Simone de Beauvoir – A Woman Scorned

My personal project this spring (of 2004) has been to read through the book Domestic Tranquility by F. Carolyn Graglia. Several Christians have recommended this book to me over the past couple of years, but I’ve been a bit apprehensive to start because one friend said I would need a dictionary to get through it! I thought, “Oh dear! I do not have the time for this!” But I’ve just finished the introduction to the book and was pleasantly surprised at the ease of the reading.

My intention with this book is to read it and to keep a personal journal as I go through each section. The introduction alone was so intriguing; I can’t wait to get on with the book. Mrs. Graglia gets off with a very strong start, and I hope that the finish is as excellent as the beginning. I was specifically interested in mulling over the life of Simone de Beauvoir. It is no surprise that she is discussed under the subchapter heading “Ironies within Feminism!” Her entire life was an ironical blunder.

Personally, I find irony one of the most intriguing of all literary elements. In my daily life I am quick to find the irony in any situation, and I’ve been told many times that I spend too much time analyzing situations. However, it’s enjoyable to me to try to figure out the whys and wherefores of life. So, naturally, when I read about de Beauvoir in Mrs. Graglia’s introduction, I couldn’t help but laugh at the sad and ironic life led by one of the most famous women of our times – (she died only a few years ago in 1986).

For those unfamiliar with her, Simone de Beauvoir is heralded as one of the reigning queens of feminism and is still identified as one of the most intellectual philosophers of our day. Surely she was a philosophically minded person, for her writings do attempt to delve deep into the search for inalienable truths that bind us all together in humanity. Unfortunately, it seems, de Beauvoir never took the time to truly analyze her own life course, or she too would have seen the ironic twists and turns she took as a “liberated” woman.

Simone de Beauvior’s most notorious work is the book The Second Sex, written in 1949. In this, she attempts to pin down exactly what is “woman” and what is “femininity” through a thorough discussion on the biology, psychology and history of woman. The book is very long—being 800 pages—and requiring two volumes. I have not read the entire book yet, but rather settled on a much shorter online synopsis of it, which was short enough to read in one sitting but still very thorough.[i] It was interesting to read her work, for I could truly see what muddled vision she had – and how it must be a tormented life to live without Truth. Her literary works are not subject to review at this time, except to simply illustrate that she was a “die-hard” feminist who believed that women who did not work outside of the home, who married and had children, were parasites, irresponsible, lazy, and childlike. She claimed true liberation only came when women divorced themselves from their own femininity and turned away from all that was expected of a woman, seeking instead fulfillment in the marketplace.

However, de Beauvoir did little in her own personal life to truly set her apart as a “liberated” woman. One of the teachings of feminism is that women do not need to be attached to men in order to find their identity, and this self-promoting philosophy is discussed in The Second Sex. However, what I found so interesting to reflect upon is that de Beauvoir became the life-long partner of Jean-Paul Sartre[ii], one of the most influential and famous male philosophers. She considered him her “superior”, was drawn to him, and many of her written works were heavily influenced by his involvement in her life. She even wrote one of her final novels based on her relationship with Sartre – a diary that recorded the long drawn out death of her friend, entitled Adieux: A Farewell to Sartre. Her final words on Sartre’s death (from Adieux) were: “My death will not bring us together again. This is how things are. It is in itself splendid that we were able to live our lives in harmony for so long.”[iii] {How untrue this is – her death did bring them together again – they are both spending an eternity in hell.}

I’m not sure how delusional she must have been when she wrote Adieux, but here’s a quick review of her relationship with Sartre based on what is reported in Graglia’s book. de Beauvoir met Sartre while she was still in university and immediately recognized him as a great man. She is quoted as saying she never felt intellectually stimulated until meeting Sartre and having discussions with him. They became sexually involved and their relationship was described as being based on “sexual freedom” for both of them. de Beauvoir was intimately involved in all aspects of Sartre’s life – including inspecting women who wished to have sexual affairs with him and getting rid of those women who became a nuisance to Sartre through emotional attachment. She became a surrogate wife to Sartre – even though they never married nor lived together. She became an abortive woman, having obtained an illegal abortion and promoting this fact in a pro-abortion advertisement.[iv]

It is not unusual for women to become involved with men who are superior to them. It actually began in the Garden! Adam was, in the basic sense, superior to Eve since he was created first. And while God created Adam from dust, He took a rib from Adam to form Eve’s body. She was literally a part of him, connected physically through the sharing of a bone. Adam had been appointed by God to name every creature that was in the Garden. When he saw Eve, he said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” The Hebrew translation uses the word “ishshah” for woman, which means “woman, or opposite of man.” The Hebrew language is a visual language and the words have emotions connected to them. So when Adam said “woman”, it is probable the think that he said the “wo” part with much excitement and emotion – as in “WOW-MAN!”[v] Adam was instantly complete the moment he laid eyes on the creature that God had fashioned just for him! God brought Eve to Adam and Adam took her as his helpmeet, his wife. It is interesting to note that in God’s perfect plan for marriage, the woman was never out from underneath the covering of a man. God created her FROM man, God was her covering, and then God brought her TO Adam. Eve did not wander through the Garden of Eden for years on end searching for her companion. She was created for the sole purpose of fulfilling Adam’s needs for a helpmeet. And in this life path, in fulfilling her Kingdom Purpose to be a helpmeet to Adam, she herself was complete. It is easy to see that for de Beauvoir this normal, biological experience – falling for a man who was superior to her and finding fulfillment in that relationship – is as feminine as it gets! But de Beauvoir did not see it this way, I am sure.

