This chapter is concerned with exploring the relevance of gender as a critical category for clinical psychoanalysis. It recognizes two developments in the late twentieth century that may appear to present gender as either not a pressing issue in self-development or as sufficiently troubled and undone to have lost its regulatory grip. The first concerns the domination of the psychoanalytic imagination with preoccupations other than sexuality, sexual difference, and gender; and the second is linked to the deconstruction and reconstruction of hetero-normative gendered frameworks initiated by cultural gender theorists. It is argued that the gendered binary of Western thought with its socially normative values and assumptions shapes the unconscious minds of every person. Notwithstanding critical appreciation of the gendered discourses of psychoanalysis as well as expanded thinking about the possible repertoire of individual gender variations, gender continues to carry evaluative burdens.
Identifying herself as a philosopher, author, and feminist, Simone de Beauvoir took the phenomenological ideas of the lived body, situated freedom, intentionality, intersubjective vulnerability, and the existential ethical-political concepts of critique, responsibility, and justice, in new directions. She distinguished two moments in an ongoing dialogue of intentionality: the joys of disclosure and the desires of mastery. She disrupted the phenomenological account of perception, revealing its hidden ideological dimensions. Attending to the embodied experience of sex, gender, and age, she challenged the privilege accorded to the working body and introduced us to the unique humanity of the erotic body. Her categories of the Other and the Second Sex exposed the patriarchal norms that are naturalized in the taken-for-granted givens of the life-world. In translating the phenomenological-existential concepts of transcendence and freedom into an activist ethics of critique, hope, and liberation, her work continues to influence phenomenology, existentialism, and feminist theory and practice.
Skye C. Cleary
The best kind of love is authentic love. To love authentically involves respecting one another’s freedom, being tender and caring, and supporting each other’s independent projects. This is what Simone de Beauvoir argued, and to some degree practiced. The problem, as she saw it, was that throughout history, few have loved authentically, primarily because of women’s oppressive situation. Her existential philosophy—which foregrounds freedom from oppression and freedom to choose how to live—underpins everything she says about the challenges of loving well. Beauvoir argues that lesbian relationships and friendships point to ways in which we can transcend the bounds of traditional loving roles and expectations and realize something closer to her ideal of mature reciprocal nonsadistic, nonmasochistic mutual respect. Nevertheless, her nonsystematic approach creates tensions between freedom and commitment, marriage and authentic loving, and pragmatic means and existential ends.