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Freud Essay, Research Paper

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 person?s mind works, so he

began to explore the conscious and unconscious parts of one?s psyche.

Freud?s 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

women?s 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 male?s 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 female?s 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 woman?s 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

women?s 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 Freud?s 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 Freud?s 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 woman?s psyche in general. He instead concentrated on the

development of a woman?s 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 women?s 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 women?s 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 woman?s 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. Freud?s 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 baby?s 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 don?t. 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

Freud?s 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 Freud?s 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 Freud?s patriarchal bias, with his failure to

jump with alacrity right out of his male Victorian skin, seems to me wildly

ungrateful. The conceptual tool that he has put into our hands is a

revolutionary one. ?(Dinnerstein, 1976:xi) The aspect of Freudian theory that

is most criticized by feminists is the emphasis on penis envy and the view that

our lives must be determined by our anatomy. Many critics have pointed out that

women have many anatomical features and capacities that men lack. Why should

girls be the ones to envy and boys be the ones to fear loss? Boys might observe

that only women have breasts; later, they learn that only women can bear

children. Why not "breast envy" or "womb envy"? Freud failed

to look at the situation from the female perspective, and it is blatantly

obvious in his beliefs on female development. There are large numbers of females

and males who consider themselves to be students of Freudian theory. It must be

understood however that just because they believe in and support most of the

major principles that Freud chose to elaborate on, does not mean that they are

without their own various arguments against some of his beliefs. Karen Horney

(1885-1962) was a psychoanalyst and a student of Freud. She believed that

Freud?s theory of female psychosexual development reflected a deep male bias,

and that it did not make sense to assume that a woman is mentally affected by a

wish for attributes of the opposite sex. She also notes that what Freud

described as characteristics of the "Masculinity Complex" (egocentric

ambition, envy, and the desire for dictatorial power) are exhibited by neurotic

men as well as neurotic women and therefore are not necessarily related to the

envy of the penis. She points out that self-confidence of either sex is based on

the development of a wide range of human characteristics: talent, initiative,

erotic capacity, achievement, courage, and independence. It seems as though men

feel the need to place the "inferiority" on the shoulders of women in

an attempt to hide their own insecurities, and envies regarding female roles in

reproduction and societal progression. While the psychologists of today base

their theories and ideas on the various studies done by others, Freud based his

ideas primarily on the recollections of women who had consulted him for help.

When he actually began to write about human sexuality and legitimize it as an up

and coming field of study, Freud stated that women were indeed beings with

sexual needs. He also suggested that the repression of sexual expression was a

major cause of neurosis in women. His theories evolved out of his own personal

interpretation of these women?s underlying emotions and unconscious motives.

While he believed women should express our sexuality, he also believed that our

fulfillment could only come about in the form of a vaginal orgasm (distinct from

the clitoral orgasm, which Freud considered "masculine" and

"childish") and the resulting bearing and nurturing of children.

Although in many ways Freud began a "liberation of female sexuality,"

