Dismantling The Animus




Trudy the Bag Lady and her Space Chums:

We speculated what it was like before we got language skills:
When we humans had our first thought, most
likely we didn't know what to think. It's hard to think
without words 'cause you haven't got a clue as to what you're
thinking. So if you think we suffer from a lack of communication
think what it must've been like then, when people lived in a
verbal void —
made worse by the fact that there were no words such as
"verbal void."

— Lily Tomlin, in The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, by Jane Wagner

The first step in this dismantling operation, the first thread to be pulled to begin ripping apart the fabric, is to take a closer look at the broader problem of gender thinking.

Gender is the archetypal backdrop and ground of all our thinkings about male and female, men and women, masculine and feminine. It predisposes us to see things in terms of its own categories: masculine, feminine, neuter, and these are only the most familiar three classes. According to my Random House Dictionary, the number of genders in different languages ranges from two to twenty, with the classification often (but not always) correlate with sex or animateness. This suggests that the human disposition to classify "things" by gender is an archetypal phenomenon, rooted in the deepest impulses of psychic imagination. It is only one mode of classification, but it also suggests that this archetype of gender, as a a factor in the construction of human symbolic language, has become the exclusive way in which we perceive and speak of our world and ourselves in it. As long as our perception is determined by the lens of the gender archetype, and as long as our languages perpetuate the singularity of this perception, we will see and think of ourselves first and most essentially as masculine and feminine beings and only secondarily as human beings.

The advantage for consciousness of this genderized vision is that it begins to differentiate living things into more clearly defined outlines; it is a first step in the process of particularizing collective life by form and function. But "gender" has taken primacy over the way we perceive and experience most everything, and thus has rendered us unconscious of both its primacy and power to shape experience. The situation is one of the blind leading the severely near-sighted.

Not seeing the ground of gender on which we stand, which is by itself neutral in value, it is a small step (apparently) from differentiation of gender form and function to imposition of a hierarchy of values based on gender differences. Not enough to recognize distinctions based on gender: values are accorded to genders. In our world, for the last few millenia, men have accorded highest value to the masculine gender.

In English, which we do not think of as a "genderized" language, even the word "neuter" is an assignment of lesser value, subordinate to the masculine class: a sexually neutered male, for example, is less than masculine, incomplete and therefore closer to a feminine classification. A recent nationwide public service ad encouraging people to be responsible pet owners by neutering their cats and dogs found it necessary to assure owners that "neutering" did not mean "demasculinizing." Part of the ad copy reads: "Neutering your dog won't turn him into a sissy. No, your four-legged stud will be the same manly thing after being neutered as he was before. He'll still be as territorial. Still be a great watchdog. Still be, you know, a guy."7 The message clearly plays to the fear that neutering means feminizing. But the real, unasked, question is: Why should this be fearful?

The attribution of highest value to the masculine gender has been so pervasive and insistent in what we know of human history, that men have become identified with the masculine gender — so that the masculine gender is the central point of reference in practically every field of human endeavor.

It is beyond the scope of this essay to investigate how a hierarchical ranking of values based on gender occured. My concern here is with our given situation, rather than how it came about. It is a short and remarkably easy leap (even after all these millenia) from a value-free simple designation of "masculine gender" to all that such a designation implies and assumes: a whole range of qualities, associations, values, judgments, expectations, perceptions, behaviors. "Gender" is no longer, and perhaps never has been, a tool of purely biological classification. It is a word-image that suggests and opens to a whole ream of psychological possibilities (mostly as yet unimagined), and into a labyrinth of pathological thinking as well.

In a provocative paper called "The Dogma of Gender," Patricia Berry wrote these cautionary lines:

That gender is a form in which we can feel and think and experience does not make it right or true. If it is archetypal, it requires exactly that we not think this way all the time. For if we take one archetypal perspective exclusively, we are caught by it. And the result of being caught by an archetype is that experience shrinks. We cannot see beyond the archetype's confines, and we begin to interpret more and more of our experience only in its terms.8

The archetype of gender genderizes our perception. And like any archetype that draws its strength and power from unconsciousness, we are dominated and influenced, collectively and individually, by it. Add the assignment of cultural values to the archetypal (and thus value-neutral) disposition to perceive in terms of gender, and the result is genderism: the belief that gender is the only way to perceive, the only way to classify, understand, or describe human life and experience. Since the dominance and pervasive influence of the archetype is unconscious, the habit of genderization is also largely unconscious, and thus the culturally assigned values become inseparable from the categories they are assigned to: the superiority, inferiority, or "neutrality" of a gender class appear to be natural, pre-determined, and a matter of course. All things appear to come into the world with a "natural" gender designation — even electrical outlets ("male" plugs, "female" sockets). So natural, in fact, that we all have come to assume, automatically, that we "know" the qualities and "natures" of genders without having to think about them. Andrew Samuels writes, "The fact that a penis penetrates and a womb contains tells us absolutely nothing about the psychological qualities of those who actually possess such organs."9

But "nature," too, is a metaphor, an archetypal image of what we call certain aspects of reality: "nature" as if it were "essence," as if it were "prima materia," as if it were what the world looked like before human intrusion. "Nature" is not to be taken literally as a system of incontrovertible "laws" of behavior. Conclusions drawn from a literalized conception of "nature," and "knowledge" thus claimed about "gender," are mostly projection and assumption (or occasionally given the dignity of "mystery"): not "objective" data, certainly not "neutral" scientific data, but fantasies that are the psychic data of men.

Consider the old fantasy of women as somehow "closer to nature." Even if women were once "by nature" more related to the natural world, primarily through their ability to bear children, it does not follow that woman's essential psychological "nature" is identical to that of the animal or vegetative world. It is possible that the instinctive "need" — if it ever was that — to be a "mother" has gone through a mutation, programmed out of large numbers of women.

Women's instinctive response to danger, for another example, seems to have been weakened, conditioned, or beaten into near-extinction. What psychologists have seen as "natural passivity" in women actually may be the self-preservation instinct reduced to minimum strength. For centuries women have been told: "Don't fight, you'll make him madder; don't fight, you'll only get hurt worse; don't fight, it's not worth it; don't fight, it's God's inscrutable will; don't fight, it's not ladylike, not effective, not right, and certainly not very nice." After a long enough while, "do not" becomes "cannot." So now women have to learn to "get in touch with issues around anger." Meaning that female anger has become so remote one has to call long distance to get in touch with it, and that the normal experience of anger has been replaced with an issue around anger, removing its felt immediacy and reducing its life-sized emotionality to an issue: one step removed, no longer a generator of heat and passion. It is time we considered instinctive female rage and anger as an aesthetic response to a world made ugly by male violence.

For clarity, I could propose that the term "sex" refer to biology and anatomy: chromosomes, hormones, genitalia. Since these are descriptive rather than definitive characteristics, sex distinctions should be neutral as to value: a Y chromosome ought to be considered equal in value to an X chromosome, estrogen ought to be equal in value to testosterone, and a clitoris ought to be equal in value to a penis. But proposing such a specific use of the term "sex" is ineffectual: the possibility of giving equal value to sex characteristics as we "ought" would require that psyche become a culturally and historically blank slate, upon which we might write a fresh, neutral, equal-value version of human biology and anatomy. The word "sex" in human language is already loaded with history, values, and images, which attach themselves to "purely" biological facts. Announcing an academic, conceptual limitation on what we want the word to mean solves nothing, but is instead a denial of all that powerful load in the word.

Similarly, I could propose that the term "gender" refer to a socially defined role played by a male or female, a role through which a male becomes a "man" and a female becomes a "woman." Used in this context, gender has little to do with anatomical or biological sex, but a great deal to do with how the individual experiences her/his anatomical sex. "Gender" ought to refer to the psychic aspect of physical sex, inasmuch as cultural assignments of gender roles have been made exclusively on the basis of biological sex. But as with the term "sex," "gender" too is a loaded word, and so this proposed distinction — gender as psychic component of literal sex characteristics — is also ineffectual. Because gender and sex have been used as nearly interchangeable terms, and because cultural gender expectations are assigned according to anatomical sex characteristics, and because they have been yoked together in the cultural imagination for so long, another attempt to pour new meanings into old word-vessels is probably misguided.

All the more reason to dismantle Jung's animus concept: it not only confused sex and gender, it inferred wrong conclusions from false premises. Cut from poor fabric, there is no point in trying to re-fashion it.


The gender archetype determines how we understand animus/anima, and may be the root metaphor, the root idea behind Jung's conception. Jung spoke of animus/anima as archetypes, but as he described it, the animus may more accurately be called a stereotypical male representation of a woman's psychology as he perceives it through the gender archetype. In this case, Jung has mistaken the symptom for the cause, or the image for the form.

One of Jung's undeniably great contributions to psychology is his archetypal theory, a way of perceiving and appreciating psyche's depth without attaching moralistic judgments to its images. As archetypal forms, animus/anima are supposed to be value-free; in the gender-language of their spawning archetype, they should be "neutral." But the words themselves retain both the genders of the original Latin words and the meanings attached to cultural definitions of masculinity and femininity. The most essential (though not exclusive) meaning of "animus" in Latin is, "the activity of breathing," while "anima" refers to the breath itself.10

Jung's theory of animus/anima never was and still is not value-free or neutral; it carries the definitions and values assigned by Jung's culture to masculine and feminine genders. The culture of America in the 1990s is only a slight variation on the cultural heritage which informed Jung; its roots in the Western world reach back so far that to "know" a different world we would have to return to a time before collective memory. We still live in a world where the activity of breathing is more important than the quality of breath.

