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Women in Europe
Women in Europe
You call yourself free? Your dominant thought I would hear, and
not that you have escaped from a yoke. Are you one of those who
had the right to escape from a yoke? There are some who threw
away their last value when they threw away their servitude.
Thus Spake Zarathustra
To write about woman in Europe today is such a hazardous undertaking that I would scarcely have ventured to do so without a pressing invitation. Have we anything of fundamental importance to say about Europe? Is anyone sufficiently detached? Are we not all involved in some program or experiment, or caught in some critical retrospect that clouds our judgment? And in regard to woman, cannot the same questions be asked? Moreover, what can a man say about woman, his own opposite? I mean of course something sensible, that is outside the sexual program, free of resentment, illusion, and theory. Where is the man to be found capable of such superiority? Woman always stands just where the man's shadow falls, so that he is only too liable to confuse the two. Then, when he tries to repair the misunderstanding, he overvalues her and believes her the most desirable thing in the world. Thus it is with the greatest misgivings that I set out to treat of this theme.
One thing, however, is beyond doubt: that woman today is in the same process of transition as man. Whether this transition is a historical turning-point or not remains to be seen. Sometimes, when we look back at history, it seems as though the present time had analogies with certain periods in the past, when great empires and civilizations had passed their zenith and were hastening irresistibly towards decay. But these analogies are deceptive, for there are always renaissances. What does move more clearly into the foreground is Europe's position midway between the Asiatic East and the Anglo-Saxon -- or shall we say American? -- West. Europe now stands between two colossi, both uncouth in their form but implacably opposed to one another in their nature. They are profoundly different not only racially but in their ideals. In the West there is the maximum political freedom with the minimum personal freedom; in the East it is just the opposite. We see in the West a tremendous development of Europe's technological and scientific tendencies, and in the Far East an awakening of all those spiritual forces which, in Europe, these tendencies hold in check. The power of the West is material, that of the East ideal.'" The struggle between these opposites, which in the world of the European man takes place in the realm of the scientifically applied intellect and finds expression on the battlefield and in the state of his bank balance, is, in woman, a psychic conflict.
What makes it so uncommonly difficult to discuss the problem of the modern European woman is that we are necessarily writing about a minority. There is no "modern European woman" properly speaking. Or is the peasant's-wife of today different from her forbears of a hundred years ago? There is, in fact, a large body of the population that only to a very limited extent lives in the present and participates in present-day problems. We speak of a "woman's problem," but how many women have problems? In proportion to the sum-total of European women only a dwindling minority really live in the Europe of today; and these are city dwellers and belong—to put it cautiously-to the more complicated of their kind. This must always be so, for it is only the few who clearly express the spirit of the present in any age. In the fourth and fifth centuries of our era there were only a very few Christians who in any way understood the spirit of Christianity, the rest were still practically pagan. The cultural process that is characteristic of an epoch operates most intensely in cities, for it needs large agglomerations of men to make civilization possible, and from these agglomerations culture gradually spreads to the smaller, backward groups. Thus we find the present only in the large centers, and there alone do we encounter the "European woman," the woman who expresses the social and spiritual aspect of contemporary Europe. The further we go from the influence of the great centers, the more we find ourselves receding into history. In the remote Alpine valleys we can meet people who have never seen a railway, and in Spain, which is also a part of Europe, we plunge to a dark medieval age lacking even an alphabet. The people of those regions, or of the corresponding social strata, do not live in our Europe but in the Europe of 1 400, and their problems are those of the bygone age in which they dwell. I have analyzed such people, and have found myself carried back into an ambience that was not wanting in historical romance.
