Nurturing Egos and Healing Wounds; Deference and Disaffection in Women’s Emotional Labor

The Captive Mother
Stephan Abel Sinding entitled “The Captive Mother” (1889).

“There is a clear allegation of harm to women in Ferguson’s account – the harm of exploitation.”

What does a man want? What, in the conflict-ridden arena of current heterosexual relations, does a man want from a woman?

“What a man is attracted to most deeply in a woman,” say the male psychologists Connell Cowan and Melvyn Kinder in their best-selling Smart Women, Foolish Choices, “is a magical mixture of unadulterated power and tenderness – in equal measure,” “Strength, forcefulness, and mastery can be gained,” they assure us, “without giving up female tenderness and concern with relationships.”

This is good news indeed. But elsewhere Cowan and Kinder admit that “whatever men say, most of them still like to control the timing and frequency of lovemaking.” Men do not want a sexually aggressive woman but “a woman who will be exquisitely responsive and passionate.”

“While their characterizations of the “love crisis” differ in some respects, these accounts converge in one respect: All agree that men supply their women with far less of what in popular psychology is called “positive stroking” – the provision of emotional sustenance – than women supply in return, and all agree that this imbalance is a persistent source of female frustration.”

“What ever men say.. ..” is this a warning or a confession? How can a woman have “unadulterated power” and yet be unable to control the timing and frequency of her own lovemaking? Nor are men attracted by the qualities that make for career success in women: “A woman who has worked hard at an education and career is not necessarily valued higher by men.” Once more, “unadulterated power” does not in fact attract, for such power would have to include, would it not, the straight-out exercise of power in the public sphere that is oftentimes the reward of career success? I am perplexed: What does a man want? Some sort of power in a woman, but none of the ordinary sorts and, less mysteriously, tenderness, not tenderness simpliciter but “female tenderness.”

Several dozen best-selling books in popular psychology have appeared in recent years that detail what one writer calls the “love crisis” – what is presumed by the authors of these books to be a crisis in the intimate relationships of men and women. These writers, mostly women, tell a depressing tale of female dependency and male misconduct, often grow misconduct. While their characterizations of the “love crisis” differ in some respects, these accounts converge in one respect: All agree that men supply their women with far less of what in popular psychology is called “positive stroking” – the provision of emotional sustenance – than women supply in return, and all agree that this imbalance is a persistent source of female frustration.

“According to Ferguson, economic domination of the household by men is analogous to capitalist ownership of the means of production. The relations of sex-affective production in a male-dominated society put women in a position of unequal exchange.”

Feminist theorists too have noted the gendered imbalance in the provision of emotional support. Ann Ferguson, for example, has maintained that men’s appropriation of women’s emotional labor is a species of exploitation akin in important respects to the exploitation of workers under capitalism. Ferguson posit’s a sphere of “sex-affective production,” parallel in certain respects to commodity production in the waged sector. Four goods are produced in this system: domestic maintenance, children, nurturance (of both men and children), and sexuality.

According to Ferguson, economic domination of the household by men is analogous to capitalist ownership of the means of production. The relations of sex-affective production in a male-dominated society put women in a position of unequal exchange. Just as control of the means of production by capitalists allows them to appropriate “surplus value” from workers, ie: the difference between the total value of the workers’ output and that fraction of value produced that workers get in return – so men’s privileged position in the sphere of sex-affective production allows them to appropriate “surplus nurturance” from women. So, for example, the sexual division of labor whereby women are the primary child rearers requires a “woman as nurturer” sex gender ideal.” Girls learn “to find satisfaction in the satisfaction of others, and to place their need second in the case of a conflict.” Men, on the other hand, “learn such skills are women’s work, learn to demand nurturance from women who don’t know how to nurture themselves.” Women, like workers, are caught within a particular division of labor which requires that they produce more of a good-here, nurturance – than they receive in return.

“Indeed, to require an exchange of equivalents in all our dealings with other people reducers the richness and variety of human relationship to the aridity of mere contract.”

There is a clear allegation of harm to women in Ferguson’s account – the harm of exploitation. Joel Feinberg characterizes exploitation generally as an interpersonal relationship that “involves one party (A) profiting from his relation to another party (B) by somehow “taking advantage” of some characteristic of B’s, or some feature of B’s circumstances.” In most cases of exploitation, B’s interest suffer or her rights are violated, but this need not be the case Feinberg cites a number of examples in which A exploits B but “B is neither harmed nor benefited in the process.” Harmless parasitism is a case in point. Consider the sponger who exploit’s the generosity of a rich and good-natured patron or the gossip columnist who panders to the vulgar curiosity of the public by reporting the daily activities of some celebrity. The patron may be so rich that he neither minds nor misses the handouts; the celebrity may be utterly indifferent to the publicity.

