Feminism and psychoanalysis
Freud's discovery of the unconscious is centrally linked to the study of female sexuality. In listening to the hysterics, Freud gave them a voice and attributed a meaning to what they said. As Juliet Mitchell noted, feminist movements have tended to equate what Freud said about the hysterics and his other female patients as prescriptions for patriarchal domination of women rather than understanding his writings as an analysis of women's position in patriarchal societies. Feminist movements, especially in the 1960s and 1970s, were hostile to psychoanalysis, as they viewed it as a major factor in the oppression of women. The issues that feminists challenged in psychoanalysis centered on Freud's formulations of the differentiation between the sexes, in terms of the association of masculinity with activity and femininity with passivity; Freud's emphasis on the existence of penis envy in women; female masochism; and the emphasis on the role of the father as opposed to feminists' reassessment of the mother-daughter relationship. Simone de Beauvoir's La deuxieme sexe (1949) and Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique (1963) both viewed psychoanalysis as regarding women as inferior and as defining them only with reference to men. Then in the 1970s another wave of feminist writings, such as Kate Millet's Sexual Politics (1970), Shulamith Fire-stone's The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution (1970) and Germaine Greer's The Female Eunuch (1970), called for changes in society that would help to eliminate sexual inequality. Mitchell's Psychoanalysis and Feminism (1972) was a marker in the recovery of psychoanalysis, by explaining its revolutionary understanding of women. From a very early stage, psychoanalysis maintained that the psychic reality of sex had to be distinguished from the anatomical reality, that there was no one-toone correlation between biology and psychology. Men and women are not physically or socially "made" as male or female but become such. Initially, however, Freud assumed a symmetry in the development of what he called the Oedipus complex. It was only in an essay written in 1925 that Freud distinguished between the psychosexual history of boys and girls and recognized the importance of the pre-oedipal phase in which boys and girls love the mother, and both have to relinquish her in favor of the father (1925j). The girl has to move from loving her mother to loving her father, whereas the boy gives up his mother with the understanding that he will later have a woman of his own. In this model, boys identify with their fathers as their masculine identity is established. The little boy learns his role as the heir of his father. The little girl, on the other hand, has to identify with her mother while at the same time abandoning her as a love object and turning to her father instead. For Freud this turning away from the mother is based on frustration and the disappointment that she cannot satisfy her mother, and is accompanied by hostility. The importance of the "pre-oedipal" relationship with the mother has been more fully discussed since Freud's time. More recently interest in the nature of female identity can be found in the works of Ethel Person, Irene Fast, and Jessica Benjamin in the United States, as well as in the works of Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel, Catherine J. Luquet-Parat, Maria Torok, and Joyce McDougall in France. In the 1920s a controversy took place over the perception of femininity. If for Freud libido is identical in the two sexes, for the English School, feminine libido is specific. Karen Horney and Ernest Jones participated in a series of interchanges and opposed Freud's views by putting forward a "positive" view of female sexuality, not linked to an idea of a lack. For Jones, femininity's development is linked to instinctual constitution. In debate with him, Freud asserted that Jones profoundly misunderstood the fundamental nature of sexuality and that Jones had returned to a biological reductionism. Mitchell has pointed out that the Freud-Jones controversy shifted from the question of what distinguished the sexes to what each sex has that is specific to it alone. Developments in psychoanalytic theory in England, with the school of object relations, led to an emphasis on the mother-child dyad, and on motherhood. Psychoanalytic work from an early stage concentrated on primitive states in infancy, and progressively attention was paid to the impact of these primitive states on transference. Melanie Klein's theory carried on Freud's shift in the emphasis from the father to the mother and the mother's importance for children of both
sexes. For her, the relationship of the child to the mother's body shaped subsequent emotional life. Particularly, the relationship to the breast is crucial in the child's early experiences. Klein's concepts of introjective and projective identification are metaphors for the bodily processes of taking in and expelling. According to Klein, the little girl believes her mother' s body contains everything that is desirable, including the father's penis. As a consequence the little girl is filled with hatred towards her mother and wishes to attack and rob the inside of her body. She is then filled with a persecutory anxiety of "having the inside of her body robbed and destroyed." In 1928 Klein argued that it was the deprivation of the breast rather than the discovery of the lack of penis that turned the little girl away from the mother towards the father. Later she downplayed the child's original envy of the breast and wrote about an essentially heterosexual drive in little girls. Klein's views on this early relationship between mother and baby had an impact on some of the early writings on femininity in the British society, such as the work of Joan Riviere and Sylvia Payne. Progressively psychoanalysts from all the groups in the British Society, inspired by the works of Klein, Donald Winnicott, Marjorie Brierly and Wilfred Bion, have emphasised the connection between primary affective development and object relations. One can trace these themes throughout the writings of Marion Burgner and Rose Edcumbe, Egle Laufer, Dinora Pines, Dana Breen, Joan Raphael-Leff, and Rosine Perelberg. In a more recent collection presenting work of the three schools of psychoanalysis in the British Psycho-Analytical Society, Raphael-Leff and Perelberg stress the primitive tie to the mother and its manifestations in transference and countertransference. American feminists have perceived psychoanalysis as reproducing patriarchal inequalities. Nancy Chodorow is one of the most well-known writers in the United States on the relationship between