Commentary Magazine

The Study of Man: Woman's Place

When her article on “The Independent Woman” appeared in Politics, ETHEL GOLDWATER provoked heated discussion with her assertion that the end result of the women’s rights movement had been to pile on women the responsibility to make a career as well as a home, and with her recommendation that men assume their full share in the job of caring for children and the home. She is now at work on a book for Houghton Mifflin on this and other aspects of modern women’s problems.



The victory of 19th-century feminism—it won for women such goods as higher education, birth control, legal rights, and self-support—has not, it appears, solved the “woman problem.” Rather, her difficulties seem to have shifted from the political and social realm to the more restricted area of the emotions and what is called “successful personal adjustment.” Today the woman problem is most often summed up in the question, “Now that feminism has won, why aren’t women happy?” in which the irritated questioner indicates his acceptance of the widespread belief that women are more unhappy and “difficult” than they were before their victories—maybe, indeed, because of them. (He also seems to be asking: “Why don’t they make men happy?”—a rather impertinent question.)

Trying to cope with this supposed situation, a number of recent writers have put forth axioms regarding woman’s nature, and suggestions as to what would be best for her. Though citing a certain amount of scientific evidence they seem perilously close to the old prejudices regarding “woman’s place.” Since such views have come to play a leading role in contemporary discussions of women’s problems they are worth closer examination. Especially so, since one has good reason to suspect that they are actually not scientific, and serve only to obscure and befuddle the real problems women must face in this society and the choices open to them.

In Modern Woman, the Lost Sex, by Ferdinand Lundberg and Marynia Farnham, M.D. (Harper, 1947), the counter-attack against modern woman—all for her own greater happiness, of course—receives its fullest exposition. The book is primarily an attack on feminists. A feminist is there defined as a woman who hates being a woman and hates men for their superiority. She fights for the right to be a man, in work (outside the home), and in love (through birth control and easy divorce laws). .But her victory, according to these authors, does not mean happiness. On the contrary, women were happier in a previous period (especially the 17th century), when family life had not as yet lost its role in “affection, economics, education, recreation, and protection.”

The happiest women today, continue these authors, are those who are housewives and mothers, financially and emotionally dependent on strong, protective, fatherly husbands. But motherhood, the core of woman’s satisfaction in life, is becoming increasingly more difficult in our urban civilization: children are economic liabilities, our cities serve best the childless family, woman’s success as a wife and mother carries no prestige. Neurosis, juvenile delinquency, sexual frigidity in women, sexual impotence in men, and alcoholism are all on the increase.

Since the mother is the “most powerful person there is in human destiny,” this book suggests steps to restore women’s sense of self-esteem as mothers by the following program: (1) a Federal Department of Welfare, to encourage the reconstruction of family life; (2) public honors to women who are successful mothers, or who succeed in some other “feminine” achievement (Florence Nightingale, for example); (3) subsidies for large families; (4) employment of only married women with children as teachers (part-time); (5) government-subsidized psychotherapy.

This analysis and program, it seems to me, are based in large part on two misconceptions—or perhaps prejudices—about modern women:

(1) That because the home is now free from household drudgery, women have too much leisure, which they do not know how to use; and (2) that because they have ventured into the sphere of men’s activities, women are in danger of becoming “masculinized.”



Now as to the first misconception, that housewives today have too much leisure, that they are bored and unhappy, and that they should, according to these authors, “reclaim” the household activities which are now lost to them.

The housewife’s leisure is largely nonexistent, and is based on the myth of the efficient modern home which has been refuted statistically many times.

The Bryn Mawr report, Women During the War and After (1945), states that the time spent each week (pre-war) on housekeeping activities in the average American household was as follows: in typical farm households, 60.55 hours; in non-farm rural households, 64.09 hours; in urban households of cities under 100,000 population, 78.35 hours; and in households of cities of 100,000 population or more, 80.57 hours. .(Urban housewives spend more time than rural housewives on cleaning—since cities are dirtier, and more rooms are used—on laundering, on purchasing, and on care of the family.) This study observes that “as living standards grow higher and more appliances and services enter the home, women tend to spend more time on home activity.”

At the same time, labor-saving devices are not nearly so widespread as our advertising might lead us to believe: of American family dwellings in 1940, 22 per cent had no electric lights, 30 per cent had no running water, 58 per cent had no central heating, and 46 per cent had no gas or electric cooking facilities.