Now the specific kind of exploitation for which Marxists indict capitalism, and Ferguson patriarchy, is exploitation of the first variety, ie: a taking advantage in which A’s profiting from his relation to B involves substantial damage to B’s interests. It is important to understand that for the Marxist, capitalist exploitation involves more than the unequal transfer of value from worker to capitalist. Oftentimes we give more to others than they give us in return – perhaps because we have more to give – without feeling ourselves aggrieved or naming ourselves exploited. Indeed, to require an exchange of equivalents in all our dealings with other people reducers the richness and variety of human relationship to the aridity of mere contract.

“The appropriation of surplus value is at the root of the workers’ alienation, where by “alienation” is meant the loss of control both of the product of labor and of the productive process itself; the loss of autonomy in production brings with it a diminution in the workers’ powers, for example, the atrophy of human capacity that attends a lifetime of repetitive or uncreative work.”

But, so it is charged, the appropriation of surplus value under capitalism involves an unequal exchange that is not at all benign, for the character of this exchange is such as to bring about the systematic disempowerment of one party to the exchange – the direct producers. The appropriation of surplus value is at the root of the workers’ alienation, where by “alienation” is meant the loss of control both of the product of labor and of the productive process itself; the loss of autonomy in production brings with it a diminution in the workers’ powers, for example, the atrophy of human capacity that attends a lifetime of repetitive or uncreative work. The appropriation of surplus value forms the basis, as well, of the social political, and cultural preeminence of the appropriating classes.

The emotional contributions of men and women to intimacy certainly differ, they admit, but their contributions to one another, looked at on a larger canvas, balance: He shows his love for her by bringing home the bacon, she by securing for him a certain quality of nurturance and concern, might they be right?

Ferguson’s argument does not require that the two sets of relationships – workers under capitalism, women in the contemporary household – be identical, as clearly they are not. Her claim, as I understand it, is that both are exploited in the same sense, ie: that both are involved in relationships of unequal exchange in which the character of the exchange is itself disempowering. Now this claim is problematical first, here is some question whether the imbalance in the provision of emotional sustenance is a relationship of unequal exchange at all. Does it, in other words, satisfy the Marxist’s first condition for exploitation? Under capitalism, so Marxists claim, workers receive less of the same kind of thing – value – than they give. Moreover, since the value of the worker’s wage can be calculated in the same terms as the value of the worker’s product, the difference between the two can be quantified and the exploitative character of the relationship just displayed for all to see. Nor, according to Marxist, is there anything else, ie: anything other than what can be calculated as “value” in Marxist theory that the capitalist gives the worker that might balance the books. Now in order for “surplus nurturance” to be parallel to “surplus value,” the intimate exchanges of men and women will have to be shown not only to involve an imbalance in the provision of one kind of thing – here nurturance – but not to involve an exchange of equivalents of any sort. But this is just what conservatives deny. The emotional contributions of men and women to intimacy certainly differ, they admit, but their contributions to one another, looked at on a larger canvas, balance: He shows his love for her by bringing home the bacon, she by securing for him a certain quality of nurturance and concern, might they be right?

Second, even if women’s provision of emotional care to men can be shown not to be embedded within a larger exchange of equivalents, is it clear that women are really harmed by providing such care? Are the men who take more than they give in return anything worse than Feinberg’s mere harmless parasites whose exploitation fails to issue in any genuine damage? Differently put, does the situation of women in intimacy satisfy the Marxist’s second condition for exploitation, ie: that there be not only an unequal transfer of powers but a genuine disempowerment in consequence of this transfer? Many feminists have condemned the classic bargain between man and woman (economic support in return for domestic labor and emotional care giving) on the grounds that economic dependency itself is disempowering. But is it possible to argue that the unreciprocated provision of emotional sustenance – ‘female tenderness” – is disempowering in and of itself? And if it is, in what, precisely, does this disempowerment consist?

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Female Metamorphoses to Vampire; Judith and Salome as Priestesses of Man’s Severed Head and More Feminine Evil

 

Franz Flaum Vampire 1904
Franz Flaum  “Vampire” Sculpting (1904)

Thus Stoker’s Dracula is a very carefully constructed cautionary tale directed to men of the modern temper, warning them not to yield to the bloodlust of the feminist, The New Woman embodied by Lucy, who was an immodest, aggressively eager, viraginous sensuality of a “horrid flirt,” as she appropriately characterizes herself. Without even knowing it she bears the degenerative stamp of the new woman. When confronted with three different men, horror of horrors she falls in love with all three. In a shocking admission of her degenerate, bestial, polyandrous instincts, she exclaims, “Why can’t they let a girl marry three men, or as many as want her, and save all this trouble?” [My thoughts exactly if a man can marry three wives, than a woman should be allowed three husbands. It’s only fair.] Lucy admits that “this is heresy, and I must not say it,” but the predatory cat is out of the bag, and it is no wonder that Dracula heads straight for Lucy upon his arrival in England.

