Out of the ShadowsJennifer Severns
In this paper I will explore some of the gender related themes inherent in traditional psychoanalytic thought, the construction of such themes, and the stagnating outcome of adherence to these constructions. Further, I will use Jungian theory to explicate the way gender construction grants priority to masculinity as that which is figure, and, thus, necessitates that the feminine stand as implicit ground. Social construction is, itself, a necessity of social beings and, as such, is not in itself a fault. Rather, the evil lies in reifying and, consequently, essentializing those constructions by assuming their veracity without question. The many different ways to look at truth have inspired me to speak from my own perspective and to honor my own constructions with the understanding that, in so doing, I am merely telling a different story. My hope is that this paper inspires others, regardless of their own predispositions, education, political leanings, etc. to tell their own stories from their own perspectives, and to be willing to change those stories as their lives unfold.
Because I am, for the most part, a member of the dominant culture in this country (I am white and middle class), it is difficult for me to see the many ways that I look beyond the person in front of me to the stereotypes that sometimes ground my understanding. Furthermore, my immersion in this dominant culture necessarily blinds me to what it is like to really be otherwise, for I am historically and culturally situated and, thus, perspectival. Hence, I can never stand outside of that which I am, nor could Jung.
When someone from a dominant culture claims cross-cultural validation, he or she fails to recognize that what has been validated has been abstracted and recontextualized in terms of the dominant culture. This validates the concern of the dominant culture and excludes the possibility of hearing from the non-dominant culture on its own terms. Instead of pursuing exploration, the dialogue is cut off by virtue of a monologue that pretends to know, and on that basis begins to dictate who the others are and how they should be.
The Ways and Means of Domination
The discourse of domination is first a discourse of exclusion and marginalization, and, secondly, of re-inclusion or appropriation on the basis of a 'for me' proposition. Whatever the non-dominant culture can do 'for me' on my terms is the basis upon which I will allow access to power, protection and a sense of belonging. Outside of my own concerns, the other becomes invisible. Or, if visible, becomes so on a basis which I have not dictated and do not understand and is, thus, problematic. Hence, the non-dominant other becomes shadow-like, invisible on its own terms and visible only as reduced to that which I need, want or can't do for myself.
Invisible presence invites projection. It becomes valued for its invisibility because then it is easy to demand or expect of it what I do not wish to accept or admit about myself. My demands and expectations further cover over the possibility that I will be able to hear the other speak on his or her own terms. The other becomes my unconscious and it does so primarily if I am in the dominant position because that is the position from which, through a dynamic of exclusion, reduction and re-inclusion on my own terms, I can dictate to the other who he or she is and should be 'for me.' I can create the illusion of difference or sameness and upon that basis some aspects become visible or invisible depending on my concerns and wishes. My desire invites me to glorify or level down, and the whole process remains invisible to me and precludes my ability to hear the other on his or her own terms unless, through a process of reflection, my statements begin to transform themselves into questions. The beginning of reflection starts with the giving up both of answers and of the need for certainty. Reflection means to yield to ambiguity and to give myself over to the claim of complexity and the inevitability of not knowing. At that point the voice of my unconscious (the other) can begin to speak and I can engage in a dialogue rather than the monologue of answers given and problems fixed and quickly brushed under the rug.
I am only beginning to really be able to explore my own participation in a culture that excludes and dominates those who are less powerful. My main access to this phenomenon is through my experience on the other side as the one who serves as the unconscious of the other. My invisible presence as the place of the unconscious is my place as a woman.
The first step in the dance of domination is exclusion. It seems that in psychological discussions, so often it is the case that people are talked about as feeling or thinking in certain ways, but women feel or think differently. For example, separation, individuation, and autonomy are often seen as the paradigm of mental health and the paragon of human development, yet this way of framing experience seems to be more relevant to men than to women. Women more often frame their own experience in terms of relational concerns (Gilligan, 1982, p.170). The issue is not whether men are more separate and women more relational, but rather the assumption that people are concerned with separation issues, but women are different. In other words, human experience is normed on male experience and to deviate is to be abnormal. At best this is saying that women are deviant versions of men; and at worst it dehumanizes by saying that women are different than people.
