There sometimes occurs conflicting definitions of gynocentrism, so it might help to clarify and understand a central facet of the word: the suffix “-centrism.”
We can legitimately name a single, isolated act “gyno-centric”; e.g., when we celebrate Mother’s Day. Or for a more dramatic illustration, if a man were to take on a knife-wielding maniac who is threatening to hurt his pregnant wife, while the wife retreats and does not help the husband during the fight, then the actions of both husband (protecting his wife) and wife (protecting herself) are rightly defined as “gyno-centric”.
If we consider the overall relationship between the same husband and wife, as a whole, we might ask a new question – is the relationship a gyno-centric one? If the husband and wife take turns indulging each other across the duration of their relationship, then the relationship is rightly referred to as “couple centered” — because by definition a gyno-centric relationship centers exclusively around the woman. As soon as you have genuine reciprocity in a relationship, ie. a couple-centric dynamic, it can no longer be considered gynocentric.
Employing the word gynocentrism to discuss reciprocal exchanges between men and women, where women are occasional beneficiaries in certain ways, and men are beneficiaries in certain ways, is an erroneous use of the term because such exchanges, strictly speaking, do not constitute a gender “centrism” – ie. its not a gyno-centric relationship.
In 1903 culture critic Max O’Rell observed the following about gynocentrism in the USA:
“The government of the American people is not a Republic, it is not a monarchy: it is a gynarchy, a government by the women for the women, a sort of occult power behind the scenes that rules the country.”
Price Collier observed in 1909:
In England the establishment is, as a rule, at any rate from a man’s point of view, more comfortable than the American home. Americans staying any time in England, whether men or women, are impressed by the fact that it is the country of men. Likewise the English, both men and women, who visit America are impressed by the fact that America is the country of women.
Irishman George A. Birmingham wrote in 1914:
“There are people in the world who believe that we are born again and again, rising or sinking in the scale of living things at each successive incarnation according as we behave ourselves well or badly in our present state. If this creed were true, I should try very hard to be good, because I should want, next time I am born, to be an American woman. She seems to me to have a better kind of life than the women of any other nation, or, indeed, than anybody else, man or woman… American social life seems to me — the word is one to apologize for — gynocentric. It is arranged with a view to the convenience and delight of women. Men come in where and how they can…. The American woman is certainly more her own mistress than the Englishwoman, just because America does its best for women and only its second-best for men. The tendency among American humourists is to dwell a little on the greed of the Englishman, who is represented as incapable of earning money for himself. The English jester lays more stress on the American woman’s desire to be called “my lady,” and pokes sly fun at the true Democrat’s fondness for titles. The American man is reverent toward women. It is not the homage of the strong toward the weak, but the obeisance of the inferior in the presence of a superior. This difference of spirit underlies the whole relationship of men to women in England and America. The English feminist is up against chivalry and wants equality. The American woman, though she may claim rights, has no inducement to destroy reverence.
Albert Einstein observed in 1921:
Above all things are the women who as a literal fact, dominate the entire life in America. The men take an interest in absolutely nothing at all. They work and work, the like of which I have never seen anywhere yet. For the rest they are the toy dogs of the women, who spend the money in the most unmeasurable, illimitable way and wrap themselves in a fog of extravagance. They do everything which is in the vogue, and now quite by chance they have thrown themselves on the Einstein fashion.
Nineteenth-century scholars in the formative period of medieval studies early recognized the distinctive character of medieval love literature as they rediscovered the masterpieces of the period. It was not until 1881, when Gaston Paris (1839 – 1903) wrote on Chretien de Troyes’ romances, that the term amour cortois, the much-debated French term which we translate as “courtly love,” was first used.
Courtly love tends to be rejected with scorn by many present-day writers. From its own day down to the present, courtly love has confronted and challenged both the menace of an entrenched “rape culture” and the constrictions of the authoritarian arranged marriage. The priority it gave to love, respect, and self-respect in interpersonal relationships fueled social change and spiritual inspiration. Its challenge continues.
The roots of courtly love run deep into the literatures of earlier periods. Numerous scholars of previous generations have traced their paths. Odysseus’s feats of strength, endurance, and cunning are all motivated by the desire to return to his loyal wife Penelope. In the Hebrew Song of Solomon the bride and bridegroom seek one another, and numerous romantic couples of Hellenistic romance undergo tests of loyalty, leading to an acceptance of human love as an emblem or precursor of the love of the soul for its divine creator, already invoked by Rabbi Akiba ben Joseph (40 – 137) and St. Augustine (354 – 430).
The robust ancient medical tradition of love as a destructive passion, still present in Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy (1621) also embodied medieval attitudes toward human love. We see the difference clearly in Apuleius’s second-century Golden Ass, where Psyche’s struggle through a series of painful trials to find her lost husband Cupid reenacts the struggle of the goddess Isis in her search for her lost husband Osiris. The woman-soul’s love and suffering is set in the foreground, while her male partner remains immobilized until he swoops in to the rescue at last. While the lovers in these texts undergo hardships together and separately, there is as yet no courtly love.
All this shifts in the early twelfth century, when courtly love proper surfaces in the troubadour poetry of Duke Guilhem IX de Poitou (William of Aquitaine) (1071 – 1127)….. [continued]