Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Book Report: Women and Desire ...Beyond Wanting to Be Wanted

In this book the author, Polly Young-Eisendrath, tackles answers to Freud's question about what women really want.

This resonated with me during my period of hermitage as I grapple with the question of "What do I want from my life?"  I don't think this question is unique to any woman and my personal belief is that it all stems from the way we were raised.  Think about all the stories, such as Cinderella, we were fed growing up while forming our values as little girls.

We were trained that if we were good enough, nice enough, pretty enough, well mannered and sweet then some day a handsome prince would come sweeping down the hillside on his white stallion to claim us as his own and we'd live happily ever after.  Bull-crap!

That's why this book really hit a nerve as I learned how women have been conditioned to be the Object of Desire, with no core self, no clear autonomy and self determination under our own control.  The Prince Charming is the Subject of the story and the helpless damsel in distress is merely the Object of Desire.

Here is a quote from the book that I liked: "When you learn to speak the truth, you come to recognize that you have no special power over others to make them do your bidding.  You cannot pressure or scare away others by speaking your desires.  Other adults also have free will.  We all have a responsibility to speak our own desires and to respect those of others."

While reading this book I was recalling how my daughter expressly asked that we not compliment the granddaughters on how pretty they were, even though they are stunningly gorgeous.  We were asked to tell them how smart they were, how brave, how clever, how tough...anything but focus on their physical attributes.  These little girls are now young women who are spirited and not afraid to speak their minds!

A friend of mine, Yifat Gohar Levenstein, has recently proclaimed a year long ban of not shopping to break ties with consumerism and portions of one chapter in this book really hit home with me on how she feels. She will be sharing her experiences on a month by month basis and it should be interesting to see how it goes.

Women have been historically linked to shopping as men are to sports as it provides a feeling of being in control and making our own choices.  But this is just a clever ruse as well.

Years ago only the elite would afford the latest styles and fashions while the everyday woman looked on in longing.  Then came the department stores with ready-to-wear clothing that allowed access to more women to participate in the competition for fashion.  This phenomenon forged a pattern in women to shop ever three or four days as it became an outlet for social interaction and pleasure.

As the author states "a profound cultural transformation in which both women and stores were caught up in the murky business of creating desires and longings that can never be satisfied." "Shopping was designed for women as an intoxicating mix of promises to be both the Object and the Subject of Desire"

A further extension of this is the contemporary shopping mall and mega discount store that can now appeal to all women at all income levels.  It all comes down to consumerism and a ploy to reach as wide a market as possible.

Then the author brings down the sad truth: "But women are not in control of either the fashion industry or other large retail enterprises, they have once again been tricked into believing they have power as Objects of Desire. Retailers seduce us to buy freedom when no freedom is available. Instead of freedom, modern consumerism creates more desire, even compulsion". Shopping was designed to create and multiply desires for things and images. Most shoppers are unconscious or somewhat unconscious that shopping environments, especially beautiful and sensually pleasing ones, create need and breed desire."

Does this make you think of all those stupid purchases we've made to "make us feel better"?  I know I sure did.  The thrill of seeing the item, purchasing it and then having it hang in the closet and seldom or never worn.  Reading this book and learning where that need comes from made me both angry and sad.  Is it any wonder that teenagers flock to the mall? 

She brings it home with how to break this cycle and become the Subject of our own story, rather than molding ourselves  into what we believe will make us desirable to others.  The following is a collection of quotes from the book that gave me strength and hope in creating myself into the person I want to be.

  • Personal sovereignty or autonomy means feeling free to choose and to intend your actions.
  • To be capable of personal sovereignty, you must come to know all your desires.
  • Holding on to your authority means breathing deeply and standing firmly behind your decision without shame or blame.
  • If we don't wake up to the problem of wanting to be wanted, and practice being the Subjects of our own desires, then we feel that others are always choosing for us, that our lives do not belong to us. We don't feel responsible for actions because we feel out of control.
  • Personal sovereignty is the ability to know and practice self-determination in whatever circumstances you find yourself.
  • Those who identify with being Objects rather than Subjects function more in terms of what they "ought" to do, what they "have to" do, or what they "should" do because their sense of worth arises from others' evaluations, reflections, desires.
  • Men have been cheated out of a range of feelings and experiences in emulating the lone hero, resulting in unhealthy internal pressures, excessive narcissism, and feelings of isolation, resentment, and depression.
  • Unless you have two options, you don't have a choice.
  • To engage your desires, with the recognition that they will teach you about your limitations, your vulnerability, and your conflicts, as well as your strengths, will lead to the discovery of your own nature, of who you are.
It has been an interesting journey into the self as I read and learn and practice making my own choices.

Long Live the Queen of Books

1 comment:

  1. Your new book sounds interesting. However, I have one question. Where does all this leave us as far as marriage is concerned? Is it wrong to want to look nice for our partner? Or to want to do things for him? Hmmmm. I'll have to think about this. You have a super weekend. Hugs, Edna B.