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Turpeenniemi, M. (1999). Naisen Verhottu Sisin (A woman's veiled interior): Elina Mäenpää-Reenkola. Helsinki, Yliopistopaino, 1997. Scand. Psychoanal. Rev., 22(2):291-294.

(1999). Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review, 22(2):291-294

Naisen Verhottu Sisin (A woman's veiled interior): Elina Mäenpää-Reenkola. Helsinki, Yliopistopaino, 1997

Review by:
Maria Turpeenniemi

In this book, Elina Mäenpää-Reenkola takes as her starting point the following quote from Freud “The ego is first and foremost a bodily ego.” From this perspective, Mäenpää-Reenkola attempts to shed light on the problems encountered by analysts who have been interested in characteristics specific to women. The author asks whether the essence of womanhood is such that it evades all attempts to capture, describe and understand it. I understand her as implying that the problem is connected with the female genitalia being largely “hidden” and thus being difficult to anchor in the ego. On the other hand, the author also wishes to study the extent to which the issue might turn out to be envy of women and attempts to create defenses against it.

The Little Mermaid

As an introduction to the themes of her book, Mäenpää-Reenkola uses H. C. Andersen's fairy tale “The Little Mermaid”. It provides an example of a story dealing both with the danger inherent in our desires and with death, and how difficult it is for a girl to grow up to become an adult and sexual woman. The story is interpreted as a story of inner development, where growth from a girl into a woman fails. It provides the author with an opportunity to look at many aspects of the psychic work required in growing up a woman and to understand the threats a girl must face and deal with on her road to womanhood.

Mäenpää-Reenkola begins her discussion on growing up as a woman by describing girls' early forms of play and how they reflect a girl's concept of her own sexual identity.

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