If there’s any evidence you need that Simone de Beauvoir knew and predicted the plight of women, it’s in this quote. “No one is more arrogant toward women, more aggressive or scornful, than the man who is anxious about his virility.” How’s that for Cat Person summed up in a single sentence?

The French existentialist was born 110 years ago today, and her work — and her life in general — feels like it could exist today and no one would blink an eye. De Beauvoir and her partner Jean-Paul Sartre had a decades-long open relationship, first meeting in 1929 while studying in Paris and developing a relationship that lasted 50 years. The Second Sex is still revered for its role in gender studies, and her words were very much ahead of their time. Here are a handful of de Beauvoir’s most vibrant, acute quotes.

  1. “We were two of a kind and our relationship would endure as long as we did: but it could not make up entirely for the fleeting riches to be had from encounters with different people.”

2. “The body is not a thing, it is a situation: it is our grasp on the world and our sketch of our project”

3. “Sex pleasure in women is a kind of magic spell; it demands complete abandon; if words or movements oppose the magic of caresses, the spell is broken.”

4. “There is something in the New York air that makes sleep useless.”

5. “But women do not say ‘We’, except at some congress of feminists or similar formal demonstration; men say ‘women’, and women use the same word in referring to themselves.”

6. “A man attaches himself to a woman – not to enjoy her, but to enjoy himself.”

7. “Be loved, be admired, be necessary; be somebody.”

 

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