By assuming that description of the animus sufficed for definition, Jung failed to recognize the epistimological trap in his animus pronouncements, and the danger, as Demaris Wehr pointed out, that "the culture will confer ontological and normative status on such [archetypal] images, turning them into stereotypes."11 Just as Jung did not adequately or accurately distinguish between the "masculine," the "man," and the "animus" in women's psychology, so he speaks indistinguishably both about and from the animus. Angelyn Spignesi makes the point:

The distinction between epistimological assumptions and statements about an archetype is a critical issue. It's one thing to say: this was believed then so we have to look at the manifestation of the archetype in that consciousness; it's another to imply that since it was believed, then it is the archetype.12

"Archetypes," observed Claire Douglas, "are not excuses for the status quo."13

For centuries now, culture has genderized human qualities by defining some as "masculine" and some as "feminine." Our culture has then arranged these gendered qualities in a hierarchy, assigning "masculine" superior status and "feminine" inferior status. Feminist scholarship in particular has shown the marvelous subtlety and intricacy of this hierarchical arrangement and the ways it works psychologically, politically, and socially, to reinforce the idea of "masculine" superiority and "feminine" inferiority.

Jungians cast the individuation process, the process of becoming a complete, differentiated individual, in terms of "integrating" these masculine-feminine polarities, called animus and anima. The Jungian ideal is that masculine and feminine qualities should be equal to each other in value and balanced in consciousness.

But what we call the animus and the anima are really partial, arbitrarily assigned cultural representations from the gender archetype: in traditional Jungian theory men get the "feminine" half called anima, women get the "masculine" half called animus. And though these halves make a theoretical whole when placed side by side in Jungian theory, the cultural assignment yet prevails in our attitude, and places them not side by side, happily conjoined, but as upper and lower — consciousness above, the unconscious below, masculine above, feminine below. Whether or not this is how it is supposed to be in theory, this is how it is in fact. Interpretations of spatial arrangements and placements in dreams and drawings are still made according to this hierarchical above/below construct (and not by Jungians only), and modern psychotherapeutic language is loaded with unconscious moralism, as in: valuing progressive action over regressive reflection, valuing assertive behavior over a "submissive" attitude, "getting over" the "lowness" of depression (associated with female inertia), having a "higher" rather than a "lower" power.

And yet, for a long time now it seems, Jungians keep writing about the process of individuation in terms of "integration" of the opposites, as if these profoundly unequal "halves" can indeed be made equal in consciousness.

As we go on, it will become clear that the content of Jung's concept of the animus derives far more from cultural stereotype than from a priori archetype, and that the concept is so one-sidedly skewed to reinforce hierarchical genderization (not to mention misogyny) as to be useless in understanding women's psychology. It also will become increasingly apparent why "animus" must be separated from its assumed connection with sexuality. And eventually we will remove the term "animus" from our psychological vocabulary. With all due respect to Jung, it is time to consign the animus concept to a museum of old psychological ideas.


"I can't explain myself, I'm afraid, Sir," said Alice,
because I'm not myself, you see."
"I don't see," said the Caterpillar.

—- Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

The archetype of gender works unconsciously, shaping our expectations of behavior. Under its influence, and in accordance with enculturated attitudes, we assume that a man or a woman enacts one set of gender characteristics more "naturally" than another. We expect the male gender (called "men") to manifest "masculine" biological attributes and certain behaviors, and the female gender (called "women") to manifest "feminine" biological attributes and certain non-masculine behaviors. (Since men have written the definitions and scientific studies, "feminine behaviors" are unknown in themselves and therefore are inferred from identified "masculine behaviors." Thus we know what "feminine behavior" is not, but not yet what it is.) We expect males and females to somehow embody, respectively, the "masculine principle" and the "feminine principle."

But clearly, the alert reader will protest, the "masculine principle" is not the same thing as a male person, and the "feminine principle" is not the same thing as a female person. Any person of either gender can embody both principles. And since we can, we should, especially since individuation according to Jung requires it.

The fact is, however, that we do assign principles to persons, and even equate them. The fact is, we do literalize the principles into persons. Individuals are given culturally defined gender assignments according to their sex, and this happens at birth, usually color-coded in pink or blue, and the assignment is for life. We find unprincipled persons far more frequently than we find an unpersoned principle. Psyche personifies principles, or archetypes; that is how we know what they "look" like. But the particular problem with the masculine principle is that it is both the principle we see personified in male forms and by which we interpret the feminine principle.

The amalgamating of principle with person, or psychic image with literal fact, can happen with any archetypal configuration; identification with any archetype can happen to anyone. The singular difficulty with the animus is that we are all identified with it, and by it. It is the lens through which we see virtually every phenomenon, every other archetypal pattern, how we understand what we see and how we value what we see. For examples: law perceived through the animus takes on animus qualities: law as transcendent (no one is "above" it), having a divine origin (from a male deity), a clear system of sharply-defined right/wrong conduct, "objective" evidence, upholding ideals of "impartiality" and "justice." Animus-style religion emphasizes transcendence, enlightenment, rejection of ("female") materiality. Psychology understood through the animus is imagined as a "science" concerned with "measurement" and "assessment," emphasizing mental orderliness, conceptual terminology, emotional self-control, clear diagnosis (literally, "through-knowledge"). Hillman suggests that even what psychology calls "ego" is an "animus idea," a thought we will return to in Problem Four. And so on: western civilization and culture is the world of animus-image seen from the perspective of the animus archetype. Think of Rodin's "The Thinker" thinking: the "masculine principle" contemplating itself.

The equation of the female/male principles with persons happens often and disappointingly in Jungian thought. In Erich Neumann's classic work, The Origins and History of Consciousness, the index entry for "women" reads: "women: degradation of, 340n; and religious worship, 143; see also anima, feminine, femininity." The "see-also" is not merely a casually related association. Jung himself often uses the terms "anima" and "woman" interchangeably, and sometimes adds a phrase like "feminine weakness" to make a similar equation. In his essay on "Anima and Animus" he writes: "The persona, the ideal picture of a man as he should be, is inwardly compensated by feminine weakness, and as the individual outwardly plays the strong man, so he becomes inwardly a woman, i.e., the anima...."14 In Addiction to Perfection, Marion Woodman seems to recognize the problem:

Masculinity and femininity are not matters of gender, though historically in our Western culture their long identification with gender still makes it difficult for us to view them in this "liberated" war. It is this liberated view of masculinity and femininity with which I shall be dealing throughout this book. It is a matter of psychic rather than biological differentiation.15

But soon she, too, falls into the old way, as most of us do, attaching principles to persons. Interpreting the myth of Kore-Persephone raped by Hades, Woodman states:

That is the archetypal pattern: the woman has to be separated from the mother, and for that to happen she has to surrender to the masculine principle—externally or internally. Either the external man carries her off sexually or she identifies with her inner man; in either case she is in danger of animus possession.16

It is the man who personifies and embodies the masculine principle; it is a he, not a she, who is the external manifestation of the internal principle. "Man," "male," "masculine" are interchangeable.

There are deeper questions raised if we do not take for granted these assumptions: What is happening psychologically in a woman who is "carried off sexually" by another woman? Must a woman be separated from the mother? Listen closely and you will hear the patriarchal voice convincing women, and men too, that women must separate from "the mother" (and turn to men in sexual and emotional allegiance), accusing women of infantile "regression to the womb" if they don't, but requiring that women become the "mother" at the same time.

Edward Whitmont also recognizes the problem, tries to solve it, then falls into it again. In Return of the Goddess he writes, "Masculinity and femininity as a priori archetypal traits are to be differentiated, then, from individual male and female persons. Thus we can avoid the confusion inherent when we fail to distinguish between personal and psychological problems from their religio-cultural determinants."17 In the hope of avoiding "the terminological confusion of gender and sex, and having to explain over and over again the differences between masculinity and men, and femininity and women," he suggests we "use the words animus and anima to denote archetypal masculinity and femininity respectively, regardless of whether they apply to women or men."18

Ah, but it is not so easily done. Whitmont continues the equation of woman with anima (e.g., a man's "woman within, the anima,") and of man with animus, interchanging the terms ("the woman without or the anima within")19, as if the anima (feminine principle) is an accurate interiorization, a symmetrical counterpart, of a woman (female person). He recognizes that the function and qualities of "anima" belong as much to women as to men, and conversely so for "animus;" but he seems to assume that they are nearly exact counterparts as the contrasexual psychic figures, and therefore not characteristic of a person's consciousness — i.e., that a woman's "masculine" traits are not essentially charateristic of her conscious attitude.

Whitmont's work leaves us with the disquieting sensation that the old equations are still being made to carry reformed and refined meanings, with the result that the reformation and refinement slip unnoticed out of consciousness and nothing truly new is gained. Equally unsettling is the continuing notion that "contrasexuality" works psychologically the same way for everyone, an idea we will try to dismantle in the fifth of our problems, "Contrasexuality."

