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(1985). Femininity Grows Up. Brit. J. Psychother., 1(3):229.

(1985). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 1(3):229

Femininity Grows Up

Sir,

I would like to comment on the papers in your first issue by Joan Raphael-Leff and Andrew Samuels. While Samuels provides an illuminating survey of Jungian thinking which can easily be related to other theories, I think Raphael-Leff fails in her stated aim of clarification. She sets out to dispel myths about motherhood, but by introducing categories of her own she is more likely to become known as the perpetrator of a new myth. The challenging of existing theories is only significant if the author has something better to offer. A bald statement that the maternal instinct has not been proved does not constitute progress.

The depressing truth is that we still lack a satisfactory concept of femininity. Many people think Freud's concept of penis-envy is a non-starter as a basis for a psychology of women, however useful it may be clinically. What has been lost sight of in post-Freudian thinking is the clear distinction Freud made between infantile sexuality and adult genitality. The difference between small-boy assertiveness and the responsible potency of the adult man is perfectly obvious. The same distinction could be made in female behaviour but I have not come across it. There is a real risk that the strident assertion of pseudo-independence by feminists will influence a whole generation of young women into accepting an infantile phallic role for lack of affirmation of their basic experience of themselves as women.

Samuel's paper comes as a refreshing experience after Raphael-Leff's, providing clear statements about individuation.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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