Male and Female*

As many readers know, I have spent part of my career as a historian doing my modest best to understand the relationship between men and women. The outcome, so far, has been two scholarly books—Men, Women and War and The Privileged Sex. Between them they were published in five languages. As well as numerous articles in scholarly and not so scholarly journals and magazines; some of which I have put on this blog.

That explains why I keep receiving quite a few emails on the topic. Some correspondents call me names, among which a reactionary patriarchal-male-chauvinist-racist-pig-who-does-not-deserve-to-live is one of the more sympathetic. Others, apparently in the belief that anyone who does not accept the feminists’ claims in their entirety must be out of his mind, try to psychoanalyze me. And some simply dispute my views.

The first and second categories I routinely ignore. The third I rather enjoy; to quote Epicurus, what is better than discussing things with friends? If possible, while sitting in a garden (mine is small, but it will do for the purpose) and enjoying a glass of wine. Over the Net, if it is not. As long as it is done in the spirit of inquiry and without rancor.

Sticking to the enjoyable kind, most of them point out how much things have changed. As, for example, with women now forming the majority among students and getting better notes both at school and at the universities. And as with women abandoning marriage, children and household to take up all kinds of careers.

Here, to the contrary, I want to point to a few things that have not changed. Needless to say, all references to men and women apply to averages. Meaning that they say very little about individual people of either sex.

* For reasons unknown, proportionally twice as many women as men visit psychologists, faith healers, etc. What that means about their state of mental health, past, present and future, I leave it to readers to decide.

* Women suffer from penis envy (see my post, PE? PE!, 16.6.2016) whereas men, whatever other problems they may have, do not. As a result, women believe that whatever men are and do is better than what they themselves are and do. Proceeding chronologically, more or less, if men have the vote women must have it too. If men get a higher education, women must do so too. If men drive, women must drive too. If men smoke, women must smoke too. If men are wage slaves, women must aspire to become the same. The more the better! If men go to war, then women must do so too. To use an example from my own people, if Jewish men wear tales, Jewish women must do so too. Or else, they feel, there is something missing from their Jewishness.

* Always imitating men—as Marx wrote, whenever revolution comes women, the ugly ones included, are swept along—rarely do women initiate any important discovery or invention. Even the term feminism itself was coined by a man! That is why, though a minority of dissatisfied and aggressive women were able to inflict the vote on the rest and make them work outside the home, they have contributed nothing new to the solution of the world’s problems.

* It is also why, the more modern and innovative an industry the fewer the women who work in it, especially at the higher levels. Also why, as Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg has just said, men continue to rule the world. Conversely, the presence, beyond a certain point, of women at the higher ranks of any kind of human institute or organization is itself a sign that the institute or organization in question has started to decline and may soon become moribund.

* Women—real women, not emaciated nervous wrecks, desperate not to develop precisely the physical characteristics that distinguish them from men—give birth, whereas men do not. To speak with Nietzsche, the latter are “the infertile sex.” The resulting existential problems do much to account for men’s stronger drive to achieve, as manifested throughout history.

* Partly because they are stronger, physically, and partly because they do not have to take time off for pregnancy, delivery, and lactation, men’s income is considerably greater than that of women. Retirement apart—so many successful men, dying before their wives, leave them their property and their pension—the older people of both sexes are, the larger the gap. Not just in terms of money, but in those of power and fame as well.

* Today as ever, the higher on the greasy pole one climbs. the fewer women one meets. Proportionally more of those one does meet are where they are because they stand on the shoulders of their male relatives, as Sirimavo Bandaranaike (the first female prime minister in history), Indira Gandhi, Corazon Aquino, and Hillary Clinton e.g. did. Or else because they are active in fields, such as modelling, singing, and acting, where men, as men, are excluded.

* Is it necessary to point out that men, apart from being stronger, are also more resistant to infectious diseases that result from dirt entering the body’s orifices? This explains why, at all times and places the hardest, dirtiest, and most dangerous work has always been done almost exclusively by men. As figures concerning industrial accidents show, this continues to be the case today.

* Since women can have far, far fewer children than men, biologically speaking their lives are more precious. Much as feminists cry out for their sisters’ right to become soldiers and fight, no society, on pain of extinction, can afford to lose large numbers of women. That is one reason why men—and, in some nonhuman species, males—keep sacrificing their lives for women; whereas the opposite only happens very rarely. Also why very, very few women have ever fought in war. True, the number of those who did so in uprisings, rebellions, insurgencies, etc. was somewhat larger. However, in all countries without exception it still remains far smaller than that of men.

* Women who have sex with men, being considerably weaker than their partners, put themselves at the latter’s mercy. That, rather than a weak libido, is why they require greater security, both physical and emotional. The difference in strength also explains why, outside the bedroom they are more likely than men to rely on cunning and flattery. If those two don’t work they are also more likely to complain, open the tear-faucet, and show a bit of cleavage.

* Men, producing almost inconceivably large number of spermatozoids each of which is capable of fertilizing an egg, are naturally polygamous; women, producing far fewer eggs but requiring assistance in raising their children, are naturally monogamous. That is why polyandrous societies are rare indeed. Also why attempts, and there have been a few, to set up brothels for women have invariably failed.

Conclusion: Some things have undoubtedly changed. But others, including many of the most important ones, have not. Nor do I see any signs that they will.

 

* Thanks to Mr. Larry Kummer, whose post on this topic made me think. Really think.

PE? PE!

