Narcissism among self-identified feminists has been studied by Imogen Tyler in her paper ‘Who put the “Me” in feminism?’ The sexual politics of narcissism (2005), which surveyed the connection between feminism and narcissism that has long been a subject of public discourse, and a more recent study has confirmed that feminist women have significantly higher levels of narcissism than non-feminist women, and are less tolerant of disagreement than non-feminist women (Taneja & Goyal, 2019).
Narcissism may be expressed in grandiose or vulnerable ways, and empirical studies confirm that these two modalities work as “two sides of the same coin” (Sar & Türk-Kurtça, 2021) with narcissistic individuals typically oscillating, Janus faced, between these subtypes. Likewise, feminist behaviour displays features of both vulnerable or grandiose narcissism, along with oscillations between these two modes of expression.
As detailed by Naomi Wolf, feminism tends to bifurcate along grandiose and vulnerable lines, or what she refers to as “power” and “victim feminism” (Wolf, 2013). Wolf explains that victim feminism is when a woman seeks power through an identity of disenfranchisement and powerlessness, and adds that this amounts to a kind of “chauvinism” that is not confined to the women’s movement alone, stating; “It is what all of us do whenever we retreat into appealing for status on the basis of feminine specialness instead of human worth, and fight underhandedly rather than honourably.” (Wolf, p147. 2013).
Wolf adds that the deluded rhetoric of the victim-feminist creates, “a dualism in which good, post-patriarchal, gynocentric power is ‘personal power,’ to be distinguished from ‘the many forms of power over others.’” (Wolf, p160. 2013). Other feminist writers have independently concurred with Wolf’s categorisation of ‘agentic’ and ‘victim’ modes of performing feminism (Wolf, 2013; Denfeld, 2009; Sommers, 1995; Roiphe, 1993).
A century prior to observations made by Wolf, English philosopher E. Belfort Bax observed the same bifurcation within first wave feminism, describing a grandiose form of activism he referred to as ‘political feminism’ which concerned itself with claiming equal rights and privileges for women without demonstrating commensurate achievements, capabilities, responsibilities or sacrifices with men, and secondly a vulnerable kind he called ‘sentimental feminism’ which concerned itself with securing sympathies toward women while at the same time fostering antipathy toward men. Bax made the observation that these two forms of activism often occurred in individual feminists who would oscillate between these modes of expression depending on which one was momentarily efficacious for securing power. (Bax, 1913).
Bax, E. B. (1913). The Fraud of Feminism. Grant Richards.
Denfeld, R. (2009). The new Victorians: A young woman’s challenge to the old feminist order. Hachette UK.
Roiphe, K. (1993). The morning after: Fear, sex, and feminism on college campuses. Boston, Mass.
Sar, V., & Türk-Kurtça, T. (2021). The vicious cycle of traumatic narcissism and dissociative depression among young adults: A trans-diagnostic approach. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, 22(5), 502-521.
Sommers, C. H. (1995). Who stole feminism?: How women have betrayed women. Simon and Schuster
Taneja, S., & Goyal, P. (2019). Impact of Feminism on Narcissism and Tolerance for Disagreement among Females. Indian Journal of Mental Health, 6(1).
Tyler, I. (2005). ‘Who put the “Me” in feminism?’ The sexual politics of narcissism. Feminist Theory, 6(1), 25-44.
Wolf, N. (2013). Fire with fire: New female power and how it will change the twenty-first century. Random House.
* A version of this extract was first printed in the New Male Studies article ‘Gynocentrism As A Narcissistic Pathology – Part 2.
E.B. Bax talks of first-wave feminists soliciting, expecting and receiving male chivalry for the benefit of women. His assessment below prefigures how “chivalry feminists” have continued to operate through second and third-wave feminism. Indeed it can be argued that feminism’s most effective source of agency has always been its reliance on male chivalry.
E.B. Bax quotes:
I decline to bow down before a sexual principle, or to admit the justice of granting privileges on the basis of a sex-sentiment. What I contended and still contend is that the bulk of the advocates of woman’s rights are simply working, not for equality, but for female ascendency. It is all very well to say they repudiate chivalry. They are ready enough to invoke it politically when they want to get a law passed in their favour – while socially, to my certain knowledge, many of them claim it as a right every whit as much as ordinary women.
Notwithstanding the state of law, public opinion, and custom, the “shrieking sisterhood,” and their male lackeys continue to invoke male “chivalry” in defence of every usurpation or act of injustice perpetrated in the interest of female domination… In the early middle ages, when strength of arm was commonly called into requisition for defence, “chivalry” had a meaning; in the nineteenth century it has none, and is merely an excuse for the privileges and domination of the female sex. In fact, if “chivalry” means taking the side of the weaker, it would be shown more often to-day, in championing the cause of the man against the woman, than that of the woman against the man. Hegel said that every typical character appeared twice in history – once as tragedy and once as farce. If we apply this to the chivalric type, and take King Arthur or Sir Launcelot (regarded for the nonce as historical personages) as the embodiment of the former we may certainly find the latter in the person of the great cheap-jack of London journalism, and exponent of the sorrows of husband-hunting wenches. The drop is certainly great from the hero of the “City of Legions” to the “Northumbrian boy.”
In this great step toward real as opposed to sham equality between the sexes [we require] the repudiation by women themselves of the anachronistic notion of “Chivalry,” as being due to them from men. If we are to have equality and fellowship, let it be equality and fellowship, and not a hollow fraud masquerading under the name.
“THE justification for the whole movement of Modern Feminism in one of its main practical aspects – namely, the placing of the female sex in the position of privilege, advantage and immunity – is concentrated in the current conception of “chivalry.” It behoves us, therefore, to devote some consideration to the meaning and implication of this notion. Now this word chivalry is the dernier ressort of those at a loss for a justification of the modern privileging of women.
“It is plain then that chivalry as understood in the present day really spells sex privilege and sex favouritism pure and simple, and that any attempts to define the term on a larger basis, or to give it a colourable rationality founded on fact, are simply subterfuges, conscious or unconscious, on the part of those who put them forward.
“Every outrageous pretension of Sentimental Feminism can be justified by the appeal to chivalry, which amounts (to use the German expression) to an appeal from Pontius to Pilate. This Sentimental Feminism commonly called chivalry is sometimes impudently dubbed by its votaries, “manliness.” It will presumably continue in its practical effects until a sufficient minority of sensible men will have the moral courage to beard a Feminist public opinion and shed a little of this sort of “manliness.”
“Such is “chivalry” as understood to-day – the deprivation, the robbery from men of the most elementary personal rights in order to endow women with privileges at the expense of men.
But these considerations afford only one more illustration of the utter irrationality of the whole movement of Sentimental Feminism identified with the notion of “chivalry.” For the rest, we may find illustrations of this galore. A very flagrant case is that infamous “rule of the sea” which came so much into prominence at the time of the Titanic disaster. According to this preposterous “chivalric” Feminism, in the case of a ship foundering, it is the unwritten law of the seas, not that the passengers shall leave the ship and be rescued in their order as they come, but that the whole female portion shall have the right of being rescued before any man is allowed to leave the ship. Now this abominable piece of sex favouritism, on the face of it, cries aloud in its irrational injustice.
