Were she still alive and she would have been 100 on the 9th January. It's funny but, maybe on account of my own distraction, I didn't notice any events marking the centenary of one of the greatest 20th century thinkers.
I'm actually not much inclined to Feminism and Feminist movements. However, women's lib and many of the liberties we hold for granted owe a lot to Beauvoir's activism. The world is still very far from total gender equality and it would still be further down the road if it weren't for the New Women movements in the 19th century and for the attention and polemics that The Second Sex (1949) generated when it was published. Of course that, as in any controversial work, Beauvoir was accused of everything: from being frigid to lesbian, from bisexual to nymphomaniac. But the path was open as far as discussing women's role in society was concerned in a post-war world.
The existentialist school of thinking as theorised and studied by Beauvoir and her husband Jean-Paul Sartre explains the premise, and probably one of the most famous ideas of Beauvoir, that women are not born women, they are "made" into women. That is, it is society that gives women the role of women, it is men that created the alterity, the otherness of women. And therefore society has forever inferiorised women and compared them to men. Even Beauvoir's father said his daughter had "the brain of a man" because of her intelligence.
Many of Beauvoir's ideas about women as the second sex are, unfortunately, valid today. In a world that still discriminates according to race, creed and sex (and Beauvoir was not just referring to women as the inferior social Other), the least we can do is stop for a moment and aknowledge the voices that have, in their own way, contributed to a lessening of inequality and for the walk of social progress and development.