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Women, under the pressure of the patriarchal ideal, tend to "compulsively overvalue" the relationship with men at the expense of their personal fulfillment

Women, under the pressure of the patriarchal ideal, tend to "compulsively overvalue" the relationship with men at the expense of their personal fulfillment Women, under the pressure of the patriarchal ideal, tend to "compulsively overvalue" the relationship with men at the expense of their personal fulfillment
Source: Giovanna Marsilio via Behance
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Women's efforts to achieve independence and an enlargement of her field of interest and activities are continually met with a skepticism whose burden is that such efforts are impelled merely by the pressure of economic necessity, and that they run counter, besides, to her inherent character and her natural tendencies. Accordingly, all efforts of this sort are said to be without any vital significance for woman, whose every thought, in point of fact, centers exclusively upon the male or upon motherhood, in much the manner expressed in Marlene Dietrich's famous song, "I know only love, and nothing else."

Various sociological considerations immediately suggest themselves in this connection, of too familiar and obvious a character, however, to require time spent upon them. This attitude towards woman, whatever its basis and however it may be assessed, represents the patriarchal ideal of womanhood, of woman as one whose only longing it is to love a man and be loved by him, to admire him and serve him, and even to pattern herself after him. Those who maintain this point of view mistakenly infer from external behavior the existence of an innate instinctual disposition thereto; whereas, in reality, the latter cannot be recognized as such, for the reason that biological factors never manifest themselves in pure and undisguised form, but always as modified by tradition and environment.

As Briffault has recently pointed out in some detail in The Mothers, the modifying influence of "inherited tradition," not only upon ideals and beliefs but also upon emotional attitudes and so called instincts, cannot possibly be overestimated. Inherited tradition means for woman, however, a compressing of her originally probably very considerable participation in general tasks into the narrower sphere of eroticism and motherhood. The adherence to inherited tradition fulfills certain day-to-day functions for both society and the individual; of their social aspect we shall not speak here, and, considered from the standpoint of the psychology of the individual, it need only be mentioned that this mental construction is for the male at times a matter of great inconvenience, yet on the other hand constitutes for him a source from which his self-esteem can always derive support. For woman, conversely, with her lowered self-esteem of centuries' duration, it constitutes a haven of peace in which she is spared the exertions and anxieties associated with the cultivation of other abilities and of self-assertion in the face of criticism and rivalry. It is comprehensible, therefore—speaking solely from the sociological standpoint—that women who nowadays obey the impulse to the independent development of their abilities are able to do so only at the cost of a struggle against both external opposition and such resistances within themselves as are created by an intensification of the traditional ideal of the exclusively sexual function of woman.

It would not be going too far to assert that at the present time this conflict confronts every woman who ventures upon a career of her own and who is at the same time unwilling to pay for her daring with the renunciation of her femininity. The conflict in question is thus one which is conditioned by the altered position of woman and which is confined to those women who enter upon or follow a vocation, who pursue special interests, or who aspire in general to an independent development of their personality.

[…]

It was only after somewhat prolonged analytic work that I recognized in certain gross examples that the central problem here consisted not in an inhibition respecting love but in an entirely too exclusive concentration upon men. These women were as though possessed by the single thought, "I must have a man"—obsessed with an idea overvalued to the point of absorbing every other thought, so that by comparison all the rest of life seemed stale, flat and unprofitable. The capabilities and interests which most of them possessed either had no meaning at all for them or had lost it all. In other words, conflicts affecting their relations to men were present and could be to a considerable extent relieved, but the actual problem lay not in too little but in too much emphasis upon their love life.

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