Edvard Munch Vampire (1895)
Edvard Munch  “Vampire” Woodcut and Lithograph (1895/1902)

This New Woman was herself nothing but “a vampire who satisfied the handsome young men in order to devour their flesh – because nothing is better for phantoms of this kind than the blood of lovers” (The Temptation of Saint Anthony, 197) . Lucy was the personification of bestiality, forever crawling. Kike the vampire in a scupture by Franz Flaum, “Vampire,” toward her victims. She was the silent drinker of man’s essence, graphically portrayed by Edvard Munch, “Vampire.” She was the bat-winged woman leading a massed, blinded humanity to the abyss of degeneration, as in a painting of 1897 by Henri Martin. In a characteristic turn-of-the-century adaptation of Poe by Frantise Kupka, she was the peacock-feathered, whinged chimera strewing death and destruction, the conquering worm of death itself.

Attracted by the apparent sense of power imputed to the female vampire by the turn-of-the-century culture, women of the period often cultivated the anorexic look of that predatory. Art inevitably followed where fashion had led the way.

Lovis_Corinth_Salome_1900.jpg
Lovis Corinth “Salome Receiving the Head of St. John the Baptist” (1896)

While the theme of Salome as a bestial virgin Jewess, whose dance revived the dead embers of carnal life in even the most chaste of men, was passed around among the writers of the period’s most determinedly purple prose, the painters became involved in their own scientific-archeological exploraiton of the link between gender and race in the realm of degeneration. The Salome theme was portrayed as a stylish, sarcastically observant turn-of-the-century society lady. Most, however, chose to portray the evil temptress as she lewdly fondled the blood-stained remains of the saint’s head.

Albert von Keller - Love - 1908.jpg
Albert von Keller “Love” (1908)

Albert von Keller’s “Love” in 1908, painted an image of a naked young woman – Salome and Judith rolled into one – casually holding a long, sharp sword. On a bed next to her, in the tempest-swept, half-razed tent pitched on the battlefield of the turn-of-the-century’s war against woman, lies the decapitated nude body of a man. The man’s head, already half-forgotten, lies abandoned in the dust of the woman’s feet. The dark-haired woman’s beak-like, Semitic face, low forehead, and livid lips are meant to bespeak her degeneracy. The decapitated man’s hand still touches the laurel wreath he was reaching for when she attacked him. She has stepped on it disdainfully. The artist gave this crudely symbolic painting a simple title. He called it “Love.” It’s purpose was not moral but aggressive. The audience which took this widely reproduced work to be a masterpiece of philosophic statement was not invited to contemplate this image in a thoughtful fashion. Instead, having been presented with the ravages of woman’s materialistic power over man, viewers were expected to turn to the guards surrounding the fallen hero’s tent and, with Wilde’s Herod, sound the call of gynecide: “Kill that woman!”

Women, however, were everywhere, and they were ultimately not as mysterious, as unfathomable, as alien as the artists and intellectuals were trying to make them appear. The women of the turn-of-the-century had to suffer untold humiliation from the baroque, self-justifying fantasies men had built up around them. But dinner had to be cooked and faltering egos had to be coddled. Gynecide was indeed an extravagant fantasy, but, as the world was to discover all too soon, genocide was not.

The Mythology Of Feminine Evil

 

Bildmaß: 123 x 106 cmRahmenmaß: 155 x 133 cm
Franz von Lenbach (1836-1904) “The Snake-Queen” (1894)

Feminine evil stemming from Jewish myth which dictated that woman must be silent, chaste, and obedient to her husband. She was there for expected to be the reflecting mirror, symbolized as the moon, to this patriarchal king, symbolized as the sun. Her words and actions were there for considered a reflection of the sacred institution of marriage and should reflect the respect and honor it so deserved. Woman was therefore expected to “behave” like a lady. In these artworks the libidinal seduction of Adam is reported and described as Eve‘s forbidden relationship with the serpent and shown in libidinal pose worshiping the reptilian hated symbol of evil.

Kenyon Cox Lilith 1892.jpg

 

In Arthur Symons “The Avenging Spirit” identifying Lilith and Lamia (the religion known as Kabbalah) as mother and daughter, united in evil:

For in your body is the inevitable
Sting of the Serpent made of the Snake’s desire,
The desire he had of Lilith, whose strange spell
Woven around him made his breath respire
The odours of no death, not damnable,
But deadly when the blood that’s mixed with mire
Propagates evil. You the Insensible
Beast of the Wilderness where root and briar
Mix, and the ways thereof no man can tell,
Jungles and forests, lions, lust and ire (Poems, II 301)

 

Some psychoanalysts believe these myths have contributed to the suppression of the female libido and also play a part in the self-inflicting masochism women sometimes endure. Not free to her own controls, she seeks self-inflicting painful symbolic acts. (Please refer to Emblematic Torment; A Photo Series)

 

Emblematic Torment; Part II

Emblematic Torment; A Photo Series

Fernand Khnopff (1858-1921) “Ishtar” lithograph (1888)