psychoanalysis and feminism. The Reproduction of Mothering; Psychoanalysis and the Sociology of Gender (1978) introduced the work of Winnicott, W. Ronald Fairbairn, and Harry Guntrip to American readers. Chodorow emphasizes the development of the self in relation to others, stressing the pre-oedipal relationship between mother and child. She views the function of mothering as creating an asymmetrical relationship between boys and girls. The girl has more permeable boundaries in the relationship with the other because of having been mothered by someone of the same gender. Girls are themselves, therefore, more committed to mothering. Boys, in contrast, develop a sense of self in opposition to the mother and establish more rigid boundaries. The masculine sense of self is more separate. Jean Baker Miller and Carol Gilligan, from the interpersonal school of analysis, emphasize women's attributes of relatedness, empathy and nurturance which are viewed as devalued in the male-dominated culture. These interpersonal theoreticians stress cultural emphases on different attributes for men and women and are less concentrated on the internal world of unconscious phantasies and internal object relationships. Jessica Benjamin in Bonds of Love (1988) sees both boys and girls as looking to the father for confirmation of themselves. While the boy's identity is confirmed by the father, the girl in contrast has her identification with the father's power denied, and he becomes the object of her ideal ego. This prevents her from having a "desire of her own," and her longing for the father becomes tinged with masochism. Issues of power and submission are located in the sphere of relationships. Chodorow has argued that what all these authors have in common, in spite of their differences, is the emphasis on the qualities of the "self in relation" (or denial of relation). She suggests that this view radically breaks with an essentialist view of gender and moves towards a view that perceives masculinity and femininity in a contingent, relationally constructed context. These schools, however, end up by constructing a more fixed view of femininity and masculinity than Freud, who basically indicated that there is a fluidity between masculinity and femininity in both men and women. These views can be contrasted with the major trends in French theories on psychoanalysis and feminism, where there is an emphasis on unconscious fantasies and desire and an attempt to find a language to express the feminine. Among the French psychoanalysts in particular there is a view that the discovery of the unconscious in itself reveals the precariousness of identity in the forces of fantasy and desire. This is the radical perspective that psychoanalysis can offer to feminism. The impact of Jacques Lacan's work pervades the numerous writings, from those who accept basic tenets of Freudian theory to those who, like Julia Kristeva, Helene Cixous, Michele Montrelay, Sarah
Kofman, and Luce Irigaray, remained highly critical of psychoanalytic assumptions. Lacan pointed out that the distinction between penis and phallus is fundamental to Freud's differentiation between biological and psychic reality. The phallus exists outside anatomical reality and is the signifier of the mother's desire. Joël Dor has suggested that the central question of the Oedipus complex thus becomes "to be or not to be the phallus," i.e. to be or not to be the object of the mother's desire. The role of the father also becomes symbolic—he represents the impossibility of being the object of mother's desire. The phallus, unlike the penis, is possessed by nobody (male or female) and represents the combination of both sexes. Chasseguet-Smirgel, McDougall, Torok, Luquet-Parat, Monique Cournut-Janin, and Jacqueline Schaeffer have all argued from a position inside psychoanalysis. Chasseguet-Smirgel indicated her perception that the little girl is aware of the existence of the vagina virtually from the beginning, although she also suggests that this "knowledge" may be held unconsciously, so that the little girl both knows and does not know. In her various works, "penis envy" is understood as having a defensive function. For many of the French feminist writers the body is the locus of femininity, and numerous writings attempt to capture its rhythms (such as Luce Irigaray's Ce sexe qui n'en est pas un). In her book Speculum (1974), Irigaray perceives psychoanalysis as unaware of the historical and philosophical determinants of its own discourse and unable to analyse its own unconscious fantasies. Furthermore, being a product of patriarchal society, it cannot analyse what it owes to the mother. She consistently puts forward the view that women in patriarchy have no identity as women. She also emphasises the relationship of the little girl to the mother's body. The girl, says Irigaray, "has the mother, in some sense, in her skin, in the humidity of the mucous membranes, in the intimacy of her most intimate parts, in the mystery of her relation to gestation, birth and to her sexual identity." Kristeva relates psychic repression to the actual structures of language, and describes the pre-oedipal stage as a play of bodily rhythms and pre-linguistic exchanges between infant and mother. Kristeva refers to what Plato, in Timaeus, called the chora as the site of the undifferentiated bodily space the mother and the child share. Within the Oedipus complex it is the symbolic that is dominant; the domain of unified texts, cultural representations, and knowledge. This distinction between the semiotic and the symbolic is retrospective, as it is only through the symbolic that one has access to the semiotic. For Kristeva, subjectivity is founded on a constitutive repression of the maternal, the chora, the semiotic, and the abject (liminal states, like pregnancy). Kristeva has been accused of reducing women to the maternal function, but she is also seen as providing a deepening in the understanding of the pre-oedipal. In these French feminist writings, there is a profound search for the multiplicity which characterizes femininity (as opposed to masculinity), which may be expressed in a language which itself attempts to capture the feminine. In a paradoxical way one may be referred back to Freud's thinking about hysteria. The symptoms of the first patient of psychoanalysis, Anna O., included mutism, paralysis, "time-missing," and gaps in memory: all expressing interruptions in the domain of a reality which is being denied. Psychoanalysis indicates that sexuality is only created through division and discontinuity, although femininity is the side that both represents, and tends to be represented as, the negative (of masculinity).
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