Graglia states the following in her book:

“It has been the norm for women to ally themselves with men who achieve greater market success than they. David M. Buss has established the biological basis for our attraction the powerful, superior men best able to protect and care for us while we bear children. Her affinity for a superior man well serves a woman who enjoys the many rewards afforded by marriage and childbearing. But it must surely bring discontent to the woman who confines her life to seeking achievement in the workplace as the equal of that superior man. Not only was de behavior unmarried and childless, but, says Paul Johnson (Sartre’s superiority), ‘there are few worst cases of a man exploiting a woman’ [sic]: she ‘became Sartre’s slave from almost their first meeting and remained such for all her adult life until he died’; yet, although she was his ‘mistress, surrogate wife, cook and manager, female bodyguard and nurse,’ she never had ‘legal or financial status in his life.’ Their sexual relationship, moreover, ended in the mid-1940’s as she became a ‘sexually-retired, pseudo-wife,’ while he pursued innumerable affairs with ever younger mistresses, one of whom in his ultimate humiliation of de Beauvoir, he legally adopted so that she was his sole heir and literary executor.”[vi]

Graglia continues to show through de Beauvoir’s own words how discontent she was with her life in the end. de Beauvoir described her life as a parody and a degradation of what she had once been. Graglia suggests that “To trade the rewards of child-bearing for an aborted fetus and production of intellectual constructs…seems…an unsatisfactory exchange.”[vii] Well, I would certainly agree with Graglia!

But how else can it be for someone who chooses to live such a liberated, free life? A life, that when reflected upon, seemed wasted and pointless? A life spent in the pursuit of her liberation from womanhood that only left her feeling degraded? How could one truly find any success in a life whose legacy dies with self? I wonder what she had expected, exactly, from Sartre – an existentialist who saw little importance in anything beside ones self? Did she expect the same amount of respect and devotion that she gave him? Did she hope for some sense of importance in his life, as he was so important to her? Did she wish for a public place in his life – was she jealous of the young woman he adopted and left as sole heir? de Beauvoir suggested that women do not need men in order to identify themselves, but it does seem, to me anyway, that her identity was wrapped up in her relationship with Sartre! What tragic irony.

Instead of a woman who understood her identity as a woman – de Beauvoir questioned the very biological nature of herself. Instead of embracing her femininity by marrying the man she loved and raising children from her own womb, she allowed Sartre to use her for body for sex, she became pregnant with child and allowed someone to degrade her womb by aborting her baby (which she considered the highest act a woman could perform to enter into full humanity[viii]). She spent her life caring for a man who, in the end, basically dumped her for a younger, more modern version and who abandoned her entirely upon his death, leaving his estate in the hands of a younger woman whom he had known only a few years.

This, dear readers, is not that different from the married woman who devotes a life to the servitude of a husband, only to wake up one morning and find her husband has run off with his young secretary and abandoned her with children! This life of de Beauvoir’s is not that much different than a prostitute who was simply not paid for her work. This life of de Beauvoir’s is not the liberation that women want! But it truly is the fruit of what comes from the “liberated woman’s” life! If only the feminists at that time had possessed the courage to truly examine the life of the woman they were following after and truly see what de Beauvoir was promoting – the degradation of the Woman by Man. Even though she wrote against it, she herself fell victim to it! Perhaps the feminist movement would have died when de Beauvoir retired from her sexual relationship with Sartre.

The moral is, ladies, that when one denies her femininity and all that God intends for womanhood – well, simply put – you get what you deserve! de Beauvoir certainly got the fruits of her hands, and that is what I find so ironic. She spent her entire life writing about how women can overcome what she saw as subjected slavery by refusing marriage and children and femininity all together. However, what did she end up doing? She ended up becoming a slave to man who never offered her marriage, and she murdered her child.

And this is the “Mother of Feminism” who is revered by all feminists as the highest goddess? This is the one to whom they look for vision within the feminist movement? This is what other feminists aspire to emulate?God forbid that any of us should fall into that deadly trap!

[i] http://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/fr/2ndsex.htm

[ii] “French novelist, playwright, and exponent of Existentialism—a philosophy acclaiming the freedom of the individual human being. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1964, but he declined it.” http://www.britannica.com/eb/article?eu=67506&tocid=0&query=sartre&ct=

[iii] http://www.trincoll.edu/depts/phil/philo/phils/beauvoir.html

[iv] Domestic Tranquility. P. 14 F. Carolyn Graglia. 1998 Spence Publishing Company, Dallas, Tx.

[v] Genesis 2:22-23 The word “ishshah” is used in the Bible 425 times as “wife” and 324 times as the word “woman”.

[vi] Ibid. pp 15-

[vii] Ibid. p. 16

[viii] Abortion’s Mother: Early Works of Simone de Beauvoir. Germain Kopaczynski, O.F.M.Conv. http://www.ewtn.com/library/PROLIFE/FR94401.TXT