"Becoming a Different Me": Simone de Beauvoir on Freedom and Transatlantic Sexual Stereotypes

Sofia Ahlberg

Abstract


Europe’s relationship to America in general, and France’s in particular, centers around questions of freedom and dependency. This paper compares Europe’s search for independence with America’s ideology of freedom as articulated through today’s sexualised transatlantic rhetoric. I examine Simone de Beauvoir’s observations that differences in sexual relations and gender constructions are crucially linked to constitutional and cultural notions of liberty. Her portrayal of male disempowerment in the novel The Mandarins contrasts an intimidating American masculinity with its counterpart in Europe. European masculinity has been constructed as soft and peace loving, while its American counterpart is perceived as emboldened and tough. The ‘War on Terror’, as noted by Timothy Garton Ash and others, has reintroduced the sexual imagery into the verbal abuse hurled over the Atlantic. Europe’s tendency to define itself against America lends itself to revealing conclusions regarding de Beauvoir’s inability to dismantle cultural stereotypes about the ‘New World’ of possibility and abundance.

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New Readings — ISSN: 13597485

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Published by: Cardiff School of Modern Languages