“Chivalry, as understood by Modern Sentimental Feminism, means unlimited licence for women in their relations with men, and unlimited coercion for men in their relations with women. To men all duties and no rights, to women all rights and no duties, is the basic principle underlying Modern Feminism, Suffragism, and the bastard chivalry it is so fond of invoking. The most insistent female shrieker for equality between the sexes among Political Feminists, it is interesting to observe, will, in most cases, on occasion be found an equally insistent advocate of the claims of Sentimental Feminism, based on modern metamorphosed notions of chivalry. It never seems to strike anyone that the muscular weakness of woman has been forged by Modern Feminists into an abominable weapon of tyranny. Under cover of the notion of chivalry, as understood by Modern Feminism, Political and Sentimental Feminists alike would deprive men of the most elementary rights of self-defence against women and would exonerate the latter practically from all punishment for the most dastardly crimes against men. They know they can rely upon the support of the sentimental section of public opinion with some such parrot cry of’ “What! Hit a woman!”
Why not, if she molests you?
“Treat a woman in this way!” “Shame!” responds automatically the crowd of Sentimental Feminist idiots, oblivious of the fact that the real shame lies in their endorsement of an iniquitous sex privilege. If the same crowd were prepared to condemn any special form of punishment or mode of treatment as inhumane for both sexes alike, there would, of course, be nothing to be said. But it is not so. The most savage cruelty and vindictive animosity towards men leaves them comparatively cold, at most evoking a mild remonstrance as against the inflated manifestation of sentimental horror and frothy indignation produced by any slight hardship inflicted by way of punishment (let us say) on a female offender.”
“In the foregoing pages we have endeavoured to trace some of the leading strands of thought going to make up the Modern Feminist Movement. Sentimental Feminism clearly has its roots in sexual feeling, and in the tradition of chivalry, albeit the notion of chivalry has essentially changed in the course of its evolution. For the rest, Sentimental Feminism, with its double character of man-antipathy and woman-sympathy, as we see it to-day, has assumed the character of one of those psychopathic social phenomena which have so often recurred in history. It can only be explained, like the latter, as an hypnotic wave passing over society.
Let women have the franchise by all means, provided two things, first of all: provided you can get rid of their present practical immunity from the operation of the criminal law for all offences committed against men and of the gallantry and shoddy chivalry that now hedges a woman in all relations of life.
The following articles explore the role of narcissism in the context of gynocentric culture & behaviour. This emphasis is not aimed to reduce narcissism to an all-female pathology, but to demonstrate the ways in which female narcissism may lean toward gynocentric modes of expression, much as males demonstrate narcissism in typically gendered ways.
Articles on gynocentrism & narcissism by Peter Wright:
The following is from a Letter To The editor of Reynolds Newspaper in 1896 titled ‘A Privileged And Pampered Sex:
SIR,–A paragraph in your issue of the week before last stated that oakum-picking as a prison task had been abolished for women and the amusement of dressing dolls substituted. This is an interesting illustration of the way we are going at present, and gives cause to some reflection as to the rate at which a sex aristocracy is being established in our midst. While the inhumanity of our English prison system, in so far as it affects men, stands out as a disgrace to the age in the eyes of all Europe, houses of correction for female convicts are being converted into agreeable boudoirs and pleasant lounges. [full newspaper article here]
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Female Aristocracy in American schools in 1900:
In the year 1900 F.E. DeYoe and C. H. Thurber articulated concerns in an article for The School Review which asked, “Where Are the High School Boys?” According to DeYoe and Thurber, a school system that served more girls than boys was a school system headed for disaster. They wrote:
“It is the people’s college, and yet it is obvious that from this people’s college the boys are, for some reason or other, turning away. During most of this century we have been agitating the question of higher education for women. Possibly we have neglected a little to attend to the higher education of boys. Certainly, if we are not to have a comparatively ignorant male proletariat opposed to a female aristocracy, it is time to pause and devise ways and means for getting more of our boys to attend the high school.
We have the anomaly of schools attended chiefly by girls though planned exclusively for boys. A half century ago girls were reluctantly admitted to the high schools and academies as the simplest and most inexpensive way of meeting the cry for justice to women in educational advantages. Now we find the girls apparently driving the boys out of these very schools.”
The following is from the The Independent which reported a push to set up a female aristocracy in America. The article was titled The New Aristocracy:
“To be successful in the cultivation of culture a country must have a leisure class,” says the editor. “We Americans recognise this fact, but we are going about the getting of this leisure class in a new way.
“In Europe the aristocracy is largely relieved from drudgery in order that they may cultivate the graces of life. In America the attempt is being made to relieve the women of all classes from drudgery, and we are glad to see that some of them at least are making good use of the leisure thus afforded them. It is a project involving unprecedented daring and self-sacrifice on the part of American men, this making an aristocracy of half the race. That it is possible yet remains to be proved. Whether it is desirable depends upon whether this new feminine aristocracy avoids the faults of the aristocracy of the Old World, such as frivolousness and snobbishness.” [Source: Article, Kalgoorlie Miner, 5 January 1910– Original source: The Independent, Volume 67, 1909]
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The New American Sex Aristocracy in 1929:
The following was written by Constance Eaton, and published the Daily Telegraph- 16 August 1929.
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Response to Aristocracy in American Society in 1929:
The following is a journalist’s response to Constance Eaton’s 1929 claim that the sexes have been crafted into social classes – aristocratic women, and their male serfs.
“THE AMERICAN MALE has always had a tendency to put woman on a pedestal, even if he is not so poetic about it as were the heroes of the age of chivalry. The modern ‘equality of the sexes,’ instead of doing away with this, has only changed its manner of expression. Woman may stand on the same political plane with man, but spiritually he considers her as remote as the stars. Mentally and morally she is supposed to belong to a higher sphere.” At least that it what Constance Eaton, who has been making observations a la Keyserling, Sigfreid, Tolstoi, and others, for readers of The Daily Telegraph of London, believes she has discovered in what she terms America’s sex aristocracy. It makes interesting reading to write that woman is considered mentally superior to man, in America. This may be true of the women, but in my experience I have found few men who held such a view. The burden of Miss Eaton’s thesis is that man earns the money, woman spends it, woman forms the only leisure class, and that woman has spent her life cultivating herself. Man is abject before woman’s superiority.
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Another Response to Eaton’s New American Aristocracy
OUR “SEX ARISTOCRACY”
Bertrand Russell arrives with the announcement that our American civilization is the “most feminine since old Egypt,” and Constance Eaton, who has been peering at us curiously for the edification of the readers of the London Daily Telegraph reports that what we really have in America is an aristocracy, not of money, not of blood, nor brains, but of sex. Our men, she finds, place women on a pedestal—on a throne—and they take it seriously and proceed to govern. Man here is the worker. He is the peasant of the field, the brother of the clod, the artisan of the factory, and his mission is to sweat and toil and accumulate spoil to lay at the feet of the lady—the aristocrat who neither toils nor spins. She even does our thinking for us, for Constance Eaton is sure that our culture is wholly of the manufacture of the women. She puts it thus:
“She is a typical representative of the new American sex aristocracy. She has spent her life cultivating herself, body and mind, and when her husband gives over for a while the pursuit of the money which has made this possible to Join her in a holiday abroad, she expresses withering scorn for his lack of style, manners and culture.”