The "present" is a thin surface stratum that is laid down in the great centers of civilization. If it is very thin, as in Tsarist Russia, it has no meaning, as events have shown. But once it has attained a certainstrength, we can speak of civilization and progress, and then problems arise that are characteristic of an epoch. In this sense Europe has a present, and there are women who live in it and suffer its problems. About these, and these only, are we entitled to speak. Those who are satisfied with a medieval life have no need of the present and its experiments. But the man of the present cannot--no matter what the reason turn back again to the past without suffering an essential loss. Often this turning back is altogether impossible, even if he were prepared to make the sacrifice. The man of the present must, work for the future and leave others to conserve the past. He is therefore not only a builder but also a destroyer. He and his world have both become questionable and ambiguous. The ways that the past shows him and the answers it gives to his questions are in sufficient for the needs of the present. All the old, comfortable ways are blocked, new paths have been opened up, and new dangers have arisen of which the past knew nothing. It is proverbial that one never learns anything from history, and in regard to present-day problems it usually teaches us nothing. The new path has to be made through untrodden regions, without presuppositions and often, unfortunately, without piety. The only thing that cannot be improved upon is morality, for every alteration of traditional morality is by definition an immorality. This bon mot has an edge to it, against which many an innovator has barked his shins.
All the problems of the present form a tangled knot, and it is hardly possible to single out one particular problem and treat it independently of the others. Thus there is no problem of "woman in Europe" without man and his world. If she is married, she usually has to depend economically on her husband; if she is unmarried and earning a living, she is working in some profession designed by a man. Unless she is prepared to sacrifice her whole erotic life, she again stands in some essential relationship to man. In numerous ways woman is indissolubly bound up with man's world and is therefore just as exposed as he is to all the shocks of his world. The war, for instance, has affected woman just as profoundly as it has man, and she has to adapt to its consequences as he must. What the upheavals of the last twenty or thirty years mean for man's world is apparent to everyone; we can read about it every day in the newspapers. But what it means for woman is not so evident. Neither politically, nor economically, nor spiritually is she a factor of visible importance. If she were, she would ,loom more largely in man's field of vision and would have to be considered a rival. Sometimes she is seen in this role, but only as a man, so to speak, who is accidentally a woman. But since as a rule her place is on man's intimate side, the side of him that | merely feels and has no eyes and does not want to. see, woman appears as an impenetrable mask behind | which everything possible and impossible can be conjectured -- and actually seen! -- without his getting anywhere near the mark. The elementary fact that a person always thinks another's psychology is identical with his own effectively prevents a correct understanding of feminine psychology. This is abetted by woman's own unconsciousness and passivity, useful though these may be from the biological point of view: she allows herself to be convinced by the man's projected feelings. Of course this is a general human characteristic, but in woman it is given a particularly dangerous twist, because in this respect she is not naive and it is only too often her intention to let herself be convinced by them. It fits in with her nature to keep her ego and her will in the background, so as not to binder the man in .any way, and to invite him to realize his intentions with regard to her person. This is a sexual pattern, but it has far-reaching ramifications in the feminine psyche. By maintaining a passive attitude with an ulterior purpose, she helps ; the man to realize his ends and in that way holds him. At the same time she Is caught in her own toils, for whoever digs a pit for others falls into it himself.
I admit that this is a rather unkind description of a process which might well be sung in more lyrical strains. But all natural things have two sides, and when something has to be made conscious we must see the shadow side as well as the light.
When we observe the way in which women, since the second half of the nineteenth century, have begun to take up masculine professions, to become active in politics, to sit on committees, etc., we can see| that woman is in the process of breaking with the purely feminine sexual pattern of unconsciousness and passivity, and has made a concession to masculine psychology by establishing herself as a visible member) of society. She no longer hides behind the mask of Mrs. So-and-so, with the obliging intention of having all her wishes fulfilled by the man, or to make him pay for it if things do not go as she wishes.
