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Women and Desire: Beyond Wanting to Be Wanted Hardcover – September 28, 1999
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From Publishers Weekly
In providing some answers to Freud's famous question about what women really want, Young-Eisendrath draws on her experience as a psychotherapist and on ideas gleaned from Buddhism, Jung and feminist writings. She argues that most women don't have a clue about what they want because society has programmed them simply to want to present a desirable image. Illustrating her thesis with mythic tales and case studies of her own patients, the author shows how our culture recognizes two female stereotypes: the beautiful muse and the ugly hag-bitch who wields power to fulfill her own desires. Women should not be objects of desire, but subjects of desire, she writes, not only in personal relationships but in the workplace. While women may believe that competence leads to success at work, she contends that "what leads to power is self-promotion, making the right connections and being self-confident." According to Young-Eisendrath, women's rampant consumerism, shoplifting and binge eating are simply manifestations of unconscious desires. Although she contends that established religions have subordinated women, the author advocates learning to distinguish pathological desires from authentic ones through traditional spiritual practices or New Age feminist communities. She treads on familiar ground, but Young-Eisendrath writes with authority, offering women a valuable perspective on understanding and changing self-defeating behaviors. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
What do women want? According to Young-Eisendrath (psychiatry, Univ. of Vermont Medical Coll.; The Gifts of Suffering), women want to be wanted. Hoping for approval and self-validation, women often conform to ideals of beauty, sexual attractiveness, and femininity before they have identified their own desires and needs. Such choices lead to resentment and a loss of self-confidence when reality does not meet expectations. Using examples from myths, fairy tales, and case studies from her own work as a Jungian analyst, Young-Eisendrath demonstrates that women can learn to know their strengths and weaknesses and become the subjects of their own desires rather than the objects of others'. Young-Eisendrath challenges widely accepted beliefs about female power and proposes an alternate view that encompasses both compassion and cooperation. Recommended for public libraries.ALucille M. Boone, San Jose P.L., CA
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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I see how my mother was raised in that kind of environment post-WW2 and then a swing away from that allowed us to be largely "free range" children and latch key kids. A swing back toward that resulted in my sister staying at home to be a full time mother (no nanny, no nearby family) and subsequently rewriting our childhood as one of neglect and abuse. I hear mothers talking about "attached parenting" and "free range children" and I think that there is a bit of transition in the paradigm of parenting right now, so I might conduct some research among friends who are parents.
Her chapter on spirituality and religion seemed weak to me - I'm not convinced, for example, that I need to belong to a spiritual community in order to see my errors & flaws, and to grow as a human being and to find transcendent meaning in mortality. Her complaints about sexism and constraint in religion and women functioning as leaders in religious communities just sounded like some unrelated article or discourse tacked onto the end of the book to finish it off.
I am a daughter, and a woman, and a mother of a daughter, and a PhD, and I see the tremendous pressure that women put on themselves and on their daughters to conform. We all learn it as very small children, and for that reason, it is terribly hard for us to let go. And yes, pop culture only makes it worse, but the cultural indoctrination doesn't start there. It starts within us.
Furthermore, despite its title, this book treats 'desire' in only the most superficial way. If you seriously want to understand more about desire, read Jack Morin's great book on eroticism.