Andrew Samuels has come closest to reformulating the most pressing questions that need to be addressed by Jungian psychology. In The Plural Psyche: Personality, Morality, and The Father, he moves away from the "hamstringing" insistence on contrasexuality to the theme of difference as a basis for discussion of gender. Not innate "opposites," which he refers to as "an unjustified psychological division expressed in lists of antithetical qualities, each list yearning for the other list so as to become 'whole'. A marriage made on paper."20 Samuels is referring to the fact and experience of "difference" itself, wanting to know "what difference is like."

Not what a woman is, but what being a woman is like. Not the archetypal structuring of woman's world but woman's personal experience in today's world. Not the meaning of a woman's life but her experience of her life. Each person remains a "man" or a "woman", but what that means to each becomes immediate and relative, and hence capable of generational expansion and cultural challenge. My suggestion has been that paternal deficits constrict the expansion and truncate the challenge.21

Following Berry's earlier lead, Samuels also argues eloquently for the necessity of some "gender confusion," which he considers a "necessary antidote to gender certainty and has its own creative contribution to make...Inadvertently, those who propound a 'feminine principle' play into and replicate the dynamics of unconscious gender certainty, denying gender confusion."22

Though we think of the "masculine" and "feminine principle" as abstractions floating in a disembodied psyche, we are accustomed to seeing them embodied. These "principles" appear as "principals," in person, in the flesh, in persons of each sex. While any "principle" may be personified as an imaginal figure in dreams and fantasies, it takes on flesh and a profoundly greater and different substantiality in concrete human form.

When masculine/feminine "principles," with their culturally pre-defined contents, are coagulated into actual human beings, it becomes virtually impossible to separate the imaginal from the literal. These two principles are, or certainly seem to be, especially resistant to "seeing through" the literal person (woman or man) to the imaginal personification of the principle. Because the collective psyche is so saturated with age-old visions of what "masculine" and "feminine" look like, it can scarcely imagine these principles looking like anything other than a "man" or a "woman." A man is just what the psychic configuration of the masculine principle is supposed to "look" like, and the masculine principle is supposed to "look" like a man in its physical embodiment. The same holds for a woman and the feminine principle. If a man or woman does not embody her/his own gender principle, they are thought to be"unnatural," one of those automatic condemn-ations that constellates fear of the "unnatural" as "perverse," enforcing the psychosocial adherence of person to principle, and vice-versa.

Despite warnings, disclaimers, conceptual hairsplitting and theoretical distinctions, the fact is we usually do link masculine with male and feminine with female — and deflect from the literalization by calling it "animus/anima." Then, individuation requires that the "opposite principle" ("naturally" unconscious) be integrated into consciousness.

But given the severity of cultural devaluation of the so-called "feminine" principle, why on earth would anyone, man or woman, want to integrate it? Male institutions of theology, psychology, medicine, politics, heterosexuality and all forms of art historically have defined "feminine" as inferior, weak, lower, disordered, chaotic, sinful, alien, and the source of just about every sexual trouble known to man. From the male perspective, woman is not only Other, but also Outsider. Vivian Gornick, in an early essay entitled "Woman as Outsider," wrote with passion and insight about women's condition:

The terror of felt sexuality is the terror of our lives, the very essence of our existence. It pervades the culture, manifesting itself not only in the bodies of religious codes but in every aspect of moral law, every nuance of custom, every trace of human exchange, soaking through social intercourse: it is there in restaurants, on buses, in shops, on country roads, and on city streets; in university appointments and government decisions and pleasure trips and the popular arts... And deeply woven into the fabric of this cultural cloak is the image of woman: woman, the temptress; woman, the slut; woman, the heartless bitch—luring men eternally toward spiritual death, making them come up against what they most fear and hate in themselves, pulling them down, down, down into the pit of themselves....Woman herself is not locked in this profound struggle with the self; she is only the catalyst for man's struggle with himself. It is never too certain that woman has any self at all. What is certain is that onto woman is projected all that is worst in man's own view of himself, all that is primitive, immature, and degrading: all of his sloth and weakness is there in full vibrance, and only a shadow of those higher emotions that will flame into full life in himself alone.

....Of course, there is also an opposite value to this exaggerated mythic projection of woman—equally exaggerated, equally mythic, equally difficult to bear. The man who reviles the slut slavers at the feet of his mother. If woman is not temptress, then she is goddess. She is all, then, that breast-beating man would be if he were not the craven creature that he is. Woman-the-mother is the golden ideal, the convenient repository for man's most unexamined, unwanted, sentimentalized, suffocating, ahuman notions about his own composite being She too is a creation of his adolescent dreams, of his frightened longing that life should only prove not to be what he deeply suspects it is.

....the final mythic outsidedness of woman is that ultimately she is beyond sex. Steeped in sex, drugged on sex, defined by sex, but never actually realized through sex, she has gone beyond it, she has gone through it, she is on the other side.

....I am not real to my civilization. I am not real to the culture that has spawned me and made use of me. I am only a collection of myths. I am an existential stand-in. The idea of me is real—the temptress, the goddess, the child, the mother—but I am not real. The mythic proportions of woman are recognizable and real; it is only the human dimensions that are patently false and will be denied to the death, our death.23

Collectively, men continue to (dis)regard women, both as a class and as individuals, as outside the culture. A few cabinet appointments and a few more women in the Senate do not constitute a revolution. Women continue to have their thinking and feeling shaped and governed by male tutoring in ways that are more or less subtle, but always with some degree of unconscious coercion. In terms of her own desires and needs, a woman's conscious "expectation" is often a hidden, unconsciously imposed, cultural requirement. Such tutoring and coercion is manifested in every kind of behavior, from the way a female candidate for political office speaks to how any woman should (or should not) cross her legs when sitting down. In spite of more than twenty years of (only the most recent) feminist attempts to educate both men and women, through scholarly writing, research, litigation, and any other avenue available, the root image, the primal assumption, of woman as Outsider has not changed significantly. The male-dominated culture still does not perceive her as "inside" her culture's life, still less is she considered a creator of culture. Not too long ago, political analyst William Schneider commented: "In abortion the women's movement has an issue that could enable them to break into the mainstream."24 The question is: Where were we breaking in from?

Since "masculine" qualities are more desirable than "feminine" qualities, they are more easily integrated into psychic and social life, and both men and women are encouraged to manifest them. As always, however, there is a proviso for women: some masculine qualities are desirable (such as rationality, objectivity, self-discipline), but others are not because they make women appear less sexually attractive, or as what men perceive as "competitive" (which is the derogatory word for "equal"). This makes women "unfeminine" or "unwomanly," an effective blaming device used to "keep women in their place." Such qualities as ambition, analytical reasoning, and pride in oneself, are too "manly" for a woman to show blatantly, and because they appear in a female body (and therefore "against nature"), are likely to be called aggression, frigidity, and bitchy arrogance. The psychological person knows that things are not always as they appear, but in our world, appearance is still nearly everything. One of my colleagues put it succintly when she remarked, "It's okay to be a thinking woman if you look like Barbara Walters, but not if you look like Mary Daly."25

The prejudice appears most obviously, perhaps, in the gendered meanings of dress, where fashion is the vehicle through which the value of masculinity is reinforced. In the corporate world, power and authority are among the highest values, and these belong to men who "naturally" embody them. Here are some words of fashion advice to professional business women, loaded with unintentional metaphors, from Emily Cho, a "personal image and shopping consultant," interviewed in the New York Times:

Whether a woman wears a jacket depends on the pressure on her to be authoritative. A dress with shoulder pads can also suggest authority. But there should be no hint of even the top of the cleavage in V-necks. No cutouts. No strapless. No see-through, not even with a camisole. No lace tops. No soft, messy fabrics. Sleeveless is not even right. A cap sleeve is the most sleeveless you can go, if it has shoulder pads or the illusion of shoulder pads so you haven't lost your look of authority.26

And Susan Shebairo, a consultant at Saks Fifth Avenue, agrees: "A young woman starting out definitely needs a jacket to give her a very strong appearance."

Why this emphasis on strength and appearance of strength, and why this equation of strength with authority, if the "feminine" is just as valuable and important as the "masculine?" In fact, why this emphasis on "appearance," which is supposedly one of the ways Anima seduces men into mistaking illusion for reality? Why do women have to give the impression they are strong and authoritative in exactly the same way as men, yet be careful to convince men they are really quite harmless and unthreatening at the same time? Though this next example is more than thirty years past, it is still disturbingly current: I remember my mother telling me, circa 1958 when I was sixteen, that after I got married ("of course you'll get married"), I could do anything I wanted because I was "very smart." Then, fifteen minutes later, she would remind me not to let boys know how smart I was, or else they wouldn't marry me.

How is a woman who is interested in individuation supposed to value the "feminine principle" as highly as the "masculine principle" when there is neither precedent nor incentive to do so? Even in the American Armed Services, where genderized functions have perhaps been most nearly eliminated, gender difference is retained in dress codes. While work uniforms for men and women are essentially the same, she still wears skirts for certain ceremonies while he wears — of course — pants. This is a way of collectively saying that even though there are spheres of life where gender supposedly makes no difference, difference and its attendant hierarchical status must be publicly preserved anyway, so that no one forgets who really wears the pants. Thus, no fundamental assumptions about gender need be challenged, or changed. (Presumably, if men were less fearful of blurred gender distinctions, they could wear skirts too.)

