“Why Can’t a Woman Be More Like a Man?” Rex Harrison famously asked in My Fair Lady. Of course, implicit in that plaint is the assumption that men are “real” and women are at best inferior copies. One of my favorite writers on psychology is James Hillman who addresses this topic in his book The Myth of Analysis. Jung says, and it seems to me that Gornahoor is in accord with this, that the spirit is associated with the masculine and matter with the feminine. That is why the worth of women is so often tied to her body, while a man keeps his respect even in his bodily decline; Carl Jung calls her human body, “the thing most prone to gross material corruption.”
Hillman brings in a number of fascinating ideas. For example, Jacob Boehme said the Eve is Adam’s “sleep”. That is, she is his unconscious. Berdyaev adds that woman brings sexuality into the world. I think this means that sexuality is man’s unconscious. It drives him in ways he cannot understand; it embarrasses him when it doesn’t frighten him. Women can display their sexuality overtly, they can dress provocatively, they can act sensually. That is because they are sex. Men, on the other hand, are not. They dress in suits that hide their sexuality, which, in any case, is something added to them, but is not their essence. Only homosexuals can flaunt their sexuality like women; straight men who do so—and it is becoming more common with the metrosexuals—are considered to be weak.
So this leads us to the method to make a woman more like a man: it is to deny them as sexual and material beings. A generation ago, William Masters and Virginia Johnson published their ground-breaking book, Human Sexual Response. While this study was to liberate women as sexual beings, Hillman has an interesting take on it.
The emphasis upon female orgasm and upon the “freedom” of women through contraception and abortion are the ways in which the dogma of female inferiority is presenting itself at the moment: the prototype for free and healthy sexuality is male; by a technology of the orgasm, by legalizing abortion, and by perfecting the oral contraceptive, women can more closely approximate male sexual patterns.
In all the time since its publication in the 60s, no one doubts this emphasis; those who do so are attacked and shamed. However, no one sees this a “female inferiority”, but rather as the road to equality.
Lies and White Lies
Nevertheless, even is material and sexual equality has been achieved, this does not mean psychological parity. The clearest expressions of this was in Otto Weininger’s Sex and Character. He claims that the more a woman is like the absolute woman, i.e., the less she is like a man, then logic and ethics are completely alien to her. It follows from that that the woman has no soul nor any possibility of genius. In an obvious allusion to Adam and Eve, Weininger says, “The man of genius possesses the complete female within himself, but woman herself is only a part of the Universe.”
Weininger dismisses woman’s consciousness as consisting of “henids”, i.e., vague, unconscious feelings. He privileges the allegedly male’s consciousness of clear and distinct ideas. But, really, can the world truly be so clear and distinct? A woman feels her way into a situation, she senses things, she notices subtle changes that elude the consciousness of men. Is that not true, is that not valuable? Why are men so fearful of the dark, moist part of the mind?
Weininger claims that women are incapable of knowing the truth, hence they lie. I don’t believe that, since it assumes a rather constricted notion of “truth”. If a boy asks me out for a date, and I tell him I have to take care of my elderly aunt in Hialeah, is that really a lie? He knows what I mean. How would it be better if I said, “I can’t go out with you because I would be embarrassed to be seen in public with you in case one of my friends saw us together.” The feelings have their own way of knowing the truth.