Feminist Responses to Freud Through the “Equality vs. Difference” Debate
Revisiting Beauvoir, Irigaray and Mitchell
Freudian psychoanalysis has long been a matter of debate among feminists, and usually criticized for biological determinism. While discussing the Freudian framework, feminists have also been discussing how to define a female subject and the age old “equality vs. difference” discussion. This study discusses critical feminist responses to Freud which demonstrate the intricacies of the “equality vs. difference” debate amongst different strands of feminist theory. This article analyses three diverse lines of argumentation regarding psychoanalysis and the equality vs. difference debate by focusing on the works of Luce Irigaray, Simone de Beauvoir and Juliet Mitchell. Beauvoir and Irigaray both criticize the Freudian approach for taking “the male” as the real, essential subject. However, whereas Beauvoir sides with an egalitarian feminism, Irigaray defends underlining the difference of female sexuality. Juliet Mitchell, on the other hand, defends Freudian psychoanalysis through the argument that psychoanalysis actually offers a way to understand how the unconscious carries the heritage of historical and social reality. Accordingly, what Freudian psychoanalysis does is to analyze, rather than to legitimize, the basis of the patriarchal order in the unconscious.
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