In the past few years I have done a lot of reading and reflecting on the question of women’s issues.I have read a sampling of the literature both good and bad. With just a few exceptions, I have been disappointed and depressed with the views that the authors have presented. My disappointment comes not because I disagree with the issue and its importance. I could not agree more. The issue of relationship between male and female is, singularly, the most important and vital issue in the world. Other problems are merely a consequence of bad relationships within this area. We, all of us, female and male, make war, seek power, exploit others, rape, and are frustrated because we are unwhole in our sexuality in this wide sense. The rest follows from the unwholeness. Whole persons, saints, don’t make war, seek power, exploit or rape.
My disappointment and frustration with the current discussion on women’s issues comes not because I (male) think that they (female) are pushing the issue too far. The reverse. I feel that they are not pushing it far enough, not nearly far enough. For this reason, I submit that much (perhaps most) of the discussion tends to be narrow, self-pitying, superficial and, worst of all, counterproductive to spawning healthier female-male relationships. Why? Because too many persons (writing in the name of women) would have us believe that male dominance, male insensitivity and male lack of sexual integration is the sole root of the issue. That is a dangerous half-truth. Female sexual ambivalence is, I submit, as equally at the root of the problem because it helps spawn and nurture male dominance and insensitivity. Ultimately, though, the root is deeper still.
The real core of the issue lies not between us as male and female…but within us, in unresolved androgynous conflict, in the conflict between male and female (“animus” and “anima,” in the Jungian sense) within each of us. Sigmund Freud, for all his genius, contended that the state which we call normal is really neurotic. He held that this universal neurosis was caused by unresolved sexual instincts. We are all so hopelessly sexed that, outside of ourselves, there is no possibility of fulfilling these impulses. Carl Jung agrees with Freud about the pathology of the state we call normal, but he gives a different reason for it. For Jung, we are neurotic because we have not resolved the male-female tension inside of us. Jung, I feel, is closer to the truth.
Why do men act the way they do? Why our propensity for the macho-complex? Because that is where the payoff is…with women. Men act that way because something inside of women wants them to act that way. Women would do well to listen to the talk in male locker rooms (as, I suspect, men would do well to listen to the talk in female locker rooms).
The bottom line when most male locker room talk about women is distilled is: “Bed’em down in disrespect or they will never respect you!” That is sick, but the factual truth in it is scary. Why do women act the way they do? Why so much the propensity for playing the role of subservience? Why the tendency to project a peroxided brainless sexuality? Because that is where the payoff lies…with men. Women act that way because something inside of men wants them to act that way. We are both, male and female, disappointed with each other, but we so frequently nurture what is worst in each other. The end result is an ambivalent frustration which, too frequently, spawns hatred…and, ultimately, a certain raping of each other. Why do men rape women? Because women also rape men…in a less physical, though not less sexual, way. Hatred, not lust, is as we know, the root of all rape…and hatred flows back and forth between men and women in a fairly equal way.
We are all incredibly ambivalent within ourselves and we tend to project that ambivalence outside of ourselves. As an example: I just recently re-read Marilyn French’s poignant novel, The Bleeding Heart. I guess, given the chance, I would ask her this question: “Why do you gravitate towards the type of men who do those type of things to you? What is unresolved in you, Marilyn, that makes you fall in love with men who abuse you?” I suspect, unfairly I am sure, that if Marilyn French (or her heroine, Dolores), for all her pleading about male insensitivity, ever met a truly sensitive man she would consider that very sensitivity a lack of genuine masculinity, the vulnerability a weakness and would find herself (perhaps against her own will) emotionally and erotically less attracted to him because she would consider him (to use some masculine terminology) a bit of a wimp! I am deeply sympathetic to the issue of women’s liberation. It is the most important issue of all. However I am in less sympathy with much of the literature it has produced. Too much of it is one-sided, shallow and simply does not pick up on the heart of the issue, namely, the androgynous conflict inside of us and the emotional and sexual ambivalence that this spawns.
Personally, I would recommend Doris Lessing’s, The Golden Notebook. Lessing, perhaps more that anyone else, is able to touch with sympathy and genuine understanding (and without one-sided judgment) the emotional complexities and ambivalences that underlie this issue. As well, I would recommend John Sanford’s, Invisible Partners. Sanford, using Jung, gives an excellent analysis of the psychological dynamics within us which cause so many of our emotional and other schizophrenias. We are all a long ways from home…pilgrims, exiles, all of us. We are longing for a coming together, within and without, of male and female. Lord, may that kingdom come! The issue of male-female relationships is surely the most critical of all issues. Women’s liberation, more that anyone or anything else, has highlighted this.
However, it is time to blow the whistle on those analyses which are self-pitying, unfair and shallow because now they are beginning to spread more hatred than love. Love follows from truth.