Freud Sigmund Freud was the first of six children to be born into his middle class, Jewish family. His father was a wool merchant, and was the provider for the family. From the time Freud was a child, he pondered theories in math, science, and philosophy, but in his teens, he took a deep interest in what he later called psychoanalysis. He wanted to discover how a persons mind works, so he began to explore the conscious and unconscious parts of ones psyche. Freuds parents and siblings were directly involved in allowing him to pursue this unexplored area of psychology. He was given his own room so that he could study his books in silence, and was only disturbed when it was time to eat. Freud eventually married Martha Bernays. She was cooperative and completely subservient to her husband.
She was simply filling a role that the society during that time insisted was proper for all women. Freud himself derived his attitudes toward women and his beliefs about the roles of individual sexes from personal experiences in the strict culture of the time. In the middle to late eighteen hundreds, Central European society distinguished clearly between the roles of men and women. Cultural norms dictated that men be responsible for work outside of the home, and the financial well being of the family, while the womens responsibilities were in the home and with the children. With these specific gender roles came the assumption of male dominance and female submission.
Females were pictured as serene, calm, creatures that were lucky to have the love and protection of their superior husbands. It is in this form of the family where most children first learn the meaning and practice of hierarchical, authoritarian rule. Here is where they learn to accept group oppression against themselves as non-adults, and where they learn to accept male supremacy and the group oppression of women. Here is where they learn that it is the males role to work in the community and control the economic life of the family and to mete out the physical and financial punishments and rewards, and the females role to provide the emotional warmth associated with motherhood while under the economic rule of the male. Here is where the relationship of superordination-subordination, or superior-inferior, or master-slave is first learned and accepted as “natural.” -John Hodge: Feminist Theory P.36 Philosophical definitions of women, written about by male philosophers, share warped views that were the result of the cultural times and places from which they originated.
The view that women are somewhat “less” than men in many respects, began with the philosophies of Aristotle in the fourth century BC. Since Aristotle was one of the most influential philosophers of ancient Greece, he had a widespread impact on the thinking of many people. Christian theologians in ancient Europe rediscovered his theories. Aristotle believed that a womans part in conception was to supply the container in which the seed, planted by the male, grows. Aristotle said, “We should look on the female as being as it were a deformity, though one which occurs in the ordinary course of nature.” Although we know now that Aristotle was mistaken in his biological interpretation of the female gender, his philosophies had a long-term impact on the perception of women from a non-biological perspective. A few philosophers, such as Plato (427-347 BC), Condorcet (1743-1794), and John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) had opinions that opposed Aristotle and inherently supported womens rights, but females are still struggling to prove to the opposite sex that we are not “defective men.” In fact, women were seen as inferior since the time of Aristotle and throughout Freuds lifetime because they did not have penises.
It seems that it could also be argued that men lack the clitoris and instead have an elongated and inefficient organ of a similar kind. These two points depend, of course, on point of view, but the ancient philosophers did obviously not take the female point of view into consideration. A vast amount of Aristotelian views are present in Freuds beliefs. The biological “reasons” given by the ancient philosophers for specific social roles are somewhat incomplete. It seemed fairly logical for women to have the natural role of caring for children because she gives birth to them, but there was no biological explanation for the assumptions that women were less important as human beings, of lesser worth, naturally passive, or should be ruled by men. Simply because women give birth to babies, it has somehow been assumed that we are confined to roles as mothers and as caretakers.
These conclusions were not drawn from biological observations, but from numerous western thinkers throughout history who made enormous mistakes in their reasoning about women. Freud was puzzled by members of the opposite sex and therefore did not attempt to logically study them and come up with objective theories regarding a womans psyche in general. He instead concentrated on the development of a womans mind up to adulthood at which point he could no longer understand it. “And now you are already prepared to hear that psychology too is unable to solve the riddle of femininity..In conformity with its peculiar nature, psycho-analysis does not try to describe what a woman is that would be a task it could scarcely perform- but sets about inquiring how she comes into being, how a woman develops out of a child with a bisexual disposition.” Sigmund Freud stated this in his book titled “Femininity” which was published in 1933. From an early age, Freud was critical of the feminist argument for equality between the sexes.
He thought that it was “absurd” to think that a married woman could earn as much money as her husband, because her domestic responsibilities should take up all of her time and energy. Those who challenge Freudian theory of gender roles belong largely to the ever growing and highly vocal members of the feminist movement. Something that has been a problem in the feminist movement is the inability to define feminism, and in turn define the goals of the movement. “Women came together in the womens liberation movement on the basis that we were women and all women are subject to male domination. We saw all women as being our allies, and all men as being the oppressor. We never questioned the extent to which American women accept the same materialistic and individualistic values as American men.
We did not stop to think that American women are just as reluctant as American men to struggle for a new society based on new values of mutual respect, cooperation, and social responsibility.”-Feminist Theory. Our society functions on the social norms set throughout history and a complete revolution would be chaotic. All we are searching for is some degree of appreciation for accomplishments of the past, present, and future. The feminist struggle is a continuous and difficult one, but people who actually call themselves feminists are not the only ones fighting to disprove certain aspects of Freudian theory and socially determined gender roles. Many critics challenge Freudian views of womens roles, female sexuality, and sexual equality.