The real question, one that has become increasingly pressing to women and that has nothing to do with labor-saving devices, is just how much of the household work they now do is worth-while. I am not referring to “technological irritation”—that which a 17th-century housewife also felt, having just washed the kitchen floor, when the baby poured his cup of beer upon it—but to that self-doubt that is reinforced by the prevalent disdain for “woman’s work,” and is even more subtly intensified by the “advanced” husband’s typical “Why do you bother?” It is not so much a matter of leisure as one of arduous work that reaps little reward, even of a sentimental nature.

Educated women may find housework especially frustrating. .(These are the women who are most often attacked by anti-feminist writers, such as Lundberg and Farnham, and Helene Deutsch in her Psychology of Women [Grune and Stratton, 1944]· Both books imply that educated women are the modern “feminists,” who are too “masculinized” to accept a feminine role in life.) When they give up outside jobs to devote their full time to the home, even for short periods, they have difficulty in reconciling conflicting values: their early environment, in encouraging studiousness, has often belittled domestic routines. In my own childhood home, scholarship was assumed to he as much my goal as that of my brothers. Since household chores were not allowed to interfere with their schoolwork, such chores would have been considered unjust to me. .(What a wrench it is for the college girl to discover that parents and the rest of the world consider marriage much more important for her than studies. She is advised to “slow down,” to “play dumb” on dates. See Mirra Komarovsky’s study, “Cultural Contradictions and Sex Roles,” American Journal of Sociology, November 1946.) Also, women who have held outside jobs may look upon the home as a kind of undeserved haven from the competitive jungle; they may even feel their financial dependence as somewhat distressing, an added burden on their over-worked husbands.

In order to “pay” for neglecting intellectual talents (which their parents once prized), these women may sometimes perform housework with exaggerated zeal. They sink their perfectionism into every task, no matter how trivial. They seem to carry over the insane tempo of our business world into a field of work that can easily be managed more casually. .(Often, they don’t seem to realize that they are the boss now.) Sometimes, on the other hand, they feel compelled to keep their minds in trim, so to speak, by considering philosophical problems while scrubbing the floor. For the woman who is active both inside and outside the home, it is interesting to note how some ordinary household task will become especially pressing whenever the deadline for an outside job is close at hand.

The woman who holds a full-time outside job is also harassed, but in other ways: sometimes she feels clumsy and inefficient in housework because she has unconsciously accepted our culture’s condemnation of combining of career and home; or she prefers complete neglect of housework to the failure to meet her mother’s high standards; or she feels it as an injustice (she should be “excused” from housework in favor of her “studies”). .If she relegates these duties to a maid, she often suffers from mingled feelings of hatred and inferiority toward her; she resents her own dependence and believes (usually correctly) that she is being treated like a child.



However, it would be silly to deny that the management of leisure does present a real problem. Housewives in our society seem peculiarly unable to make leisure spiritually profitable or even to experience it without some guilt-feeling. Those leisure activities which are shared with others (movies, clubs, card-playing), or which can accompany another activity (radio), seem to be most acceptable to our culture. The intellectual housewife would like something stronger; she would turn gratefully to whipping up a financial report, for example, as she once did, as a business girl, a cake.

In Women and a New Society, by Charlotte Luetkens (Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1947), a well-written but somewhat conventional defense of Englishwomen’s accomplishments since the Victorian age, illustrated with many colorful graphs and photographs, the author reminds us of the true function of leisure: “Does leisure [for the woman] serve her to collect strength, to rest and concentrate, this span of hours when we learn to listen to the delicate voices within ourselves, the overtones of our relationships with others, and to enjoy the things of beauty and contemplation?”

Apparently, it does not. A cultural lag still recommends the ideal of the bustling Victorian housewife, whose “token of womanly virtue was never to sit idle—constantly on the alert, though never in real earnest.” (Some men’s “busyness” also suggests the good little Victorian boy’s attempt to keep out of mischief.) Our children automatically absorb this senseless value of over-activity. “What can I do now?” they clamor, and only at imagination’s end, the absurd multiplicity of toys exhausted, does the mother suggest, “Just think, then!”—but she says this ironically, for our culture is uncomfortable with “thinking” (daydreaming), especially in children.

Our culture persists in decrying daydreams as brakes on the will to action, ignoring the fact that the fantasies of the man of action may be wilder than those of the timid soul, who begins at such an early age to repress his “dangerous thoughts” that his weak fancies give him as little satisfaction as reality does. Women are sometimes said to be more introspective than men, but by the time they are adult their dreams are seldom permitted to detach them from the real world; women in pregnancy, for example, perhaps the period when women dream most, remain realists at all times. They allow nothing to interfere with the business at hand.