Whatever inroads have been made to elevate "the feminine" to equal status have mostly turned out to be cul-de-sacs. As we were talking about this one day, my partner asked me, "Remember Alan Alda? How popular he was about ten years ago?" And I remembered that he enjoyed a surge of popularity for a while when the public, and women particularly, were charmed by his "feminine" qualities of "sensitivity," "vulnerability," "tenderness," which he conveyed with an endearing boyishness that somehow did not diminish his "masculinity:" moral clear-sightedness, strength, sexuality. Many women expressed the wish that their own men might be "more like Alan Alda," including some of my own women analysands who occasionally brought in dreams of Alan Alda as a lovable boy-man who appeared as counterpoint to their less-appealing husbands or lovers. But very quickly there was a backlash from the male-dominated media which introduced the phrase intended to get men back on the old track: "Real men don't eat quiche." And from there it was on to Rambo.

In spite of the obvious, actual social inequality between men and women, Jungians still imagine that "masculine" and "feminine" are equal principles, that the principles are clearly separable from the persons, and that individuation is like a balancing act, two sides together fair and equal, making an androgyne.

Never mind that no such well-balanced, symmetrical creature as an "androgyne" exists in nature. The "androgyne" may be less a splendid image of happy coniunctio than psyche's desperate attempt to escape from the tyranny of the gender archetype. In this literally impossible, unachievable image of dearly longed-for "union of opposites," the soul protests the extremes and literalizations of genderization, and the oppressive prejudices of gender-thinking. The figure of the androgyne is, after all, a mental abstraction, conceived fundamentally in "masculine/feminine" terms, not a true union, not a way of transcending or a way out of genderism, but merely a contrivance to force opposites together. It is used in the modern sense to deny or avoid the actual importance of gender and the oppressiveness of male dominance. Women probably like the idea of androgyny better than men: it's always been better to be at least half man than to be half woman.


The Physician says I have "Nervous prostration."
Possibly I have — I do not know the Names of Sickness.
The crisis of the sorrow of so many years
is all that tires me...
Please Sister to wait— ...

— Emily Dickinson (Letter to Mrs. J.G. Holland, 1883)

Moralism is the habit of assigning pre-determined, usually collective, moral (not eligious) judgments to human behavior and attitudes. Since "moralism" sounds old-fashioned and conjures up images of seventeenth-century Puritan Fathers and other dogmaticians, the temptation for open-minded democratic moderns is to imagine ourselves less moralistically inclined. But if moralism is not happening consciously, it is still happening unconsciously, even (and perhaps most insidiously) when one thinks an "objective" and "impartial" assessment is being made. And the therapized are not immune. Whenever we speak of an archetypal image in terms of positive/negative, we impose a moral value on it — and thereby pre-judge it. Pressed down under this burden to be "positive," "good," or "right," the soul eventually dries up, becoming rigid in its meaning and stereotyped in its imagination.

Moralism creeps through and permeates the entire field of psychology, including Jungian psychology, which abounds in positive/negative pronouncements. I suspect this is so at least partly because "positive/negative" designations are a convenient defense against ambiguity. While Jungian psychology fully appreciates the depth of meaning residing in symptoms, dream images and symbolic behaviors, Jungians, being human, are just as likely to look for avenues of retreat from psychic reality as any other practitioners — and perhaps more so, since Jungians tend to invite and engage with the deepest realms of psychic life as a matter of course.

Moralizing belongs to the "ego," and "positive/negative" labeling is a defense against immediacy of psychological experience.

Jungian psychology is also subject to moralism when it perceives itself as a "spiritual" endeavor: individuation as a way of salvation. Spiritual exercises invite or presuppose a moral underpinning. While archetypal reality precedes any specific religious creed, the archetypal images that appear in the western psyche take are cast in the framework of Christian morality. Jung himself, a lapsed protestant son of a despairing protestant father, set the tone and precedent, devoting much of his attention to the figure of Christ and the Christian mythos. But even more deeply, he was psychologically "christian" by heritage and inclination — and his theories everywhere echo it.

Where there is moralism, there is psychic repression. Moralism is quite different from conscious morality, and very different yet from a personal or collective ethic. Moralism does not provide a basis for individual relatedness and mutual human regard; it is a collectively formulated and legalistically applied set of rules and regulations, imposed from without. Moralism makes no attempt to understand phenomena, merely to judge it.

No image that appears, as in a dream, can be truly understood if it has already been judged. No new possibility, no new life may appear from the richness of imagination, no new meanings may enter consciousness to bring wisdom. Mythically, moralism belongs to Saturn, the old sterile paranoid God who devours his newborns, and whose repressive aspect may appear as harsh moral discipline and stern righteousness.

If the devouring Mother is labeled "negative," for example, what place can there be for "her" in the life of a moral person? Devouring and mothering can be imagined only in their negativity. The "negative" Mother must be domesticated, taught to accept and nurture; in a word, become "positive." This is one way moralism splits archetypes so that we think of them as inherently split, giving Ego the heroic job of "holding the opposites" together in some bearable tension.

Once we fall into moralistic languge, we lose intellectual and emotional specificity, individual detail, personal oddities and experience. We also lose the psychologically vital sense of ambiguity, subtlety, nuance.

Usage of such terms as "positive/negative" to describe psychological phenomena betrays the presence of a moralistic attitude. Because references to the animus as "positive" or "negative" are moralistic, they reinforce the misogynist attitude inherent in Jung's description of "animus." The moralistic violence in Jung's following comment is as chilling as any rapist's justification that he was "provoked" and that "she had it coming."

No matter how friendly and obliging a woman's Eros might be, no logic on earth can shake her if she is ridden by the animus. Often the man has the feeling — and he is not altogether wrong — that only seduction or a beating or rape would have the necessary power of persuasion.28


Some of you reading this may have gotten the impression over the years, as I have, that a man's "anima problem" is not quite as "nega tive" as a woman's "animus problem." Close, but not quite. For the man who consciously attempts it, his engagement with anima is a great struggle, often heroic (although one wonders, sometimes, why it must be a struggle, and why heroic). As Hillman noted, Jung placed "the entire relationship with anima...into the mythologem of the heroic ego and his archetypal fight with the dragon."29 The language of tough heroism then describes the process of anima integration by "conquest," reducing "her" from personification (of soul, and life) to function (of relationship between conscious and unconscious). It is a battle between darkness and light, obvious in its moralism and in the hostility of "masculine ego versus the feminine 'other'.30 The male ego in search of heroism creates the battle, and the battle creates the Hero, the mythic figure that inflates both the male ego to inhuman proportions and the "woman" to an inhuman adversary of demonic proportions.

In the arena of everyday life, in small but continuous attempts to integrate the anima, our hero finds himself caught and stuck and becomes mean or foolish, feeling lost, annoyed, frustrated, forced into a skirmish to confront or extricate himself from anima's many veils. In whatever way he does it, though, the man who so struggles with the anima often seems boyishly appealing, even endearing. And just because he struggles, he proves himself worthy and must surely win the support of a real woman he loves, who will help in the battle to differentiate himself. (Was this some of Jung's appeal to women who loved him?)

There seems to be, "in the air," a faint but unmistakeable suggestion that men have a hard time with anima and matters of the soul the same way adolescent boys have a hard time with sex — as something for which they can't quite manage to be fully responsible. This is one reason why women have to be convinced that they must "help" men control themselves, by not wearing sexually provocative clothing, for example. He cannot help but lose control if a woman provokes him, which he can explain as an "anima problem," assigning responsibility for his behavior to her. He is a fallen angel, she is the devil's handmaid.

But: when a woman has an "animus problem," her wrestling is not a heroic struggle but ungainly thrashing, rather like women's mud wrestling. No one sees anything heroic about a woman with an "animus" problem, and, because of the negativity of Jung's conception, the "animus" must be a problem. A woman identified as having an "animus problem" is "too much like a man," and thus is perceived subliminally as an obstacle to men and a threat that will rend the very foundation of society. Men (and women also, to the extent that they collude in maintaining the status quo) generally find it easier to encourage her to solve her animus problem than to insist that he and his brothers must change the social order.

A woman dealing with the animus does not appear to be struggling heroically, she is not appealing, she does not endear herself to a man. Jung accused "the intellectual woman" of being critically "disputatious" and "harping on irrelevancies." Such women, says Jung, "are solely intent upon exasperating the man and are, in consequence, the more completely at the mercy of the animus. 'Unfortunately I am always right,' one of these creatures [sic] once confessed to me."31

A so-called "animus woman" is characterized as mean, strident, aggressive, grasping, and "too" everything — too angry, too opinionated, too one-sided, too ambitious, too manipulative, too much like a man. Or, if these qualities are still uncon-scious in her, she appears empty, flighty, silly, foolishly girlish, hysterical, unfocused, and "too" everything — too emotional, too undisciplined, too dependent, too unreliable, too much like a woman.

This is decidedly a no-win situation, and may be at least a partial clue as to why nearly seventy percent of American psychiatric patients diagnosed as clinically depressed are women.

A man's "positive anima" is a mythic Muse who allegedly inspires him to create art, music, politics, economic theory; but a woman's "positive animus" only seems to give her access to something called "focused thinking" and a creative adaptation to the male world. Listen to Jung again: "Just as a man brings forth his work as a complete creation out of his feminine nature, so the inner masculine side of a woman brings forth creative seeds which have the power to fertilize the feminine side of the man."32

This is what she is good for.