This step towards social independence is a necessary response to economic and other factors, but in itself it is only a symptom and not the thing about which we are most concerned. Certainly the courage and capacity for self-sacrifice of such women is admirable, and only the blind could fail to see the good that has come out of all these efforts. But no one can get round the fact that by taking up a masculine profession, studying and working like a man, woman is doing something not wholly in accord with, if not directly injurious to, her feminine nature. She is doing something that would scarcely be possible for a man to do, unless he were a Chinese. Could he, for instance, be a nursemaid or run a kindergarten? When I speak of injury, I do not mean merely physiological injury but above all psychic injury. It is a woman's outstanding characteristic that she can do anything for the love of a man. But those women who can achieve something important for the love of a thing are most exceptional, because this does not really agree with their nature. Love for a thing is a man's prerogative. But since masculine and feminine elements are united in our human nature, a man cannot live in the feminine part of himself, and a woman in her masculine part. None the less the feminine element in man is only something in the background, as is the masculine element in woman. If one lives out the opposite sex in oneself one is living in one's own background, and one‘s real individuality suffers. A man should live as a man and a woman as a woman. The contrasexual element in either sex is always dangerously close to the unconscious. It is even typical that the effects of the unconscious upon the conscious mind have a contrasexual character. For instance the soul (anima, psyche) has a feminine character which compensates the masculine consciousness. (Mystical instruction among primitives is exclusively a masculine concern, corresponding to the function of the Catholic priest.)
The immediate presence of the unconscious exerts a magnetic influence on the conscious processes. This explains the fear or even horror we have of the unconscious. It is a purposeful defense-reaction of the| conscious mind. The contrasexual element has a mysterious charm ringed with fear, perhaps even with disgust. For this reason its charm is particularly attractive and fascinating, even when it comes to us not directly from outside, in the guise of a woman, but from within, as a psychic influence - for instance in the form of a temptation to abandon oneself to a mood or an affect. This example is not characteristic of women, for a woman's moods and emotions do not come to her directly from the unconscious but are peculiar to her feminine nature. They are therefore never naive, but are mixed with an unacknowledged purpose. What comes to a woman from the unconscious is a sort of opinion, which spoils her mood only secondarily. These opinions lay claim to being absolute truths, and they prove to be the more fixed and incorrigible the less they are subjected m conscious criticism. Like the moods and feelings of a man, they are somewhat hazy and often totally unconscious, and are seldom recognized for what they are. They are in fact collective, having the character of the opposite sex, as though a man -- the father, for example -- had thought of them.
Thus it can happen - indeed it is almost the rule - that the mind of a woman who takes up a masculine profession is influenced by her unconscious masculinity in a way not noticeable to herself but quite obvious to everybody in her environment. She develops a kind of rigid intellectuality based on so-called principles, and backs them up with a whole host of arguments which always just miss the mark in the most irritating way, and always inject a little something into the problem that is not really there. Unconscious assumptions or opinions are the worst enemy of woman; they can even grow into a positively demonic passion that exasperates and disgusts men, and does the woman herself the greatest injury by gradually smothering the charm and meaning of her femininity and driving it into the background. Such a development naturally ends in profound psychological disunion, in short, in a neurosis.Naturally, things need not go to this length, but long before this point is reached the mental masculinization of the woman has unwelcome results. She may perhaps be a good comrade to a man without having any access to his feelings. The reason is that: her animus (that is, her masculine rationalism, assuredly not true reasonableness!) has stopped up the approaches to her own feeling. She may even become frigid, as a defense against the masculine type of sexuality that corresponds to her masculine type of mind. Or, if the defense-reaction is not successful, she develops, instead of the receptive sexuality of woman, an aggressive, urgent form of sexuality that is more characteristic of a man. This reaction is likewise a purposeful phenomenon, intended to throw a bridge across by main force to the slowly vanishing man. A third possibility, especially favored in Anglo-Saxon countries, is optional homosexuality in the masculine role. It may therefore be said that, whenever the attraction of the animus becomes noticeable, there is a quite special need for the woman to have an intimate relationship with the other sex. Many women in this situation are fully aware of this necessity and proceed -- faute de mieux -- to stir tip another of those present-day problems that is no less painful, namely, the marriage problem.