Thus it seems that men in America are in a bad way—pathetic tools of the women—and that our civilization is feminine. At first blush this seems tragic. But, on second thought, does not every one now know that woman is the stronger sex and that her domination makes for strength? These foreign visitors who pounce upon our women and their domination of the men have not found us very romantic or sentimental in International conferences nor on international battlefields. If this is due to our femininity, perhaps we may worry along.
“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.”
“But what are the women’s rights advocated today? The right to confiscate men’s money, the right to commit parental alienation, the right to commit paternity fraud, the right to equal pay for less work, the right to pay a lower tax rate, the right to mutilate men, the right to confiscate sperm, the right to murder children, the right to not be disagreed with, the right to reproductive choice and the right to make that choice for men as well. In an interesting legal paradox, some have advocated – with success – that women should have the right to not be punished for crimes at all. The eventual outcome of this is a kind of sexual feudalism, where women rule arbitrarily, and men are held in bondage, with fewer rights and far more obligations.”
There are countless definitions of what ‘feminism’ is, with feminists themselves pointing to glib dictionary definitions, and antifeminists preferring to define it as a female supremacy movement. A hundred other definitions could easily be offered, but the more important question is what (if anything) do all these different definitions hold in common?
Below, Adam Kostakis answers this question in the affirmative with an elegant definition that most would agree with. – PW
Even essentially contested concepts, as W. B. Gallie referred to them, must have meanings which are greater than normative, else communication about them would be rendered impossible. That is – there must be some amount of general consensus over what feminism is, between feminists and anti-feminists, or we would not be able to argue about it! Even despite the differences between a feminist’s view of feminism and of our own, some shared content must exist at some level, or we would be talking about entirely different things. They might be talking about the feminist movement, while I am talking about horse-rearing, although we both refer to our respective subjects as ‘feminism’ – but we wouldn’t have much to say to each other, would we, if this were the case?
So, I shall posit the following as a universally applicable definition of feminism; that is to say, it must fit everyone’s criteria for what feminism is, in spite of the different perspectives that different people hold on its nature. It is a suitably limited definition, since it can encompass only those parts of feminism which all definitions hold in common. So, here it is: feminism is the project for increasing the power of women.
That, then, is what everybody who discusses feminism holds in common regarding the concept, whether they are supportive, skeptical, or nihilistically indifferent. No feminist, I think, would deny that this is, at the very least, the ‘bare bones’ of feminism, even if she would prefer to flesh it out in a lot more detail. But that will not do, for beyond this narrow inference, we disagree with each other. To be as objective as possible, then, we must take only that which everybody agrees upon, and that is our universally applicable definition.
Note that there is no mention of equality. This is because there are a number of feminists who explicitly did not pursue equality, but supremacy. So, equality cannot fit into the universal definition of feminism, since certain feminists themselves – who were very famously, unequivocally feminist – disavowed it. To say that feminism is ‘about equality’, then, would be to place oneself in diametrical opposition to several extremely influential feminists! And why, that would be … misogynistic!
Nor can feminism be said to be the project for increasing the power of women relative to men, since, in this counter-feminist’s view, feminists are often quite content to increase the power of women in an absolute sense. That is, they endeavor to grab all they can for women, without reference to the status of men. The phrase ‘relative to men,’ then, only serves to imply that women are power-less relative to men at present, thus casting feminism in an unfairly favorable light. In reality, once women do achieve power which is at an equal or equivalent level to that of men, the demands of feminists do not stop. What we find is that female power becomes entrenched, and extended, and when it surpasses male power, this is simply referred to as ‘parity’ and ignored by feminists – at least, when they are not gloating over men’s newfound powerlessness.
Nor are we able to list, in our universal definition, the specific areas of life, or spheres, in which the feminist project applies. This is because feminism is inherently universalizing; it seeks to colonize and dominate every single facet of life where men and women meet. It aims for domination in every sphere of life, actual and potential.
You may disagree with some of the points above, particularly if you are supportive of feminism. But this does nothing to change our universal definition, because all we can say about those points is that they are contentious. That is, feminists and non-feminists, who are educated about feminism, disagree about these aspects of feminism, and it would simply be biased to take one or the other view for granted. That would be like consulting only Jacobins on the historical accomplishments of the Jacobin Club, or like canvassing only conservatives to explain modern liberalism. It would be a good example of poor methodology, and would help us very little in our search for truth. Right? So then, our universally applicable definition cannot be expanded beyond that which we stated before: feminism is the project for increasing the power of women.
Source: The above excerpt is from Adam Kostakis’ essay Pig Latin.
I hope this chapter from The Plural Psyche of 1989 will still be of interest. It is, on one level, a critique of gender essentialism in the Jungian community and in its theorizing. As such, students of analytical psychology and Jungian Studies could well be interested. They should note that the chapter was very controversial in its time and led to attempts to claim that I was not a real Jungian because I had abandoned the interior perspective in which ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ were exclusively metaphorical matters.
In addition, the chapter was my first attempt to sketch out a contemporary variant of animus-anima theory that led to a subsequent suggestion that the theory was useful in underpinning an approach to gendered behaviour that greatly extends what we understand as male/masculine or female/feminine behavior for men and women. In this sense, Jung’s antiquated gender theory gets given new legs. (Written in September 2013.)
In this chapter, I look at developments in analytical psychology concerning gender identity, gender characteristics, and gender role. This is set against the background of a general debate about the psychology of sex and gender and the question of sex-based psychology. As in all my work, the linkage between gender certainty and gender confusion is a central concern, as is the tracking of fluidity, flexibility, and a pluralistic ethos in connection with gender.
THE GENDER DEBATE
Some questions: are men innately more aggressive than women? Does that explain their social and political dominance? Is there such a thing as innately ‘masculine’ or innately ‘feminine’ psychology?
In his book Archetype: a Natural History of the Self, Anthony Stevens drew on the work of the sociobiologists Wilson and Goldberg to reach the conclusion that ‘male dominance is a manifestation of the “psychophysiological reality” of our species. In addition there is genetic and neurophysiological evidence relating to the biology of sexual differentiation. . . . Patriarchy, it seems is the natural condition of mankind’ (Stevens 1982: 188–92).
In Jung and the Post-Jungians, I drew on the work of Janet Sayers to critique Stevens’s position (Samuels 1985a: 220–2). Sayers felt that those opposed to changes in women’s role had appropriated biology to their cause and she demolished the sociobiological case in a witty and learned way. For instance, Wilson quoted studies that showed that boys were consistently more able than girls at mathematics but that girls have a higher degree of verbal ability. And boys are, in Wilson’s view, more aggressive in social play. From these bases, Wilson concluded that ‘even with identical education and equal access to all professions men are likely to continue to play a disproportionate role in political life, business and science’ (quoted in Sayers 1982: 77). She wryly remarks that it is hard to see how males’ lesser verbal ability leads to their being better fitted for political life. Surely, if biology really does determine social role, it should be the other way round?