A second way of excluding women is by saying that basic concerns of people in general are phallo and andro centered. To be competitive, to want power, prestige and status are all somehow seen as related to masculinity even though, at least in our society, these seem to be concerns that are important to women as well as to men. When a woman is pre-occupied with these concerns, according to Freud, she has penis envy. In other words, to have human concerns is to be male. While this may or may not be a rigid reading of Freud, I see its implications running throughout much of the literature. I think it needs to be addressed rather than swept under the rug.
A third way of excluding is to speak in theoretical terms almost exclusively of male development (the Oedipal struggle) and then go on to discuss our cases, most of which involve females, as though the struggle is the same. It seems odd in light of the fact that most clients are women, that class discussion and reading centers almost exclusively on male development or, if female development, then spoken of in masculine terms (castration). In this case, the differences become invisible and theoretically unimportant.
To summarize, in psychological literature and discussions, women are excluded to a realm of the deviant or the inhuman through the assumption of masculinity as normal. Even many years after Gilligan's fine work (1982) concerning the different ways in which men and women frame and resolve moral questions, the issue of relatedness as a primary focus of experience is usually seen as a secondary and rarely addressed alternative. Secondly, concerns that are human concerns are relegated to the realm of masculinity, thus, women who show their concern with those things are stepping onto male turf. The message, usually implicitly given, is that she is sick or confused or an inferior, deviant form of a woman for not being content in her place of the not human. Thirdly, the ways in which we probably really are different in this society are leveled down to sameness, thus erasing lines of difference which may be important to explore.
The Reduction and Re-inclusion
At this point in the discussion, women are in the place of non-being, or the not quite human through the leveling down of real differences and faulty construction of seemingly false differences. Women as humans with human concerns are, thus, unrecognizable on their own terms. Next, women are re-constructed on the basis of the place of importance that they have for men. We talk a great deal about the mother as either "good enough" (Winnicott) or a "smothering breast" (Klein). Occasionally, we talk about the rejecting mother, but most often, the mother is constructed as one who has no real interests or desires of her own and puts her child down only on the demand of her sex starved husband (Freud, Lacan). The "paternal function" seems often to consist only of fucking the mother vigorously so that she doesn't smother her child. This is the 'laying down of the law' and the point at which separation begins. The paternal function is also seen as that which invites the child out into the world (Jung), but that implies that the maternal function is not involved in that pursuit. In my opinion, this way of telling the story of development paints a picture of the mother as necessary, but as dangerously engulfing because she has no interests of her own outside of her child. I think this is true only in the most pathological of circumstances and it covers over what might be more often the experience of the child. In other words, it seems to me that this might be the fantasy of psychologists rather than the experience of children who cannot tell us what they are experiencing.
If separation is archetypal and inevitable in healthy circumstances, then to be otherwise is an anomalous situation. The fact that most people are not psychotic bears this out. A psychologically healthy woman always has interests and responsibilities of her own that call her away from her child, thus allowing the child to separate. Sex with her husband would probably be one of those interests, and it would hopefully be her interest as well as his. By painting the mother as one who has no interests of her own, she is made out to be non-human, dangerous to her child, and of no value or purpose outside of her role as mother. Again, I realize that this is supposedly the child's experience of omnipotence and that separation involves recognition of a third term, a separating factor. But I think that to place that third term exclusively in the sex drive of the father is a mistake. It covers over what I believe to be the child's real experience of the third term which is that the mother and father both separately and together have interests other than the child.
Many people would discredit what I have just said on the basis that these figures and terms are symbolic or metaphorical, but in fact, we use them to point to real mothers, real fathers and masculinity. A metaphor or symbol is never entirely autonomous. By overstating the metaphor without reflection, women are reduced to their function as mother, de-humanized as entities with no interests of their own, and re-constructed as dangerous unless made safe through the sexual desire of the father. An overstated metaphor becomes reified and, without mediation, swallows the nuances and particularities of individual people with concrete concerns.