Traditionally, man is regarded as the marriage breaker. This legend comes from times long past, when men still had leisure to pursue all sorts of pastimes. But today life makes so many demands on men that the noble hidalgo, Don Juan, is to be seen nowhere save in the theatre. More than ever man loves his comfort, for ours is an age of neurasthenia, impotence, and easy chairs. There is no energy left for window-climbing and duels. If anything is to happen in the way of adultery it must not be too difficult In no .respect must it cost too much, hence the adventure can only be of a transitory kind. The man of today is thoroughly scared of jeopardizing marriage as an institution. He is a firm believer in doing things on the quiet, and therefore supports prostitution. 1 would wager that in the Middle Ages, with its notorious bagnios and unrestricted prostitution, adultery was relatively more frequent than it is today. In this respect marriage should be safer now than it ever was. But in reality it is beginning to be discussed. It is a bad sign when doctors begin writing books of advice on how to achieve the "perfect marriage." Healthy people need no doctors. Marriage today has indeed become rather precarious. In America about a quarter of the marriages end in divorce. And the remarkable thing is that this time the scapegoat is not the man but the woman. She is the one who doubts and feels uncertain. It is not surprising that this is so, for in post-war Europe there is such an alarming surplus of unmarried women that it would be inconceivable if there were no reaction from that quarter. Such a piling up of misery has inescapable consequences. It is no longer a question of a few dozen voluntary or involuntary old maids here and there, but of millions. Our legislation and our social morality give no answer to this question. Or can the Church provide a satisfactory answer? Should we build gigantic nunneries to accommodate all these women? Or should tolerated prostitution be increased? Obviously this is impossible, since we are dealing neither with saints nor sinners but with ordinary women who cannot register their spiritual requirements with the police. They are decent women who want to marry, and if this is not possible, well-the next best thing. When it comes to the question of love, laws and institutions and ideals mean less to woman than ever before. If things cannot go straight they will have to go crooked.
At the beginning of our era, three-fifths of the population of Italy consisted of slaves -- human chattels without rights. Every Roman was surrounded by slaves. The slave and his psychology flooded ancient Italy, and every Roman became inwardly a slave. Living constantly in the atmosphere of slaves, he became infected with their psychology. No one can shield himself from this unconscious influence. Even today the European, however highly developed, cannot live with impunity among the Negroes in Africa; their psychology gets into him unnoticed and unconsciously he becomes a Negro. There is no fighting against it. In Africa there is a well-known technical expression for this: "going black." It is no mere snobbery that the English should consider anyone born in the colonies, even though the best blood may run in his veins, "slightly inferior." There are facts to support this view. A direct result of slave influence was the strange melancholy and longing for deliverance that pervaded imperial Rome and found striking expression in Virgil's Fourth Eclogue. The explosive spread of Christianity, a religion which might be said to have risen from the sewers of Rome -- Nietzsche called it a "slave insurrection in morals" -- was a sudden reaction that set the soul of the lowest slave on a par with that of the divine Caesar. Similar though perhaps less momentous processes of psychological compensation have repeatedly occurred in the history of the world. Whenever some social or psychological monstrosity is created, a compensation comes along in defiance of all legislation and all expectation.
Something similar is happening to women in present-day Europe. Too much that is inadmissible, that has not been lived, is accumulating in the unconscious, and this is bound to have an effect. Secretaries, typists, shop-girls, all are agents of this process, and through a million subterranean channels creeps the influence that is undermining marriage. For the desire of all these women is not to have sexual adventures-only the stupid could believe that—but to get married. The possessors of that bliss must be ousted, not as a rule by naked force, but by that silent, obstinate desire which, as we know, has magical effects, like the fixed stare of a snake. This was ever the way of women. What is the attitude of the married woman to all this? She clings to the old idea that man is the scapegoat, that he switches from one love-affair to another as he pleases, and so on. On the strength of these outworn conceptions she can wrap herself still more deeply in her jealousies. But all this is only on the surface. Neither the pride of the Roman patrician nor the thick walls of the imperial palace availed to keep out the slave infection. In the same way, no woman can escape the secret, compelling atmosphere with which her own sister, perhaps, is enveloping her, the stifling atmosphere of a life that has never been lived.