Joseph Müllner (1879-1968) “Medusa” sculpture (1909)

Gabriel Ferrier Salammbo 1881
Gabriel Ferrier (1847-1914) “Salammbo” (1881)
Franz von Stuck Sensuality 1897.jpg
Franz von Stuck (1863 – 1928) “Sensuality” (1897)

Feminist Consciousness is Consciousness of Victimization

the-rape-of-polyxena-pio-fedi-loggia-dei-lanzi-florence-italy.jpg
The Rape of Polyxena by Pio Fedi located Loggia Dei Lanzi, Florence, Italy

Feminist consciousness is consciousness of victimization. To apprehend oneself as victim is to be aware of an alien and hostile force outside of oneself which is responsible fro the blatantly unjust treatment of women and which enforces a stifling and oppressive system of sex-role differentiation. For some feminists, this hostile power is “society” or “the system”; for others, it is simply men. Victimization is impartial, even though its damage is done to each one of us personally. One is victimized as a woman, as one among many. In the realization that others are made to suffer in the same way I am made to suffer lies the beginning of a sense of solidarity with other victims. To come to see oneself as victim, to have such an altered perception of oneself and of one’s society is not to see things in the same old way while merely judging them differently or to superimpose new attitudes on things like frosting on cake. The consciousness of victimization is immediate and revelatory; it allows us to discover what social reality is really like.

The consciousness of victimization is a divided consciousness. To see myself as victim is to know that I have already sustained injury, that I live exposed to injury, that I have been at worst mutilated, at best diminished in my being. But at the same time, feminist consciousness is a joyous consciousness of one’s own power, of the possibility of unprecedented personal growth and the release of energy long suppressed. Thus, feminist consciousness is both consciousness of weakness and consciousness of strength. But this division in the way we apprehend ourselves has a positive effect, for it leads to the search both for ways of overcoming those weaknesses in ourselves which support they system and for direct forms of struggle against the system itself.

The consciousness of victimization may be a consciousness divided in a second way. The awareness I have of myself as victim may rest uneasily alongside the awareness that I am also and at the same time enormously privileged, more privileged than the overwhelming majority of the world’s population. I myself enjoy both white-skin privilege and the privileges of comparative affluence. In our society, of course, women of color are not so fortunate; white women, as a group and on average, are substantially more economically advantaged than many persons of color, especially women of color; white women have better housing and education, enjoy lower rates of infant and maternal mortality, and, unlike many poor persons of color, both men and women, are rarely forced to live in the climate of street violence that has become a standard feature of urban poverty. But even women of color in our society are relatively advantaged in comparison to the appalling poverty of women in, e.g. Africa and Latin America.

Many women do not develop a consciousness divided in this way at all: they see themselves, to be sure, as victims of an unjust social system of social power, but they remain blind to the extent to which they themselves are implicated in the victimizations of others. What this means is that the “raising” of a woman’s consciousness is, unfortunately no safeguard against her continued acquiescence in racism, imperialism, or class oppression. Sometimes, however, the entry into feminist consciousness, for white women especially, may bring in its wake a growth in political awareness generally: The disclosure of one’s own oppression may lead to an understanding of a range of misery to which one was heretofore blind.

But consciousness divided in this way may tend, just as easily, to produce confusion, guilt, and paralysis in the political sphere. To know oneself as a “guilty victim is to know oneself as guilty”; This guilt is sometimes so profound that it sets a woman up for political manipulation. When this happens, she may find herself caught up in poltical agendas or even in political organizations that speak only to her guilt and not, at the same time, to her need, indeed, she may have been recruited on the basis of her guilt alone. The awakening comes at last: The recognition that she has been manipulated – “guilt-tripped” – brings in its wake resentment, anger, and very often a headlong and permanent refusal to engage ever again in any political activity. A consciousness so divided, again, so guilt-ridden, may experience paralysis in still another way: Trained anyhow to subordinate her needs to the needs of others, a woman may be so over-whelmed by the discovery of her own complicity in such evils as racism or imperialism that she denies herself permission fully to confront the real discomforts of her own situation. Her anger is mobilized on behalf of everyone else, but never on her own behalf. We all know women like this, admirable women who toil ceaselessly in the vineyards of social justice, alive to the insults borne by others, but seemingly oblivious to the ones meant for them.

What It Means To Be A Feminist

Abduction of Sabine
Abduction of a Sabine Woman located just outside the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence (late sixteenth – early seventeenth century artwork)*

To be a feminist, one has first to become one. For many feminists, this involves the experience of a profound personal transformation, an experience which goes far beyond that sphere of human activity we regard ordinarily as “political.” This transforming experience, which cuts across the ideological divisions within the women’s movement, is complex and multifaceted. In the course of undergoing the transformation to which I refer, the feminist changes her behavior. She makes new friends; she responds differently to people and events; her habits of consumption change; sometimes she alters her living arrangements or, more dramatically, her whole style of life. She may decide to pursue a career, to develop potentialities within herself which had long lain dormant or she may commit herself to political struggle.

