Is There Such a Thing as Free Choice?

This question has been on my mind over the past several months, as I find myself returning to school and pursuing a bachelor’s degree in my early 30s.  The decision to return to school was not a light one, and I knew going into it that my income would be drastically reduced as I wouldn’t be working full-time.  Due to this situation, I now rely on my spouse to cover more than half of our household expenses while I’m in school.

I find myself torn between two thoughts: 1) that I’m making an investment in my future (and hopefully bolstering my future earning potential) by returning to school, and 2) I’m very uncomfortable with the fact that my spouse now contributes more to our household upkeep than I do.  I feel this limits my input on household decisions (even though my spouse disagrees).  On a certain level, I feel the financial imbalance in our house gives my spouse more power as well.  These are conversations we’ve had, and we are trying to find a balance that feels satisfying for us both, but it’s still on my mind.  Then I read the introduction to Simone de Beauvoir’s “The Second Sex”, and this quote totally threw me for a loop:

Master and slave, also, are united by a reciprocal need, in this case economic, which does not liberate the slave.  In the relation of master to slave the master does not make a point of the need that he has for the other; he has in his grasp the power of satisfying their need through won action; whereas the slave, in his dependent condition, his hope and fear, is quite conscious of the need he has for his master.  Even if the need is at the bottom equally urgent for both, it always works in favor of the oppressor and against the oppressed. (p. 35)

I certainly don’t want to compare my relationship experiences to that of slavery, because they’re not even in the same category.  The quote, however, gave so much more context to the ideas I’m struggling with, complicating things even further.  I’m predicting a few more deep conversations with my spouse going forward!

De Beauvoir, Simone. Feminist Theory Reader: Local & Global Perspectives. New York: Routledge, 20013. Print.


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