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The Second Sex

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what their place should be. ‘What has become of
women?’ was asked recently in an ephemeral
But first we must ask: what is a woman?
‘Tota mulier in utero’, says one, ‘woman is a
womb’. But in speaking of certain women,
connoisseurs declare that they are not women,
although they are equipped with a uterus like the
rest. All agree in recognising the fact that females
exist in the human species; today as always they
make up about one half of humanity. And yet we
are told that femininity is in danger; we are
exhorted to be women, remain women, become
women. It would appear, then, that every female
human being is not necessarily a woman; to be so
considered she must share in that mysterious and
threatened reality known as femininity. Is this
attribute something secreted by the ovaries? Or is
it a Platonic essence, a product of the philosophic
imagination? Is a rustling petticoat enough to
bring it down to earth? Although some women try
zealously to incarnate this essence, it is hardly
patentable. It is frequently described in vague and
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