Why is it always about her? Gynocentrism as a narcissistic pathology

narcissism

In this article I set out to show that gynocentrism is a gendered expression of narcissism, and that it operates in the limited context of heterosexual relationships.

To make a case that gynocentrism is narcissism we first have to define what narcissism is, which can be done by recounting the original Greek myth of narcissus, followed by an overview of how the concept was taken up by the field of psychology and elaborated into a diagnostic entity. Finally this article will take the diagnostic entity of narcissism as described by psychologists and compare its criteria with those typically applied to the notion of gynocentrism to discover how closely, and in what ways, the two concepts align.

Narcissus myth

One day the handsome youth Narcissus became thirsty after a day hunting in the mountains with his companions. After discovering a pool of water he leaned upon its edge to drink and saw himself reflected in the water. Narcissus did not realize it was merely his own reflection and fell deeply in love with it, as if it was somebody else. Here is the account of his ordeal as told by Ovid:

While he seeks to slake his thirst another thirst springs up, and while he drinks he is smitten by the sight of the beautiful form he sees. He loves an unsubstantial hope and thinks that has substance which is only shadow. He looks in speechless wonder at himself and hangs there motionless in the same expression, like a statue carved from Parian marble. Prone on the ground, he gazes at his eyes, twin stars, and his locks, worthy of Bacchus, worthy of Apollo; on his smooth cheeks, his ivory neck, the glorious beauty of his face, the blush mingled with snowy white: all things, in short, he admires for which he is himself admired. Unwittingly he desires himself; he praises, and is himself what he praises; and while he seeks, is sought; equally he kindles love and burns with love. How often did he offer vain kisses on the elusive pool. How often did he plunge his arms into the water seeking to clasp the neck he sees there, but did not clasp himself in them!

What he sees he knows not; but that which he sees he burns for, and the same delusion mocks and allures his eyes. O fondly foolish boy, why vainly seek to clasp a fleeting image? What you seek is nowhere; but turn yourself away, and the object of your love will be no more. That which you behold is but the shadow of a reflected form and has no substance of its own. With you it comes, with you it stays, and it will go with you — if you can go.

No thought of food or rest can draw him from the spot; but, stretched on the shaded grass, he gazes on that false image with eyes that cannot look their fill and through his own eyes perishes. Raising himself a little, and stretching his arms to the trees, he cries:

“Did anyone, O ye woods, ever love more cruelly than I? You know, for you have been the convenient haunts of many lovers. Do you in the ages past, for your life is one of centuries, remember anyone who has pined away like this .” I am charmed, and I see; but what I see and what charms me I cannot find — so great a delusion holds my love. And, to make me grieve the more, no mighty ocean separates us, no long road, no mountain ranges, no city walls with close -shut gates; by a thin barrier of water we are kept apart. He himself is eager to be embraced. For, often as I stretch my lips towards the lucent wave, so often with upturned face he strives to lift his lips to mine. You would think he could be touched — so small a thing it is that separates our loving hearts. Whoever you are, come forth hither! Why, O peerless youth, do you elude me? or whither do you go when I strive to reach you? Surely my form and age are not such that you should shun them, and me too the nymphs have loved.

Some ground for hope you offer with your friendly looks, and when I have stretched out my arms to you, you stretch yours too. When I have smiled, you smile back; and I have often seen tears, when I weep, on your cheeks. My becks you answer with your nod; and, as I suspect from the movement of your sweet lips, you answer my words as well, but words which do not reach my ears. — Oh, I am he! I have felt it, I know now my own image, t burn with love of my own self; I both kindle the flames and suffer them. What shall I do. Shall I be wooed or woo. Why woo at all? What I desire, I have; the very abundance of my riches beggars me. Oh, that I might be parted from my own body! and, strange prayer for a lover, I would that what I love were absent from me! And now grief is sapping my strength; but a brief space of life remains to me and I am cut off in my life’s prime. Death is nothing to me, for in death I shall leave my troubles; I would he that is loved might live longer; but as it is, we two shall die together in one breath.”

