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Eichenbaum, L. (2004). Remote Control: Mothers, Sons, and Subjectivity. Psychoanal. Perspect., 2(1):75-86.

(2004). Psychoanalytic Perspectives, 2(1):75-86

Gender and Intersubjectivity

Remote Control: Mothers, Sons, and Subjectivity

Luise Eichenbaum, C.S.W.

I started thinking about remote control as a metaphor for aspects of male-female relationships while watching the comedian Jerry Seinfeld one night. In talking about the use of the remote control, Seinfeld said, “Women want to see what's on TV, men want to see what else is on TV” This use of the remote control seems to express an unarticulated truth about an aspect of gender experience, and it occurred to me that in some way it was a metaphor for the psychodynamics of connection. That is, in some way, women look for a connection to stick with and men need to keep moving and not get stuck in the muddy waters of attachment. Men are typically thought of as emotionally remote, and women are often thought of as controlling (just ask any husband or son). But it works the other way, too—men certainly can be controlling (ask any daughter or wife), and women, while appearing connected, can certainly relate from a self-state that is remote. So the metaphor works, superficially at least, with a number of variations. But at a deeper level, both remoteness and control are defenses used in the service of the regulation of self and other within the intersubjective field. They mediate attachment and protect subjective space and, I suggest, are inextricably bound to cultural prescriptions for masculinity and femininity.

Feminists entering psychoanalysis introduced gender into the discourse of infant research as well as the intersubjective space of the analytic couple (Benjamin, 1988; Chodorow, 1978; Eichenbaum & Orbach, 1983).

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