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Balsam, R.H. (1994). Rational and Irrational: Remarks on the Clinical Gendering of Language in Psychoanalysis. Psychoanal. St. Child, 49:145-158.

(1994). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 49:145-158

Clinical Contributions

Rational and Irrational: Remarks on the Clinical Gendering of Language in Psychoanalysis

Rosemary H. Balsam

This paper extends Hartmann’s skepticism about the heuristic value of the polarized terms “rational” and “irrational” lest they be used for future theory building. Clinically—now, as in ancient times—a close correlation exists between this polarity and that of common-parlance value judgments—“masculine/rational/positive” and “feminine/ irrational/negative.” Primitive ambivalence concerning the repudiation of femininity is explored here in both sexes. A suggestion is raised that it may be the female’s capacity for pregnancy, rather than the infantile reaction to genital difference, that is the most vital underpinning of the age-old negative view of women.

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