Although the oppression of women is universal, feminist consciousness is not. In Marxist theory, the stage is set for social change when existing forms of social interactions – property relations as well as values, attitudes, and beliefs – come into conflict with new social relations which are generated by changes in the mode of production:

“At a certain stage of their development, the material forces of production in society come in conflict with the existing relations of production or – what is but a legal expression for the same thing – with the property relations within which they had been at work before. From forms of development of the forces of production these relations turn into their fetters. Then comes he period of social revolution.”

What forces have given rise to feminist consciousness? To date, no one has offered a comprehensive analysis of those changes in the socioeconomic structure of contemporary American society which have made possible the emergence of feminist consciousness. This task is made doubly difficult by the fact dispassionate historical investigation, but are part of the fluid set of circumstances in which each of us must find our way from one day to another and whose ultimate direction is as yet unclear. In spite of this, several features of current social reality cannot escape notice.

First, if we add to the Marxist notion of “modes of production” the idea of “modes of (biological) reproduction,” then it is evident that the development of cheap and efficient types of contraception has been instrumental in changing both the concrete choices women are able to make and the prevailing conceptions about woman’s function and destiny. Second, the rapid growth of service industries has had much to do with the steady rise in the percentage of women in the work force, since the post-World War II low in the early fifties. While poor women and women of color have often had to work for wages, middle-class women were largely restricted to the roles of wife, mother, and homemaker; this restriction, together with the rationales that justify it, is clearly out of phase with the entry of millions of such women into the market economy. The growth and spread of a technology to ease the burden of housekeeping, a technology which is itself the result of a need on the part of late capitalism for “innovations” in production, serves further to undermine traditional conceptions about woman’s place. During part of the period of the most rapid rise in the percentage of women in the work force, to cite still another “contradiction,” there appeared an anomalous and particularly virulent form of the “feminine mystique,” which, together with its companion, the ideal of “togetherness,” had the effect, among other things, of insuring that the family would remain an efficient vehicle of consumption.” What triggered feminist consciousness most immediately, no doubt, were the civil rights movement and the peace and student movements of the sixties; while they had other aims as well, the latter movements may also be read as expressions of protest against the growing bureaucratization, depersonalization, and inhumanity of late capitalist society. Women often found themselves forced to take subordinate positions within these movements; it did not take long for them to see the contradiction between the oppression these movements were fighting in the larger society and their own continuing oppression in the life of these movements themselves.

Clearly, any adequate account of the “contradictions” of late capitalism, that is, of the conflicts, the instabilities, the ways in which some parts of the social whole are out of phase with others, would be a complex and elaborate task. But whatever a complete account of these contradictions would look like, it is essential to understand as concretely as possible how the contradictory factors we are able to identify are lived and suffered by particular people. The facts of economic development are crucial to an understanding of any phenomenon of social change, but they are not the phenomenon in its entirety……. There is an anguished consciousness, an inner uncertainty and confusion which characterizes human subjectivity in periods of social change – and I shall contend that feminist consciousness, in large measure, is an anguished consciousness – of whose existence Marxist scholars seem largely unaware. Indeed, the only sort of consciousness which is discussed with any frequency in the literature is “class consciousness,” a somewhat unclear idea whose meaning Marxists themselves dispute. In sum, then, the incorporation of phenomenological methods into Marxist analysis is necessary, if the proper dialectical relations between human consciousness and the material modes of production are ever to be grasped in their full concreteness. ….. Feminist consciousness….emerges only when there exists a genuine possibility for the partial or total liberation of women. This possibility is more than a mere accidental accompaniment of feminist consciousness; rather, feminist consciousness is the apprehension of the possibility. The very meaning of what the feminist apprehends is illuminated by the light of what ought to be. The given situation is first understood in terms of a state of affairs in which what is given would be negated and radically transformed. To say that feminist consciousness is the experience in a certain way of certain specific contradiction in the social order is to say that the feminist apprehends certain features of social reality as intolerable, as to be rejected in behalf of a transforming project for the future. “It is on the day that we can conceive a different state of affairs that a new light falls on our troubles and we decide that these are unbearable.” What Sartre would call her “transcendence,” her project of negation and transformation, makes possible what are specifically feminist ways of apprehending contradictions in the social order. Women workers who are not feminists know that they receive unequal pay for equal work, but they may think that the arrangement is just; the feminist sees this situation as an instance of exploitation and an occasion for struggle. Feminist are no more aware of different things than other people; they are aware of the same things differently. Feminist consciousness, it might be ventured, turns a “fact” into a “contradiction”; often, features of social reality are first an apprehended as contradictory, as in conflict with one another, or as disturbingly out of phase with one another, from the vantage point of a radical project of transformation.