Because a woman's animus is inferior to, or only a partial reflection of "real" masculinity — a sort of "second rate man" — a woman's creative power must also be inferior. Hence the culture acknowledges her creative genius only in relationships, in mothering children, and in sexually nurturing adult males — not in symphonies, art galleries, corporate board rooms, or political think tanks.

Jung insisted that women's consciousness was not inferior, "merely different from masculine consciousness." Then, in a grand statement of dismissal, he adds:

there are naturally fields of experience in a man which, for woman, are still wrapped in the shadows of non-differentiation, chiefly things in which she has little interest. Personal relations are as a rule more important and interesting to her than objective facts and their interconnections. The wide fields of commerce, politics, technology, and science, the whole realm of the applied masculine mind, she relegates to the penumbra of consciousness..."33 (Emphasis mine.)

This is just a pseudo-psychological way of saying that a woman's place is in the home.

Moralism loves the "by nature" argument because it proves "rightness." And the "by nature" dictum literalizes: the male fantasy of what a woman "really" is becomes literal "nature," the bottom line, her "true essence." The appeal-to-nature argument is an appeal to the literalist in all of us who wants to touch bedrock, wants to fix the fantasy, wants to "get to the bottom" of the mystery, and cannot tolerate the ambiguity, fluidity, and ambivalence of psychic images.

But the "nature" argument is also satisfying and convincing because it restates the apparently obvious. If, as in Jung's statement above, women rarely become actively engaged in commerce, politics, technology and science, then the obvious conclusion is that she is not interested, and further, it is not in her "nature" to be interested. The factors of exclusion are not considered in the argument from "nature," and indeed, the nature argument prevents such factors from being considered. Factors of exclusion are those social, political, economic, sexual and psychological theories and systems which, invented and maintained by men, become self-fulfilling realities and definitions of these fields as "essentially" male provinces.

When Jung says a woman "by nature" relegates "the whole realm of the applied masculine mind" to the "penumbra of consciousness, he mistakes the condition for the cause: the "masculine mind" has relegated woman to the penumbra of its consciousness. There, from a safe distance, the masculine mind's eye squints in protected curiosity and makes pronouncements about woman's "nature." In a stroke, Jung finds himself in bed with the sociobiologists, whose circular logic makes them the fascists of the social sciences: the male is dominant because we see male dominance, therefore the male is dominant by nature.

In Jung's theory, which generally agrees with other theories that purport to know woman's nature, a woman is in a much better position to relate consciously to the animus when she lives according to her "nature;" this makes the animus more "positive". If she kicks and flails against her "nature" (which is something men have called "feminine" nature), not only does she make animus integration difficult, such kicking is itself a symptom of a "negative" animus. The moral disapproval of the negative animus is unmistakeable, and to her, inescapable: the negativity attributed to the animus in her is heard in harsh, condemning moralisms from outside her as well — from the culture, and from the theory of animus itself.

Consider: How does "the positive animus" manifest in a woman? "He" manifests in a way that redounds to his glory, but not to hers. Whatever a man accomplishes "naturally," from his ego-consciousness, is attributed to the activity of the animus in a woman when she accomplishes the same thing. This kind of thinking puts a woman at a perpetual disadvantage, both in terms of how she is collectively respected as a woman and how she respects herself as an individual.

Theoretically, if the ego in a woman is "feminine," then it must be her masculine side, the animus, that accomplishes what a man's ego accomplishes: it plans, exercises will, focuses thought, values rationality, provides logical continuity, introduces her ("mediates") to the "whole realm" of masculine thinking, objectivity, etc. In short, a woman needs a man (however second rate) around her psychic house in order to accomplish anything mental or intellectual in an organized way, sort of like a hired brain-man to do her thinking, analyzing, focusing, for her.

This is, to put it gently, ridiculous. What self-respecting woman is willing to give credit to the "positive animus" for her own ego-self's accomplishment? Why should she? There was a now-famous question put to Jung decades ago: Does a thinking-type woman think well because of her typology or because of her "positive animus?" The question became famous because Jung couldn't answer. The fact that it rarely, if ever, occurs to anyone to pose this question about a man should send up at least a dozen red flags: genderism at work.

Yet Jungian theory still follows the collective, unconscious assumption that a man thinks in a rational, coherent, logical way "naturally" — and this after twelve years of Ronald Reagan, George Bush, and their intellectual heirs.34

The feminization of Jungian animus theory in recent years, apparent in a number of works on female psychology by feminist Jungian analysts and Jungian-oriented writers, has been a tremendous boon: women's experience perceived and understood from women's perspective. And yet the problem of how we understand even the most basic psychological terms remains, one of the most difficult being the notion of Ego. Most of the time "ego" is meant to be used generically, referring to either gender; but the western idea of "ego" is more accurately described as a masculine ideal of an "I." This is perhaps why the ego, as a psychic function, is so prone to moralizing about other psychic functions: it is the carrier of the masculine ideal image of masculinity, imaged usually in the Hero. "The moral dilemma," writes Hillman, "is in the nature of the ego."35

Dismantling the animus is hard enough, with its old trappings of male bias and sacrosanct values; it gets harder when we have to dismantle some ideas of "ego" as well. And along with this difficulty remains the problem of moralism, popping up in our books and conversations like weeds in sidewalk cracks, the invisible pernicious seeds everywhere underneath.


..when I, or any woman, complains of
male injustices — we must joke.
—- Hortense Calisher, No Important Woman Writer

The problem of the Jungian idea of animus is also a problem of how we understand "ego." In theory, the qualities we attribute to or expect from the ego are practically the same as those attributed to the animus. What, then, is the difference between a woman with a strong ego and a woman with a prominent animus? How do we tell the difference?

Just as Jung's animus theory is derived from male experience, so are his assumptions about female ego. As Wehr notes, Jung "fails to account in his model for the constant toll that misogynist society takes on women's egos, and thus he perpetuates an illusion of equality between men and women."36

"Ego," of course, is not to be taken as a literal entity, but as a psychic figure embodying one's personal identity. But male and female egos do not necessarily develop or are constructed in the same way, and certainly not in a cultural and social context which in various and subtle ways requires that they develop differently and emphasize different characteristics.

Mainstream psychology also dictates standards by which to measure "normal" gender identity — which is, in that style of thinking, almost identical to ego identity. To be disordered in gender presupposes a clear understanding of what gender is; but lacking that, we have substituted stereotypes. If boys and girls do not develop their gender identities along the stereotypical sexist and heterosexist lines laid down as "normal" in the APA bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (IV-R), they are "at risk" for an "onset" of "gender identity disorder" — a category of disturbance made to sound like a disease and useful as a scare tactic for social and sexual control. "Gender identity disorder," says the DSM, may lead to homosexuality — with the implication, of course, that this is a dreaded, if not fatal, outcome of little girls not playing with dolls and little boys not liking sports. (And this even after twenty years of the APA's own declassification of homosexuality as a "mental illness.") The rich possibilities in the image of Freud's "polymorphously perverse child" are here reduced to a "gender identity disorder."

Even though a girl may become ego-identified with her femaleness early in life, her ego, her sense of her individual self, develops in a collective psychological environment which is in varying degrees overtly or subtlely hostile to her femaleness. The notion of the "animus" in an adult woman as a sort of superior, alter male ego, without which she can do nothing seriously or of importance, does nothing to raise her undervalued sense of personal identity; and if her most solid source of self has a masculine face, she is divided against herself at her core.

Laced with moral judgments, the animus theory not only forces neutral qualities into moral cateogories of "positive/negative," it arbitrarily splits a woman's consciousness of herself as well, forcing her to give over to the "animus" what properly belongs to her female ego-identity. When Jung describes the animus as "the man, who is her mind,"37 he steals her mind and right to a mind, and hands it over to "the man." Equating "mind" with "man," Jung undercuts a woman's means of establishing individual identity, introduces mistrust about the source of her authority to act and think, and completely undermines her autonomy. Since she is "dependent" on "him" for her accomplishments, her own actual abilities are obscured on one hand and felt as fraudulent on the other. Nor can she ever be fully conscious her mind's limitations; "the man" decides this. And by defining animus as "the contrasexual" archetype, the theory also narrows her field of erotic and sexual interest (with implications we will take up in Problem Five, "Contrasexuality.")

If, as Jung supposed, the animus is a woman's "mind," her thinking cannot be authentically her own — which is to say she has no mind of her own — any more than her decisiveness, will, intention, or pride can be her own. Whatever tasks she accomplishes or goals she achieves she can take only partial credit for; her failures are charged as her ego's faulty "animus integration."

Since the descriptions of ego and animus are so similar, the theoretical waters become hopelessly muddied when we try to talk about either a woman's ego or animus — indeed, the terms are nearly interchangeable. It becomes virtually impossible to imagine what a female "ego" looks like apart from an animus structure, and this is probably why a woman with a "strong" ego is thought to be so full of animosity. The male-perceived interchangeability of "ego" and "animus" in a woman's psychology has its correlate in the concrete world: a woman has no independent reality apart from a man or from a male-sanctioned context. She is existentially incomplete without him, and no number of other women can make up for his absence. I remember a recent occasion when a male host at a restaurant greeted two women friends of mine this way as they entered: "Good evening. Are you two ladies alone?"