Recently I came across the work of another academic psychologist, Gerda Siann (1985). She comprehensively surveyed the various research findings that purport to link aggression to the male hormones. She concluded that ‘no specific areas in the brain or nervous system have been pinpointed as controlling aggression’ and that an overview of the repeated studies shows that androgenized girls do not seem more aggressive than their peers, siblings, or mothers. Overandrogenized males do not display noteworthy dominance, assertion, or aggression in spite of the fact that their greater size would guarantee victory (they seem to be rather gentle people). What is more, Siann’s careful reading of the research findings shows that castration has no effect on the overall aggressive behaviour of sex offenders, save in relation to actual sexual behaviour. Finally, plasma testosterone levels do not seem to relate directly to aggressive behaviour. Siann’s overall conclusion was:
the evidence does not show any clear and unambiguous relationship between male hormones and the propensity to display violent behaviour or feel aggressive emotion. Indeed the likelihood of such a simple unidirectional relationship has been thrown into doubt by two additional lines of investigation. The first shows that the secretion of male hormones is itself directly affected by environmental and social variables, and the second is concerned with the speculation that female hormones may also be implicated in violent behaviour and aggressive emotion.
(Siann 1985: 37)
To sustain Stevens’s sociobiological viewpoint, female aggression has to be overlooked or minimized. What is more, there is a confusion between ‘aggression’ and ‘dominance’. Not all human dominance depends on aggression. We have to explain phenomena such as altruistic or self-sacrificing behaviour, conscience, the checks placed on the power of a leader, human capacity for collective decision-making, and so forth.
What follows is a discussion of the third question with which we started this section: are there such things as innate ‘masculine’ and, more pertinently perhaps, innate ‘feminine’ psychologies? If there are, then there could be a noncorporeal innate factor in aggression.
BEYOND THE FEMININE PRINCIPLE
It is hard to write flexibly and fluidly about what is flexible and fluid. The danger when trying to reflect on our current preoccupation with gender is that we might become too clear and too organized – a reaction formation to the inevitable anxiety (and guilt) we experience at finding that what we thought was solid and fixed is perforated and shifting. Humanity is not just divided into women and men but also into those who are certain about gender and those who are confused about gender. As we have seen, getting the balance between gender certainty and gender confusion is a hard task. Clinically, we see the negative effects of an excess of either position and working with individual patients in the area of gender identity is a kind of research work before moving on to the collective stage and a wider scale.
For gender confusions have as important a role to play as gender certainties. They contribute something imaginative to social and political reform and change. I refer to ‘confusion’ and not to something that sounds more laudable like ‘flexibility’ because, experientially, that is precisely what it is, no bones about it. Not for the first time in psychology, we can fashion the strengths out of an apparent weakness. To do this, I have found that I have had to learn from women about what they have been through.
Does use of the word confusion not imply the possibility of definition and clarity concerning gender? The way I use the word ‘certainty’ in relation to gender is intended to suggest that, while clear definition is theoretically possible, it is, for the most part, illusory and/or problematic.
In order to discuss the subject at all, the distinction between sex and gender should be noted, allowing for some overlap as well. Sex (male and female) refers to anatomy and the biological substrate to behaviour, to the extent that there is one. Gender (masculine and feminine) is a cultural or psychological term, arising in part from observations and identifications within the family, hence relative and flexible, and capable of sustaining change. Now, in some approaches, particularly in analytical psychology, what can happen is that a form of determinism creeps in and the invariant nature of gender is assumed, just as if gender characteristics and qualities were as fixed as sexual ones. The history of women shows that change is possible just because the social meaning of womanhood is malleable. But when this is ignored, as by Stevens, the possibilities of change, other than as part of ordinary maturation and individuation, are lost.
Is there such a thing as a ‘feminine psychology’? I’ll begin with a general discussion, then consider whether there is a feminine psychology that applies to women. In a moment, I’ll look at the ‘feminine’ in relation to men, and, after that, at femininity and masculinity as metaphors.
Males and females do have experiences that vary markedly. But it is a huge step from that to a claim that they actually function sufficiently discrepantly psychologically for us to speak of two distinct psychologies. The evidence concerning this is muddled and hard to assess. For instance, the discovery that boys build towers and girls build enclosures when they are given bricks can be taken to show a similarity of functioning rather than difference (which is what is usually claimed). Both sexes are interested in their bodies and, possibly, in the differences between male and female bodies. Both sexes express that interest in the same way – symbolically, in play with bricks. Or, put in another form, both sexes approach the difference between the sexes in the same way. The differences that we see in gender role and gender identity can then be looked at as having arisen in the same manner. The psychological processes by which a male becomes an aggressive businessman and a female a nurturing and submissive housewife are the same and one should not be deceived by the dissimilarity in the end product.
What I have been describing is not a woman’s relation to an innate femininity or to an innate masculinity. Rather I am talking of her relation to the phenomenon of difference. Then we can consider the social or cultural structures erected on the basis of that difference. Each woman lives her life in interplay with such difference. This leads at once to questions of gender role (for example, how a woman can best express her aggression in our culture) but these questions need not be couched in terms of innate femininity or innate masculinity, nor in terms of a feminine-masculine spectrum. Rather, they might be expressed in terms of difference. In the example, the difference between aggression and submission needs to be seen as different from the difference between men and women! Or, put another way, whatever differences there might be between women and men are not illuminated or signified by the difference between submission and aggression. In the previous two chapters, we have been exploring how gender difference is formed in relations between parents and children and by cultural and social organization.
I am aware that men are said to have access to the ‘feminine’, or to the ‘feminine principle’ and I used to think that such an unremittingly interior view was the jewel in the Jungian crown. Now I am not so sure. If we’re attempting to describe psychological performance, we have to be sure why terms with gendered associations and appellations are being used at all. Otherwise we end up with statements such as that ‘masculine’ aggression is available to women via their relation to the animus, or ‘feminine’ reflection in the man via his anima. But aggression is part of woman and reflection is part of man. What is more, there are so many kinds of aggression open to women that even current attempts to speak of a woman’s aggression as ‘feminine’ rather than ‘masculine’ still bind her as tightly as ever. Let us begin to speak merely of aggression. Gender engenders confusion – and this is made worse when gender terms are used exclusively in an inner way. When we speak of ‘inner’ femininity in a man, we bring in all the unnecessary problems of reification and substantive abstraction that I have been describing. We still cannot assume that psychological functioning is different in men and women, though we know that the creatures ‘man’ and ‘woman’ are different.
The question of ‘difference’ brings us to a point where we can play back these ideas into analytical psychology. From Jung’s overall theory of opposites, which hamstrings us by its insistence on contrasexuality (‘masculine’ assertion via the animus, etc.), we can extract the theme of difference. The notion of difference, I suggest, can help us in the discussion about gender. Not innate ‘opposites’, which lead us to create an unjustified psychological division expressed in lists of antithetical qualities, each list yearning for the other list so as to become ‘whole’. A marriage made on paper. No, I am referring to the fact, image, and social reality of difference itself. Not what differences between women and men there are, or have always been; if we pursue that, we end up captured by our captivation and obsession with myth and with the eternal, part of the legacy from Jung. I am interested in what difference is like, what the experience of difference is like (and how that experience is distorted in the borderline disorders). Not what a woman is, but what being a woman is like. Not the archetypal structuring of woman’s world but woman’s personal experience in today’s world. Not the meaning of a woman’s life but her experience of her life. Each person remains a ‘man’ or a ‘woman’, but what that means to each becomes immediate and relative, and hence capable of generational expansion and cultural challenge. My suggestion has been that paternal deficits constrict the expansion and truncate the challenge.