Thus, we understand what we are and what we are in the light of what we are not yet. But the perspective from which I understand the world must be rooted in the world too. My comprehension of what I am and my world can become must take account of what we are. The possibility of a transformed society which allows the feminist to grasp the significance of her current situation must somehow be contained in the apprehension of her current situation: the contradictory situation in which she finds herself she perceives as unstable, as carrying within itself the seeds of its own dissolution. There is no way of telling, by a mere examination of some form of consciousness, whether the possibilities it incorporates are realizable or not; this depends on whether the situation is such as to contain within itself the sorts of material conditions which will bring to fruition a human expectation. If no such circumstances are present, then the consciousness in question is not the kind of consciousness which accompanies a genuine political project at all, but merely fantasy. I think that an examination of the circumstances of our lives will show that feminist consciousness and the radical project of transformation which animates it is, if less than an absolutely certain anticipation of what must be, more than mere fantasy.

The relationship between consciousness and concrete circumstances can best be described as “dialectical.” Feminist consciousness is more than a mere reflection of external material conditions, for the transforming and negating perspective which it incorporates first allows these conditions to be revealed as the conditions they are. But on the other hand, the apprehension of some state of affairs as intolerable, as to-be-transformed, does not, in and of itself, transform it.

* Sometimes the sculpting Abduction of a Sabine Woman is referred to as the Rape of a Sabine Woman. The word used to describe the meaning behind the artwork is more closely recognized for the word abduction. 
Bartky, Sandra Lee. “Femininity and Domination: Studies in the Phenomenology of Oppression. New York, Routledge (1990).

The Phenomenology of Feminine Consciousness

RapeOfProserpina
 Gian Lorenzo Bernini – Rape of Proserpina (1621-1622)

And here I always thought myself a feminist, I mean a true feminist, and, as it turns out I think I might fall somewhere in the middle of not fully a feminist or not fully a woman willing to accept someone else’s sexist terms.

“To be a feminist, one has first to become one. For many feminists, this involves the experience of a profound personal transformation, an experience which goes far beyond that sphere of human activity we regard ordinarily as “political.” This transforming experience, which cuts across the ideological divisions within the women’s movement, is complex and multifaceted. In the course of undergoing the transformation to which I refer, the feminist changes her behavior. She makes new friends; she responds differently to people and events; her habits of consumption change; sometimes she alters her living arrangements or, more dramatically, her whole style of life. She may decide to pursue a career, to develop potentialities within herself which had long lain dormant or she may commit herself to political struggle.” (1)

The first glimpse of these types of changes which manifested in me, followed after the advent of a violent crime. It was after this experience that I, having been fully victimized realized with full consciousness the magnitude of my victimization. This victimization was revelatory, revealing a social reality I had previously hitherto been blind and sparking a change in me that centered me closer toward feminism. I stopped associations with my previous group of friends. I had started to make changes in the people that I chose to hang around. I started responding differently to events the way I perceived and viewed war. I looked at our humanity with more scrutiny than ever before. I had seen the dark side. Not only had I seen it but I had been made a player in its production. My lifestyle was made to undergo a shift in its arrangements.

People everyday witness the violence that has erupted before their eyes when they watch television, but very few know what it’s like to live in it:

“Many women do not develop a consciousness divided in this way at all: they see themselves, to be sure, as victims of an unjust social system of social power, but they remain blind to the extent to which they themselves are implicated in the victimizations of others.” (1)

What this means is that the “raising” of a woman’s consciousness is, unfortunately no protection against her continued consent in racism, imperialism, or class oppression. Sometimes the entry into raised feminist consciousness, for white women especially, may bring in its wake a growth in political awareness: Generally, the disclosure of one’s own oppression may lead to an understanding of a range of misery to which one was heretofore to blind. Taking a stand and changing one’s behavior, behavior that reflects awareness to the various oppressions that exist, is a sign of raised consciousness.

Let me return to my opening statement,

“And here I always thought myself a feminist, I mean a true feminist, and, as it turns out I think I might fall somewhere in the middle of not fully a feminist or not fully a woman willing to accept someone else’s sexist terms.”

What I originally perceived as feminist turns out just to be a perception of womanhood. As it turns out, I am okay with my role of mother, sister, daughter, wife. I in fact would not want these roles to be jeopardized by the ideology that woman is equal to man, simply because we don’t live in vacuums. Each of us in dependent in some way upon the help of another. My son was dependent upon my role as mother. If I were to take on a career that would jeopardize that role than I wouldn’t be serving my son very well as mother. Yet, some woman feel that they can be full career woman and still do service to their child’s needs. I do not agree with this ideology. I also am okay with accepting wages that are lower than that of a males, and for this reason, I am not a feminist. To maintain organization means to maintain a natural order. There is a natural order to woman’s subservience, for she at many times in her life must fall into subjectivity under another. But this subjectivity doesn’t mean that she should allow herself to be manipulated or exploited by another human being. It only means that she recognizes her place in the grand order of the system of things.

