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Bouchard, M. (1994). Canadian Journal of Psychoanalysis/revue Canadienne De Psychanalyse. I, Number 1, 1993: The Story of I: Perspectives on Women's Subjectivity. Jessica Benjamin. Pp. 79-95.. Psychoanal Q., 63:821-821.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Canadian Journal of Psychoanalysis/revue Canadienne De Psychanalyse. I, Number 1, 1993: The Story of I: Perspectives on Women's Subjectivity. Jessica Benjamin. Pp. 79-95.

(1994). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 63:821-821

Canadian Journal of Psychoanalysis/revue Canadienne De Psychanalyse. I, Number 1, 1993: The Story of I: Perspectives on Women's Subjectivity. Jessica Benjamin. Pp. 79-95.

Marc-André Bouchard

This paper considers aspects of maternal and paternal identifications as they figure in women's development. "The Story of I" is, of course, a play on The Story of O., meant to evoke concern for women's subjectivity, for their being sexual subjects rather than objects. Benjamin makes a double-edged point: (a) that the categorical distinction between phallic father and containing mother offers a useful metaphor for identifications; (b) but that these pairings should be transcended and reconciled in certain categories, dissolved in or destabilized by others. Benjamin reminds us of Fast's theory of gender differentiation and its reinterpretation of the idea of bisexuality to mean the position of identifying with both parents. Ideally, children of both sexes continue to identify with both parents; the rapprochement father is a kind of paradigm of identificatory love. The more "outside" object at this time is the father. The boy toddler's homoerotic love affair is with the father as representing the world. This love serves as the boy's vehicle for establishing masculine identity and confirms his sense of himself as subject of desire. Girls seek what toddler boys recognize in their fathers and wish, through identification, to affirm in themselves: recognition of their own desire. The process of identification can be successful only if it is reciprocal, when the father identifies with the child and says, "You can be like me," or when the validating mother says, "You are just like your Dad." If, however, the tension of separating from the mother is too difficult, the two parents begin to be formulated as a gender split: mother represents attachment and father the recognition of independence, but mother is too close and father too far away.

The origins of this idealization have been obscured insofar as psychoanalysts assumed that unattainable longings for the idealized father expressed in the transference of women patients were oedipal, heterosexual in character. The longing to identify with the idealized father of separation in order to be empowered, to separate from mother, and to feel excited, appeared in the guise of penis envy. This was interpreted as resistance to oedipal feelings, a possibility among several, or it was conflated with oedipal wishes. Similarly, the idealized father transference of male patients, or the urge to submit to father in order to incorporate the phallus, was understood as a negative oedipal stance, rather than an expression of their longing to recognize themselves in and be recognized by the early dyadic father. In short, the importance of identificatory love in emotional life, its persistence in tandem or in oscillation with object love, was missed.

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Article Citation

Bouchard, M. (1994). Canadian Journal of Psychoanalysis/revue Canadienne De Psychanalyse. I, Number 1, 1993. Psychoanal. Q., 63:821-821

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