The Clare Spark Blog

March 21, 2015

Great Goddess feminism: the Phyllis Chesler model

Stone Age Venus of Willendorf

Stone Age Venus of Willendorf

I have been rereading Phyllis Chesler’s Women and Madness (Doubleday 1972), and wonder if it is still relevant, and how Chesler’s Jungian, mythic approach to female sex-roles and role models fits into the second wave of feminism.

This blog will focus on the promise of sexual liberation as opposed to what experience hath shown are more realistic approaches to the demands of motherhood and the welfare of children.

Phyllis Chesler and son

Phyllis Chesler and son

First, we examine the context of second wave feminism. College-age women, active in the civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1960s, deeply resented being relegated to waitresses and secretaries, serving the males coffee and typing manifestoes, while such heroes as black power advocate Stokely Carmichael relegated them to sex objects (though his intended meaning is contested by allies; in 1964 he had declared “”The position of women in the movement is prone”).

So the second wave of feminism came out of the Left, and then some argued about whether or not they should be “Marxist-feminists” or “Feminist-Marxists.” At the same time, real communists (Stalinists) were dismissing feminism as a bourgeois deviation. As I have suggested here, the intellectual ancestors of feminist stars were not 1930s leftists, so much as anti-killjoy womanizers of the 1940s social democratic “left”; i.e., anticommunist “liberals” who admired Jung, but not his mentor Freud, another killjoy with his settling for “everyday unhappiness” as opposed to the adrenalin rush of Romantic defiance. (See https://clarespark.com/2015/03/16/who-were-the-precursors-of-the-new-left-the-wasp-establishment-or-communists/. The New Deal-affiliated social psychologists I studied all identified Hitler with Romanticism,  e.g., with the arch-Romantic, Lord Byron.)

Enter numerous feminists (arguably the progenitors of the gay rights movement) who were averse to what was imagined as the humdrum life of MOM, stuck indefinitely in boring marriages and chained to motherhood. Unlike the leftist feminists, they were attracted to Goddesses and “spirituality,” and aroused the ire of the (materialist) Left. But whatever the flavor, feminists were of course reacting (indirectly?) to “attachment theory” as presented by John Bowlby in 1958. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attachment_theory, and note that Bowlby was describing the infant’s need for object constancy, but not a jail for ambitious women that would last forever.)

Numerous activist women in the arts and humanities saw a chance for instant fame when they promoted a distinctive woman’s sensibility and the loveliness of free love, including lesbianism. Of all these book-writing young women, psychologist Phyllis Chesler remains relevant today, for she has not only offered a Goddess/Amazon book in her youth (who doesn’t enjoy the pagan, naughty Greek myths and Jungian archetypes?), but she claims expertise in the “new antisemitism” that speaks to renewed fears for the safety of Israel. But even more, Chesler saw Muslim abuse of women up close in her marriage to an Afghani (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phyllis_Chesler). So while her competitors are either mocked, deceased, or forgotten, Phyllis Chesler has developed an appreciative lay audience for the emancipation of women.

Amazonmom

Meanwhile, feminism seems to have adopted Chesler’s brand. The Hunger Games trilogy is a boffo success with youngsters and mothers alike (at least in my family), and the challenge of monogamous marriage and competent child-rearing is taken up all too rarely, and when it is, as in the NBC miniseries The Slap (the intelligent woman’s guide to motherhood: exhausting, negligent, over-indulgent in turn), it arouses howls of rage in television critics, who don’t want to tamper with archetypes of the Happy Mother and/or “likeable characters.”

happy-mothers-day-mothers-love-card-quotes

I helped promote the women artists’ movement on the radio, and considered myself to be one of them. I continue to believe that it is a man’s world, and bitterly resent all double standards.

It is only in retrospect that I have come to realize how intellectually and emotionally demanding motherhood (like marriage) really is. Moreover, the time frame when developing youngsters need ’round-the-clock mothering and fathering is shorter than young, single women realized in the salad days of second wave feminism.

salad-days-2343071

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February 27, 2015

Are “young” people dead to the world?

WSJ Spring Fashion Issue

WSJ Spring Fashion Issue

Last night, being bored by Hannity’s love fest with conservative potential candidates for President at CPAC, I switched to NBC, which broadcasts EXTRA and ACCESS HOLLYWOOD at that time (7-8pm West Coast ST). And so this blog.

I was not surprised by the glamour girls, the culturally correct blue jeans (that will hug the body all day, including at the office), or the dread of aging, with homage to (entrepreneurial) “ageless” Christie Brinkley and Cindy Crawford. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/25/christie-brinkley-skincare-cindy-crawford-unretouched-photo_n_6753130.html.) That’s business as usual. (There was also an obeisance to Madonna’s ageless beauty and pluck in finishing her song at the London pop music version of the Grammys after she fell off the stage, which has aroused the networks to fulsome coverage, including Fox.)

What shocked me out of my snooze was the segment in which a pretty young woman described her initial resistance to submission in sex (she mentioned “bondage”), which she was successfully coached out of. Appreciative smiles all around.

It turned out that my blog on the fabulous success of the movie and novel Fifty Shades of Grey was the most viewed in February, thanks partly to its being posted on a website devoted to the history of women. (See https://clarespark.com/2015/02/14/fifty-shades-of-romantic-necrophilia/.)

Sadly, a tiny number of these viewers used the reference to my analysis of middle-aged women (MOM) being the target of the sadomasochism that I have studied. (https://clarespark.com/2009/07/13/eros-and-the-middle-manager-s-m-with-implications-for-multiculturalism/.)

Perhaps more interesting was the next show on NBC, “The Slap” in which Uma Thurman was the lead character in this episode, and sure enough, she had a bad mother (an English professor of great note, who turns out to be dying: played by the ageless Blythe Danner) who, it is suggested, has thwarted her daughter’s desire for marriage and motherhood. The Los Angeles Times synopsized this episode as “Anouk” attempting to “balance” her contending alliances with mom and younger boy friend (a hip singer), while yet another post mortem sees Thurman’s character as “the voice of reason” (criticizing her hippie friend for pursuing revenge against the hyper-masculine Greek-American slapper of her obnoxious, unsocialized, violent little boy. See http://2paragraphs.com/2015/02/uma-thurman-voice-of-reason-on-the-slap/). That “Anouk” is a successful writer for television gets left out, for these culture critics are dead to the world, and to the crucial details of plot lines.

Uma Thurman in 2paragraphs

Uma Thurman in 2paragraphs

Moderation wins again, and Thurman is yet another ageless beauty, likely to appeal to the NBC demographic (18-49), who may be themselves torn between motherhood and abortion rights; Anouk decides to keep the child, leaving us with a note of optimism, reason, and balance. (For more on The Slap see https://clarespark.com/2015/04/03/the-slap-and-pop-culture-during-easter-week/.)

Needless to say, in the lead up to the well-written Slap, I wandered into an alternative universe, where Brian Williams’s oddities are of no concern, for he is drowned out by the toasts to the glamorous Kardashians, Madonna, and suchlike nonsense, some of it sinister for what it portends for the next election.

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