If the definition provided for this concept [of the eternal feminine] is contradicted by the behavior of flesh-and-blood women, it is the latter who are wrong: we are told not that Femininity is a false entity, but that the women concerned are not feminine.

In the section entitled “Myths,” de Beauvoir outlines the mythology of the “eternal feminine,” then pits it against reality to reveal the many flaws in all-pervasive notions of femininity. As a result of these myths, the life of every woman is divided between her rights as a subject and the demands of Otherness. An irreconcilable contradiction exists between her vocation as a human and her “destiny” as a female. Those rare women who buckle under the characterization foisted on them, who refuse to be passive, elegant, and silent, are called defective, unattractive, and unfeminine. They are “not real women,” and they are punished for putting their humanity before their femininity. The problem, de Beauvoir argues, is not the individual woman, but the complex mythology that imprisons her. If the “definition” of femininity is undermined by the behavior of “flesh-and-blood women,” perhaps the definition is the problem, not the women.