The other way women become figure in psychological theory is against the background of male desire. If she resists marriage, the problem as seen through the lens of psychoanalysis must be that she is resisting her sexual possibilities rather than resisting the losses of possibility for the fulfillment of personal ambitions and her identity - losses that are usually inherent in a woman's decision to marry. Even in this day and age, a woman who chooses to marry usually tacitly agrees to give up or at least to modify a great deal her own professional interests and pursuits for the sake of her husband's. She gives up many of her rights to own property and even to her own body and life. Although in the United States, the legal system recognizes women's rights, the everyday understanding is much different. According to a newsletter put out by the Nicole Brown Simpson Fund for Battered Women, more women between the ages of 25 and 55 in the United States die from domestic abuse than from anything else. Although other sources say that diseases, etc. outrank domestic abuse, it is still the case that relational difficulties within marriage may well spell the end of life for many women. What is most sad about that to me is that the process of dying in that circumstance must include a slow and insidious loss of self-reflection and self-respect. To reduce a woman's fears and anxieties about marriage to her failure to relinquish her grasp on childhood wishes or her failure to recognize her sexual potential is to abandon her greater humanity.
I do not wish to overlook the importance of sexual issues, but I also do not want to practice a style of psychotherapy that participates in reduction of women to their possibilities against only one backdrop - that of male desire. I want to see them in their many colors and against many different backgrounds. In short, I want to be able to hear them on their own ground rather than seeing them through the lens of dominant psychological paradigms that succeed in reducing women to what they are 'for men' and sweep the rest of their humanity under the rug.
The stuff under the rug is beginning to stink. When theory and metaphor exclude a woman in terms of her human concerns, reduce her to 'for men' propositions and re-introduce her on that basis, a mostly invisible but certainly detectable presence is created; and one which, through negation, serves as the unconscious not only for men but for women, as well. Her ground as human has been covered over, and, thus, she emerges as figure only against a background of masculine concerns. As a person her voice is hardly detectable except as protest which itself is grounded in masculine claims. The voice of rebellion and de-construction is never really its own, but at least it is a response and the beginning of a dialogue that may lead to creative encounters.
As invisible presence, women absorb the less wanted, undervalued aspects of people. For example, women are seen as submissive in a culture that values dominance, as passive in a culture that values aggression, and as the voice of continuity in a psychology that values demarcation, separation and individuation. Conversely, the masculine is conceptualized as that which upholds and embodies the cultural values. He is the Law according to Freud and Lacan, and the Logos according to Jung. In other words, he is the one who saves the day by separating the child from the devouring mother, he acts as the invitation toward the world in a psychology that demands self-actualization, and he is the one who creates order in a system of thinking that denigrates Dionysian chaos.
It is usually not the case that characteristics that are deemed masculine are specified explicitly as not feminine, but instead are deemed such through a kind of negative implication. The implicit message is that if men are this way, then women must not be or must be much less so. Of course, a few statements here and there do not lead to these extreme sorts of conclusions, but hearing them over and over again begins to solidify a vision of 'masculine' as that which is valued and 'feminine' as that which is either valueless or at least less valued.
None of the theorists I have studied claim to be essentialists, but, by shrinking away from critical reflective engagement with pre-suppositions and implications of theory, the metaphors become reified, concretized and rigid. I believe that most of the theorists would agree that the voice of the unconscious must be recognized and heard if further creative possibility is to emerge. I don't know if women are inherently submissive, passive or engulfing. At some level we are about vaginas and penises, and, thus, there may be a case for an inherent sort of feminine submissiveness and masculine domination. What seems most apparent to me is that we, as humans, think symbolically and that in most ways we have or can or insist on moving beyond our genitalia. Yet, psychoanalytically based theories remain stuck.
What is odd is that the stories could always have been told differently and from different perspectives. While the Oedipus conflict, castration, penis envy, etc. have been invaluable contributions to the understanding of human development, they are stories and they are limited by culture and perspective. We need to tell other stories in order to open up other mysteries.
My experience of men is that they have power because they need it. They are always in some way trying to break away from the mothers that bore them. As the unconscious, it seems like women are always still in the process of both bearing and boring them. In other words, many men seem to need women primarily in order to define themselves as men. They are always in the process of breaking away or demarcating who they are as opposed to women, and they do so through the power dynamics cited above. However, I also know men whose strength as men is not dependent on another's weakness or illusion thereof. I think mature male identity is possible without the insistence upon exclusion and marginalization; however, to my knowledge, that possibility has not made its way into psychological theorizing. Leaving women in the place of masculine unconscious exacerbates the problem by closing off possibilities for recognition and, hence, discussion.