He spoke and, half distraught, turned again to the same image. His tears ruffled the water, and dimly the image came back from the troubled pool. As he saw it thus depart, he cried: “Oh, whither do you flee? Stay here, and desert not him who loves thee, cruel one! Still may it be mine to gaze on what I may not touch, and by that gaze feed ray unhappy passion.” While he thus grieves, he plucks away his tunic at its upper fold and beats his bare breast with pallid hands. His breast when it is struck takes on a delicate glow; just as apples sometimes, though white in part, flush red in other part, or as grapes hanging in clusters take on a purple hue when not yet ripe. As soon as he sees this, when the water has become clear again, he can bear no more ; but, as the yellow wax melts before a gentle heat, as hoar frost melts before the warm morning sun, so does he, wasted with love, pine away, and is slowly consumed by its hidden fire.1

Unable to leave the allure of his own image, he came to realize that his love could not be reciprocated. Unable to eat, his body slowly wasted away from the fire of passion burning inside him, eventually disappearing entirely and turning into a golden narcissus flower that still grows along the water’s edge today.

Narcissism as a psychological designation

Artist’s impression of Princess Cottongrass

Twentieth century psychiatrists saw in the Narcissus myth a useful metaphor for behaviors they were documenting in some of their patients, and so chose to refer to those behaviors as narcissism. As the figure chosen for representing narcissism was male, it may have helped to birth an assumption that it’s a mostly male pathology, which is misleading as both men and women suffer from narcissism. Those early psychiatrists might just as easily have chosen a female character to symbolize the self-absorbed personality, such as Little Princess Cottongrass of fable who, like Narcissus, became fixated ‘with her own heart’ by a pool of water.2 Little Princess Cottongrass Personality Disorder however doesn’t quite have a clinical ring to it.

The development of narcissism as a psychological concept has a long and complex history, covering ideas like primary narcissism which is viewed as a healthy ingredient of childhood development, through to pathological manifestations that cause personal and interpersonal suffering, such as narcissistic neurosis or narcissistic personality disorder.

For the purpose of this article we will turn to the DSM-5 which includes one of the best descriptions of pathological narcissism, which it describes as “a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), a constant need for admiration, and a lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts.”3 The DSM’s nine diagnostic criteria for narcissistic personality disorder will be given below and compared point-by-point with typical attributions made of gynocentrism by key/relevant writers and scholars.

Acquired Situational Narcissism

Robert B Millman, Professor of Psychiatry at Cornell University, coined the phrase, “acquired situational narcissism” (ASN).4 It is narcissism that is brought about or “triggered” by an experience of celebrity status that manifests the same symptoms as narcissistic personality disorder. Millman suggests that it can also be triggered by an experience of power that comes with any favored or privileged social status or occupational position. In that sense it is the environment that facilitates the exaggeration of narcissistic traits in an individual that may have only existed previously as a mild trait or as latent potential.

Some possible examples of acquired situational narcissism are;

Cultural narcissism (A culture-specific manifestation of narcissism)5,6
Ingroup narcissism (Ingroup-specific manifestations of narcissism)7
Medical narcissism (Narcissism among medical professionals)8
Celebrity narcissism (Narcissism among individuals achieving fame)9
Leadership narcissism (Narcissism among leaders and CEOs)10

And, following these examples, I include gynocentrism as a situational manifestation of narcissism, i.e.;

Gynocentric narcissism (Narcissism displayed by women/girls in intimate relationships with men/boys).11

Gynocentrism

Before going on to compare gynocentric narcissism with the DSM-5 criteria for narcissistic personality disorder, we will need to isolate a consensual understanding of gynocentrism from historical texts and modern theory. We will start with two key historical texts, the first being from Lester F. Ward who was the first person to propose a general theory of gynocentrism, and the second from Irish author George A. Birmingham;

In 1903 Lester F. Ward defined gynocentrism this way:

“The gynæcocentric theory is the view that the female sex is primary and the male secondary in the organic scheme, that originally and normally all things center, as it were, about the female.”12

In 1914 George A. Birmingham wrote:

“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.”13

In these pithy definitions gynocentrism frames women as superiors in their relation to men who are positioned to support women’s ‘convenience and delight’ where and how they can.

