of gender as justificatory and Butler’s account of gender as performative reveals that Beauvoir addresses normative domination and subordination while Butler focuses on normative exclusion and inclusion—with ramifications for their respective conceptions of “liberation,” “liveability” and “intelligibility.”

Keywords:   Beauvoir, Butler, poststructuralism, objectivism, gender, performativity

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