Book II begins with Simone de Beauvoir's most famous sentence , “ We are not born a woman, we become it.“. De Beauvoir seeks to destroy the essentialism which claims that women are born women, but on the contrary are constructed as such by social indoctrination. De Beauvoir supports this thesis by retracing the education of women from her childhood, through her adolescence to her sexual relations. At each stage, Beauvoir illustrates how women are forced to abandon their claims to transcendent and authentic subjectivity in favor of an acceptance of a “passive” and “alienated” role, leaving the active and subjective role to the man. . De Beauvoir studies the roles of wife, mother, and prostitute to show how women, instead of transcending themselves through work and creativity, are reduced to monotonous existences,
However, a common misconception about De Beauvoir is to believe that the woman is no longer free. It should be remembered that De Beauvoir is an existentialist philosopher, in other words that she considers the ontological freedom of beings to be absolute: man does not destroy woman's freedom by objectifying woman, but he tries to make it one. object. Woman remains a transcendence, transcended by male transcendence, or formulated otherwise: a transcended transcendence.
Nevertheless, and this is all the complexity and subtlety of Beauvoir's analysis, women can be responsible and participate in their own subjection. De Beauvoir thus distinguishes 3 inauthentic behaviors (Sartre would say in bad faith) in which women flee their condition of transcendence in order to fix themselves in pre-determined beliefs and values. These three attitudes, forming as many tables are: the narcissist, the lover and the mystic. These three categories have in common the flight of their freedom for the benefit of the object. In the case of the narcissist, the object is herself, in that of the lover, her beloved, and in that of the mystic, the absolute or God.