The Second Sex in Hungary. Simone de Beauvoir and the (Post)-Socialist Condition

Mária Joó


Beauvoir’s work was translated in 1969, a period of change in state socialism: the introduction of some elements of market economy in 1968 (called New Economic Mechanism), the publication of Western bourgeois philosophers as Sartre and Beauvoir, and Marxist philosophers’ efforts to revise orthodox Marxism. ’The woman question’ was declared to be already solved by socialism. The emblematic female identity is of the working mother: free and equal with men by virtue of law, taking part in producing new value as worker and according to her natural role as mother and wife, representing the center of the socialist family. Under these circumstances the reception of The Second Sex is highly interesting: a success (two editions in a high number of copies), but only two contemporary reviews (one friendly, one sharply critical). In this paper, I give a reconstruction of socialist women’s reading of Beauvoir, given their officially propagated homogeneous identity and their unrecognized double burden. They could have identified themselves with Beauvoir’s new, independent woman and at the same time with the traditional woman. Beauvoir’s legacy for us post-socialist women can be derived from this past: to face ambiguities in identity and to vindicate individual freedom.


Beauvoir, post-Socialism, gender blindness, ethics of ambiguity, identity politics

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