It’s Valentine’s Day—a time to celebrate to celebrate romantic love in all its many forms. My 10 grandchildren have been busy writing Valentines for their class mates. They have informed me that you can’t just give out any Valentine. It must be carefully chosen—not too romantic but just enough to let that special someone know that you are interested.
It is ironic and sad that we are still talking about misogyny and women’s oppression on Valentine’s Day. But our current political climate has caused women of all ages to realize that the rights they have enjoyed for decades are not secure but subject to the whims of those in power. We must look with open eyes at what is happening and act accordingly to safeguard, yet again, our own autonomy.
Our book A Womb of Her Own (Routledge, March 2017 begins with a commentary by Maurine Kelber Kelly as follows:
Dr. Ellen L. K. Toronto’s introduction and first chapter provide a most impressive account of the world’s oldest prejudice: misogyny and a tour de force of the history of sex and gender through the ages.
A s Dr. Toronto explores the impact of a patriarchal society on cultures in many parts of the world, during war, in literature, in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, we could not possibly deny the terrible cost to all societies that perpetuate male dominance of females through family structures, the workforce, and in every aspect of life throughout history. Dr. Toronto addresses the psychoanalytic foundations for this dominance of over half the human population and offers many approaches to overcoming practices so detrimental to all members of society. Among important questions addressed are: “What is the meaning of living in a gendered body?” and “How can women bring into conscious awareness the full extent of their experiences both as victims of oppression and as owners and agents of their remarkable capability?”
So much of Dr. Toronto’s introduction took me back to my days at the University of Pennsylvania where as a mother of two young children I first encountered Consciousness Raising Groups at local Haverford College. I immersed myself in questioning my own female role(s) and in the writings of many radical feminists. In my dissertation I addressed these topics and issues so important to my own life, especially when I became pregnant with my third child. I feared I would lose my scholarship and be considered unfit to become a PhD psychologist if I didn’t show 100 percent devotion to my studies as the male students were more likely to do.
D r. Toronto and all of the authors in this section compel us to look at our own internal contributions to the perpetuation of sexism in our lives and in society at large. Dr. Toronto concludes “that as long as women are not in control of their sexuality or their reproductive capabilities the male–female power differential will remain”. She appropriately stresses the importance of understanding the anatomical and biological differences between the sexes. Dr. Toronto brilliantly uses Biblical references to illustrate the misogyny in both Testaments. She points to the origin of the female’s definition as a part-object as traced to the story of Adam and Eve.
So we move forward with open eyes and yes, even on Valentine’s Day we recognize the battle that lies before us. We can still fraternize with the enemy (wink, wink) because in many instances it is not individual men who are the problem. We are fighting a culture, as old as Eve, which has defined women to be in second place.
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.