In her 1988 paper feminist Iris M. Young confirms the gynocentric principle of “superiority” of female values over male values, suggesting the superiority continues to rest on a biological basis as it did for Lester F. Ward back in 1903. Young states;

“Gynocentric feminism… argues for the superiority of the values embodied in traditionally female experience and rejects the values it finds in traditionally male dominated institutions… Gynocentric feminism finds in women’s bodies and traditionally feminine activity the source of positive values. Women’s reproductive processes keep us linked with nature and the promotion of life to a greater degree than men’s. Female eroticism is more fluid, diffuse, and loving than violence-prone male sexuality. Our feminine socialization and traditional roles as mothers give us the capacity to nurture and a sense of social cooperation that may be the only salvation of the planet… within traditional femininity lie the values that we should promote for a better society.”14

Note here the biological essentialism appearing from Lester Ward through to Young who states that “Gynocentrism’s most important contribution is its affirmation of difference”14 Young clarifies that the superiority of “women’s bodies” and associated values are central tenets of both gynocentrism and third wave feminism, a biological essentialism that antifeminists appear not to have noticed in their rush to denounce the ‘gender is an arbitrary social construct’ stance of some second-wave feminists.15

Since the 1970s most exploration of gynocentrism has been carried out by feminists from the perspective of what it means to or feels like for women – i.e., they ask how does the practice of gynocentrism serve to strengthen women’s ego-identity and improve their sense of dignity and wellbeing. Notably no equivalent discussion of men and boys has taken place in terms of their experience of gynocentrism, thus the female-biased examination of gynocentrism is imbalanced and requires the inclusion of male, and also neutral, perspectives in order to give a more complete overview of the topic.

Since the turn of the millennium new research into the nature and dynamics of gynocentrism – from male-inclusive, and humanist points of view – has provided a more detailed understanding of gynocentrism. The following presents a synopsis of eight of these contributors: Alison Tieman, Paul Elam, Paul Nathanson & Katherine Young, Adam Kostakis, Peter wright, Dennis Gouws, and Peter Ryan.

Alison Tieman
“In my opinion – and this is just from observing the social systems as they play out – I would say that gynocentrism prioritizes women’s protection and provision.”16

Paul Elam
“For me gynocentrism is simply the ingrained human tendency to prioritize the needs and wants of women over the needs and wants of men. In its development culturally its not near that simple, and its development biologically its not near that simple. But as it manifests itself in the realm of sexual politics I do call it the tendency in human beings to prioritize the needs and wants of women over the needs and wants of men… The reason I like to frame it in terms of needs and wants is because in this gynocentric milieu, the gynocentric landscape in which we live, its not just protection and provision that women have the demand of the culture around them, it is everything. Its protection, its provision, its privilege, its power, its believe the woman, its, ynow, if I say something I don’t want to be questioned; this goes way beyond protection and provision. 16

“How did chivalry go from being a military code to being a codified standard for men to meet in their protective treatment of women? The answer to that is a matter of historical record; it was through manipulation of the gynocentric instinct. In the twelfth century Eleanor of Aquitaine and her daughter Marie de Champagne engaged in an intensive campaign to popularize the idea of courtly or romantic love… Eleanor, a woman of serious means and influence, sort of like a supersized Betty Friedan of the high Middle Ages saw an opportunity in this to promote a connection between men and women inspired by passion and infatuation and driven by a model of service – particularly of service to women. She and her daughter commissioned troubadours who borrowed from the ethics of military chivalry to write books and songs that carried this message to all the European courts. Even though the message was meant primarily for the aristocracy it eventually filtered down into the general population and quickly grew in popularity… The advent of romantic chivalrous love took the naturally occurring tendency in men to take care of women and made the first great leap toward a gynocentric society that would tolerate and indeed encourage all manner of insanity in the name of putting women first.”17

Paul Nathanson & Katherine Young
“Gynocentrism is a form of essentialism – as distinct from scholarship or political activity on behalf of women – to the extent that it focuses on the innate virtues of women. But this worldview is explicitly misandric too, because it not only ignores the needs and problems of men but also attacks men. Misandry is a form of dualism that focuses on the innate vices of men. In this moral or even ontological hierarchy , women are at the top and men are at the bottom.”18

Adam Kostakis
“The traditional idea under discussion is male sacrifice for the benefit of women, which we term Gynocentrism. This is the historical norm, and it was the way of the world long before anything called ‘feminism’ made itself known. There is an enormous amount of continuity between the chivalric class code which arose in the Middle Ages and modern feminism, for instance. That the two are distinguishable is clear enough, but the latter is simply a progressive extension of the former over several centuries, having retained its essence over a long period of transition. One could say that they are the same entity, which now exists in a more mature form – certainly, we are not dealing with two separate creatures.19