Mary Daly is just one of the hundreds of members of the feminist movement. Her theories do not attempt to seclude any specific group of women by race or class, but they attempt to focus on creating a “counter culture” (a woman-centered world in which participants have little to no contact with men). She wrote a book entitled Beyond God and Father, in which she encouraged women to give up “the securities offered by the patriarchal system.” In response to Daly, Jeanne Gross stated: Creating a counter-world places an incredible amount of pressure on the woman who attempted to embark on such a project. The pressure comes from the belief that the only true resources for such an endeavor are ourselves. The past, which is totally patriarchal, is viewed as irredeemable..If we go about creating an alternative culture without remaining in dialogue with others (and the historical circumstances that give rise to their identity) we have no reality check for our goals.
We run the very real risk that the dominant ideology of the culture is re-duplicated in the feminist movement through cultural imperialism. The problems occurring in the feminist movement are directly related to the problem that women seem to be having with coming to an understanding on the approach to use when striving to gain our equality. Sexist oppression is of primary importance not because it is the basis of all other oppression, but because it is the practice of domination most people experience, whether their role is that of discriminator or discriminated against. The feminist movement is the driving force behind any attempt at changing the all too common picture of the social barrier existing between the sexes. “The significance of the feminist movement (when it is no co-opted by opportunistic, reactionary forces) is that it offers a new ideological meeting ground for the sexes, a space for criticism, struggle, and transformation.
The feminist movement can end the war between the sexes. It can transform relationships so that the alienation, competition, and dehumanization that characterize human interaction can be replaced with feelings of intimacy, mutuality, and camaraderie.” Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center The feminist movement was virtually non-existent during most of the lifetime of Sigmund Freud. He made clear his views on a womans role in society, but he was unable to explain the behavior of women. He resorted instead to studying the development of females from their childhood through adulthood in an attempt to figure out their complicated psyche. Freuds research was conducted on strictly middle-class whites during the early twentieth century. We are a society that has always had clear delineation between childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.
It is in the stage of childhood in which Freud believes that female development is distinguished from that of the males. The breakdown of development into various stages is unique to our specific culture. In most other cultures, there is only one transition that takes place in life and that is the one from childhood to adulthood. This “graduation” of sorts occurs immediately after the child hits puberty. According to Freudian theory, the significant turning point in psychosexual development for gender identity occurs at about the age of three. For the first three years of life, pleasure is centered on oral gratification such as sucking a bottle or breast for milk. The person who provides this to the child is the main object of the babys love and affection.
The child develops a sense of trust as a result of this relationship. This is the called the oral stage because there is a fixation that the child has to always have something in its mouth. The next stage is the anal stage. Struggles around issues such as toilet training, and a sense of self-control and control of the environment characterize it. The three-year-olds shift of focus to the sexual organs as the source of pleasure is labeled the phallic stage of psychosexual development.
It is at this stage that girls notice that men and boys have penises, and they dont. We, according to Freud, recognize that without this organ, we cannot “possess” the mother (our original love object) the way a man can, especially our fathers. This recognition leads girls to develop a sense of inferiority and the desire for a penis, which Freud called Penis Envy. At the same time, boys notice that girls and women do not have penises, and this leads the boy to believe that the girls were somehow denied them, or they had them taken away. Freud concluded that this created a sense of anxiety in boys because they are afraid of losing their penises. Freud labeled this the Castration Complex.
He also argued that girls blame their mothers for our “inferior anatomy,” and therefore turn our affections to our fathers in an effort to attain the desired object. By contrast, boys desire to marry their mothers and replace their fathers. Freudian theory labels this the Oedipus Complex (named after the Greek myth about Oedipus, who unknowingly killed his father and married his mother). When they learn that they cannot “possess” their mothers because their rivals are bigger and stronger, they fear that their fathers will punish them for feeling this way by castrating them. Boys get over the Oedipus Complex rather quickly and they seek a new love interest and identify with the father.
Girls identify with their mothers reluctantly, because this identification does not help us achieve what we are wishing for during the phallic stage. The critics of Freuds ideas about female development can be divided into two groups. The first group questions whether or not these psychological events actually take place. Because these are psychologically developed and not physically developed, there is no way to tell if they actually exist because they cannot be observed directly. Since there is no proof or test of the unconscious process, or even of the unconscious, some argue that these theories can not be considered scientific.
The second group includes a number of Freuds students. They do not directly attack the psychoanalytic approach but they disagree with the basic Freudian formulation of female development. Dorothy Dinnerstein, a psychologist who has written about the development of gender roles, says: I am disturbed, like the other radical critics of our gender arrangements, by the sexual bigotry that is built into the Freudian perspective. But I am disinclined to let the presence of that bigotry deflect my attention from the key to a way out of our gender predicament that Freud, in a sense absent-mindedly, provides. Feminists preoccupation with Freuds patriarchal bias, with his failure to jump with alacrity right out of his male Victorian skin, seems to me w …