his theories had certain stigmas attached which passed on yet another set of

masculine standards against which women were to judge themselves. Freud

unsympathetically analyzed many women but none so in depth as an

eighteen-year-old girl named Dora. He had treated Dora?s father for syphilis a

few years before. The reason that Dora was brought for the consultation was a

letter that her parents had found. The letter basically just said goodbye to her

parents, and made clear that her intention was to take her own life. Her parents

thought that she didn?t really mean it, but were concerned enough to force her

to see a doctor. Other symptoms of apparent illness were: a "nervous

cough", a history of fainting spells, loss of voice, headaches, and

depression that could be traced back to her early childhood. Freud diagnosed her

collection of symptoms as a typical case of hysteria, and made it his business

to figure out the cause. Freud was convinced that it was a deeply rooted

leftover from her early sexuality. Freud?s observation was that Dora was

"tenderly attached" to her father. Her mother was the sort of woman

who spent most of her time obsessively cleaning the house and performing other

mindless and typical "female" activities. Dora was extremely critical

of her mother and the two did not generally get along. Dora?s older brother

sided with the mother in all of the arguments, and that left the family divided

in a constant mother/son vs. father/daughter confrontation. A governess had been

part of the household and was very close with Dora until the girl began to

suspect that the reason they got along so well was that the woman was trying to

attract her father. Dora?s father told Freud that he believed he knew what had

caused his daughter?s latest symptoms and the suicide note. The family had

formed a close friendship with another married couple, Herr and Frau K. Frau K,

and energetic and very attractive woman, had nursed Dora?s father through a

long illness, and Herr K was very fond of Dora. He took her on walks and bought

her presents, and his wife acted as Dora?s confidant. She took on a role

virtually like a mother figure for Dora (which was something that the child

lacked while she was growing up). Two years before, Dora told her father that

Herr K had made an indecent proposal to her while they were walking past a lake.

She had slapped him in the face and had gone home alone. When confronted by her

father, Herr K denied that the incident ever happened, and insisted that books

with explicit sexual scenes had affected the girl, and that she had fanaticized

the entire thing. The father was convinced by Herr K?s explanation and left it

at that. Dora continued to insist that he break off relations with the K?s,

especially Frau K. Her father refused to do so on the grounds that Herr K was

innocent and that his relationship with Frau K was completely non-sexual. Dora

was convinced of two things: her father and Frau K had been having an affair for

years, and Herr K had tried to seduce her. "I came to the conclusion that

Dora?s story must correspond to the facts in every respect," stated Freud

in reference to Dora?s interpretation of reality. Analysis of her dreams was

consistent with Freud?s theory of the girl?s Oedipal love for her father. He

believed that Dora was reacting to her father?s affair with Frau K as if she

were a wronged wife or a betrayed lover- as if she were the woman her father

once loved, or the woman he now loved. Since she was neither, her reaction,

which Freud interpreted as jealousy, was inappropriate. He also thought that her

reaction to Herr K?s advances was "entirely and completely

hysterical." Dora had felt disgust as a reaction towards Herr K. Disgust is

an "oral phenomenon", and this along with her throat symptoms of

coughing and loss of voice, led Freud to the absurd conclusion that her symptoms

were related to her fantasies of her father and Frau K having oral intercourse.

