THEORIES OF GENDER DEVELOPMENT (4)

gender issues in psychology  THEORIES OF GENDER DEVELOPMENT (4):

The Psychodynamic Approach

Psychodynamic approach is based on Freud’s theory of psychosexual development Family dynamics influence individuals at a subconscious level and this leads to the development of internal gender identities

Gender Development:

Freudian Perspective Psychosexual stages of development take place with possibility of particular conflicts at different stages. Gender roles develop as a result of resolution process of conflict at phallic stage Feelings of rivalry and hatred develop against the father at this stage. The father is seen as stronger and unconquerable; this leads to a conflict. The defense mechanism of identification is used for resolving the conflict. This gender identification leads to sex-typed behavior and development of gender roles. Absence of a parent, particularly, the same-sex parent affects the normal process of gender development. Stevenson & Black (1988): boys with absent fathers around the oedipal stage show less sex-typed behavior.

Gender Development Karen Horney’s Perspective

Karen Horney reexamined some of Freud’s basic concepts. Although she remained within the psychoanalytic paradigm, and accepted the role of unconscious as a driving force, she digressed from Freud on gender differences in personality development. She differed from Freud on the concept of envy in females, their feelings of inferiority, and masculinity complex; whereby females express masculine attitudes and behavior. She also differed on Freud’s emphasis on early childhood experiences, and the significance that he attached to the role of biological forces. She argued that the envy that females have against males, was symbolic, and did not emerge out of a desire to physically match them; instead it represented a desire to attain the social prestige and position that men enjoy. Horney emphasized upon the significance of social forces.

She hypothesized that men envy women’s ability to reproduce i.e., womb envy. According to Horney, men seek and struggle for, achievement because they are trying to overcompensate for the lack of ability to reproduce. In comparison to women, men feel inadequate, and as a result they attribute evil to women. In order to deal with their feeling of inferiority, men need to feel more adequate, for which they see women as inferior. Men’s feelings of resentment result in attempts to weaken women and leave women with feelings of inferiority and insecurity Unlike Freud, Horney believed that females’ inferiority had origin in male insecurity; she disagreed from Freud over the idea that females feel inferior because of a perceived physical inferiority. It is men’s behavior, and a society with masculine bias that generates females’ inferiority.

Contemporary Psychodynamic Theories

The feminist thought affected the Freudian school of thought as well.

Psychoanalytic Feminism

It has roots in the work of Freud Gender is not a biologically determined phenomenon. Psychosexual development leads to the gender role that we adopt and play. Childhood experiences are responsible for making the male believe that he is masculine and a female believe that she is feminine. These experiences lead to gender inequality. This situation is a result of a male dominated society. Nancy Chodorow (1979), a sociologist, and Ellyn Kaschak (1992), a psychologist, developed their versions of the psychodynamic thought, which is quite different from the traditional Freudian approach.

Nancy Chodorow’s Theory:

She described pre-oedipal stage where children identify with their mothers. Girl child keeps association with mother to become feminine. Chodorow (1979), shared with Freud, pessimism about gender equality. She, like Freud, was pessimistic about any potential equality between men and women. However she departed from him on the root cause of inequality. As opposed to the Freudian emphasis on males’ and females’ perception of anatomical differences, she believed in the impact of children’s early experiences with their mothers. She proposed the idea of the significance of the pre- oedipal period that occurs in early childhood, prior to the onset of Oedipus complex. She proposed that the course of personality development for males and females was different. What is significant is the fact that most, if not all, children are mothered by a woman. Women alone do not have the ability of infant-care; however most nurturing is provided by mothers/women, whereas little caring is done by fathers/ men. The bonding between mothers and children in early childhood has a deep imprinted effect on the children. This effect, however, is different for the male and the female child. An infant’s world is centered on the mother. The mother- son relationship is not as close as the mother- daughter relationship; mothers and daughters are closer since they are of the same sex. The infants are unaware of the sex differences, but the mother is; and she is the one who treats the male and female children differently. A perception of gender differences starts emerging when children begin to develop a sense of self. This process is easier for the female child, since she has already identified with the mother, and now this identification has to get only stronger. However the boys have a tougher task at hand. Having lived in a mother- centered world, and having already identified with her, they have to develop an identity separate from the mother. The male child has to face separation from mother in order to develop his gender identity and to become masculine. The development of self or identity in boys involves separation from the mother; and a rejection of their mother’s femininity. The gender similarity between mothers and daughters, and their difference from sons affects emotional closeness. Research has confirmed that sons and daughters are different in emotional closeness (Benenson, Morash, & Petrakos, 1998). When the boys have to separate themselves from mothers in order to develop an identity of their own, it has deep effects on their personality. They tend to reject all femininity, and develop a fear and mistrust of the feminine (Chodorow, 1978). The development of a sense of self in girls, and growing into womanhood, is smooth and non- turbulent; they have a close relationship with their mothers. Their early relationship with the mothers is reproduced when they themselves are mothering their children. According to Chodorow, the effort on part of boys to distinguish and separate themselves from mothers, results into the worldwide denigration of women by men (Brannon, 2004).

Antigone Phase: Kaschak’s Theory

Kaschak has borrowed the character of Antigone from Sophocles’ Greek plays, just like Freud borrowed the character of Oedipus. Antigone was Jocasta’s and Oedipus’s daughter. Antigone was Oedipus’s care taker, companion, and guide, after Oedipus destroyed his eyes. Antigone devoted her life and freedom to the care of her father, and sacrificed for him; Oedipus the height of her devotion as his right. Kaschak used the same scenario to explain the personality development and male up of men and women. Kaschak acknowledges the usefulness of the application of the legend of Oedipus in Freudian theory, but disagrees with the way he treated women in his concept of female Oedipus complex. Antigone represents a typical good daughter in a patriarchal family. Patriarchal societies are those societies in which men are born, grown and developed grant power to them in the society as well as in their families. As part of this system and process, men take women as their possession. Women on the other hand are born and developed in such a manner that they consider themselves as men’s possession. Their position is always that of subservience to men; and this is reflected in their personality make up and life. “As Oedipus’ dilemma became a symbol for the dilemma of the son, so might that of Antigone be considered representative of the inevitable fate of the good daughter in the patriarchal family” (Kaschak, 1992).It is not possible for many men and women to resolve these conflicts because the societies are formed and structured in such a manner that they maintain a constant state of male power and autonomy on one hand, and female subservience on the other. As a consequence, men treat women not as independent people, but as extensions of themselves. Men want to gain power, and they do it in a self- centered manner; this may end up in causing harm to others, especially women, by means of family violence and other such behaviors. In a research on family violence, Johnson (1995) concluded that the cause underlying indulgence of some men in family violence is the feeling that they have a right to do so. For a normal course of personality development, women should resolve the Antigone phase. But if they fail in doing so, then they “allow themselves to be extensions of others rather than striving for independence”. When women start believing like this, then they are also learning that their own wishes are not important; it is only men who are important. This belief makes them impose limitations on themselves, thus living a limited life. They deny their physicality, and try to make their bodies invisible; this may be observed in the development of eating disorders. This situation may result into the development of self- hatred, or shame. In such cases women may develop a need to establish form relationships with others so that a feeling of self-worth is attained.

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