What did Freud want?

Rosemary Dinnage

The sharpest comment in Freud’s Women – a huge book, but consistently readable – comes at the end. It would be eccentric, say the authors, to conclude after five hundred-odd pages that Freud’s significance for women lies in his having been the first equal-opportunities employer. Eccentric, but rather tempting because, in his famously ambivalent way, he left such a paradox behind. Grossly demeaning, even by the standards of his time, in his various theories about women, he maintained relationships with them as fellow-analysts and friends which were much more cordial and straightforward than his relationships with male colleagues. And over the years 1920 to 1980, when the figures for women in medicine and law were 4-7 per cent and 1-5 per cent respectively, that for women analysts was 27 per cent. Yet ‘What does Woman want?’ he fatuously asked. A woman wants a bit of sense. What on earth did Freud want?

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