In both the collective, external debate about gender characteristics and the personal, internal debate about gender identity, the question of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ is best left in suspension – even, and the word is used advisedly, in some confusion. ‘Gender confusion’ is a necessary antidote to gender certainty and has its own creative contribution to make. This is particularly true in the treatment of borderline disorders, as we shall see in the next chapter. For, when we consider gender and the borderline we will see how gender confusion and gender certainty can operate in isolation from each other. Inadvertently, those who propound a ‘feminine principle’ play into and replicate the dynamics of unconscious gender certainty, denying gender confusion.
It is probably fair to say that post-Jungian analytical psychology has become preoccupied with gender certainty and gender confusion in its concern with the ‘feminine principle’. Here, I am not referring to the writings on women and ‘feminine psychology’ by Jung and his early circle of followers. The problems with that body of work are well known and often repeated. But in the 1970s and 1980s, mainly in the United States, women writers in analytical psychology have set out to revise, or revolutionize, the early work. Such writers are struggling to be ‘post-Jungian’ in their attempt to critique those of Jung’s ideas that seem unsatisfactory or just plain wrong without dismissing Jung altogether.
The reason why there has been a concentration on the ‘feminine principle’ in recent Jungian writing is that it has provided a means to celebrate the specificity of women’s identity, life, and experience. In addition, having the notion of a ‘feminine principle’ in mind helps to make a critique of culture out of personal confrontations with it. The basic desire of feminists who are involved in Jungian psychology has been to refuse and refute the denigration of women that is perceived in analytical psychology, to bring the feminine gender in from the condescending margins, and to promote an alternative philosophy of life to that expressed in the power institutions of a male-dominated society.
Taken as a whole, and I realize I am generalizing, feminism which draws on Jung’s ideas stands out from other varieties, with which I feel more in sympathy, in two main ways. Both of these stem from Jung’s approach, resist eradication, and cause great difficulties. It is assumed that there is something eternal about femininity and, hence, about women; that women therefore, display certain essential transcultural and ahistorical characteristics; and that these can be described in psychological terms. What is omitted is the on-going role of the prevailing culture in the construction of the ‘feminine’ and a confusion develops between what is claimed to be eternal and what is currently observed to be the case. It is here that the deadweight of the heritage of archetypal theory is felt, but as the mirror image of Jung’s problem. He assumed that there is something eternal about women and, hence, about femininity. As Young-Eisendrath (1987: 47) writes, ‘certain beliefs about difference – for example, about gender and racial differences – have influenced our thinking about the meaning of symbolic representations, behaviours, style, and manner of people who are alien to the roots of our psychology in Switzerland’. She goes on to say that we need ‘something more than maps and charts of our own design’.
I would like to say what I find problematic in the many attempts to locate eternal models or maps for the psychological activity of women in mythology and goddess imagery. When such imagery is used as a kind of role model or resource for a woman in her here-and-now pain and struggle, that is one thing. But when it is claimed that such endeavour is a reclamation of qualities and characteristics that once prevailed in human society only to be smashed by the patriarchy, then that is altogether more suspect. For it is a highly disputed point, to put it mildly, that such an era ever existed. Could this be a case of taking myth too literally? And isn’t there a hidden danger here? For if men were to claim that they are in the direct line of psychic inheritance of the characteristics and qualities of gods and heroes, then we’d end up with the status quo, with things just as they are, for they couldn’t be any other way. As far as role-modelling and resource provision goes, surely any woman, even or especially an analyst, can perform this task for another woman.
It could be argued that referring to a goddess as a role model or resource is to miss the point about what is special in a divine figure – the numinosity that attaches to such a figure and hence provides a special form of authority. I am not convinced by this argument, for any figure can constellate the kind of venerating transference that is exemplified in the mortal-divine relation. This is something well known to any and every analyst who has experienced an idealizing transference. If the numinosity is not what is specific to the goddess, then, as I suggested, it is her a-temporality, that which is claimed as eternal and absolute in her.
The search for hidden sources of authority is a project constellated by what is seen as a flawed cultural tradition. But there may also be a ‘flaw’ in the project itself, for such a search demonstrates the very sense of weakness and lack of authority which it seeks to overcome. Engaging in a rivalrous search for female archetypes could lead to a new set of restrictions on female experience, as several writers have observed (Lauter and Rupprecht 1985: 9 discuss this point in detail).
Could we try to play the feminine principle in a pragmatic and not an eternal or absolute key? If so, then its truth would be measured, in William James’s words, ‘by the extent to which it brings us into satisfactory relations with other parts of our experience’ (1911: 157). We would have to start assembling material on the experience of difference as well as on the experience of womanhood and manhood. Sociologists and academic psychologists may have done this but depth psychologists have not – or not yet. Then, in Shorter’s words, we would become less concerned with the ‘image’ of woman and more with ‘likeness’ to that image. She says: ‘Likeness is consciousness of image and its embodiment. . . . It is not a question of imitation; each person becomes in part and to the measure that he (sic) is able “like to” the image’ (Shorter 1987: 40). Or in Caroline Stevens’s words: ‘as a woman, anything I do is feminine’ (personal communication, 1987).
The second point of disagreement between feminism in analytical psychology and feminism generally has to do with the impression that much Jungian discourse on the ‘feminine’ seems directed away from political and social action. Dwelling upon interiority and feeling becomes an end in itself. So, just as middle-class Victorian women were believed to be the repository of sensibility and confined to hearth and home, in the Jungian manner of it, women in the nuclear age are meant to be mainly private creatures.
My concern is that much thinking and writing around the ‘feminine principle’ has opened a secret door into analytical psychology for the return of what is, paradoxically and ironically, an overstructured approach to psyche, heavily dependent upon abstraction and decidedly moralistic. What I’m suggesting is that much contemporary Jungian work on feminine psychology may be seen as far more of an ‘imitation of Jung’ than was consciously intended. The intention of rectifying Jung’s mistakes and prejudices has been perverted.
Trawling the recent literature, I have been struck by the massiveness of the feminine problematic, signified in numerous phrases such as: feminine elements of being, feminine modality of being, femininity of self, feminine ways of knowing, feminine authority, feminine assertion, feminine reflection, feminine dimensions of the soul, primal feminine energy pattern, feminine power, feminine response, feminine creativity, feminine mysteries, feminine body, feminine subjectivity, feminine transformation. I could have quadrupled the list; for ease of reference, I have subsumed all these terms under the general heading of the ‘feminine principle’.
Something oppressive has come into being – not, repeat not, because what is claimed as the content of the ‘feminine principle’ is oppressive but because celebrating the feminine has raised it to the status of an ego-ideal, leading to a simple and pointless reversal of power positions. Further, perhaps it is the shadow of feminism generally to make women feel inadequate when they don’t come up to its mark – or cannot emulate notable feminist figures.