“And what is the logical outcome – say, if tomorrow, feminists got everything they are advocating for today? We would be plunged immediately into a two-tier system of rights and obligations, where men and women form distinct castes of citizen, the former weighed down by the obligations that enable the latter to luxuriate in their total autonomy. Life for women would be a literal lawlessness, while men’s every move would be dictated from above, geared to the purpose of providing for all female needs and wants. It would not be inappropriate to call such a system sexual feudalism, and every time I read a feminist article, this is the impression that I get: that they aim to construct a new aristocracy, comprised only of women, while men stand at the gate, till in the fields, fight in their armies, and grovel at their feet for starvation wages. All feminist innovation and legislation creates new rights for women and new duties for men; thus it tends towards the creation of a male underclass.20

“So, here is the definition I offer up: feminism is the most recent, and presently the most culturally dominant form of Gynocentrism. It is a victim ideology which explicitly advocates female supremacy, at every facet of life in which men and women meet; it does so in accordance with its universalizing tendency, and so it does so in each sphere of life, including but extending beyond the political, social, cultural, personal, emotional, sexual, spiritual, economic, governmental and legal. By female supremacy, I refer to the notion that women should possess superiority of status, power and protection relative to men. It is the dominant cultural paradigm in the Western world and beyond. It is morally indefensible, although its adherents ensure that their hegemony goes unchallenged through the domination of societal institutions and the use of state violence.”21

Peter Wright
“[Gynocentric] chivalry is alluded to by alternative terms such as benevolent sexism, romantic love, gentlemanliness, courtesy, gallantry, heroism, or simply chivalry. The practice has roots in what some scholars have referred to as chivalric ‘love service,’ (Bennett, 2013) a ritualized form of devotion by men toward women popularized by troubadours in the Middle Ages. The earliest conceptualization of love service borrowed from the vocabulary of medieval feudalism, mimicking ties between a liegeman and his overlord; i.e., the male lover is referred to as homo ligius (the woman’s liegeman, or ‘my man’) who pledged honor, and servitium (service) to the lady via a posture of feudal homage. The lady was addressed as midons (literally ‘my lord’), and also by dominus (denoting the feudal Lady) (Alfonsi, 1986). These practices form the ideological taproot of modern romantic chivalry.

The conventions and indeed the lived practices of romantic chivalry celebrated first among the upper classes made their way by degrees eventually to the middle classes and finally to the lower classes – or rather they broke class structure altogether in the sense that all Western peoples became inheritors of the customs regardless of their social station. Today chivalry is a norm observed across the majority of global cultures, an explicitly gynocentric norm aimed to increase the comfort, safety and power of women, while affording men a sense of purpose and occasional heroism in addressing that same task.

C.S. Lewis referred to the growth of romantic chivalry as “the feudalisation of love,” (Lewis, 2013, p. 2) making the observation that it has left no corner of our ethics, our imagination, or our daily life untouched. He observed that European society has moved essentially from a social feudalism, involving a contractual arrangement between a feudal lord and his vassal, to a sexual feudalism involving a comparable contract between men and women as symbolized in the act of a man going down on one knee to propose marriage.22

“The dominant features of gender relations today come from old Europe in the forms of damseling, chivalry and courtly-love. Together they form the customs, in fact the essence, of modern gynocentric culture.23

Dennis Gouws
“This conservative approach to chivalry, one whose paternalism has surely outlived its usefulness in the twenty-first century, offers men little and confines them to a life of gynocentric pleasing and male disposability in the service of gynocentric chivalry. What this approach has in common with gender feminism is the way it suggests gynocentrism is essential and congruent with society—its natural and normal protocol—rather than being one philosophy among many. The second approach placed the onus on changing chivalry on women and their expectations. Ashley suggested that “It is women who need to figure out what roles they would have men perpetuate, and encourage those over the less-preferred actions.” This approach completely objectifies men and empowers women to dictate what they want men to do to please women. It is gynocentric, strategic, and impersonal; it is a gender-feminist approach. As much of this chapter has suggested, it is harmful to men and women who seek gender equity.