This paper is an attempt to speak from the place of the unconscious, first by making explicit the ways in which all that stuff gets shoved under the rug. Secondly the voice of the invisible raises itself through objection. Third, the voice attempts to find its own place. Whether the other can or will listen is up to him or her. Thus far, this paper has somewhat caustically, quite reductively and probably unfairly addressed the first two themes in order to make a point. I have made explicit some of the dynamics by which women's concerns are shoved under the rug and I have objected to the place of confinement and stench. My third objective is to find a way to see and respect my own voice.
If I were to tell the psychoanalytic story of boys and men, I would tell the story of a lifelong struggle to be different than the women who bore them, and yet to be able to remain in relationship. In order to express the difference that his body demands, a boy must find himself in opposition to his mother, excluding her and pushing her away. Whatever she is, he must not be. I'm sure he does find her engulfing as he strives to find ways to be himself, as different, while she remains oblivious to his struggle. His interests directly oppose hers and, not only that, he must make hers inferior to his own in order to keep from wanting what she wants and, thus, falling backward into the undifferentiated abyss. His project at this early age is to resist by defining his interests in opposition to hers. Further, common concerns, concerns of humans, are constructed by him to be exclusively his own. Thus, he is free to be fully male through opposition to his mother's desires and through exclusion of her from the realm of human interests.
Through identification with the father, he learns how he can be in a different kind of relationship to her - the specific difference being dependent on the parents' style of relatedness to each other. A well bounded relationship between the parents, however, has aspects to it that do not include the children. This leaves the little boy thrown into separation from the parental unit which opens even more room for identification with the father. Thus, his identity is formed by something other than mere opposition to his mother. This is the real place of paternal importance in a little boy's life; and it is not reducible to the father's sex drive.
To be an individual is to be allocentered and always in relationship, whether that is through identification, opposition or any number of other positions. In the case of the little boy's opposition to his mother, differentiating from those to whom one is closest is difficult, takes ego strength, and brings with it cracks and fissures rather than seamless continuity. Narcissistic defenses, wherein the boy's concerns are constructed by him as being more important than mothers' or girls' concerns, provides the glue that keeps his integrity intact when the demand for difference stakes its claim.
I believe that this demand for difference continues throughout a man's life and that he is always answering a call toward self-identity and definition in response to the feminine. Individuation would seem to me to include deintegration wherein the man recognizes his boyish ways of separating - opposition, exclusion, and making the other inferior - and reintegration wherein he becomes secure in his manhood and can thus enter freely into relationships without using the power in these strategies to annul continuity. Although the demand for difference will continue to call upon him, he can thus answer to it in ways that include and listen to the other and do not make false claims concerning his superiority. Because the seeds of masculine identity; outside of power struggles against the feminine, lie in the boy's identification with paternal styles of relatedness, a more adequate exploration and elaboration of the 'paternal function' is called for, at least according to this particular story line.
It seems to me that psychoanalysis and analytical psychology are still somehow stuck in adolescence. Differences are exaggerated, humans concerns are relegated to the realm of masculinity, and that which is seen as feminine is sentimentalized or de-valued depending on its contribution to male agendas and identity. I am sure that there is a large body of feminist literature that addresses psychology differently, but, in all my years of school, I have only been assigned three short papers by feminists. Other than that, no alternative is ever offered. I have noticed that in bookstores there are shelves labeled "Psychology," "Philosophy," etc., and then over in the corner there is a small area labeled "Women's Studies." This section includes books by female authors, and books by feminists on a variety of subjects which find their thematic coherence as a group only in the people who visit the area, most of whom are women. I believe that the viewpoints expressed therein rarely leak into the mainstream. I wonder why, at this point in our history, they are still segregated and disabled by their feminist aura. I am not faulting Freud, Jung, or Lacan for being products of their times and for being limited by gender related perspectives, but I am faulting current approaches for remaining stuck in adolescence by insisting on exclusion of other perspectives. Certainly women have made important contributions, yet their work, if too challenging, remains segregated as if women's' expressions of their own experiences has little to do with social reality.