Unlived life is a destructive, irresistible force that works softly but inexorably. The result is that the married woman begins to have doubts about marriage. The unmarried believe in it because they want it. Equally, the man believes in marriage because of his love of comfort and a sentimental belief in institutions, which for him always tend to become objects of feeling.
Since women have to be down to earth in matters of feeling, a certain fact should not escape our notice. This is the possibility of contraceptive measures. Children are one of the main reasons for maintaining a responsible attitude towards marriage. If this reason disappears, then the things that are "not done" happen easily enough. This applies primarily to unmarried women, who thus have an opportunity to contract an "approximate" marriage. But it is a consideration that counts also with all those married women who, as I have shown in my essay "Marriage as a Psychological Relationship," are the "containers." By this I mean women whose demands as individuals are not satisfied, or not wholly satisfied, by their husbands. Finally, contraception is a fact of enormous importance to women in general, because it does away with the constant fear of pregnancy and the care of an ever-increasing number of children. This deliverance from bondage to nature brings a release of psychic energies that inevitably seek an outlet. Whenever a sum of energy finds no congenial goal it causes a disturbance of the psychic equilibrium. Lacking a conscious goal, it reinforces the unconscious and gives rise to uncertainty and doubt.
Another factor of great importance is the more or less open discussion of the sexual problem. This territory, once so obscure, has now become a focus of scientific and other interests. Things can be heard and said in society that formerly would have been quite impossible. Large numbers of people have learned to think more freely and honestly, and have come to realize how important these matters are. The discussion of the sexual problem is, however, only a somewhat crude prelude to a far deeper question, and that is the question of the psychological relationship between the sexes. In comparison with this the other pales into insignificance, and with it we enter the real domain of woman.
Woman's psychology is founded on the principle of Eros, the great binder and loosener, whereas from ancient times the ruling principle ascribed to man is Logos. The concept of Eros could be expressed in modern terms as psychic relatedness, and that of Logos as objective interest. In the eyes of the ordinary man, love in its true sense coincides with the institution of marriage, and outside marriage mere is only adultery or "platonic" friendship. For woman, marriage is not an institution at all but a human love-relationship -- at least that is what she would like to believe. (Since her Eros is not naive but is mixed with other, unavowed motives -- marriage as a ladder to social position, etc. -- the principle cannot be applied in any absolute sense.) Marriage means to her an exclusive relationship. She can endure its exclusiveness all the more easily, without dying of ennui, inasmuch as she has children or near relatives with whom she has a no less intimate relationship than with her husband. The fact that she has no sexual relationship with these others means nothing, for the sexual relationship is of far less importance to her than the psychic relationship. It is enough that she and her husband both believe their relationship to be unique and exclusive. If he happens to be the "container" he. feels suffocated by this exclusiveness, especially if he fails to notice that the exclusiveness of his wife is nothing but a pious fraud. In reality she is distributed among the children and among as many members of the family as possible, thus maintaining any number of intimate relationships. If her husband had anything like as many relationships with other people she would be mad with jealousy. Most men, though, are erotically blinded -- they commit the unpardonable mistake of confusing Eros with sex. A man thinks he possesses a woman if he has her sexually. He never possesses her less, for To a woman the Eros-relationship is the real and decisive one. For her, marriage is relationship with sex thrown in as an accompaniment. Since sex is a formidable thing on account of its consequences, it is useful to have it in a safe place. But when it is less of a danger it also becomes less relevant, and then the question of relationship moves into the foreground.