“Michael Kimmel (Kalish & Kimmel, 2010) popularized the concept of aggrieved entitlement which can succinctly be defined as “a gendered emotion, a fusion of that humiliating loss of manhood and the moral obligation and entitlement to get it back” (p. 454). Because Kimmel’s sympathies lie with gender feminism, he is uninterested in how this concept might apply to women’s behavior. Women might express aggrieved entitlement when they experience what they perceive to be a humiliating loss of the gynocentric privilege to which gynocentric chivalry, gender feminism, and hegemonic gynarchy have entitled them. Self-righteous, angry expressions of personal offense and even violent acts might result from their perceived moral obligation to regain their sense of gynocentric privilege. A cursory internet search of gender-feminist responses to men’s-issues speakers on campus and to the establishing men’s groups or other male-positive spaces on campus will provide examples of this aggrieved entitlement.”24

Peter Ryan
I define gynocentrism as the following: The set of elements of society and relationships that are directed by the intent to prioritise female well-being over male well-being, based solely or partly on the sex of the intended beneficiary(ies) being female and for which there are no equivalent efforts made to provide corresponding commensurate benefits to males.

I define well-being as the quality of the overall condition of the life of an individual or group, that is based on taking their mental and physical health and life satisfaction into consideration.

The diagnostic criteria that must be met for an element of society or relationships to be considered gynocentric are the following: 1. The element must be driven by the intent to prioritise female well-being over male well-being. 2. This intent must be solely or partly based on the sex of the intended beneficiary(ies) being female. 3. There must be no equivalent efforts made to provide commensurate benefits to males for instances where female well-being is prioritised over male well-being.”25

♦ ♦ ♦

Lastly I will give two online definitions of gynocentrism before summarizing the material above; the first from Encyclopedia.com, and the second from the Oxford Online Dictionary:

Gynocentrism: Is a radical feminist discourse that champions woman-centered beliefs, identities, and social organization.”26

Gynocentric: Centered on or concerned exclusively with women; taking a female (or specifically a feminist) point of view.”27

Summary of descriptions of gynocentrism:

1. By definition males and females in gynocentric relationships are ‘woman-centered’ as per the suffix -centrism. In this respect gynocentrism is contrary to relationships that are centered in reciprocity between partners.
2. A gynocentric relationship requires specific gender roles: men are expected to behave benevolently sexist/chivalric toward women; and women are to assume a biologically and morally superior. (“pedestalized”) posture typical of the romantic love tradition, with an accompanying expectation of entitlement to benefits.
3. Gynocentrism is focused on maximizing the benefits of convenience, comfort, pleasure, needs, wants, protections, provision, power and self-esteem of women.
4. It takes place in heterosexual relationships, or by extension in relationships where stereotypical heterosexual roles can be mimicked. In this sense it is situational (heterosexual relationships) rather than universal and general.
5. It obliterates male humanity, and variety of potential masculinities, and replaces them with the singular masculinity of chivalric servant. Masculine variety of every non-gynocentric kind is viewed as a failure and affront to the gynocentric mandate.

DSM criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder

The DSM-5 states that narcissistic personality disorder is indicated by the presence of at least 5 of the following 9 criteria. For the purpose of comparing the DSM criteria with traits typical of the gynocentric woman [GW], I will place the latter in red font under each of the DSM points:

• A grandiose sense of self-importance (eg, the individual exaggerates achievements and talents and expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
[GW] Sees self as ‘superior’ to males (eg. physically, morally, creatively, aesthetically, emotionally) based on the fact of being born female.12, 14
• A preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
[GW] Preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love, especially in the gendered context of the romantic love tradition.28
• A belief that he or she is special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions
[GW] Gynocentric feminists have long celebrated women’s special and unique “ways of knowing,” along with the mystical association women share through these paths.29, 30
• A need for excessive admiration
[GW] Expects pedestalization of women by men. Pedestalization is defined by some authors as a synonym or central defining feature of gynocentrism.31, 32
• A sense of entitlement (ie, unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations)
[GW] Feels entitled to receive gestures of benevolent sexism/chivalry, and deferential behavior from intimate and familial males.33
• Interpersonally exploitive behavior (ie, the individual takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends)
[GW] Seeking, expecting, pressuring, or demanding benevolent sexism from men in order to secure benefits of comfort, pleasure, needs, wants, protections, provision, power and self-esteem, including the use of punishing gestures for failures or non-compliance, is sexually exploitative 22
• A lack of empathy (unwillingness to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others)
[GW] Women and men collude in squelching empathic recognition of men’s issues. This approach is actively promoted by gynocentric feminists who treat dispensation of empathy as a zero-sum activity and scarce resource reserved for women.34, 35
• Envy of others or a belief that others are envious of him or her
[GW] Envy of other women’s beauty (competitive edge for securing male resources),36 and a potential for penis envy (a symbolic generalization representing male potency and provision).37
• A demonstration of arrogant and haughty behaviors or attitudes
[GW] Displays an attitude and behavior of superiority over, and concomitant contempt for, men and boys.21, 38, 39