GENDER, METAPHOR AND THE BODY
I would like to say a few words now about the literal and metaphoric relationships between anatomy and psychology to draw together the psychological and scientific aspects of the gender debate, and because I will be talking again about this towards the end of the chapter. A literal determinism has seduced those who seek to make a simple equation between body and psyche. We do not really know what the relationship between them is but it is probably indirect. The fact that a penis penetrates and a womb contains tells us absolutely nothing about the psychological qualities of those who actually possess such organs. One does not have to be a clinician to recognize penetrative women and receptive men – nor to conclude that psychology has projected its fantasies onto the body.
A claim is often made that a female’s body contains in it certain qualities and characteristics that lead to there being a quite specific and innate female psychology, based on the female body and quite divorced from male psychology, based on the male body. Now, as I just mentioned, there seems to be no problem with the idea that males and females have experiences of their bodies as different from the other sex’s body. But the argument that innate psychological differences between the sexes are based on the body has serious and insidious difficulties in it. It sounds so grounded, so reasonable, so common-sensical, so different from social or ideological styles of exploring gender issues. However, if psychological activity is body-based then, as body is more or less a constant over the entire history of humanity, body-based psychological theory can only support the horrendous gender situation with which we are faced just now. For, if it is body-based, how can it be altered? It must be an inevitability and we would have to agree with Stevens when he argues that ‘patriarchy is the natural condition of mankind’ (Stevens 1982: 188).
Of course, psychology cannot be split off from the body. But the link is on a deeper level even than that of anatomical or endocrinological distinctiveness. The link between psyche and body surely refers to the body as a whole – its moods and movements, its pride and shame, its rigour and its messiness. On this level, the body in question is already a psychological body, a psychesoma, an imaginal body even – providing a whole range of experiences. Sometimes, this imaginal body provides crossover experiences, ‘masculine’ for women and ‘feminine’ for men. When the link between psyche and body is envisioned in terms of the body as a whole, then whether that body is anatomically male or anatomically female is less significant. But I am not attempting to deny anyone’s experience of their body, nor to dispute the value of paying attention to the body. Indeed, the descriptions in this book of the father’s relations with his children are markedly oriented towards physical experience and activity.
Even on a literal, bodily level, recent advances in anatomical research show that things are not what they seem to be. This renders attempts to link bodily and psychological characteristics, even of a subtle and metaphorical kind, highly relative, mutable, and conditioned by the state of knowledge and belief at any one time. In her book Eve’s Secrets (1987), Lowndes engages in a comparative study of women’s and men’s sex organs. It turns out that the results of such studies depend completely upon what is compared. For instance, we usually compare penis and vagina, or penis and clitoris. But what if we compare the penis to the sum of clitoris, urethra, and vagina (the so-called CUV)? Then, according to Lowndes, the fact that the clitoris does have a much longer and deeper structure under the skin that merely culminates in the visible crown means that the female possesses an organ equal in size to the penis and composed of the same erectile material. What is more, a woman has a glans – this is not to be found on her clitoris but close by the opening of her urethra, a raised area as yet possessing no consensual medical name. Looking at the man, Lowndes points out how little is known about the inside of the penis and suggests that in the corpora cavernosa there is an area, or spot, that is as sensitive as the clitoris and performs the same functions: a male clitoris.
Lowndes has also found that men and women both have erections, though the charging with blood is visible more markedly in the male. She has also established, by means of careful test measurement, that there is a female ejaculation, composed of fluid that is neither urine nor vaginal secretion.
Anatomical differences between sex organs of men and women are, on the basis of Lowndes’s work, quite literally skin-deep. However, the point is not whether she is right or wrong about it but rather to underline the problems with regarding the body as a fixed element in a body-psyche linkage. Again, this is not to deny such a link, merely to point out the impossibility of dismissing fantasy and/or changing knowledge from our eventual conclusions.
A further instance of the psychological significance of such work is that it is not at all new. In 400 BC Hippocrates said that men and women both ejaculate. In AD 150 Galen said that the vagina and ovaries are penis and testicles ‘inside out’. In 1561 Fallopio discovered, as well as his tubes, that the clitoris has deep structures. In 1672 Regnier de Graaf looked for and found evidence of female ejaculation. It seems that what we say is the case about the body is already psychological (e.g. Freud or, indeed, Kinsey).
Why is this issue of the body as a possible base for sex-specific psychology so critical? I can give two suggestions about this. First, the whole cultural versus innate gender debate is, or has become numinous. If I have taken one side rather than advancing a multifactorial theory, this is partly because it is what I think, partly because that’s my personal style, and partly because a clash of doctrines is where the life in psychology is to be found. Again, though I think I’m right, it does not matter so much whether I am right or wrong, but whether what I am talking about can be recognized.
The second reason why the gender debate stirs us has to do with our ambivalence about our constitution, the psychological make-up that we bring into the world. On the one hand, how secure and fulfilling to know that one is quite definitely a man or a woman! I certainly feel a need for certainty and at no time do I suggest that there are no such entities as men or women. On the other hand, I am sure that anatomy is not destiny and am trying to work my resentment at the idea that it might be into a critique of those who tell me it is. There are no direct messages from the body.
Which leads back to the great problem with an overdependence in theory-making on the body’s impact on psychology. If anatomy is destiny, then nothing can be done to change the position of women. So women who base their quest for a new and positive meaning for femininity on the body inadvertently undermine their own cause. On the contrary, we know how definitions of women and men change over time. Up until the end of the eighteenth century, for instance, representations of men in literature and drama quite often had them as crying – so different from this century, in which big boys don’t cry. The body is not an icon in a vacuum.
It follows that animus and anima images are not of men and women because animus and anima qualities are ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’. No – here, for the individual woman or man, anatomy is a metaphor for the richness and potential of the ‘other’. A man will imagine what is ‘other’ to him in the symbolic form of a woman – a being with another anatomy. A woman will symbolize what is foreign to her in terms of the kind of body she does not herself have. The so-called contrasexuality is more something ‘contra-psychological’; anatomy is a metaphor for that. But anatomy is absolutely not a metaphor for any particular emotional characteristic or set of characteristics. That depends on the individual and on whatever is presently outside her or his conscious grasp and hence in need of being represented by a personification of the opposite sex. The difference between you and your animus or anima is very different from the difference between you and a man or woman. (I do realize that I am discussing animus and anima in their personified forms but I am bringing them in as illustrative of the indirect nature of the relation between body and psyche.)
What I am saying is that ‘metaphor’ can be as seductively misleading and one-sided as ‘literalism’. Sometimes, it is claimed that ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ are metaphors (you know, ‘just’ metaphors) for two distinct Weltanschauungen or the typical styles of operating of the two cerebral hemispheres. Why can’t we just talk of Weltanschauungen or just of hemispheres? When we bring in either masculinity and femininity or maleness and femaleness we are projecting a dichotomy that certainly exists in human ideation and functioning onto convenient receptors for the projections. Then the argument that masculinity and femininity should be understood nonliterally, as really having nothing to do with bodily men and bodily women in a social context, may be taken as a recognition that a projection has been made, but falling far short of a successful recollection of it, certainly as far as our culture is concerned. All the other divisions that we know about – rational/irrational, Apollonian/Dionysian, classical/romantic, digital/analogic, and so forth – all these exist in every human being. They cannot conveniently be assigned by gender (or sex), save by the kind of bifurcated projection I have depicted. Why do we make such a projection? Surely it is more than a question of language? It could be because we find difficulty in living with both sides of our murky human natures. In our borderline way, we import a degree of certainty and clarity, and hence reduce anxiety, by making the projection. Summarizing my view: it is in this projection that we find the origins of dualist ambitions to construct distinct psychologies for the two sexes and of the attempt to use ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’ solely as metaphors.