The tone of this paper may sound angry because I am. I do not wish to take away from the fine scholarship of a masculine based psychology, but I am tired of being de-humanized because I am a woman. Such thinking can't help but deny both sexes of wholeness at a deeper level. I think that it is both possible and necessary to find an integration and a way to fruitfully take up differences. A psychology in which masculinity did not depend on de-humanizing women and in which femininity did not remain a mere elaboration on masculine themes and interests would entail an integration in which both could be heard and listened to on their own terms. Inherent in this statement is an assumption of difference. I believe these lines emerge from within individual development in relation to one's family of origin and from cultural narratives that precede the individual and, thus, finds its density in facticity. I do not want to locate this difference in an essentialist claim because such a position insists that, because something always has been the case, it always will be. This thinking forecloses possibility, and, thus, retains stability at the expense of growth and change. Furthermore, the claim that things have always been this way, on some level, cannot be validated because I cannot stand outside of my own historical epoch and judge the myths, legends and symbols of another culture on my own terms and still do them justice. Things may have been different and I would really have no way of knowing. That is not to say that I couldn't use these myths, fairy tales, legends etc. to support my work and to open areas of cultural ethos that are currently unconscious but relevant.
If we were to think in terms of degrees of essentialism rather than either/or, then Jung would probably align himself with it a little more closely than I would. However, his own logic defeats itself if he were to think of it in absolute terms. While more stable than a Lamarkian heredity concept, the concept of the archetypes is founded upon evolution and is, thus, inherently open to the possibility of change.
Jung's theoretical stance, as I understand it, is somewhat inconsistent, making it difficult to decipher exactly what he is talking about. For instance, concerning archetypes, he insists that archetypes are form only and that they are the instinctual and, thus, necessary patterns of human existence. I would be content with this line of thinking except that it doesn't say much in terms of concrete experience. Where the theoretical pre-supposition meets experience is in the realm of the archetypal image. The archetypal image is the product of individual experience combined with archetypal structure. In other words, the archetype is the form and the archetypal image is the content that fills in the form as it is mediated by experience. This is fundamentally antagonistic to my understanding of existentialist phenomenology wherein form and content cannot be split as they are both given in experience rather than form existing a priori. Jung's own writing, however, goes on to belie this existential incongruity by conflating archetype with archetypal image. For instance in The Syzygy: Anima and Animus, the anima and animus are archetypes of the feminine and masculine, but Jung attaches to them the concepts of Eros and Logos respectively (Jung, 1951, pp. 11-22). He goes on to speak of Eros and Logos as though they are archetypes rather than archetypal images. This leads one to believe that the nature of the feminine is fundamentally that of Eros and the nature of masculine is fundamentally characterized by Logos.
This mixing of archetype and archetypal image has several implications. First, it implies that Jung, like Heidegger cannot, on the basis of existence, separate form and content. To do so merely answers to the scientific and philosophical agendas of the day.
Secondly, the mixing of archetype and archetypal image bring into further question Jung's essentialist leanings. By always speaking of the feminine and the masculine in terms of specific characteristics, he seems, not only to be describing the phenomenon of difference, but also to be assuming specific characteristics to be a priori and gender related. Further, he mixes gender and sex which takes the difference from the realm of the symbolic to the realm of the concrete, pointing to specific characteristics that describe women and men.
Third, by mixing what, theoretically, is merely form, a priori, and supposedly unchanging (archetype) with content that is symbolic and mediated by experience (archetypal image), and, further, by confusing these with the concrete individual (physical reality of vaginas and penises, mean and women), Jung succeeds in giving the impression that men are essentially one way and women another.
Unfortunately, this conflation of form with content and, further, symbolic with concrete, lends itself to an ill conceived, impressionistic sort of logic that unnecessarily dichotomizes, confines and limits rather than frees and expands. It leaves the idea that individual women inherently possess some characteristics and individual men inherently possess others. By anchoring everything in the idea of an archetype, Jung leads his followers to believe that many of the stereotypical ideas of his day are inherently true, are unchanging, and are, for the most part, unchangeable.
That the cry of objection has come from women points to the already inferior and uncomplimentary place to which he assigns them. On Jung's terms, to have based such an important subject upon such faulty logic and on emotion must have meant that he was leading with his anima when he made these proposals - an insult indeed.