Gynocentrism can further be identified among items in the online narcissism lexicon:

Narcissistic supply is a concept introduced into psychoanalytic theory by Otto Fenichel in 1938 to describe a type of admiration, interpersonal support or sustenance drawn by an individual from his or her environment and essential to their self-esteem. The term is typically used in a negative sense, describing a pathological or excessive need for attention or admiration that does not take into account the feelings, opinions or preferences of other people. Self psychologist Heinz Kohut saw those with narcissistic personality disorder as disintegrating mentally when cut off from a regular source of narcissistic supply. Those providing supply to such figures may be treated as if they are a part of the narcissist, in an eclipse of all personal boundaries.40 These same motivations and behaviors can be readily seen in women’s search for, and expectation of, chivalric supplies from men.33

Narcissistic injury is a psychological wounding of the self through lack of ego-reinforcing supplies (narcissistic supplies). Such a blow typically lowers the narcissist’s self-esteem and produces feelings of humiliation, shame and rage.41 When it comes to narcissistic supplies women are often afforded priority over men, as we witness in common phrases such as “The wedding is her special day,” “Ladies before gentlemen,” “Aint nobody happy if mamma isn’t made happy,” “Women and girls first,” “Whatever she wants, she gets,” “Men must pay the bill for dinner,” etc. When denied the experience of such gynocentric entitlements women tend to experience injury and may express a sense of aggrieved entitlement.24

Narcissistic rage is a reaction to narcissistic injury, which is a perceived threat to a narcissist’s self-esteem or self-worth. It occurs on a continuum, which may range from instances of aloofness and expressions of mild irritation or annoyance to serious outbursts, including violent attacks and murder. For Heinz Kohut, narcissistic rage is related to narcissists’ need for total control of their environment, including “the need for revenge, for righting a wrong, for undoing a hurt by whatever means.”42 It is an attempt by the narcissist to turn from a passive sense of victimization to an active role in giving pain to others, while at the same time attempting to rebuild their own (actually false) sense of self-worth.43 It may also involve self-protection and preservation, with rage serving to restore a sense of safety and power by destroying that which had threatened the narcissist. Viewed in the context of gynocentric relationships, the narcissistic rage, or rather gynocentric rage, is captured in the phrase “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” which indicates that a woman who cannot make someone love her can become extremely angry and vindictive.

In their paper aptly titled The Allure of Sexism, Matthew D. Hammond et.al. studied whether women’s feeling of entitlement to special treatments — which they emphasize is a central facet of narcissism based on feelings of superiority and deservingness — was linked with endorsement of benevolent sexism by women across time. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the study found that a psychological sense of entitlement in women does mediate endorsement of benevolent sexism. Moreover, the researchers theorized that characteristics of narcissistic entitlement – those which drive resource-attainment and self-enhancement strategies – are the same qualities that promote women’s adoption of benevolent sexism:

“First, benevolent sexism facilitates the capacity to gain material resources and complements feelings of deservingness by promoting a structure of intimate relationships in which men use their access to social power and status to provide for women (Chen et al., 2009). Second, benevolent sexism reinforces beliefs of superiority by expressing praise and reverence of women, emphasizing qualities of purity, morality, and culture which make women the ‘‘fairer sex.’’ Indeed, identifying with these kinds of gender-related beliefs (e.g., women are warm) fosters a more positive self-concept (Rudman, Greenwald, & McGhee, 2001).