The whole gender debate suggests that, as with the father’s relations to his children, we need to question whether heterosexuality itself should be taken as innate and therefore as something fundamental and beyond discussion, or whether it, too, has a nonbiological dimension. Freud’ s perception was of an innate bisexuality followed later by heterosexuality. Jung’s view was that man and woman are each incomplete without the other: heterosexuality is therefore a given. In this sense he differs from Freud’s emphasis on bisexuality as the natural state of mankind. In Freud’s approach, sexual identity arises from the enforced twin demands of reproduction and society. What I have been arguing shifts the concept of bisexuality from something undifferentiated (polymorphous or polyvalent) into a vision of there being available to all a variety of positions in relation to gender role – without recourse to the illusion of androgyny.
Feminist art critics have faced up to many of these problems concerning the body. In a critique of the relation between the biologic and the cultural, Parker and Pollock state that ‘acknowledging the importance of events of the body . . . is not reducible to biological essentialism, a facet of patriarchal ideology which supposes a primordial difference between the sexes determined by anatomical and specifically genital structures. How the body is lived and experienced is implicated at all levels in social or societally determined psychic processes’ (Parker and Pollock 1987: 29). Parker and Pollock go on to describe an art work entitled ‘Menstruation II’ by Cate Elwes. During her period, dressed in white and seated in a white, glass-fronted box, she could be watched bleeding. Questions and her answers could be written on the walls of the box. Elwes wrote, ‘The work reconstitutes menstruation as a metaphorical framework in which it becomes the medium for the expression of ideas and experience by giving it the authority of cultural form and placing it within an art context’ (quoted in Parker and Pollock 1987: 30).
If discriminations like these are not made, then those analytical psychologists who espouse the idea of innate, body-based, sex-specific psychologies, find themselves lined up with those groupings often referred to as the ‘New Right’. New Right assumptions about sex-specific psychology tend to be based on appeals to tradition and often have a romantic appeal but, as Di Statham has argued in her paper ‘Women, the new right and social work’ (1987), those working therapeutically need to be aware of the way in which the assumptions can be used to promote the notion of ‘order’ and of how women’s activities, in particular, are decisively limited.
The same point is made, with a good deal of passion, by Anne McManus in the August 1987 issue of the British feminist journal Spare Rib. She wrote:
Feminism is flowing with the rightward tide, its critical radical spirit diluted beyond recognition . . . A decisive shift came in the transformation of women’s liberation from oppression, to today’s confirmation of that oppression in a type of popular feminism which unashamedly embraces anything female. Never mind that this implies a conservative re-embracing of traditional women’s roles that the original movement was all about denouncing. Now any old gullible gush practised by women is feminist, especially if it’s emotive, and authentic (what isn’t authentic anyway at this level?), and anti-male rationality. A false dichotomy between thinking men and feeling women evacuates reason to men while women’s fates are sealed, trapped again in eternal emotionality which leaves male power safely intact. Thus women are immobilised and trivialised by their very softness and tenderness, voluntarily abdicating the dirty power struggle, and thereby the power, to those who have it.
James, W. (1911) Pragmatism. London: Longmans Green; Cambridhe, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Lowndes, J. (1987) Eve’s Secrets. London: Bloomsbury.
Parker, R. & Pollock, G. (1987) Framing Feminism: Art and the Women’s Movement 1970-1984. London & New York: Pandora.
Samuels, A. (1985) Jung and the Post-Jungians. London & Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
Sayers, J. (1986) Sexual Contradictions: Psychology, Psychoanalysis, and Feminism. London: Tavistock.
Shorter, B. (1987) An Image Darkly Forming: Women and Initiation. London & New York: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
Siann, G. (1985) Accounting for Aggression: Perspectives on Aggression and Violence. London & Boston: Allen & Unwin.
Statham, D. (1987) ‘Women, the new right and social work’. J. Soc. Wr. Prac. 2:4.
Stevens, A. (1982) Archetype: A Natural History of the Self. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
The following is an excerpt from Elizabeth Hobson’s latest article in PoliQuads Magazine.
Feminists Do Not Get To Define Feminism
By Elizabeth Hobson
Proto-feminism arose in the late Middle Ages. Queen consort of France and England, Eleanor of Acquitaine spearheaded a movement within her court to subvert the chivalric code (which had traditionally governed relations between knights and lords) to regulate the behaviour of men towards women. These women initiated a system of romantic feudalism wherein noble men were under irresistible pressure to identify a lady as midons (my lord) and to submit to her will and delicately accept any scorn that her midons saw fit to extend to him. Eleanor established “Courts of Love” in which she and her noble women would administer “justice” in romantic disputes. Not only may many men in particular recognise this state of gender relations, but the modus operandi that Eleanor and company used to achieve their supremacy is entirely familiar: generalizations about all men based on the poor behaviour of a minority, asserting that women need protection from men’s violations, and a narrative of women’s moral superiority justifying their dictatorship. Within 200 years, Eleanors’ ideas had spread and saturated throughout Europe and throughout the class system….. [continued]
*The rest of this article exploring the various waves of feminism can be read in PoliQuads Magazine
When Marxist activist Rudi Dutschke looked at ways to stage a neo-Marxist revolution he hit on the plan of “a long march through the institutions of power to create radical change from within government and society by becoming an integral part of the machinery.” His strategy was to work against the established institutions while working surreptitiously within them. Evidence of the attempt to implement his plan can be seen today through many levels of society – especially in universities.
Marxists however are not the only ones to use this strategy. In fact when we look at the numerous political forces attempting to infiltrate and influence our cultural institutions we see that another, much more influential candidate, has twisted its tendrils through every layer of society – and it existed long before Marx and Marxism were born. That force is political feminism,1 whose culture project has been in play now for several hundred years.
Protofeminists like Lucrezia Marinella, Mary Wollstoncraft, Margaret Cavendish, Modesta Pozzo, or Christine de Pizan were advocating a ‘long march’ through institutions for centuries before Marxism emerged and began its tragic experiment. Pizan’s main book for example titled A City of Ladies sketched an imaginary city whose institutions were controlled completely by women, and each of the protofeminists advanced some theory of female rule or ‘integration’ of women into governing institutions. Later feminists followed suit, such as Charlotte Perkins Gillman wrote the famed book HerLand (1915) envisioning a society run entirely by women who reproduce by parthenogenesis (asexual reproduction), resulting in an ideal (utopic) social order free from war, conflict, and male domination.
A survey of protofeminist writings reveals consistent advocacy for the superior abilities of women as functionaries: women’s greater compassion, virtue, nonviolence, intelligence, patience, superior morality and so on, combined with a concomitant descriptions of male destructiveness, insensitivity and inferiority as we see continued in the rhetoric of modern feminists.