It is just here that the woman runs into great difficulties with her husband, for the question of relationship borders on a region that for him is dark and painful. He can face this question only when the woman carries the burden of suffering, that is, when he is the "contained"—in other words, when she can imagine herself having a relationship with another man, and as a consequence suffering disunion within herself. Then it is she who has the painful problem, and he is not obliged to see his own, which is a great relief to him. In this situation he is .not unlike a thief who, quite undeservedly finds himself in the enviable position of having been forestalled by another thief who has been caught by the police. Suddenly he becomes an honorable, impartial onlooker. In any other situation a man always finds the discussion of personal relations painful and boring, just as Ms wife would find it boring if he examined her on the Critique of Pure Reason. For him, Eros is a shadow-land which entangles him in his feminine unconscious., in something "psychic," while for woman Logos is a deadly boring kind of sophistry if she is not actually repelled and frightened by it
Just as woman began, towards the end of the nineteenth century, to make a concession to masculinity by taking her place as an independent factor in the social world, so man has made, somewhat hesitantly, a concession to femininity by creating a new psychology of complex phenomena, inaugurated by tile sexual psychology of Freud. What this psychology owes to the direct influence of women-psychiatrists' consulting-rooms are packed with women—is a theme that would fill a large volume. I am speaking here not only of analytical psychology but of the beginnings of psychopathology in general. By far the greatest number of "classic" cases, beginning with the "Seeress of Prevorst," were women, who, perhaps unconsciously, took enormous trouble to put their own psychology on view in the most dramatic fashion, and thus demonstrated to the world the whole question of psychic relationship. Women like Frau Hauffe and Helene Smith 4 and Miss Beauchamp have assured for themselves a kind of immortality, rather like those worthy folk whose miraculous cures brought fame and prosperity to the wonder- working spot.
An astonishingly high percentage of this material comes from women. This is not as remarkable as it might seem, for women are far more "psychological" than men. A man is usually satisfied with "logic" alone. Everything "psychic," "unconscious" etc., is repugnant to him; he considers, it vague and nebulous. and morbid. He is interested in things, in facts, and not in the feelings and fantasies that cluster round them or have nothing to do with them. To a woman it is generally more important to know how a man feels about a thing than to know the thing itself. All those things which are merely futile impedimenta to a man are important to her. So it is naturally woman who is the most direct exponent of psychology and gives it its richest content. Very many things can be perceived in her with the utmost distinctness which in a man are mere shadowy processes in the background, whose very existence he is unwilling to admit. But, unlike the objective discussion and verification of facts, a human relationship leads into the world of the psyche, into that intermediate realm between sense and spirit, which contains something of both and yet forfeits nothing of its own unique character.
Into this territory a man must venture if he wishes to meet woman halfway. Circumstances have forced her to acquire a number of masculine traits, so that she shall not remain caught in an antiquated, purely instinctual femininity, lost and alone in the world of men. So, too, man will be forced to develop his feminine side, to open his eyes to the psyche and to Eros. It is a task he cannot avoid, unless he prefers to go trailing after woman in a hopelessly boyish fashion, worshiping from afar but always in danger of being stowed away in her pocket.
For those in love with masculinity or femininity per se the traditional medieval marriage is enough—and a thoroughly praiseworthy, well-tried, useful institution it is. But the man of today finds it extremely difficult to return to it, and for many the way back is simply impossible, because this sort of marriage can exist only by shutting out all contemporary problems. Doubtless there were many Romans who could shut their eyes to the slave problem and to Christianity, and spend their days in a more or less pleasant unconsciousness. They could do this because they had no relation to the present, only to the past. All those for whom marriage contains no problem are not living in the present, and who shall say they are not blessed! Modern man finds marriage only too problematical. I recently heard a German scholar exclaim before an audience of several hundred people: "Our marriages are sham marriages!" I ad- mired his courage and sincerity. Usually we express ourselves less directly, cautiously offering good advice as to what might be done -- in order not to tarnish the ideal. But for the modern woman -- let men take note of this -- the medieval marriage is an ideal no longer. True, she keeps her doubts to herself, and hides her rebelliousness; one woman because she is married and finds it highly inconvenient if the door of the safe is not hermetically sealed, another because she is unmarried and too virtuous to look her own tendencies squarely in the face. Nevertheless, their newly-won masculinity makes it impossible f