What Do Women Want?
a book by Luise Eichenbaum and Susie Orbach
(our site's book review)
They relate the scenario of women not being able to depend on men to fill emotional intimacy needs (since men are trained to be tough but not feelingful), so they try to fill this emptiness through either friendships with other women, vicarious relationships in books or on TV, or through their kids. But kids need love much more than they can give love, so many unhealthy possibilities can evolve from this situation. Mothers looking to their kids to fill their emptiness is a very unfortunate development for both mother and child; men trained to be emotionally distant by our culture encourages women to try to fill needs through their kids through living through them, smothering them, over-protecting them, and/or overwhelming them in various ways with their own needs.
Women can't depend on men to fill emotional intimacy needs so they often try to fill this emptiness through friendships with other women
To deal with these needs, the authors relate how “. . . women have always relied on each other emotionally. . . . Over the years women have become more isolated at home. . . . Women’s friendships are a curious social phenomenon. On the one hand they are completely obvious and yet they are also invisible. So much attention is focused on heterosexual coupling, marriage, dating, that the fact of women’s relationships with one another goes largely unnoticed. . . . Our mothers’ women friends are as important to them as ours are to us. The difference is that we have begun to recognize the importance of these relationships and to validate them. . . . Women providing support and encouragement to women friends holds the possibility of repairing some of the damage and deprivation that women have internalized psychologically. Because most women in a patriarchal society come to feel less than good about themselves, it is often impossible for mothers to transmit a sense of encouragement and confidence to their daughters.”
The authors look at how family life, heterosexuality, sexual politics, intimate relationships, child-rearing and psychological development cry out for attention and change. All these difficulties people are running into in their intimate relationships, both with lovers and friends, tells us that things are not right, they say. But, most importantly, they encourage taking personal responsibility and changing what isn’t working, rather than waiting for the politicians and social engineers to get a clue: “. . . as human beings, we have the ability to change conditions of our lives that we come to understand need changing.” They also are capable of the type of systems thinking needed for good problem perception and problem solving: “Every time a psychologist points to mother as the problem in our psychology, it is, in fact, an indictment of our society’s arrangement for child-rearing.”
They are looking forward to society’s evolution in these areas that aim to alleviate the imbalances that women and men experience in their psychological development. They say that we surely have enough information to tell us that both women and men suffer under the present conditions. As social beings we will need to create new ways of child-rearing.
Both relationships and child-rearing suffer from people putting all their eggs in one basket
Like Philip Slater (Earthwalk), they see that children are so overwhelmed by steep-gradient nurturance that they fear women, fear losing themselves in their relationships with them, think of them as witches and magicians and often feel and/or act in sexist ways toward them. And like Slater, it is seen as important to turn some of this around by having men participate fully in child-rearing so that men can be comfortable and emotionally open around women, so that they can learn to respect women and not just want to possess them or flee from them, and so that they can learn to have women friends in which the sexual aspect doesn’t enter in. And kids will be able to have a much easier time with separation-individuation and few oedipal problems where immature males resent time mothers spend with babies and get jealous and resentful, thereby precipitating fears in the baby.
The authors want men to participate fully in child-rearing so that men can be comfortable and emotionally open around women
People, predict the authors, will be more likely to reach autonomy because their dependence needs will be met, in the Maslow sense. “Women and men will no longer look to a partner to fill empty parts of themselves, but instead will approach one another with the desire to be close to another person; to share . . .”
(It’s obvious that their partial solution of shared parenting will help alleviate some of the tragically unnecessary psychological problems arising from intense steep-gradient nurturing. And that it’s a great idea for men and women to have close friends of both sexes so couples don’t continue making the same mistake of putting all their emotional eggs in one basket and overwhelming their partners with needs. (Facebook won't likely be where you MEET close friends, but it is often where close friends communicate.) It’s also obvious that merely having close friends of both sexes without adopting good parenting and communication skills will be inadequate, and that the shared childcare resource base of an MC will embody these things and the MC movement lifestyle will constitute a complete answer to the problem to which they have worked out half the answer. See Why Register for an MC?.)
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