This leads me to the last implication I wish to mention, which is that Jung's theorizing in many areas is imprecise, personally biased, and seems emotionally rather than logically driven. While having, in some areas, led to somewhat naive, concrete and rigid superstitions that are based on stereotypes rather than sound empirical evidence, in other areas this very lack of theoretical precision has left room for flexibility, elaboration and the growth of new ideas. Unlike Freud's dogmatic yet forthright stance in the world of psychological theorizing, Jung seems to have taken a more heuristic position that calls out creative possibilities. The spirit of his work is elaborative and expansive and in the service of freeing for possibility rather than being rigid and stultifyingly reductive. Furthermore, Jung seems to want to maintain the integrity of experience whether in the form of dreams, image, metaphor or intent rather than to deconstruct and transmute it by looking through a lens of suspicion wherein even the most horrendous of dreams is treated as though it were really a wish. In other words, he contains experience by respecting its integrity and by hearing it on its own terms. I think that by respecting the integrity of the spirit of freedom and creativity in which Jung wrote rather than sticking to his words, I can find support for my work in his.
As mentioned previously, one of the most contentious aspects of psychological theorizing is the de-humanization of women by relegating human concerns to a masculine realm. Jung avoids this to some degree by locating both feminine and masculine archetypes in each individual, and, thus, points toward an understanding of the individual as androgynous in and of himself or herself. This is not an enclosed, non-relational kind of completeness, but rather the vehicle through which relationship becomes possible. Men are already in relationship with women by virtue of their animas - the feminine side of men, and visa-versa. The archetypes are located in the collective unconscious, that realm which is the struggle and possibility of every man and woman. To become individuated means to become aware of and supported by archetypal possibility rather than to live it unconsciously through projection. Concretely, this means that, initially, archetypal projections allow relationship through the placing of expectations and demands of one's own anima or animus on opposite sexed others. Individuation means coming to awareness, then to understanding and integration through the recognition of one's own expectations of others as one's own possibility. The whole process takes reflection, humility and acceptance.
Unfortunately, Jung's conflation of the masculine with Logos and the feminine with Eros makes it unlikely that such differentiation and eventual integration will occur because Logos typifies what is most valued in society and, as such, sends Eros underground. Logos is characterized by discrimination and cognition, whereas Eros has a connective quality having to do with relatedness. While our profession bears out the value of connectedness, relationship, and community, they are not usually, in and of themselves, recognized as valuable except in their brokenness. Moreover, even in our profession, the way toward healing is through making sense out of non-sense. In other words, the value of Eros generally remains underground and unrecognized. Thus, to equate the feminine with Eros is to leave it unrecognized and underground, of less value and somewhat expendable relative to Logos. It is as if Eros is the ground upon which Logos can become figure, and the ground, by virtue of its definition, stands behind and remains ambiguous and subliminal.
The feminine as Eros is pushed further underground by virtue of its unenviable position of inferiority. Why would men want to claim Eros when they can relegate that to the realm of women's work while maintaining masculine identification with the important work of making sense? This would be especially true for men who are still in the undifferentiated state wherein they find their masculinity merely through opposition to what is deemed feminine and their strength on the basis of another's weakness.
For women, I think this problem is more complex because, while the feminine is equated with something valuable - in fact, more valuable in a basic sense than rationality - it still has less value in the cultural ethos than Logos. As with all minorities who find themselves being relegated to an inferior status, women become split within and among themselves. Those who feel least personal power are seduced to remain unreflective by the idea that they are of at least some value. They become willing to forego more explicit exploration of their own strengths and resources, thus remaining undifferentiated and oblivious to their status as inferior people, and even becoming eager to uphold the statue quo in the service of remaining oblivious. These women could be psychologically damaging therapists as they insist on their own subjugation as well as that of their clients. In fact, these women give me cause for alarm when I listen to their misogynistic views and realize that they will have gotten a Ph.D. in psychology without ever having read a feminist critique of anything.
The stance of the women I am talking about poses itself to men as questions concerning direction and support as these women seek to remain hidden, protected, and supported by, but covered over and enmeshed in, powerful male shadows. They are potentially frightening therapists because they are motivated by support and protection, and seduced by the valuation of themselves as embodying Eros, to remain anonymous, never having directed their questions to themselves in any real way. Genuine anger on the part of a woman, for instance, is inherently bad and is often seen as merely a symptom of PMS. Such thinking is yet another way to hide the importance of real feelings in the domain of inferiority. These women are motivated to remain undifferentiated, and they are motivated to keep other women and men chained by the shackles of patriarchy, as well. They are seen as sweet, nice, lovable, co-operative and mentally healthy because they willingly and obliviously accept their status as scapegoat and aspire to nothing more.