But at the same time, the great importance of the daydream in the woman’s life is well understood by our society. Certainly, there is little hesitation in exploiting it. The little girl begins to lose her naturalness as soon as she can spell out the subway cards, and the young woman’s inner image of herself reflects so completely the adman’s false, conventional model of feminine feeling and mannerism that it is sometimes shocking to her to realize, finally, that she doesn’t at all look or feel like other women—nor do other women.

There is something degrading in the cynical ease with which our culture titillates woman’s impoverished fancy—with such pallid wraiths of love and hatred, of lust, revenge, and misery, that the words we use to describe these half-feelings seem absurdly melodramatic. The dull rituals of the movies, soap-operas, popular novels, serve only to woo her from the real satisfactions of her inner life, and keep her from trying to shape her own fantasies closer to her individual needs and enjoyment.

In the end her daydreams are as rigidly censored as her night dreams; and her imaginative powers are left to wither. So carefully policed by our culture is this private world, that every daydream is inspected for “security reasons,” and marked “safe” or “unsafe”: “getting-even-with-the-boss” dreams, for instance, are safe since these allow us to let off steam without doing anything else about it; or dreams of grandiose ambition, for these, it is naively hoped, may sometimes be acted upon and realized. But beware the dreams of self-pity (neurotic Tom Sawyer!), or of sexual diversity!



The woman factory and office worker, too, slips in and out of this censored day-dream-world as readily as does the housewife. How else can she eke out the long hours of usually meaningless, impersonal activity, where full concentration might even be a handicap to the smooth completion of the task? In fact, the daydream may aid woman’s work adjustment: there is some evidence that the woman factory worker is often less restless, more contented with working conditions, than the man.

I have written at such length about the daydream because I believe—and modem psychological insight indicates—that an acceptance of one’s fantasy-life in all its amplitude is necessary for the enjoyment of solitude—itself a lost art in our culture, but one which must be regained if we are to experience leisure profitably. We place so much value on sociability and popularity, on “belonging,” that aloneness is often automatically stigmatized, or feared, as loneliness or rejection, especially in the case of women. And while we continue to mutilate or repress our daydreams, we rush at the chance to expend our emotions vicariously on inferior cultural substitutes.

One reason for the popularity of the movies—and even bad movies are enjoyed by many intellectual women, for movie enjoyment has little to do with intelligence or artistic taste—is that they provide an opportunity for experiencing emotions that are partially or wholly repressed in life because they are too “serious,” too dangerous. Modern Woman, the Lost Sex asserts, “The modern public does not go to the cinema to escape life, but to participate in it.” The “outlawed” emotions are often experienced only in the movies: fear, suspense, hatred, revenge. In their disguise, in Westerns, detective, or war movies, the tension can be enjoyed because, like the ride on the Coney Island roller-coaster, we know it will be pleasantly terminated. We have no such assurance in life, where these feelings can be embraced with pride or relief only in retrospect.

Indeed movies are preferred to reality; they become substitutes for life, not because they are more exciting, but because they are less so—not because life is too drab, but because life, whenever it is fully enjoyed and suffered, is too rich. People who are temporarily involved in deeply-felt situations find the movies boring. Lovers go to the movies only to relax, that is, when their own “romance” is too exhausting.

The banal situations from our popular culture are accepted so unquestioningly that we sometimes find it hard to label or value our feelings in life, when some of the familiar props are absent. “Is this the ‘real thing’?” we ask ourselves, meaning, “Is this the ‘movie thing’ or the ‘newspaper thing’?” Can this be “love,” for example, which seems to be directed, so perversely, to a creature with hairy legs and body odor?

Women in our society find the acceptance of such “perverse” facts harder than men do. They follow the conventions, or even the “unconventions,” with anxious industry. In this respect, the educated woman has as rigid a pattern of behavior as the schoolgirl: she marries only her intellectual superior (when this is too difficult a feat, she often pretends it, and her own intellectual activities are sometimes paralyzed in order to further the hoax); whatever her outside work, her home must never be too messy, nor her dress too unfashionable; she reads the serious books and a serious newspaper; she excludes her personal feelings from any intellectual argument; and she is always “casual,” in conversation, about sex and motherhood.