Moreover, for women higher in psychological entitlement, benevolent sexism legitimizes a self-centric approach to relationships by emphasizing women’s special status within the intimate domain and men’s responsibilities of providing and caring for women. Such care involves everyday chivalrous behaviors, such as paying on a first date and opening doors for women (Sarlet et al., 2012; Viki et al., 2003), to more overarching prescriptions for men’s behavior toward women, such as being ‘‘willing to sacrifice their own well-being’’ to provide for women and to ensure women’s happiness by placing her ‘‘on a pedestal’’ (Ambivalent Sexism Inventory; Glick & Fiske, 1996). Thus, women higher in psychological entitlement should be particularly enticed by benevolent sexism because it justifies provision and praise from men as expected behavior and does not require women to reciprocate the reverence or material gains, which men provide.’ (Hammond, et.al., 2014, pp. 3-4).”33

Recognition of narcissism among feminist women is also not new. In her paper ‘Who Put The “Me” in Feminism,’ Imogen Tyler admits to the widespread recognition of narcissism in the feminist movement by wider society. Tyler attempts to put a positive spin on the practice, reframing the predilection among feminists as one of downtrodden women’s attempt to develop an independent, healthy narcissistic identity not tied to patriarchal demands. In her paper Tyler advocates what she views as the hidden benefits of female narcissism:

“Feminism exposes and challenges the sexual politics of narcissism both by making prevailing forms of narcissism visible (the homo-social bond) and by encouraging new self-conscious forms of narcissism amongst women to emerge.”

“In this article I have examined what is at stake in the attribution of narcissism to femininity and feminism, and the routes through which arguments about ‘feminist narcissism’ became central to the popular abjection of feminism… Despite the ways in which narcissism has been consistently employed as a rhetorical means of denigrating women and delegitimizing feminist politics, I have also demonstrated the central role of narcissistic theories of identity in enabling feminist theorists to prise open the mechanisms of feminine identity and critique the sexual politics of identity practices.”44

What has been men’s role in promoting gynocentric narcissism?

Firstly we can say that men have played a principle role in aiding and abetting the growth of gynocentrism among women, motivated in large part by a desire to form relationships with them. Secondly, as Paul Elam recently pointed out in an article Daddy’s Little Nightmare, men encourage narcissism in their daughters:

It’s quite ironic, listening to a man complain about how his wife has crazy unreal expectations. He bemoans the fact that she cannot be satisfied, no matter what he does. He claims that he pulls his hair out trying to figure out how to satisfy her endless demands only to be met with more disapproval and, of course, more demands. He wonders aloud how she ever learned to be such a bottomless pit, and such a bitch about it.

Then you go watch him interact with his four-year old daughter, whom he will endlessly coddle and for whom he will go to any measure to make sure she never lacks anything, no matter how trivial.

And it doesn’t stop when she turns five. Or fifteen, or twenty-five. When it comes to turning human females into paragons of pissy entitlement, the western father has few rivals.45

Suffice to say that many men are complicit in maintaining the status quo, creating a culture of exaggerated benevolent sexism in order to gain romantic access to women. The subsequent relationship dynamic is one they may come to find destructive to their emotional and physical wellbeing and thus unsustainable. Some of them adjust to a gynocentric relationship by resigning their dreams and emotional needs and playing the role of what is disparagingly referred to as a cuck or servile partner, perhaps rationalizing that gynocentrism is ‘the way of nature.’ Gynocentrism is likewise upheld at the social level, relying equally on a heterosexual compact between women and male politicians, for example, or women and male court magistrates who are eager to demonstrate their chivalric credentials.

Another group of men, however, are making a conscious decision to avoid gynocentric relationships by searching for a woman who does not subscribe to extreme gynocentrism, or alternatively by adopting the life of a confirmed bachelor or MGTOW and engaging in meaningful activities and relationships that can fill the breach.

Summary

Most academic studies find males as a group score higher on narcissism scales than do females.46 However those findings may be misleading because the instruments used and their factor structures may be more effective at tapping male expressions of narcissism. Women’s narcissism may be less global in its expression because women might not feel entitled, for example, to special treatment by all non-intimate males nor by other women, whereas they may feel highly entitled to special treatment in intimate relationships with men and boys, as detailed above.

This essay demonstrates that the DSM-5 criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder is significantly correlated with behaviors and expectations of gynocentric women, which leads to the conclusion that gynocentrism is a gendered expression of narcissism operating in the limiting context of heterosexual relations.

 

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Image: Edward Burne Jones ‘The Mirror of Venus’ 

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