Jung answered the ancient question, "Does woman have a soul?" with a twist, saying she doesn't "have" a soul (anima), she is soul. It should follow, then, that a man doesn't "have" an animus, he is animus. In a man, so-called animus qualities belong "naturally" to his ego-identity: purposefulness, courage, opinionatedness, action, willfullness, decisiveness, animosity, etc. If these qualities accurately characterize a man's ego, why can they not accurately characterize a woman's ego? They are not gendered characteristics; they become genderized only after they are arbitrarily assigned to men or women. The gender archetype, bringing that powerful conviction of rightness as any constellated archetype does, convinces us that the cultural assignment is in fact not cultural but biological. Once again we mistake the shell for the nut.

In general, Jungians have been slow to recognize that the question of ego-animus confusion has been wrongly framed (i.e., in terms of gender and which qualities go where), leaping instead to a handy answer: of the man who appears "animus-possessed" it is said, "Ah, well, such a man has a serious anima problem, he is repressing his feminine side and she has got him unconsciously by the balls." Which of course is merely the old male prejudice of blaming animus-possession in a man on his anima, making it her "fault," a trick first tried by Adam in the garden.

Different and opposing views of how a woman's ego and the animus are related sometimes smack of men's anima confusion. For example, both Jung and Whitmont say a woman's ego is "feminine" because she obviously isn't a man; but Neumann says a woman's ego is "masculine" because even though she obviously isn't a man, consciousness (which is ego's job) is always masculine. In The Origins and History of Consciousness, Neumann draws the distinction between consciousness as predominantly masculine and the unconscious as predominantly feminine.

This correlation is self-evident [Neumann does not say to whom] because the unconscious, alike in its capacity to bring to birth and to destroy through absorption, has feminine affinities....Conversely, its opposite, the system of ego consciousness, is masculine. With it are associated the qualities of volition, decision, and activity as contrasted with the determinism and blind 'drives' of the preconscious, egoless state.38

Volition, decision and activity are thus qualities of the masculine ego; the feminine is an egoless state. There is no true counterpart to the masculine ego. For Neumann, a woman is by nature, by her feminine nature, in an egoless state; she comes to consciousness, or to the development of an ego, only through the activity of the masculine, the animus; she has no volition, no decisiveness, no independent action, of her own. Like Eve in the garden, she is merely an extra rib.

No wonder those damsels of medieval times were always in distress. No wonder women are still taught, albeit through subtle double rather than overt single messages, to wait for their knight in shining armor. Neumann inadvertently tells us a great deal about male psychology when he writes: "Ego consciousness stands in manly opposition to the feminine unconscious."39 (Emphais mine.)

What this all boils down to is: The more conscious I as a woman become, the more like a man I am; and the more like a man I am, the more animus-possessed I must be. This is the man-made double bind, the animus trap, for women.

The animus, as formulated by Jung, is less a genuinely "neutral" potential in women than a reflection of the historical experience in which women have been defined by, and in relation to, men. In works like Neumann's, and even those more recent that attempt to modify the theory's sexism, the habitual presumption of the animus' authenticity is validated by calling it "archetypal," a designation that seems to forestall challenge.40

A number of Jungian writers have recognized the need to "relativize the ego," to release it from its habitual heroic stance and its moralizing. But given the ancient tradition of glory accorded to man-as-hero, it is very hard to relativize the male ego — to get it, in classical Jungian terms, into proper relationship to the greater, deeper, more inclusive capital-S Self. After all, it is constantly being inflated with powers and abilities that belong to divinity. And this is what Jung said "the animus" is: an archetype producing images of such power that they are called gods, or, in our Western culture, capital-G God in the male singular. Mary Daly has stated the problem succinctly by saying that as long as God is male, the male is god.

Given the theory, it is virtually impossible for a woman not to be "animus-possessed" in the Jungian sense. She is either too full of "him" or too empty, possessed either way. If she fulfills the stereotypical role of the empty-headed, seductively weak female, she is thought to be possessed without her knowing it, in thrall to the image of "him" who rules her attitudes and behavior from his lair in the unconscious psyche. And while this role is encouraged and she often must play it in order to survive, she is simultaneously condemned and disparaged for it.

But as soon as a woman begins to develop a strong ego, a strong sense of self-definition, a consciousness of her own abilities and desires, and begins to act volitionally and decisively, then she is perceived as too full of "him," arrogant, aggressive, ungrateful for "his" activity in her. Imagine the Father's and the fathers' outrage if the Virgin Mary had said to the angel of the annunciation, "Why, thanks very much, but I have my own child to bear and my own book to write. Perhaps another time?"


Trudy the Bag Lady:

You'd think by now evolutiion could've at least evolved us
to the place where we could change ourselves.
Seems like evolution has just kinda plateaued out,
left mankind with a middle management problem.

—Lily Tomlin, in The Search for Sings of Intelligent Life in the Universe, by Jane Wagner

"Contrasexuality" means not only the figure of opposite sex in the psyche; as Jung constructs it, "contrasexuality" also means "heterosexuality." The powerful cultural bias in favor of heterosexuality is deeply embedded in Jung's theory of animus/anima as the "contrasexual" archetypes. The content and experienced effect of what Jung called "animus" is profoundly conditioned by the culture's pre-definition of masculinity and its valuation of superiority. And included in this pre-definition is an insistence on heterosexuality as the norm. By declaring heterosexuality the psychological, social and biological norm, patriarchal culture then uses it to support all other male-dominated institutions by ensuring that men retain power in sexual form.

Our questions begin with these two: What does animus have to do with sex, and does sexuality have to be "contra?"

Jung's theory posits the animus and anima as the projection-making factors in the respective psyches of women and men. These factors make the genderized projections that fly forth from each of us, and, since heterosexuality as the norm is the unconscious "given," these projections are presumed to be highly sexualized in erotic content. Based on the assumption that heterosexuality is always and everywhere "natural," the erotic object towards which these projections lustfully wing their way must always be a "contra," a person of opposite sex. Thus, when the animus is perceived by a woman in an actual man, the theory assumes that it is primarily a sexualized projection, and therefore the woman will experience either a sexual attraction to that man, a sexual repulsion by him, a sexualized conflict with him, or all three. The root assumption supporting the animus/anima "contrasexual" theory is that whatever gender a person is identified with (and there had better be no more than one), that person will "naturally" or always seek sexual satisfaction and fulfillment in the opposite sex.

The bias is everywhere to be found in Jungian works. In the classic 1942 work by Jolande Jacobi, The Psychology of C.G. Jung, (and in the 1968 edition as well), an analysand's drawing of a female and male figure facing each other is used to illustrate "the Right Coniunctio," symbolizing "the individual's relation to the contrasexual. It represents the true, creative union."41 In the next drawing, from an alchemical work, Jacobi refers to the figures of Sol and Luna as the "masculine" and "feminine," and then equates the masculine-feminine union with man-woman union (an illustration of "the common effort of man and woman in the living work of the coniunctio"42).

It is this kind of literalization that keeps heterosexual unions fixed in the collective mind as the "true, creative" ones, so that unions of affinities and conjunctions of likenesses appear false and sterile, or do not appear at all. This is how we stay unconscious, and moralistic as well. And this is also one of the ways in which classical Jungian psychology has kept itself strangely asexual. Since Jungians tend to not talk (publicly) or write much about sex — preferring to follow Jung into the aerial world of transcendent symbols — the sexualization of "contrasexual" assumptions are not challenged and remain largely unconscious "givens," i.e., biases.

Sexual attraction is one of those things that everyone experiences but no one can quite define. Sometimes it has to do with chemistry and physics, a physical sensation of tension seeking release, or an unspeakably wonderful, possibly shocking, sometimes sudden, rearrangement of all one's molecules. Or it erupts as the raw instinct to touch, stroke, grab, squeeze, press, caress — the soul in its most tactile form, urgently wanting, and wanting body. Sometimes sexual attraction comes from the stimulus of beauty, an aesthetic response of the heart as well as the genitals. Sometimes it has to do with alchemical secrets, dangerous and satisfying operations done with secretions, fluids, and flesh. Sometimes it has to do with the desire for "gnosis," the lust to know someone so intensely that it is impossible to tell where the body stops and the soul begins. And sometimes sexual attraction has to do with all sorts of metaphors of perversion: bondage, slavery, compulsion, degradation. Each one of us has to find out what turns us on, and then we know what sexual attraction is.

Our culture habitually and automatically puts sexual attraction and otherness together, and equates "sexual other" with "sexual opposite." Once equated, distinctions become blurred or lost, leaving us more confused about both "otherness" and "attraction." ("Experience shrinks," as Berry noted, when perception is only through the gender archetype.43) Not only do we assume that the Other is the opposite, we also assume it "naturally" makes for sexual attraction, and therefore must be male in the case of a woman, and female in the case of a man. "Contrasexuality" means heterosexuality — not homosexuality, not bi-sexuality.

From Jacobi again:

In the first half of life contact with the opposite sex aims above all at physical union with a view to the "bodily child" as fruit and continuation; in the second half the essential becomes the psychic coniunctio, a union with the contrasexual both in the area of one's own inner world and through the carrier of its image in the outer world.44 (Emphasis mine)

And Woodman states: "The virgin needs a male bride-groom, whether actual or spiritual, to complete her."45

Contrasexuality forces us to speak of sexuality in the singular, only one kind, rather than of "sexualities," plural, imagining a variety of sexual dimensions, sometimes having only a coincidental connection to biological sex and social gender, or perhaps none at all.