Perhaps it would be well to summarize briefly the factors so far mentioned that seem to lead to uncertainty and confusion in the life of the housewife of our time: (1) despite industrial advances, the average housewife, even the intellectual housewife, works hard and has long hours of work; (2) she is sometimes oppressed by doubts concerning the value of her work, by guilt feelings concerning her financial dependence, and by fears of wasting her non-domestic talents; (3) she rarely is emotionally free enough to enjoy the leisure she has, or could have if she were a better manager.

Yet, whatever the difficulties in the modern home, the majority of women still cling to it. According to the sociologist William F. Ogburn, 85 per cent of working women declare they work outside the home not because they want to but because they have to. And most of these women, too, have to find time for housework. At some period of the average woman’s life, home is still the place where “woman’s work is never done,” and where she still prefers to try to do it.

Of course, there are many “idle” women—twenty million, according to a recent Life magazine survey. It is not stated how many of these idle women were fully engaged in housework and child-care at an earlier period of their lives. In fact, their present status was defined as “not aged or infirm; not having jobs; and not mothers of children under 18.” The contrast between the household activity of young motherhood and the sudden leisure of middle-age is sometimes astonishing; but the uselessness of the older woman’s life will continue so long as idleness is generally considered a lesser evil for women than employment outside the home.



Intellectual women today have discovered a new source of uncertainty: they are increasingly disturbed by questions of their own adequacy or success at being “real women.”

“Am I a boy or a girl?” is the unconscious question of the bobby-soxer. She is so unsure of either side of her nature, and she is so badly educated in these matters, that she feels compelled to exhibit exaggerated evidence of both: her boyishness in her dress and her femininity by her mass-crushes. Of course, neither side is as yet wholehearted; she never looks altogether a boy, achieving only a bizarre non-girlishness, nor do her heroes ever become real enough to demand any feminine response in her. Also, she loves in collaboration, for greater safety.

The intellectual woman, some years later, still voices the same fear: “Am I womanly enough?” or “Am I motherly?” For although our culture is insistent on these values, it is not specific in defining the terms “womanly” and “motherly.” For instance, a woman may be considered motherly without being a mother, but this same woman’s womanliness may be in question. There is also quite a bit of disagreement about the necessity for independence for women. .“An independent woman is a contradiction in terms,” says Modern Woman, the Lost Sex. .But although the dependent woman is still much admired (in fact, childishness is often prized as femininity), women are generally expected to act with independence when this becomes necessary. The resultant fantasy is that in which all is achieved: the most desired by men, the most envied by women; champion houseworker, wife, pingpong player, mother, businesswoman, and conversationalist on world politics.

This brings us to our second contemporary prejudice concerning woman’s place in society: that her work outside the home, in order to preserve her “womanliness,” should be “woman’s work.” Oddly, this sounds rather like the old anti-feminist “woman’s place in the home,” reworded (perhaps rationalized) to fit present conditions: if some “woman’s work” is now done outside the home—sewing, cooking, nursing, teaching-why not generously allow her to follow it there?

It seems to me that our understanding of sublimation—of the relation between instinctual needs and cultural pursuits—is still too meager for generalizations about what kinds of work are good or bad for all women, assuming that such generalization will ever be possible. The concept that “femininity” is centered in “nurture,” and “masculinity” in “exploit” (an idea which I first found expressed in Psychology of Women, by Helene Deutsch) is broadly truthful, certainly as to the past. Women throughout history have been primarily concerned with the care of life, with activities connected with food, clothing, and shelter; while men have always tried to “realize themselves externally.”

But some measure of the historically masculine qualities is necessary for any outstanding economic and professional success in our society—whether in “masculine” or “feminine” kinds of work. Can one then conclude that success in any field of work is itself “masculine” (exploitative)?

Significantly, when a woman is successful in work, we are likely to suspect that she succeeded nastily: that she was over-aggressive, ruthless, “more deadly.” It is the Victorian cultural lag that fashions the stereotype: the former slave (woman), having broken her chains, will not find contentment simply in equality, but will seek revenge for her former servitude by becoming master.

Our crude appraisal of character, by which we assume that woman’s private life must duplicate her public life, has led to the extension of this stereotype: the successful business woman must necessarily carry her dominance (a quality which is necessary for work success) into every personal relationship. But we would not think of questioning the fact that an aggressive businessman is sometimes passive in the home—in fact, this is a common complaint against American manhood. Why, then, is feminine passivity in love unimaginable in the case of a so-called career woman?



