THE ABSURD OF ABSURDITY

By PRIYANKA VORUGANTI

The lady is sitting down, holding a pen. A piece of blank paper is in front of her. She fiddles with the instrument. She breathes, and she writes. What is soon to come is Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex. A feminist bible, some people call it. Others say it’s just simply an expression of what it’s like to exist. One guy, a guy named Albert Camus said, “in a few morose sentences, accused me of making the French male look ridiculous.” You see, I’ve revered Camus’ L’Étranger from the moment I picked it up when I was 12. I think consciousness and absurdity are so closely linked that while reading the novel, my own state of existence seemed quite so absurd. Meursault is Camus’ vehicle to deliver the ethical dilemma of a man’s decision to give into (or to not give into) an absurd situation. I think the storyline is irrelevant, for Meursault could have been placed into any sort of circumstance and still end up with the same outcome. This is the takeaway- Camus contends that our lives and our existences follow no rational order and contain no tangible meaning. His conception of absurdity comes out of society’s futile need to create some sort of structure to one’s life and substance behind why we do things. It makes sense to me. It honestly speaks to me. What doesn’t is his analyzation of Simone de Beauvoir’s work. For a guy who doesn’t believe in the rampant ratiocination of the inexplicable, his scrutiny and complete dismissiveness of Beauvoir’s stance on absurdity in The Second Sex is quite absurd. For a guy who wrote about Meursault, who in my opinion, is a pretty ridiculous French man, to say that Beauvoir made French men look ridiculous is really just comical. Maybe I’m being a radical feminist, Camus, but maybe, you’re just hypocritical. However, the negative connotation hypocrisy is associated with is probably a product of society’s need to be methodological and not repeat itself. I would settle for that. I would settle for that if Camus hadn’t written The Myth of Sisyphus, a collection of existentialist essays. In them, he explores the absurdity of the Absurd, or the impossible task of rationalizing this conception of absurdity. We turn to God to provide some reason, Socrates in some cases, and even in the modern age, Camus, to help us swallow this daunting notion. But even by doing so, we’re succumbing to the absurd, trying to define elusive truths through the works of prophets and philosophers and prodigies. Camus recognizes these paradoxes but fails to recognize that perhaps Beauvoir's work surpasses his, for compared to his work, it carries with it no duplicity. Beauvoir created a manual in which the complete history of woman is presented, analyzed, and dissected so much that the woman’s experience becomes in itself absurd. To elaborate, Beauvoir breaks down the women’s rights movement, and so much so that the entire collection of injustices we face as women are so overwhelming and nonsensical that the whole notion of Man>Woman seems utterly ridiculous. You come this point while reading The Second Sex where you are just beating yourself up, a fire in your stomach, screaming Why? Why? Why? That, is absurdity. We try to elucidate the patriarchy so we can defeat it for once and for all, but it never really goes away. I’m not saying this out of pessimism, for I do truly believe our movement is meaningful and important, but in Beauvoir’s novel as she racks down the list of civil inequalities, one after another, the monster that is the patriarchy seems to sprout new arms, legs, eyes, and feet in rapid cycles that you can’t even locate the heart of it anymore, therefore not being able to shoot an arrow into it. It becomes an absurd notion to try to kill it, because you can’t even define what it is anymore. That’s why Camus is wrong. Beauvoir didn’t make the French man look ridiculous; In her novel she lays out in a series of strong and persuasive arguments the evidence of why the French man is ridiculous, and why it’s ridiculous that women are made to succumb to their ridiculousness.