My men friends don't alarm me nearly as much because inherent in their aspirations to be clinicians is a recognition of the importance of relationships. For them the value of Eros as opposed to Logos has at least come into question. While I do not wish to make the same logical error that Jung made by conflating Eros with feminine and Logos with masculine, I do believe that the basis upon which the feminine comes into question and, hence, has the possibility of becoming valued by men, is through a brokenness of relationship. This is not because women are inherently relational and men are not. Rather, it is because women are generally situationally more dependent from an early age on men for basic necessities. Consequently, they live through and by and for relationships more readily. Thus, brokenness in relationship for a man who has before led his life in opposition to women leads to a recognition of, and, subsequently, some kind of valuation of, the importance of relationship. This invites an openness to difference, which, in the case of men, is the feminine. For a woman who has traditionally found her power and personal identity through men, however, brokenness in relationship may well lead to an overvaluation of Eros and under valuation of her feminine possibilities as she looks for another man through whom to live and another shadow behind which to hide. Thus, men who early on, out of an expression of difference from their primary care-giver (assuming it was a woman) find their identities through opposition, move toward differentiation and individuation rather than mere opposition through brokenness in relationship. Such brokenness brings the Eros archetype into awareness as valuable and makes curiosity about difference - for them the feminine - a possibility. Prior to this disruption, the feminine remains inferior to, and hence, disavowed by men as they seek to oppose it. For women who remain hidden and individually annihilated by the shadow of a dominating patriarchy, Eros maintains its necessity at the expense of feminine possibility outside of its importance to men.
This has to do less with inherent characteristics than with power differentials and the inferior status to which women are usually assigned outside of the roles that they live for men. While I can only speak from within this cultural-historical context, it seems to me that what might be archetypal is not the characteristics of men and women, but the dance of inferiority and superiority that goes on, not only between men and women, but between blacks and whites here in Pittsburgh, between Chinese and Japanese in Asia, and any dominant and non-dominant culture anywhere. Those who are in the position of cultural inferiority must, of necessity, concern themselves with relationship more so than those for whom it is easy to emerge as the cultural ideal. It is the struggle for survival, power, recognition and visibility that occurs among oppressed people everywhere. Where it may find its archetypal demand in the sexual arena is through the historical omnipresence of the mother as primary care-giver which, in turn, points back to biological necessities that are not as relevant now as they once were. If the primary caregiver is always culturally given as feminine, then the opposite sexed child - the male - will always be the one who most defines himself through opposition and, subsequently, devaluing of otherness, in this case, the feminine.
I do not wish to assign this an essentialist status because I see that it is open to change. If something lives in imagination, it lives in possibility as well. The compensating movement, in my opinion, need not be in opposition to the existing patriarchy, but rather in an opening of possibility by listening to difference on its own terms and giving it equal value even if it is not or cannot be completely understood. If we take existentialist theories seriously, we see that human beings - men and women - are primarily relational. It may be that phenomenologizing the whole concept of separation is a good juncture from which to allow the unconscious room to speak. Separation is a spatial metaphor for relational change and lends itself well to our cultural ideals of independence, autonomy, boundedness, and being one's own person. The feminine stands as the opposite of that which both men and women want to be - the scapegoat that represents everything that is the antithesis of the cultural ideal. In this case, continuity, relatedness, engulfment, etc. epitomize that antithesis. Yet, these qualities are apparent in anybody's everyday life. But because boys generally develop their identities through primary relationships with someone from whom they biologically differ, to admit likeness or even equality in terms of valuation brings non-individuated men to the brink of the dreaded abyss. The first defense is to deny that they are relational, secondly, to deny likeness, and, thirdly, to deny egalitarian status. Unfortunately, these priorities still emerge throughout psychoanalytic thinking. It's time to grow up and tell stories that are more aligned with the concept of integration, rather than separation, as the founding metaphor.