Is there any basis for the conviction that “masculinity” in work inevitably carries over into private life, which is the root of the warning of contemporary critics of feminism that women cannot hope to develop their intellectuality, or their capacity for sublimating their instincts in work, without stunting their ability to love? There is actually some evidence that women college graduates are not only less often married and less often mothers, but also less often passionate in sex (despite their often unconventional ways) than the non-college graduate. According to Professor A. C. .Kinsey of Indiana University, whose incomplete study of American sex habits is reported in Modern Woman, the Lost Sex, from 50 to 85 per cent of college women interviewed had never experienced an orgasm, while “practically 100 per cent full orgastic reaction had been found among uneducated Negro women.” This is a strong charge against our educational system; but some specific causal relation between higher education and repressed sexuality must still be found. .(Obviously, many uneducated women in our society are also frigid. According to Weiss and English, Psychosomatic Medicine, quoted in Modern Woman, the Lost Sex, 50 per cent of adult women do not achieve full sexual satisfaction.)

Is it possible that girls who choose to go to college are already poor risks for marriage and motherhood? Although this idea now appears occasionally in scientific language, it is only another instance of the Victorian lag. Girls of today with any understanding of our present culture must be aware that they may at some time be compelled to work outside the home, married or not, and feel the need to choose some congenial work and to train themselves for it. Thirty per cent of American women are employed outside the home. If women can afford job-training, they act quite realistically in obtaining it.

But our colleges, which often succeed in training women for work, do little to further the development of any other facet of the mature personality. They have their own ways of repressing the emotions, and these ways continue to be more repressive to women than to men. “The women’s college of today is still reluctant to throw off the maternal, sheltering attitude,” says Constance Warren in A New Design for Women’s Education (Stokes, 1940). She lists as evidence of cultural lag in college life the old-fashioned smoking regulations, the 10:30 locking-up rule, the dormitory chaperon, the “jeune fille” ideal.

The collegiate stereotype is a commonplace: the “nice” manners; the empty, cheerful sociality; the good marks, which are often nothing more than evidence of adjustment to the teacher’s personality; the sports worship, partly based on the fallacy that athletes are “virile”; and the social snobbery, sometimes more cruel than in the home town. Unhappily, the intellectual student group—expected haven for non-conformists—has its own rigid pattern, which over-values logical thinking and factual knowledge at the expense of feeling and emotion. It too excludes the sweet unreasonableness of human nature. In short, the college, a symbol of freedom for women, does little to prepare her for her life as a woman—or as a member of a living and working society.



But why does the experience of the college years seem to affect the sexual life of women more than it does that of men? There are a number of possibilities. One is that more women than men in our society express neurosis in the form of disturbed sexuality. For obvious reasons, there are no statistics to prove this; yet it seems to be generally accepted by psychiatrists. If true, it does not follow that there are more maladjusted women than men, but only that men will tend to express neurosis in some non-sexual way. The sexual symptom may, indeed, be a “lucky” one for women, since our culture’s present strong interest in sex makes it easier for women to recognize their sexual insufficiencies and to seek treatment for them. A man, or woman, with a satisfactory sex life, may never come to terms with his or her other neurotic characteristics.

The next question is inevitable: why do more women than men express neurosis through sexual disturbances? There may be a biological reason for this unconscious “choice,” but there are also a few cultural reasons. Freud says in his Autobiography that the girl’s road to sexual maturity is more complicated than the boy’s, primarily because her first love object is also the mother, thus in her case, one of her own sex. .(This idea was a late revision; earlier, he had suggested that the “Electra” complex—the girl’s attachment to the father—was the exact counterpart of the boy’s “Oedipus” attachment to the mother.) If the little girl is to achieve sexual maturity, i.e., a recognition of her femininity vis à vis the male, she must also learn to love her father and receive his love.

But what has become of the father in our American culture? His function in family life, as Modern Woman, the Lost Sex rightly points out, is now chiefly to make money; he has no time for the children. Of course, his waning influence also affects the development of the boy, since the boy must look to the father for his model of manly behavior. But his absence is a greater hardship for the girl. The average father’s predicament was recently expressed in a popular song (from the play Carousel), “You can have fun with a son; but you have to be a father to a girl!” (Amusingly, the father of the song finally resolves his fears of fatherhood by the same popular means: he promises to make money for her.)

Briefly, to sum up this point, Americans believe—by a margin of two to one, according to a recent Gallup poll (New York World-Telegram, October 7)—that boys are “easier to bring up” than girls. If the little girl requires to be loved and valued for her feminine self, and to learn to love her father, in order to reach sexual maturity, it is obvious that she enters this world with a two to one handicap against her.