Via that polarizing narrative feminists sought to grab not just a big slice of the governance pie; as contemporary feminists have shown they would stop at nothing but the whole pie. Nothing but complete dominance of the gendered landscape would satisfy their lust for control, and it appears they have succeeded.
We see that dominance in women’s occupation of pivotal bureaucratic positions throughout the world, from the UN and World Bank all the way down through national governments, schools and universities, and HR departments in most medium to large workplaces. Feminists not only govern the world via these roles, but as surveyed in Janet Halley’s recent book Governance Feminism: An Introduction, that governance is far from the utopia early feminist promised.
The long feminist tradition underlines the danger of viewing ‘the march through the institutions’ as a Cultural Marxism project, because it deflects us from the historically longer, more powerful, more dangerous and ultimately more successful project that is political feminism.
Moreover, the protagonists of Marxist and feminist worldviews are not one and the same; the former aims to dismantle social-class oppression, and the latter gender oppression. While there are some individuals working to amalgamate these two contrary theories into a hybrid of Frankenstein proportions, their basic theoretical aims remain distinct.
Like Marxism, feminism too can be imagined as a socio-political ideology, in this case modelling itself on a medieval feudalism which was structured with two social classes: 1. A noble class of aristocrats, priests, princes and princesses, and 2. a peasant class of serfs and slaves overseen by indentured vassals.
Stripped of its medieval context we see the purveyors of political feminism working to institute a new sex-stratified version of feudalism which serves to maximize the power of women. With this move we have seen an increased tendency to emphasize women’s “power,” “dignity,” “honor,” “esteem” and “respect” – descriptors historically reserved for dignitaries.
As in medieval times, the assets and wealth generated by the labour class – predominately men – are taxed and redistributed to the new quasi-aristocratic class via a plethora of social spending programs of governments, or alternatively via asset transfers like alimony, child support, divorce settlements and other court mandated conventions. Children themselves form part of that asset portfolio which men are often forced to relinquish to women in the event of divorce. In the face of such practices men are reminded that women’s “dignity” is very much at stake, and their acquiescence mandatory.
The push to establish a female aristocratic class has long been recognized, as mentioned by the following writer from more than a century ago (1896), who in his ‘Letter To The editor’ observed the granting of unequal social privileges to female prisoners;
“A paragraph in your issue of the week before last stated that oakum-picking as a prison task had been abolished for women and the amusement of dressing dolls substituted. This is an interesting illustration of the way we are going at present, and gives cause to some reflection as to the rate at which a sex aristocracy is being established in our midst. While the inhumanity of our English prison system, in so far as it affects men, stands out as a disgrace to the age in the eyes of all Europe, houses of correction for female convicts are being converted into agreeable boudoirs and pleasant lounges…
I am personally in favour of the abolition of corporal punishment, as I am of existing prison inhumanities, for both sexes, but the snivelling sentiment which exempts females on the ground of sex from every disagreeable consequence of their actions, only strengthens on the one side every abuse which it touches on the other. Yet we are continuously having the din of the “women’s rights” agitation in our ears. I think it is time we gave a little attention to men’s rights, and equality between the sexes from the male point of view.–YoursYours, &c.,, A MANLY PROTESTOR,”2
Another comes from a 1910 Kalgoorlie Miner which reported a push to set up a female aristocracy in America. It was entitled The New Aristocracy:
A question of deep human interest has been raised by The Independent.
“To be successful in the cultivation of culture a country must have a leisure class,” says the editor. “We Americans recognise this fact, but we are going about the getting of this leisure class in a new way.
“In Europe the aristocracy is largely relieved from drudgery in order that they may cultivate the graces of life. In America the attempt is being made to relieve the women of all classes from drudgery, and we are glad to see that some of them at least are making good use of the leisure thus afforded them. It is a project involving unprecedented daring and self-sacrifice on the part of American men, this making an aristocracy of half the race. That it is possible yet remains to be proved. Whether it is desirable depends upon whether this new feminine aristocracy avoids the faults of the aristocracy of the Old World, such as frivolousness and snobbishness.”3
Lastly a comment from Adam Kostakis who gives an eloquent summary of feminism’s preference for a neo-feudal society in his Gynocentrism Theory Lectures:
“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.”4
By many accounts what we’ve achieved today under feminist modelling is the establishment of a neo-feudal society with women representing an aristocratic class and men the labour class of serfs, slaves and peasants who too often spend their lives looking up from the proverbial glass cellar. When men do rule, it is usually not with a life “free of drudgery” as mentioned above, but with hard-work as CEOs, executives and prime ministers in service of the ruling female class who are busy with little more than lifting their lattes.
This gendered enterprise is now several hundred years in the making, enjoying further consolidations with every passing year of feminist governance. That a widespread female aristocracy now exists is undeniable, at least in the Western world, although we remain reluctant to name it as such for fear of offending our moral betters. We can only hope that the recent petition to abolish the House of Lords becomes infectious and begins to tackle the unearned privileges of those new aristocrats who serve nobody but themselves.
In the below article penned in 1897, a Mrs. Marion Reedy held that widespread veneration of Mary encouraged the pedestalization of women, gave birth to the chivalrous gentlemen, and was responsible for the “New Woman” of feminism:
“The church it was that built up the modern ideal of woman. The church it was that cultivated, so to speak, chastity, by its insistence that the creature who had borne a God was worthy of veneration, and was not to be only an utensil in ministration to male passion. Not only was man indoctrinated with a higher idea of woman, but women became possessed of a higher, better sense of their own worthiness.
There is no love poem in the world that equals the Litany of the Virgin, composed by the celibates of the church, and all that is ethereal and spiritual in modem love’s expression is to be found in the beautiful titles whereby the Virgin Mother has been supplicated for centuries. This idealization, not to say idolization, of woman could not but have its effect upon men and women in a time when the church was supreme, and so we see, as woman is more and more recognized for her worth & her value in the scheme of things, coming down the centuries, woman’s ideas gradually changing the heart of the world. As civilization progressed, cruelty was put away. This was the influence of woman.
The gradual growth into life, out of religion, of the reverence for Mary manifested itself in the development of chivalry, and then, when chivalry, its ends accomplished, passed away, in the development of what we now know as the gentleman.
This Mariolatry, as some people call it, led to the modern gynolatry about which there is, now and then, much protest. Yes, the devotion to Mary is responsible for the New Woman, and the New Woman is only a distortion of the real woman as she will be when emancipated completely from the denomination of the ideas against which Mariolatry has been an age-long protest. If the church enslaved woman, it did so, in one way, only to give her greater power in another.
The nunnery up-held chastity in times when universal and continuous war ravaged the world ; for the Middle Ages were anarchy. The church maintained the indissolubility of marriage when every petty tyrant in Italy, Germany & France deemed himself a god, and thought to appropriate other men’s wives and daughters as he would their cattle. Churchmen at times were dissolute enough to convert unbelievers on the theory that an institution which could survive such infamies must be Divine, but the teachings of the church held the great body of men true to purity in woman, and to the sanctity of the marital relation.
The church has upheld Mary consistently as the type of sacred womanhood and, by its influence upon the minds of men, has brought about a general attitude toward all women as if they partake of some of her mystical attributes of worthiness and even of divinity. Ave Maria!