Beauvoir on Women's Complicity in their own Unfreedom

Charlotte Knowles*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
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In The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir argues that women are often complicit in reinforcing their own unfreedom. But why women become complicit remains an open question. The aim of this article is to offer a systematic analysis of complicity by focusing on the Heideggerian strands of Beauvoir's account. I begin by evaluating Susan James's interpretation of complicity qua republican freedom, which emphasizes the dependent situation of women as the primary cause of their complicity. I argue that James's analysis is compelling as far as it goes, but that it implies complicity is the inevitable outcome of women's current existence and fails to adequately account for Beauvoir's claim that women actively embrace their own unfreedom. I then draw out the Heideggerian strands of Beauvoir's analysis, demonstrating how this enables us to systematize Beauvoir's account of women's oppressive situation with her claims regarding the active role women can play in reinforcing their own unfreedom. I argue that this approach preserves the strengths of the republican interpretation, but provides a better account of cases where complicity may not be inevitable and yet some women still act to reinforce rather than resist their own unfreedom.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)242-265
Number of pages24
JournalHypatia. A Journal of Feminist Philosophy
Issue number2
Early online date1-Apr-2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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