Section III has been a leading voice in women and gender in psychoanalysis for over 30 years
Welcome to our Section III Forum: This Is All of Us. We will be posting a series of topics that we believe are relevant to women and gender and, in doing so, we hope to generate a field for open and collegial discussion. We believe that the battle for gender equality is not over and that, in fact, biologically-based distinctions have and continue to play a significant role in female oppression.
I will begin with an introductory passage from our book A Womb of Her Own: Women’s Struggle for Sexual and Reproductive Autonomy. (Routledge, 2017) When we conceived the idea for the book we were concerned that it would be outdated and, that, in fact, the struggle was over. Then in 2016 we chose an administration that was patently and openly misogynist and we observed concerted efforts to turn back the clock. The MeToo movement made us aware of the extent of sexual oppression. We realized that an ongoing discussion of these issues continues to be essential to the forward movement of gender equality.
To this end we begin with an introductory passage from our book A Womb of Her Own and we welcome your comments!
The following is an introduction to our book:
While postmodern and feminist theory has carried us into a whole new view of gender as socially constructed and cautioned us, rightly so, to re-evaluate the traditional notions of male and female as binary opposites, women in a patriarchal society have not as yet been able to claim who they are as a function of their biology. The focus of our book is the exploration of the ways in which women’s sexual and reproductive capabilities have been regarded as societal and patriarchal property and not as the possessions of the individual woman. To this end we will examine the centuries old culture of oppression that women have suffered even as that suffering has been but a footnote to history. We will further endeavor to illuminate those uniquely female experiences, some of which have remained virtually invisible, as explained by those who live them.
We recognize the multitude of gender identities and experiences that have been historically masked by the dominant white heterosexual culture but it is women nevertheless who gestate the zygote and fetus and give birth. It is women who are predominantly the victims of rape throughout history and in every society. These experiences may differ as a function of culture and history, but they also possess irreducible factors that continue to affect the freedom and agency of women. Unless and until women claim their unique capabilities as their own, they will continue to be appropriated and controlled by a patriarchal society.
Before we can comfortably accept the socially constructed nature of gender we need to address as Lynne Layton (2004) states the area of discourse that arises “from the content of gender polarities created by gender inequality.” (p.35) Layton goes on to say that “as long as power differentials continue to exist between masculinity and femininity, any theory that claims to transcend binaries or looks only at continuities between them keeps the power hierarchy intact. It is the power difference between women and men (of all races)…that makes the male/female binary…politically and personally meaningful.” It is a power differential that still exists and is not erased by the attention paid to the acknowledged fluidity of gender. It is this very ground that we wish to explore. McWilliams (2005 p. 114) confirms that “during our early development and …in the unconscious depths of our souls, we tend to be both categorical and binary.” However intricate our new theories may be, we still live in a binary world and in a binary world women are in second place.