Women have been a mystery to men since time began. Pythagoras, that long-ago famous dude who invented the Pythagorean Theorem, said and I quote: “There is a good principle that created order, light and man and a bad principle that created chaos, darkness and woman.” From that day forward, men as the prevailing group have attempted to define women and bring them into some kind of framework that they can understand. But women as a group have been pretty tough to manage. Am I right here?
In our book www.routledge.com/9781138194960
A Womb of Her Own: Women’s Struggle for Sexual and Reproductive Autonomy
I write as follows:
Among groups that are ostracized or subjugated women are unique. They are a majority of the population. Their numbers cut across all races, ethnicities, religions and socio-economic groups such that the dictates of religious or ethnic cleansing do not apply. They are essential as child-bearers, sexual partners and mothers. They do not live in segregated towns or villages. They are in intimate contact with men on a daily basis. In her groundbreaking volume The Second Sex, (Vintage Books, 2011) Simone de Beauvoir has stated men and women are viewed as a fundamental biological unity, one that men for a multitude of reasons have been predisposed to dominate. Women are seen, not as separate subjective beings, but as appendages of men through which male sexual and reproductive needs are gratified. Nevertheless, they still may be unconsciously construed as despised objects on which the powerful members of society project disavowed feelings. They are susceptible to the same forces that fuel the bitter hostility between competing factions. Thus at deepest levels, women represent a threat, a danger to the religious, political and economic order. The real equality of men and women would represent a universal seismic shift, the ramifications of which are difficult to comprehend.
I further state:
The ideology of patriarchy permeates all of society. Barbara Rothman (Beyond Mothers and Fathers: Ideology in a Patriarchal Society Routledge 1994) states that “the ideology…goes much deeper than male dominance…The ideology of patriarchy is a basic worldview, and, in a patriarchal system, that view permeates all of our thinking.” P. 143 It views women as carriers of genetic material, an essential activity to the preservation of the male line. Rothman goes on to say that “it is women’s motherhood that men must control to maintain patriarchy.” (P. 141.) My perspective in this argument is that as long as women are not in control of their sexuality or their reproductive capabilities, the male-female power differential will remain. For women to wrest control of their unique capabilities we/they must bring into conscious awareness the full extent of their experiences—both as victims of oppression and as owners and agents of their remarkable capability.
In addressing the inequality that women still face I believe that we must take a historical perspective. Since the beginning of time, male dominance has been pervasive. It is sanctioned in theology, culture and law. Some say that it is in our DNA, our genetic markers. I don’t have the background from which to address that argument but even if it were so, we, as human beings, have some pretty amazing capabilities. It is within our grasp to rework our biology in a manner that addresses gender inequality and creates a new world order that benefits all.
Ellen Toronto is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Spring, Texas and has been practicing since 1980. In 2017, she was elected a Fellow in Psychoanalysis by the American Psychological Association. In 2016, Dr. Toronto's practice was recognized as one of the top Ann Arbor Psychology practices. She received her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Michigan. Dr. Toronto is married to Robert Toronto, Ph.D., and together they have four sons and eleven grandchildren.