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The other day, walking through the Hebrew University library and looking for something interesting to read, my eye hit a tome with the grand-sounding title, The Oxford Companion to the Mind. I opened it; a thousand pages. Edited by one Richard L. Gregory, CBE, MA (Cantab), DSC, LLD, FRS, and published (second edition), in 2004. The volume differs from the better known Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in that it is more than just a list of all kinds of symptoms, real and imaginary. Instead it is a wide-ranging encyclopedia. With alphabetically arranged articles about everything from the way the ancient Egyptians understood the mind to something called the halo effect.

How wonderful, I thought. An opportunity to refresh my understanding of a phenomenon which, as readers know, I have long been interested in: PE (penis envy). Full of anticipation, I turned the pages. What a disappointment! PE is just not there. Yok, as we Israelis, using a Turkish word, say.

Yet that is strange. It is not as if the volume ignores Freud and psychoanalysis. To the contrary, both merit fairly hefty articles. PE apart, Freudian and Freudian-derived ideas do figure in the book. In considerable numbers, what is more. Among them are the Oedipus Complex, the Electra Complex, the inferiority complex, and many more.

I decided to check. On Google.com PE has 422,000 hits. The Oedipus Complex has 431,000, the Electra Complex 159,000, “inferiority complex,” 411,000, and “castration anxiety” 87,400. The figures for Google.scholar are 12,100, 35,200, 2,600 30,900, and 14,800 respectively. On Ngram as of the year 2000, PE figured about as often as “inferiority complex” and far more often than did “Oedipus Complex,” “Electra Complex,” and “castration anxiety.” All in all, PE seems to put on quite a respectable showing. Yet whereas the other three do have entries in the aforesaid Companion, PE does not.

What is going on here? Some claim that there is no way to prove that PE exists. That may be so; however, the same applies to all the rest. After all the methodology, which consists essentially of listening to patients in a room called a clinic that may or may not contain a couch, is always the same. So I decided to do a little historical research.

Before we delve into the topic itself, though, it is important to note that Freud, like many male gurus throughout history, attracted female patients and students as a lamp attracts moths. No wonder, that, since he valued them and treated them like daughters. It was to one of these women, a Viennese society lady, that Freud owed his professorship, a position he, being Jewish, might not have got without her help. To another, Marie Bonaparte, he owed his life. In 1938 it was she who paid off the Nazis to allow him and his family to leave Austria. Thus any idea that Freud hated women, or did not value them, or looked down on them, is so absurd that only half-crazed present-day feminists can entertain it.

Freud first postulated the existence of PE in a contribution to the nature of sexuality he published in 1904. From this point on the concept often came up in his famous Wednesday evening seminars where he and his disciples, both male and female, discussed psychoanalysis. Both the men and the women tended to be highly intelligent. Quite a few of them later attained fame in their own right. None of them was a cretin who simply allowed Freud to overrun him or her.

And how did the women in the company take to the concept? One of the most important, Freud’s own daughter Anna, sidestepped the problem altogether. Not only did she focus on children, but she herself probably died a virgin. The rest were divided. On one side of the debate was Karen Horney. She did not deny the existence of PE; however, she argued that women envied men their penises not because their biology made them to but because the penis stood a symbol for the advantages society conferred on men. In other words, PE, and what she called “the flight from womanhood,” was a consequence, not a cause. For expressing this view, Horney ended up by being thrown out of the New York psychoanalytical society.

Several other female members of Freud’s circle disagreed. One was Hermine Hug-Hellmuth, said to be the most biologically-reductionist among all his followers. Another was Jeanne Lampl de Groot. To her, “the absence of a penis could not be regarded as a matter of secondary and trifling significance for the little girl.” Rather, PE was “a central point [from which] the development into normal femininity begins.” “Woman’s wish for a penis is the consequence of a biological datum that underlies her psychic reaction of feeling inferior and is rock bottom.”

More important than either of those was Helene Deutsch. Good-looking, capable and extremely hard working, her Psychology of Women (1944) was considered authoritative for decades on end, Deutsch was one of the first Austrian women to receive a medical degree. She considered herself, with good reason, as “a leader in female emancipation.” Yet this did not prevent her from explaining that the clitoris was “an inadequate substitute” for a penis. As late as 1998 a female psychotherapist by the name of Maria Torok wrote that “in every woman’s analysis there is inevitably a period in which appears a feeling of envy and covetousness for both the male sex organ and its symbolic equivalents.” Having made listening to women her profession, she should know.

Back to Freud. Then as today, finding out whether we humans are shaped by nature or nurture was a difficult, very often impossible, enterprise. Perhaps that is why Freud, who sometimes hesitated to enter where his followers treaded, never voiced his opinion on the matter. Instead he contended himself with the famous question, “what does woman want?”

I too will leave the question open. I do, however, want to provide some examples of what, in my view, PE is. When women discard skirts and put on trousers, then that is PE. When some women complain (as has in fact happened!) that their daughters are not being diagnosed with ADHD as often as boys are, then that is PE. When women refuse to have children so that they can have a career as men do, then that is PE. When women want to follow men to Afghanistan so they can get themselves shot to pieces for some obscure cause no one understands, then that too is PE.

When some Jewish Israeli women defy a court order and dance with a Torah scroll at the Wailing Wall as Jewish men have been doing for ages, then that is PE. When renowned feminist Betty Friedan says she wants to play in men’s “ballfield,” then that is PE. When the almost equally renowned feminist Naomi Wolf says she wants to see more ads with objects sticking out of “women’s [emphasis in the original] groins,” then that is PE doubled, tripled, and squared. In these and countless other cases, one can only conclude that women do in fact crave “the obvious ‘extra’ that [men] have” (Nancy Friday).

Always imagining men having it better and trying to imitate them. Never, but never, trying to invent something original men have not already done a zillion times and doing it. To quote my wife, perhaps the real reason why PE is left unmentioned in the Companion is because it is not a disease. It is a normal state of mind.