One story of female development could go like this: Initially, girls don't need to concern themselves so much with difference because they can identify with their mothers and need not express difference. Rather, as it becomes obvious, through identification with their mother, that they have less power, girls concern themselves with it and, in a compensatory move, gravitate toward it. Often this is found in the shadow of the father where the girl can express the reality of her power differential, find her power through him, and possibly identify with a mother who also stands in the shadow. The genesis of feminine psychology needs to be found in the relationship between the parents and all of the subtle and complex variations found therein, rather than the relationship with each parent individually. This story grounds itself on the idea of identity through identification and self expression rather than on separation and drive.
This shadow life that women live leads theorists to believe that the feminine is the complement and opposite of the masculine and nothing more. The feminine is left in this inferior position which thus exacerbates the problem by excluding most differences as felt by women and glorifying the somewhat illusory 'for men' differences. Furthermore, out of inferiority and weakness, many if not most women stay in the shadow for reasons cited earlier. This leads to my premise that the feminine remains the unconscious for both men and women. While valuable, the feminine serves as the place of inferiority, less wanted, less valuable and in compliment to men, but is not offered a place on its own terms.
If there is any question about the inferior status of women, the feminine and Eros in Jung's writing, one only needs to read his essay on The Syzygy: Anima and Animus in the Collected Works, Volume 9, Part 2. Anything in this paper that sounds caustic or critical is nothing compared to the infuriating way in which Jung speaks of the animus or Logos in women as a "regrettable accident" whereas the anima of the man is merely the "function of relationship" (p. 14). When a woman expresses her intellect, she is animus driven and is "opinionated, irrational, and makes assumptions that she believes to be absolute truths." We all do this from time to time, but when men do it, Jung says that they are operating out of the animus of their anima (p.15) - an odd and unconvincing way to lay claim to an inherently superior masculine intellect by again shoving inferiority onto the feminine.
This insistence on feminine inferiority exacerbates the problems of the feminine as unconscious in both men and women and lends itself to a one sided stagnation whereby whatever is deemed as masculine becomes attractive and sought after by both sexes. Interestingly, this static quality is something that Jung attributes to the feminine, whereas the virtues of change and exploration are masculine; yet, it seems that when it comes right down to it, many men are more interested and invested in keeping things just the way they are.
By keeping the feminine as unconscious, important differences are covered over and less important or manufactured differences are exaggerated and honored. If psychology is going to grow beyond its adolescence, it must explore the Women's Studies section for vital clues to reclamation of the feminine and integration of the whole. As long as the feminine is seen by both women and men as merely the opposite or complement of the masculine or as auxiliary to whatever is human, the face of psychology will remain unidimensional, lacking in depth and complexity. That which hides in the shadows will remain hidden and tragically unexplored. The richness that could be found in the nuances therein will be obviated by stubborn dependency on rigid structures that cover over difference and level down rather than invite the anxiety and excitement inherent in discovery.
What is needed is a willingness to listen to and receive the subtle and sometimes incoherent voices of our innermost selves and those of others. Women need to be encouraged to step out of the shadows even when to do so means an unattractive and angry display of disrespect for others who disapprove. Whereas men generally need humility to differentiate, a woman's anger might be her greatest ally rather than her darkest shadow.
The voice of difference can never be fully understood and will always seem strange, maybe even chaotic or non-sensical to those who are invested in maintaining the status quo, whether they are women or men. Those who are in positions of power, in which they really don't need to listen to anyone else to survive, must be particularly careful to listen to and give place to the voice of the unknown.
Finally, we squelch that voice when we insist on maintaining a 'for me' attitude that fails to differentiate by virtue of its insistence on appropriation. The voice must be heard and recognized on its own terms rather than merely squeezed into existing categories of our own thinking.
I don't believe that the feminine can be defined in terms of characteristics. In fact, its value at this point may be in defying definition; for definition covers over as well as elucidates. The feminine will probably emerge and declare itself very differently for each person, but it will become visible only if people are willing to look and welcome it, and it will remain in darkness as long as it is over looked.
Gilligan, C. (1982). In a Different Voice. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Jung, C. (1951). The Syzygy: Anima and Animus. In The Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Vol. 9 Part ii, pp.11-22. Trans. R. Hull. Edited by Sir Herbert Read, Michael Fordham, Gerhard Adler. Bollingen Series XX. New York:Pantheon Books Inc.