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Schwartz, D. (1992). Commentary on Jessica Benjamin's “Father and Daughter: Identification with Difference—A Contribution to Gender Heterodoxy”. Psychoanal. Dial., 2(3):411-416.

(1992). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 2(3):411-416

Commentary on Jessica Benjamin's “Father and Daughter: Identification with Difference—A Contribution to Gender Heterodoxy” Related Papers

David Schwartz, Ph.D.

The feminist critique of freud has inspired efforts to resolve the tension between new feminist gender theory and psychoanalysis. Benjamin's work is in this vein.

In principle, the drawing together of these two intellectual currents should work, for both are liberatory in their intent. Indeed, I find that Benjamin's technical recommendations represent a working synthesis. For example, she recommends that the analyst affirm the patient's longing to identify with an idealized father, rather than interpret such material as resistance to oedipal feelings. This recommendation certainly would partially correct the antiquated dread of cross-sex identification implicit in the work of some classical analysts. Moreover, Benjamin is generally concerned with opening theoretical space for a wider diversity of identificatory possibilities and developmental outcomes. Within psychoanalysis this approach is welcome and overdue, and certainly should not be the subject of controversy.

I argue, however, that an aspect of her approach to this problem—the problem of integrating the perspective of feminism and modern gender theory with psychoanalytic theory—leaves some significant difficulties untouched. I begin with what I see as Benjamin's effort to rehabilitate the concept of penis envy.

It might fairly be said that this concept epitomizes that aspect of orthodox psychoanalysis that has most antagonized those who would theorize gender largely apart from questions of anatomy or biology.

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