Jove's Bodega: Compendium of Philosophical Inquiry, Vol. 1, No. 1, 2023

"Neither One Nor Two": Aligning De Beauvoir and Irigaray's Use of Ambiguity

Anna Pontin
University of British Columbia
Cover Image of Jove's Bodega 2023 Compendium of Philosophical Inquiry

Published 2024-01-20


  • Existentialism,
  • Ambiguity,
  • Strategic Essentialism,
  • Feminist Ontology


Despite their differences, Simone de Beauvoir’s existentialist critique of the gender binary and Luce Irigaray’s model of sexuate difference run parallel in their resistance to absolute, gendered notions of activity and passivity. Both streams of thought—while ontologically distinct—are interested in presenting "relative" alternatives to the negated feminine subject. With attention to De Beauvoir’s vision of ambiguity, this paper will argue that Irigaray’s “vulvic” and “phallic” subjects are compatible with existentialism’s beings “for-itself” and “in-itself." Further, by embracing the potential for both sexes hold “finitude and transcendence,” Irigaray’s strategic essentialism may be read as radically continuous with (as opposed to departing from) The Second Sex.