We are so accustomed to thinking of "otherness" as a difference of kind, that we forget it might also be a difference of degree, found on points along a continuum. And yet alchemical conjunctions may happen between "sames" as well as between "opposites," individuation may take place through unions of affinities as well as through unions of opposites, consciousness comes through recognition of likenesses as well as through dissimilars. Psychological thinking in terms of "opposites" is especially constrictive since the very idea of "opposites" is usually illusory, arbitrary, and value-biased.

The root assumption of Jung's theory of animus as the archetype of the "contrasexual" is that we are all, by nature, heterosexual beings by inclination as well as capability: that heterosexuality is the beginning and central point of reference for understanding all human sexuality. Since Jung saw heterosexuality everywhere, his hypothesis of animus and anima as the makers of contrasexual projections are thus self-fulfilling definitions. And like Jung, we see heterosexuality (contrasexuality) everywhere, not so much because it is natural and universal, but because it is the only kind of sexuality of which our animus-possessed culture approves. We have monosex, as we have monotheism.

The "contrasexuality" of the animus is the most difficult aspect of Jung's animus theory to dismantle, because the idea of heterosexuality as normative for all behavior and desire is so deeply rooted in our culture. The last twenty-five years, in particular, of the efforts of women to free themselves from introjected male ideas have gone a long way to dismantling the most blatant inadequacies and inaccuracies in Jung's thinking about male-female characterizations. But women as well as men have collectively and unconsciously inhaled the toxic fumes of homophobia — "fear of sames" — making institutional heterosexuality still a bastion of male dominance and patriarchal moralism. Within the still-prevailing norm of male heterosexuality, the "homosexual" of either gender is the Other, just as woman is Other. Homosexuality has long been equated with femininity; both homosexuals and women are outside the "norm" in the creation of culture or visibility within the culture. Misogyny and homophobia go together: fear of women, fear of men who are imagined to be "like women," fear of women who are imagined to be "like men." Alchemical monstrums in our midst. Gay men and lesbians are unconsciously perceived as threatening to the collective mind not because they "recruit" sweet-faced children, but because they threaten heterosexual privilege and power on which the whole culture, including male-female relations, depends. This is true at an even deeper level for lesbians than for gay men, who still retain the privilege of maleness in a patriarchal culture. But lesbians are doubly outside the patriarchy — in their femaleness and in their sexuality — and thus their very existence "challenges its life."46

Jung considered homosexuality abnormal as a conscious orientation and not congruent with an adult sexual adaptation. Though he recognizes its symbolic value as inner homoeroticism, and the possible psychological necessity for some to go through a homosexual period, Jung does not consider it either mature or "normal" to stay there. Christine Downing has noted both the limitation and the gift we have from Jung:

Contrasexuality as the deepest truth of our inner and outer lives seems self-evident to Jung. This meansthat we cannot expect to receive from him an understanding of homosexuality that will see it as a valid form of adult sexuality. His emphasis on the psyche, on inner experience, also means that for Jung literal sexual expression, not only among homosexuals, is in a sense always a misdirection of a soul longing—rather than an appropriate expression of it.

Yet Jung's emphasis on trying to explore the psychical longings that we use sexuality to try to fulfill, his attempt to discover the symbolic meaning of our sexual fantasies and behaviors, may immeasurably deepen our experience of our own sexuality, whether we are homosexual or heterosexual, women or men. He reminds us to ask what age-old image of transformation or fulfillment is being reenacted here. We may regret that he never considers that to love another like oneself may represent not narcissism or immaturity, but a love directed toward the Self; that he never looks on same-sex love as signifying a longing for a love that is clearly not directed toward reproduction but toward psychical relationship, a desire to be free of being defined by cultural gender definitions. Nevertheless, the notion that homosexuality might express such meanings emerges from a way of looking taught us by Jung.47

In keeping with Jung's general identification of femininity with women and masculinity with men, his view of homosexuality is formed from those preconceptions. Male homosexuals, presumably identified with the anima, are like women — already prejudged as an "unnatural" occurrence.

The more homosexual a man is, the more prone he is to disloyalty and to the seduction of boys. Even when loyalty and true friendship prevail the results may be undesirable for the development of personality. A friendship of this kind naturally involves a special cult of feeling, of the feminine element in a man. He becomes gushing, soulful, aesthetic, over-sensitive, etc.—in a word, effeminate, and this womanish behaviour is detrimental to his character.48

And lesbians, identified with the animus, are "unnaturally" like men:

Generally they are high-spirited, intellectual, and rather masculine women who are seeking to maintain their superiority and to defend themselves against men. Their attitude to men is therefore one of disconcerting [to whom?] self-assurance, with a trace of defiance. Its effect on their character is to reinforce their masculine traits and to destroy their feminine charm. Often a man discovers their homosexuality only when he notices that these women leave him stone-cold.49

The moralism in these paragraphs is obvious; and the irony is lost on Jung that, while he evaluates gay men in terms of "character," lesbians are judged not by character but by the company they keep — that is, on their ability to be sexually attractive to a man. This is the same logic Jung employs when he describes anima/animus "possession" in men and women respectively.

With Jung's definition, the animus' designation as "contrasexual" forces an intimate connection between the animus and a woman's sexuality. In Jung's view, the health of a woman's sexuality is determined by her relationship to the "inner man;" once again, a woman's sexual maturity depends on a masculine referent. In Jungian terms, since the animus is projected onto an actual man, a woman is sexually attracted to or repelled by the man, depending on whether she has a "positive" or "negative" animus. If the woman has "worked through" the animus complex, the sexual attraction will remain after her positive projections are withdrawn; or, repulsion will become attraction after her negative projections are withdrawn. This is a one-way street: if a woman is not attracted sexually to a man, she hasn't got her animus complex right — yet. This attitude is only slightly less crude than the one expressed by a male psychotherapist to a lesbian friend of mine, who was his patient until he told her that what she "really needed was a good fuck."

Describing animus/anima as "contrasexual" not only locks us into literal gender thinking, it also forces us to make arbitrary and moralistic assignments as to where one's sexual interests ought to be placed: for the woman, always in the man; for the man, always in the woman. If an individual refuses the cultural assignment, or fails in carrying it out, we assume the presence of pathology: a negative mother complex in gay men, a negative animus in lesbian women, various borderline pathologies in bisexual women or men.

Why must sex always be "contra?" Given Jung's formulation of the animus concept and its intimate association with sexuality (the premise), the conclusion is self-evident: sex must be contra because it is contra. (It is a strange sort of logic in which the conclusion is the premise.) But there are other complicated questions as well: Why must sex always be imagined in terms of gender? In terms of opposites? How can we ever learn much about sex if we insist on implicitly judging all expressions of sex except the hetero- mode as developmentally incomplete, psychologically deficient, or socially unadapted?

Some renowned Jungians have written about homosexuality as if it were just a stage of immature development, an adolescent psychological phase to get through on the way to a "mature" heterosexual relationship. In Addiction to Perfection, Woodman suggests that some women, "Unconsciously identified with the masculine principle...try to find validation for their femininity through a lesbian relationship."50 She observes that a woman whose female body has been rejected by the mother almost inevitably goes through a period of lesbian dreams or lesbian acting-out because her body requires the acceptance of a woman. Usually this is only temporary and the woman's energy gradually turns toward men. If the lesbian phase has been carefully integrated, insuring that the feminine ego is firmly located in the female body, then the woman who has never been able to surrender to orgasm experiences a new world of sexuality.51

We are not told what happens to the lesbian who stays that way or to the heterosexual woman who leaves that "phase" for a lesbian relationship. Then too, we might wonder why, if a woman experiences acceptance and sexual pleasure with a woman, her leaving that for a man would not be considered regressive or even self-destructive? And if a woman in a "lesbian period" finds herself able to "surrender to orgasm" practicing lesbian sex, perhaps she ought to keep practicing — which, as my piano teacher told me, makes perfect.

Whitmont includes homosexuality among the "so-called perversions" and says it "expresses an urge for an as yet inadequately realized fulfilling of one's own gender; for a more adequate validation of one's femininity or manhood."52

Even though Whitmont does not intend his argument to do so, it supports the validity of homosexual orientation: given the ancient and deep misogyny of our culture, it is extremely difficult, and for some, impossible, to adequately validate "femininity" or "manhood" in heterosexual pairings. For a woman this is more obviously so, since she gets little validation of her femaleness from the male world except as she serves a sexually useful function for that world. For men, "manhood" is validated only in a few ways: sexual potency, athletic skill, and violence (from warfare to wife-beating). It seems the real question ought to be: Why do we insist on exclusively heterosexual coupling when "adequate validation" is as likely, or more likely, to be experienced in same-sex pairings?

The assumption that homosexuality is transitional or temporary, a sort of (un)dress rehearsal for real life as a "mature" heterosexual adult, is a crude and arrogant dismissal of lesbian and gay experience. It keeps homosexuality associated with adolescence and immaturity; and therefore the unions between homosexual couples of either gender are regarded as something considerably less than a "real" marriage or coniunctio: less important, less solid, less serious; called perhaps a crush, or an affair, or just a random coupling for a time.

The assumption of heterosexuality as universally "normal" is so ingrained in our culture's psyche that few question it; hardly anyone asks what "causes" heterosexuality. Heterosexuality is the locus of one of our culture's root neuroses, the place where we are adamantly one-sided. Since usually it is only life's "aberrations" that catch our attention, whatever is defined as "normal" tends to be taken for granted. That is, what is normal is what is unconscious. Precisely because we see heterosexuality everywhere, we really do not see it: what causes it, how it works, why it works, what it means, what else is there.

