In celebration of the International Women's Day we want to share with you this excerpt from Fear of Life by Alexander Lowen, M.D. followed by an essay by Frederic Lowen:
"Inequality mars the harmony of the man-woman relationship, which should be one of equal sharing in a common effort. The person who feels inferior is resentful of the one who has the superior position. This is especially true where ego consciousness is highly developed, as in our culture. Most people find it humiliating to have to submit to a power they did not grant. One doesn’t feel love in this situation, but hate.
In the patriarchal family the inequality extended to sex. Women were subject to a double standard of morality that denied them the right to a full sexual life while it left men free to indulge their desires. The double standard was most strictly enforced in bourgeois society, where the striving for ego enhancement, power, and possessions was greatest. It was less enforced among the nobility, because their ego and power rested on the seemingly solid foundation of birth. It was least enforced in the lower classes, where the striving for power was weak. In bourgeois society a woman’s chastity had value in the marriage market.
Inevitably, a power struggle developed in every bourgeois home. The man had power through his control of the property, but the woman often countered by withholding her sexuality on the grounds of illness or indisposition. Used consciously or unconsciously, this tactic could be an effective weapon. The woman could also threaten a man with unfaithfulness, which was a real blow to his ego. But this game was played by both parties. The man often stepped outside the marriage for his sexual pleasure.
Fighting between husband and wife is not new. In the past women generally complained that there wasn’t enough money, men that there wasn’t enough sex. That situation seems to have changed with the demise of the double standard in the sexual revolution of the fifties and sixties. But this change doesn’t seem to have reduced the fighting that goes on between the spouses. As long as the issue of power enters into personal relationships, there will be conflict. The unfortunate thing is that parents use their children in their power struggles with one another.
Despite the fact that the man is favored in the patriarchal system, he is not always the winner in the power struggle between husband and wife. And though he may be the financial support of the family, he is not always the boss in the home. He has titular power, but effective power often resides with the woman. Most patients, when asked who was the dominant figure in their homes, said it was the mother.
This may have been due to the fact that the home is her domain, a position that society strongly supports because of her responsibility for the children. Actually, family fights are often decided in favor of the person who has the stronger ego and the best developed sense of self. But regardless of who is dominant in the family, conflict between the parents is the base upon which the oedipal triangle rests."
From Fear of Life by Alexander Lowen, M.D.
A Request to All Women
The Alexander Lowen Foundation promotes well-being for all. An essential part of well-being is freedom and equality, of which there is too little, personally and politically.
As for the sexes, as important as equality is, we respect and celebrate the differences between men and women as equally important. Control of reproductive health is one of those differences.
I ask all women to consider why it is that men pre-dominantly or exclusively decide if women may choose to terminate a pregnancy, or not. It seems medieval.
To women who choose to honor and defer to their husbands, I remind you that men will never experience an abortion. Although your partner may share your experience, he will not suffer the anxiety, stress, and pain of a terminated pregnancy as women do.
In the 21st Century, it is time to recognize the inequality and lack of freedom these men's directives represent. It is reminiscent of the Spanish Inquisition.
Égalité?…..Oui! mais Vive la Différence!
by Frederic Lowen
What is feminism?....what is it to be a “feminist?” In this information age, an age of profound mind-body split, confusion is profound too. There is little agreement amongst women as to what a proper definition of feminism is or should be. To be clear, the question of what feminism is is secondary to the question of how might women’s lives be improved, considering the economic and political inequality and sexual suppression/repression that persists into the 21st Century.
To be sure, men are also confused in their changing masculine roles….but the larger suppression of women in the past is resulting in greater upward “social mobility” for women.
The confusion over sexuality and sexual expression, political equality, and the acquisition and use of power in the home and professionally is palpable. More so than academics, physicians and philosophers, we psychotherapists have an opportunity and understanding to begin to sort out this confusion.
In the absence of this effort, it is left to the politicians to exploit this confusion. At a time when Donald Trump is perhaps the most powerful world leader, allowing politicians to proscribe roles for women is truly and obviously self-destructive. It betrays humans' inability to take responsibility for their own freedom.
Importantly, and I share this belief with Wilhelm Reich and my father Alexander Lowen, this inability to take responsibility and thereby enjoy one’s own freedom has a sociological origin. It is not biological or immutably genetic.
Further, this inability to “own one’s freedom” is at the heart of the unrelenting cycle throughout history (his-story). The non-sustainable creation of empire and the accumulation of power built at the expense of human misery, always crash and burn in chaos, mayhem, and war.
As a man, I support and applaud the contributions women make and have made, and hope for much more in the future. We sorely need an alternative to the patriarchal approach of power and control…..a recognition and greater appreciation for the ways of nature.
To echo Wilhelm Reich, who my father thought of as the most brilliant man he ever met, women need to own their sexuality: to resolve and transcend the conflict between being the life-sustaining mother, and the pleasure seeking/giving sexual being. Men and women both could do better to revere the healthy sexual expression and activity of women, just as they celebrate women’s roles as mothers.
Sexual issues are at the heart of our societal dysfunction much more than is recognized or acknowledged. The problems of our dysfunction lie more in the realm of our unconscious than we realize, especially so in the United States….or should I say Trumpland? Without that understanding we are doomed to repeat our self-destructive ways, just like any neurotic individual.
As a final thought, I want to ask: why are men involved in legislation pertaining to abortion and reproductive rights?....let alone why are they the final legislators/deciders? Men are entitled to their opinion, which should be considered, but it seems completely medieval that they should dictate such restrictions on other humans' freedoms; restrictions that will never apply to them. It is a women’s issue….Not a man’s issue!