Woman’s procreative power is much more valuable, so much more precious than that of mans that one has to wonder if that isn’t why man created technology in the first place but to possess a vagina of his own. One must also wonder if that isn’t why he feels the capacity to dominate and subordinate the female because of this procreative power. Man has been given the procreative power to produce semen, but women has been given the procreative power of two ovaries, two fallopian tubes, a uterus, a cervices, and two milk-secreting glands to nourish offspring. It like the old adage says, “Listening is twice as important as speaking, else why would have god given you two ears and only one mouth.”

I have allowed myself to be manipulated by people in my life, and I did it willingly knowing there was a desirable outcome at the end of the manipulation. I ask, “How can a woman be fully feminist?”

“The recognition that she has been manipulated – “guilt-tripped” – brings in its wake resentment, anger, and very often a headlong and permanent refusal to engage ever again in any political activity.” (1)

When a woman assumes the role of mother, how is she to be fully feminist, if femininism demands equality? Clearly, she is above man. She holds more power than man could ever hope for, and, perhaps it is for this reason the playing field will never be level. She will clearly, forever, and always be the more valuable sex. She will come under the subjectivity of her husband or significant other, hopefully it will be a relationship of mutual trust and understanding with respect and kindness. But to claim equality just simply isn’t so. Even if she were to try and develop the upper body strength of a male, her upper body strength in all likelihood wouldn’t equal that of her male counterpart. It is for this reason we have woman categories in various competitive sports like basketball. There just simply isn’t a level playing field.

I think when woman ask for feminist equal rights, what they really are asking for is not to be victimized by male ignorance. I think they might be asking for respect, kindness, and understanding which they may not be receiving at the hands of abuse men.

Some powerful procreative women are threatening to other women. What of feminism then?

(1) Bartky, Sandra Lee. “Femininity and Domination: Studies in the Phenomenology of Oppression.” New York, Routledge. (1990).

Connoisseurs of Sex and Behavior and the Symbolic Imagery Behind Female Bestiality

John Charles Dollman - The Unknown 1912
John Charles Dollman “The Unknown” (1912)

Few were the men who were as confident as Fernand Hoff’s “The Meeting of Animalism and an Angel” (1889) determined upright masculine monad that they might prove capable of coping with these primal passions when unleashed in woman. Driven as she was by animal desire and animal instincts, it was not surprising that woman found she could get along better with animals than with men. Among the creatures most often frequented by woman in her passionate state, the monkey figured prominently – not surprisingly, given its shocking new prominence as the precursor of evolving humanity. John Charles Dollman, for instance, showed how monkeys and woman, equally childlike in their ignorant astonishment, tried to cope with the concept of fire in the primeval world.

 

Monkey also took to visiting women in their dressing rooms, as in Otto Friedrich’s painting “Vanity,” serving as subtle reminders of the promiscuous nature of the sex. After all, as scientists such as Harry Campbell emphasized “both the gorilla and the baboon were polygamous,” (Difference) and woman had the same uncivilized tendency, Forel, it will be recalled, had asserted that “nymphomaniacs often have polyandrous instincts, and they then become more insatiable than men (The Sexual Question).” To this one needed only to add Carl Vogt’s observation that “whenever we perceive an approach to the animal type, the female is nearer to it than the male,” and that in any such male/female “comparisons (Lectures on Man) we should discover a greater simious resemblance if we were to take the female as our standard, ” to complete the outlines of a new feminine perversion. It consequently surprised few well-informed late nineteenth-century men to hear that, as Havelock Ellis was careful to point out in his discussion of bestiality, “Moll remarks that it seems to be an indication of an abnormal interest in monkeys that some women are observe red by the attendants in the monkey-house of zoological gardens to be very frequent visitors. Near the Amazon the traveller Castelnau saw an enormous Coati monkey belonging to an Indian woman and tried to purchase it; though he offered a large sum, the woman only laughed. “Your efforts are useless,” remarked an Indian in the same cabin, ’he is her husband (Studies in the Psychology of Sex, vol. II, pt. 2, 84-85).”

Vanity-otto-friedrich-1904
Otto Friedrich  “Vanity” (1904)
Emmanuel Frémiet - Gorilla - 1887
Emmanuel Frémiet’s “Gorilla,” 1887

Given the vigorous “scientific” bandying about of such provocative tidbits of biological folklore, we can begin to understand why such a sculpture as Emmanuel Frémiet’s “Gorilla,” exhibited at the Salon of 1887, we given a medal of honor instead of being howled unceremoniously out of the slightly soiled halls of turn-of High Art. Who, among the intellectuals, would have felt called upon to doubt, given woman’s scientifically proven predilection for simian sensations, that a forward-looking ape might not also have decided that a shapely young woman was more delectable than a mate of his own species? King Kong was born in the jungle of nineteenth-century evolutionary science, and the details of his story were fleshed out in the hothouse of turn-of-the-century art.