Heterosexism and its correlate, homophobia, are the great defenses against the splendid freedom and allure of the psychic figure Freud called the "polymorphously perverse child," which Jungians have transformed into the asexual divine child. In keeping with our culture's pervasive christianism, and our frightening ambivalence about real children, the psychic figure of the "child" has been stripped of all sexual possibilities (except when literalized by adult perpetrators of sexual crimes). Polymorphous sexual possibilities are projected onto homosexuals, in whom sex is then perceived as perverse and childish.

If we accept the premise that heterosexuality is the primary orientation of human beings, the norm of practice, the natural desire, and the goal of relational maturity, we must conclude that everyone individuates in the same direction, doing, feeling, and wanting the same sort of sexual and relational life as everyone else. In a stroke, the process of individuation becomes the process of collectivization.


The possibilities of the individuation process are severely restricted when individuation is conceived as meaning only "getting it all together," "uniting opposites," "integrating" whatever is felt as "Other." Rather, the art of individuation has to do with differentiating oneself, becoming different. It is a process of differentiation, of noting particulars, which may also be peculiarities. The individuation process in each of us may be better served if we began to think more in terms of wide-ranging eros between persons than narrow genderism between sexes; more in specific terms of sex than vague sexuality; more in terms of passion than principle; more in terms of imaginal possibilities than models of the psyche — even Jungian ones.

Our failure, or refusal, to consider dimensions of sexual experience other than hetersoexuality is a form of severe repression from which we all suffer. Such failure relegates a vast territory of the sexual imagination to a corner of the psyche labeled immature, stuck, regressive, sick or at least disturbed, and depending on one's religious orientation, immoral.

It is not only lesbians, gays, and bisexuals who may be thought to be incapable of full individuation; heterosexuals who do not reflect upon the nature of their own sexual inclination remain unconscious of all the collective assumptions about heterosexuality, and are thus forced to accept its values by default: that heterosexuality is really all there is, the whole thing and not just a part; that it is wondrously satisfying and prevents loneliness; that it means adulthood and maturity; that it cures sexual rejection and inadequacy complexes; that it is the golden archway to romantic love; that such unions are a foretaste of immortality because they "normally" last forever; that human psychosexuality and human reproduction go together as an obvious law of nature; and, most insidiously, that it is a matter of choice.

Consider this last assumption, for example. Heterosexuality is not really an individual conscious decision, a sexual "lifestyle" selected from among many possibilities. On the contrary: all of our cultural institutions work to compel it, our laws to preserve it, our psychologies to normalize it, our arts to glorify it, our religions to sanction it. Why so much effort to ensure heterosexuality if everyone will naturally and freely choose it anyway?53

Heterosexuality is a compulsive neurosis to the extent that it is unconscious; and like most neuroses, we cherish its familiarity and are convinced of its rightness. It is the blind spot, the unconscious point of reference for all psychologies of sex and within each of our psyches. And because it is compulsory for all of us (with various social and legal penalties for non-compliance), it does not easily lend itself to psychological reflection and is not open to serious question.

I suspect heterosexism and the patriarchal attitude it supports, are, at the root, a collective desperate male defense: a belligerent, resentful compensation against the reality that the primal power of life and death belongs to women. There is no guarantee in the male psyche that She will not, at some point, for some reason he will never understand, turn on him: deny his right of access to her body, exclude him from her emotional bounty, abort him in her womb, ruthlessly appropriate his money for her own need, create and exalt her own goddesses, callously let him slip from memory when she speaks her deepest desires. Nearly all the structures of western civilization — its theologies, laws, psychologies — from its Gothic cathedrals to Gothic novels, from the Pantheon to the Pentagon to Prom night — all these institutions, systems, and traditions, are constructed so that men need not face their fear and the tenuous source of their power.

And underneath it all is the precarious hope that she, the woman, absorbed in her "natural," God-given task of attending to him in all things, will not notice how fragile is the throne on which he sits.


The public and the private worlds are inseparably
connected; the tyrannies and servilities of the one
are the tyrannies and servilities of the other.

—- Virginia Woolf, "Three Guineas"

The question here is: "Where is the animus?" Where do we look to find the image of "him?" Are we more likely to "know" and "recognize" animus through a woman's dream? Through a man's heroic achievements? Through movies? Through a woman's sexual partner? All of the above?

Jungians have always had a penchant for speaking in terms of "inner" and "outer" experiences, even though there is no clear dividing line, for we know that "inner" and "outer" are simply two aspects of psychic life. The one presupposes rather than excludes the other. In fact, "inner/outer" designations miss the point entirely: all psychological experience is interior — not "inner" experience as opposed to "outer" experience, but as the "depth" of meaning of all experience.

Correlated to "inner/outer" designations is the "projection/introjection" dichotomy. Though Jung's theory does not assume a one-way channel, the usual tendency in applying it is to assume that archetypal images are first projected outward onto someone else or onto a collective body and then have to be taken in as psychological experience. As a psychological mechanism that happens to us, projection shows us ourselves on a big screen, "out there." That is where we "see" it, and are then able to recognize it as originating "in here." The old rule of thumb is: when you feel a strong emotional reaction to someone or something, projection is likely happening.

Jung, and most Jungians following him, tend to locate the animus (and anima as well) primarily in the individual psyche; it is then "seen" in the "outer" world as a "projection." The woman who is "animus-possessed" is thought to have an individual "problem," projecting her own "inferior masculinity" onto "real" men "out there." This conclusion (which is also a judgment) is fortified by self-fullfilling interpretations of the "man" in her dreams as an "animus figure."

But the difficulty with the placement of animus as an "inner" figure in a woman or as a projection to the "outer" world obscures the question of a deeper and more essential problem: What happens when an entire culture is "animus-possessed?"

The locus of the animus, the psychic place where we find it in its proliferation of images, is not "within" the woman at all. For this chapter at least, I am being very unJungian and not looking inward, because I do not think that the interior life of a woman spontaneously produces and "develops" the animus of Jung's conception.

While we are accustomed to thinking that what we see "out there" is "out there" because it is projected from "in here," we have to remember that if the animus is an archetype, it is merely a form; its content is determined by history and culture, and it is this conditioned content that we see manifested "out there." To find "animus" we must look first at the actual daily world because, simply put, it's a man's world; and so, for a woman, the world, in large measure, is animus.

For a woman as for a man, coming to consciousness involves, among other things, recognizing and withdrawing projections; but in the case of "the animus," for a woman it means recognizing the extent to which "animus" has been introjected. While it is certainly true that my personal responsibility for consciousness is not minimized by recognizing that the world was already here when I entered it, it is also certainly true that the man's world is not made by a woman's projection. Telling a woman to "take back" her "animus projection" from the world "out there" is like telling her to inhale carbon monoxide to cure her headache. Not all psychic experiences and images can be, nor ought to be, integrated by the "ego," especially when they may be toxic and hazardous to one's health.

Because our culture is a patriarchy, a woman's experience of "the masculine" cannot be simply the reverse of a man's experience of "the feminine." For her, the very air she breathes, the boundaries of her consciousness, the contents of her personal unconscious psyche, and the complete cast of the collective psyche, are full of The Man: his image, his history, his definitions, his requirements, his expectations, his needs, his desires, his threats, his power, his laws, his religions, his gods, his money, and his ambivalent, unrealistic image of her.

This is the world she lives in, a world of "his" making. The male of the human species, having declared himself for the past few millenia the center of his universe, becomes identical to, and identified with, divinity. From this supra-view, with the eye of a god, the world unfolds itself according to his perspective. The institutions he creates and perpetuates in his god-like power then — quite naturally — appear to be divinely sanctioned: law, religion, governments. The archetype of the animus has been invented and defined by men (and not only Jung), described entirely in terms of male psychology, and then applied to women.

It is not surprising that men are identified with the archetype. The image of The Man and the actual man have been too firmly welded together for too long for us to suppose that the situation can be remedied by making a simple conceptual distinction through conceptual words (as in the distinction between "principles" applied to "persons"). To paraphrase Audre Lord, we cannot use the tools of the animus to dismantle the animus.

Our culture has been not only perpetuated by the animus archetype as its dominant, it is also interpreted by the animus archetype. The world-view of both men and women is an animus-view, from the animus, through "his" eyes. This male archetype called "animus" is the lens through which we perceive and then define virtually every other archetype: we see law through the animus, with its codification of right/wrong, objective evidence, "fairness" and "justice." Religion through the animus insists on transcendance, enlightenment, and rejection of materiality. We see psychology through the animus, with its insistence on ordered personality, conscious rationality, literalized conceptions, and diagnosis (literally, "through-knowledge"). Seen through the animus, the institution of heterosexuality appears as both divine decree and natural law (since both God and Nature are defined by animus). Jung saw even the "anima" from the perspective of animus, identifying "her" with "woman," "the feminine," Eros, feeling, life, seduction, illusion — all those qualities animus-identified men have assigned to females, and which are then given legitimacy as "empirical discoveries" by calling them "archetypal."

Western civilization and culture is the world of animus-image seen from the perspective of the animus archetype. Man contemplating man. This is no place for a woman.