Finally, there may be still another reason for the higher incidence of sexual disturbance in women: the still tenacious belief in the dichotomy of sex and love, another Victorian heritage. For most educated American women (again, I mention these particularly, since they are said to be more often disturbed sexually than uneducated women), sex is not quite nice, and all their bold talk cannot overcome the fear of punishment for the forbidden pleasure. Since sex is often connected in the unconscious mind with other bodily functions, the mother’s squeamishness about these functions may be an element in her daughter’s later frigidity. And in this respect the lower class child often gets a better break than the children of the middle-class. In “Child-Rearing and Social Status” (American journal of Sociology, November 1946), Martha C. Ericson reports that in a study of mother-child relationships, the lower-class mothers were found to be the most lenient in feeding and toilet-training schedules. Their children might thus have less opportunity to develop the sense of shame in connection with toilet functions which seems generally to be carried over to sexual matters. And this fact may be another clue to the connection between higher education and frigidity, for lower-class children do not often get the “advantage” of the genteel pattern of the college, if for economic reasons alone.

Again, there is another instance of Victorian cultural lag in the belief that full sexual enjoyment is not of great importance to women. Helene Deutsch, in Psychology of Women, describes a “benevolent frigidity,” in which the woman feels gratification simply by satisfying the man; but to accept such a phenomenon, common as it undoubtedly is, as in any way “normal” diverts attention from the real problem of women’s frigidity, which is accepted with too much complacency by our society.



Certainly the sources of happiness in sex are complicated and various. In the foregoing discussion, I have mentioned a number of reasons for sexual disturbance in women, particularly intellectual women. But there is no denying that there are intellectual women and women with careers who have overcome the stultifying elements in their education—sometimes “naturally,” in a childhood home that is sexually-mature; sometimes with the help of psychotherapy; and sometimes in spite of everything. (One remembers the old suffragette argument, “Why, then, did God give women brains?”) We have a few women psychologists (for example, Marynia Farnham, the co-author of Modern Woman, the Lost Sex) who, although they assiduously counsel other women to remain modestly beside the crib, seem themselves to be examples of successful duality.

Most women will agree with Modern Woman, the Lost Sex that feminism, the movement for political and social equality, is not a comprehensive answer to women’s problems. But neither is the reactionary line, typified by the Lundberg-Farnham proposals for baby bonuses, radio talks propagandizing motherhood, and governmental limitation of jobs open to women. These are totalitarian methods, which can do little more than force a higher birth rate; they cannot create the wish for parenthood or the joy in it where this wish or joy are lacking, nor can parents become better parents by these means.

Perhaps the best way of life for women in our present culture—best for the satisfaction of all their activity and emotional aims—is the diversified life, balancing or alternating intellectualism, motherhood, housewifery, and outside job. But the women who pursue this course will probably have to learn to content themselves with minor victories. They will sometimes be at fault as mothers, as housekeepers, as wives, or as workers. But at least, in the management of these imperfections, they will be aided by that degree of independence which frees them from the tyranny of outmoded standards of behavior in all these functions. And, of course, they will be dependent on the other members of their household to assist them in their independence.

One may ask, “Are such women in danger of losing their ‘femininity’?” Here I remember Lavinia (Androcles and the Lion), whose good-humored confession, “I am not always a Christian,” so profoundly expresses, in paraphrase, the truly independent woman. Despite our most-cherished fantasy, no woman is a woman all the time. (Is a man always a man?)

For my part, I am often my mother, especially when I am with my children. .(And how startling it is for me to hear her old-fashioned expressions of love or irritation in my voice!) But when I play games I am always my brother. It is not the middle-aged female I who plays tennis, but an adolescent boy spirit (himself quite different from my present-day brother), who mysteriously entered me when I first learned to play, years ago, and now mysteriously wakes in me on the tennis court. At these times, my bodily image—my walk, my facial expression, my mental set—all this is amusingly unfamiliar to my ordinary self; they are my young brother’s.

Now, it would seem an absurdity to carry these semi-compulsive impersonations into all my other roles. The mental set of my youthful brother would be a grave handicap when I clean house—and there are times when I must firmly shut the door against the spirit of my mother. Character is formed from many identifications; where these are not completely integrated, they can sometimes be recognized and controlled. This may be an answer—at least for a transitional period—to feminist and anti-feminist alike: that women should become increasingly aware that they are not women all the time. Hopefully, this is already taking place. Best of all, they are less often constrained to pretend an idealized single-sexedness—no matter how painful to our grown-up childishness is the destruction of this illusion.



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