chapter  4
31 Pages

Psychoanalytic Feminism and Dissident Speech

Psychoanalysis has long had an ugly reputation amongst feminists, and this reputation is richly deserved, for Freud's account of femininity is condescending and narrow-minded. He privileges masculine sexuality-a girl's sexuality is masculine until she discovers that her clitoris is much smaller than a penis, contracts penis envy, and evolves a secondary feminine sexuality. He belittles women's anatomy-they are castrated. He besmirches women's character and intellect-they are jealous, narcissistic, less exacting in matters of morality, and less creative than men. Freud's psychoanalytic figurations of gender codify and seek to ratify cultural conventions and expectations regarding maternity and female domesticity. This history has forged a lasting bond between psychoanalysis and traditional feminine norms, and it has made psychoanalysis complicit in the subordination of women, for Freud supplied some of the most damaging and pervasive imagery working in Western culture to sustain unconscious prejudice against women along with woefully consistent, repressive treatment of women.