In The Second Sex (Le deuxième sexe, 1949), Simone de Beauvoir analyzed one of society’s basic myths, which she calls, with reference to Goethe, the myth of the eternal feminine. According to Beauvoir, it is through myths that patriarchal society “imposed its laws and manners upon individuals in a picturesque and sensitive way.” Among the many carriers of myth she evokes tales, or more exactly, children’s literature and popular narratives. The Second Sex as well as Beauvoir’s childhood memories (Mémoires d’une jeune fille rangée, 1958) are not only a useful source of information about reading material for girls in the early twentieth century, especially in a Catholic middle-class milieu in France; they also provide insights regarding the effects of such literature. Beauvoir’s recollections deomstrate that educatory tales can be reinterpreted by the addressees in various ways, that they can be rejected, and that they may even carry hidden messages that foster vice rather than virtues. In The Second Sex, Beauvoir made use of these childhood reading experiences, particularly in her discussion of the socializing effects of popular tales on young girls and women, anticipating the criticism of feminist folklorists by about twenty years.
Shojaei Kawan, Christine. "A Masochism Promising Supreme Conquests: Simone de Beauvoir’s Reflections on Fairy Tales and Children’s Literature." Marvels & Tales 16.1 (2002). Web. <http://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/marvels/vol16/iss1/3>.