Another thought provoking event from the Maya Centre!

On the 1st of December 2015 The Maya Centre was proud to host a special showing followed by an illustrious panel discussion of  Daughters of de Beauvoir,  a documentary film looking at the influence the French writer Simone de Beauvoir ‘s work and unconventional lifestyle have had on women throughout the world.
Her life story, with all its conflicting emotion and experience, is told in parallel with the stories of the women appearing in the film, all of whom cite Simone de Beauvoir as a major force in their lives, in the year that marks the 40th anniversary of the publication of her best-known book, The Second Sex.

Melissa Benn, author, campaigner and long standing Patron of the Maya Centre led a sparkling discussion of the film, the ideas, and the lasting impact of de Beauvoir’s writing and life with the film maker, Imogen Sutton, the Professor and Founder-Director of the Social Science Research Unit at the Institute of Education Ann Oakley, who had been interviewed in the film, one of our new Patrons, best-selling author Jill Dawson, and distinguished author Dame Margaret Drabble.

Much-thumbed copies of de Beauvoir’s works were produced by panel members, who shared their experiences of the impact of this ground-breaking writer on their own lives and work. Simone de Beauvoir broke taboos, in the conventional middle class Paris of the 1950s writing about sex and menstruation, living openly with her lover Jean-Paul Sartre, and later talking openly about her illegal abortion. She was brilliant, articulate and honest in her writing about women’s position in society and her own life in a series of autobiographical writings which still resonate now.

Left to right: Imogen Sutton, Jill Dawson, Melissa Benn, Ann Oakley, Margaret Drabble
Photographer: Leif Sutton-Williams (c) 2015

Panel members ranged over the mother-daughter relationship, French culture and icons, the controversy of the relationship between de Beauvoir and Sartre and whether, despite her deep feminist thinking even she did not find a relationship of true equality. Her writing about ageing and death sparked much discussion as well, though acknowledging that it can be hard to face the realities about which she writes so unflinchingly.

‘Talk enables change’ is The Maya Centre strap line, and this evening’s talk has done just that.
The evening raised £3,500 and the Maya Centre’s heartfelt thanks to the Free Word Centre and The Literary Consultancy for a great venue and all the support in the planning and on the night;

  • the wonderful panel members Imogen Sutton, Jill Dawson, Ann Oakley, Margaret Drabble and chair Melissa Benn
  • Sainsbury’s for donating the refreshments for the evening
  • staff, volunteers, trustees and users of The Maya Centre
  • and especially to our kind supporters – this small charity cannot survive without donations and regular standing orders give us stability. If a hundred people regularly contribute the cost of two cups of coffee a week, with the occasional muffin to add it up to a nice round £25 a month,  we would bridge the budget gap and make sure we can carry on to help those women on our waiting list who have not yet found their voices.
    So please donate via BT mydonate, where you can set up a regular donation.

    Thank you – Rebecca Harrington Chair of the Trustees 


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