Although she denied it, Freud insisted that Dora was sexually attracted to Herr

K as well. Freud stated "Her feeling for him reflected both her feeling for

her father and her feeling for Frau K. That is, she identified Herr K with her

father, and herself with Frau K. Thus her attraction to Herr K was a

recapitulation of her father?s love affair with Frau K." Freud believed

that the two men were involved in an unspoken conspiracy in which Dora was a

pawn: her father would ignore Herr K?s attempted seductions of his daughter in

exchange for Herr K?s pretend ignorance of his wife?s affair with Dora?s

father. Freud also knew the father?s motive for bringing Dora to see him. He

wanted Freud to talk her out of believing that there was anything more than

friendship between him and Frau K. Dora was a young girl caught in a web of lies

and betrayal, where she could not turn to anyone for help. Her parents were

directly involved in deceiving her, and Freud was trying to brainwash her into

thinking that it was her fault for feeling the way she did, and that it was all

in her mind. Freud knew the real situation, yet he consistently hid the truth

from Dora, and led her to believe that she had deeply rooted problems that

started in her childhood. In reality, Dora was having a very normal reaction to

the harsh truth of what her father was doing. Freud?s treatment of Dora lasted

for three months, until she abruptly terminated it, much to Freud?s

disappointment. Freud interpreted her unexpected termination of her therapy as

evidence of his newly developed theory of transference. This theory states that

the patient transfers to the therapist old feelings and conflicts, which she

once felt for people in her past, such as her mother and father. Freud believed

that in the same way that she had transferred her love for her father to Herr K,

she now transferred some of the same feelings towards Freud. But these feelings

were positive and negative, and as a result of the treatment she received at the

hands of Herr K and her father, she would take revenge on all of them by

deserting Freud. Freud thought that Dora was saying, "Men are so detestable

that I would rather not marry. This is my revenge." Nearly a year and a

half later, Dora revisited Freud for treatment of facial neuralgia. Freud told

her that her pain was a self-punishment for a "double crime": the

long-ago slap at Herr K when he had made advances toward her, and her revenge on

Freud by terminating the treatment before it was completed. Freud never saw her

again after that but in 1905, he published "Fragment of an Analysis of a

Case of Hysteria," better known as the case of Dora. Dora was not actually

a hysterical patient. She was simply a young woman in shock due to her

father?s affair, her constant fighting with her mother and brother, and the

fact that a married man (who was also a friend of the family) was hitting on her

and no one really believed it. Freud could have said to her "You are right,

and they are wrong," but instead, he chose to manipulate Dora?s mind and

make her believe that the whole scene was a result of her childhood sexual

insecurities. Freud related neurosis and hysteria in women to marriage and

sexual frustration in most cases. His explanation is vague and it seems as

though he just tries to make it applicable to the entire gender in any

situation. Under the cultural conditions of today, marriage has long ceased to

be a panacea for the nervous troubles of women; and if we doctors still advise

marriage in such cases, we are nevertheless aware that, on the contrary a girl

must be very healthy if she is able to tolerate it?.On the contrary, the cure

for nervous illness arising form marriage, would be marital unfaithfulness. But

the more strictly a woman has been brought up and the more sternly she has

submitted to the demands of civilization, the more she is afraid of taking this

way out; and in the conflict between her desires and her sense of duty, she once

more seeks refuge in neurosis. -Freud, 1976a, p.195 Evidence shows that men and

women in extreme cases have the same degree of neurosis and hysteria as a result

of marriage and sexual frustration. The symptoms are the same regardless of

gender. Freud was extremely presumptuous when it came to drawing conclusions

about women. For example, Freud said "One might consider characterizing

femininity psychologically as giving preference to passive aims?It is perhaps

the case that in a woman, on the basis of her share in the sexual function, a

preference for passive behavior and passive aims is carried over into her

life?" He is assuming that a woman?s role in the sexual function is a

passive one. It seems to me that the males have the passive role in this

situation considering that it is the woman who carries and gives birth to

babies. Feminists who have been arguing against Freudian theory for many years

all come to the same basic conclusion about his philosophies on women: Freud was

greatly influenced by the societal norms of his time, and that factor had a

great impact on his theories about women?s roles. Since the days of Sigmund

Freud, our society has progressed a great deal, and women have been gradually

accepted as more than the property of their husbands. It is the freedom to

decide her own destiny; freedom from sex-determined role; freedom from

society?s oppressive restrictions; freedom to express her thoughts fully and

to convert them freely into action. Feminism demands the acceptance of woman?s

right to individual conscience and judgment. It postulates that women?s

essential worth stems from her common humanity and does not depend on the other

relationships of her life. During the nineteenth century, feminism was virtually

non-existent, and the beliefs of Freud and other great minds were just accepted

as fact. The stereotypical role of women as passive caretakers of the home and

of children that existed throughout Freud?s lifetime, is gradually diminishing

and women are gaining social status as well as respect from the men who at one

time were out oppressors. The feminist movement has played a huge role in

changing the opinions of many people that carried with them the same

philosophies as Freud in regards to women and their capabilities as humans. This

narrow-minded nature only succeeded in making women more and more determined to

prove their "worth" to members of the opposite sex. Although Freud was

leading the pack of male chauvinists in the late nineteenth century he has since

been overpowered by females that are no longer afraid to say what they feel or

act on their impulses.

Bell Hooks; Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center. c.1984 by bell hooks;

South End Press 2) Freud, Sigmund; "Femininity" from Juanita H.

Williams, ed. Psychology of Women. NY: W.W. Norton, 1979 3) Hunter College

Women?s Studies Collective; Women?s Realities, Women?s Choices NY: Oxford

University Press, 1983 4) Smithsonian World; Gender: The Enduring Paradox NYC:

UNAPIX Entertainment Inc., 1996 5) Williams, Juanita H.; Psychology of Women NY:

W.W. Norton & Company, 1987

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