Front Page Titles (by Subject) Woman's Fear of Freedom - Literature of Liberty, Spring 1980, vol. 3, No. 1
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Woman’s Fear of Freedom - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, Spring 1980, vol. 3, No. 1 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Woman’s Fear of Freedom
“Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, and Jean-Paul Sartre.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 5(1979):209–223.
In The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir defends Sartre’s justification for the oppression of women by suggesting that women choose this oppression. Her thesis is not to understand why some women reject the limitations which contemporary culture has placed on them, rather why most women accept them.
“Femininity is an active pursuit of a passive function. . .” she writes, “one becomes a woman. Civilization describes femininity [so that] a woman has no nature, only a history.”
Extending Sartre’s view that individual freedom is both desired and feared, Beauvoir suggests women accept the role of being inferior and subordinate out of the illusion that this will bring absolute security, both economic and emotional. She may deny herself opportunities of freedom transcendence, but she is also safe from their hazards.
The Second Sex concludes with a utopian vision of “the couple.” Sartre has described every man as dreaming of being God; Beauvoir portrays every woman dreaming to be His Beloved. “Denied the transcendence of action and adventure offered to the male, she seeks transcendence by losing herself in a man who represents the essential which she cannot be for herself. Unlike man, woman’s greatest temptation is to seek that necessity through the love of a male on whom she confers supremacy.”
Yet whatever his dream or hers, man is not God. Beauvoir’s woman of love inevitably finds herself caught in a maze of contradictions. When the reality of her lover’s humanness confronts her, l’amoureuse feels betrayed. “A fallen god is not a man, he is a fraud.” Yet if his prestige remains intact and she accepts her role as inferior, she loses her individual essence. If abandoned by the man she loves, l’amoureuse is not only left with nothing, but in her own eyes she is nothing.
Beauvoir’s warning to women is clear, love cannot be an absolute. “When woman, fully the equal of man, can love in her strength and not in her weakness, love will become for her as for man a source of life and not of mortal danger.”
Beauvoir speaks directly from her own experience of temptation of the “love-religion” with Sartre. Both Beauvoir and Sartre shared by temperament a passionate need for absolutes and an equally passionate disdain for them. Beauvoir’s personal and unresolved struggle for liberation from this self-imposed oppression from the status of second sex is the underlying motivation for this explicit philosophical theory.