Another prodigious polygamist who frequently appeared alongside women in late nineteenth-century art was the lion, who had been singled out by Darwin himself for his orientalist predilections. “As I hear from Sir Andrew Smith, the lion in S. Africa sometimes lives with a single female, but generally with more, and, in one case, was found with as many as five females; so that he is polygamous. As far as I can discover he is the only polygamist among the terrestrial Carnivora, and he alone presents well-marked sexual characters” (The Descent of Man). I mean, after all, how many Carnivora do we know as the pride of Mormon?

Cybel The Great Mother Goddess of the Lion Pride
“Cybele” – The Great Mother Goddess of the lion pride of Rome 

While the comparison of women with cats, already a time-honored tradition, had become virtually endemic by the 1890s, José-Maria de Hérédia’s Trophées added a graphic descriptive dimension to a fantasy whose details had until then remained relatively hard to imagine. Hérédia took up the story of Ariadne after h er abandonment by Theseus on the island of Naxos. Pursuing the suggestion that she had been rescued by Dionysus and made to serve as a priestess of h is cult, Hérédia linked her to Cybele, the great mother, goddess of fertility and wild nature, to whom the lion was sacred. Inevitably her worship was supposed to have been accompanied by sinful dances and orgies, and she herself had presumably been wont to ride around on the back of a lion. In his sonnet, “Ariadne,” Hérédia described “The Queen, reclining nude / On a great tiger’s back,” as she entered the scene of an orgy devoted to Iacchos (Dionysus). He than sketched, in language which it still extraordinary in its frankness, the details of the queen’s imagined ritual copulation with the great cat she had been riding:

The royal beast, by her caresses wooed,
Arches his loins and spurns the yellow plain,
Roars amorously as she drops the rein,
And champs his flowery bit in servitude.
Upon his flanks her unbound tresses steaming
Like clustered amber amid dark grapes gleaming,
The Spouse, his growls of protest heeding not,
Lifts her wild lips, flushed with ambrosial bliss,
Her outcries stilled, the faithless one forgot,
And smiles to Asia’s Conqueror for his kiss.

Arthur Wardle - A Bacchante - 1907
Arthur Wardle “A Bacchante” 1907

Contrary to misconceptions still current, the leaders of fin-de-siècle society did not shy away from descriptions of any sort of sexual acidity, provided such descriptions remained appropriately couched in the trappings of mythology. Hérédia’s poem therefore became popular as graphic documents of the nuances of woman’s atavistic nature. Inevitably they also inspired the painters to find ways in which to depict the events described by the poet. Léon Victor Solon provided a graphic representation of the details of Ariadne’s experience in an image which was apparently considered so true to nature that it was promptly reproduced in The International Studio. Artists such as Fidus habitually showed women encountering or huddling with lions or tigers. The British animal specialist Arthur Wardle painted dryads frolicking with leopards, or an enchantress lolling about with them in a playful mood, a satisfied, drowsy look on her face. One of Wardle’s most successful canvases showed a bacchante roaming through the fields with a whole flock of the amorous beasts.

Angelo Graf von Courten - Love and Strength - 1894
Angelo Graf von Courten “Love and Strength” 1894

Angelo Graf von Courten, in his painting “Love and Strength,” showed that he knew very well how to play the game of visual double entendre which the intellectuals of the turn of the century used incessantly as a rather transparent veil with which to shield the icons of their libido against the intrusive censorship of the moral majority. Clearly, in Courten’s painting the lion, traditional symbol of masculine strength, has been brought to the point of somnolent exhaustion by the amorous attentions of the spirited young woman who is hugging him in this well-posed snapshot of unorthodox domestic bliss. The young woman in question may not yet be wearing the pants in this family, but she is quite clearly in possession of the flèche phallique, the arrow of love (or arrow of the penis), which in the lion’s more manly days of mastery would have rightfully belonged to him. Now woman, usurping cupid’s task, has taken to injecting even the king of animals, the majestic polygamist of whom even Darwin had stood in awe, with the unmanning sedative of her insatiability.

4047118_vagina-dentata2
Narcisse Steiner  “Vagina Dentate” (2009)

In the Untied States Frederick Stuart Church, who had made the documentation of ambiguous encounters between women and animals a lifelong specialty, showed himself quite the equal of Courten in providing delicate images of women’s prodigious sexual powers for the perusal of men whose neuroses were to lead the psychoanalysts to their preordained discoveries. His outwardly so delicate and properly feminine “Enchantress,” who in 1911 stalked undauntedly through the pages of The Century – one of America’s favorite monthly magazines – was accompanied by a brace of tigers whose growling jaws suggested the vagina dentate (described here as a “toothed vagina”) which turn-of-the-century men feared they might find hidden beneath this raven-haired beauty’s decorous gown.