Why feminists can’t let go of an old, dead Austrian shrink – The Schlomo Side-Step explained.
It’s been said before, but it bears repeating, Professor. You have a certain type of brilliance. The brilliance lies in your ability to synthesize history, art, and literature into an engaging package of prose and counterpoint it against modern sensibilities concerning the relationship between the sexes. When first published, Sexual Personae (1991) was a tour-de-force. Nothing like it had ever been seen before.
That was then. This is now. Since becoming a minor celebrity, you’ve become provocative. You pick fights with other feminists. You pick fights with other academics. Provocation keeps you in the media spot-light. Such antics do nothing to enhance academic reputation or career longevity. The public is saturated with celebrities and their bad behavior, defining deviancy ever downward. Beware though, Professor. You have actual talent. There is a long list of people who have done valuable things or had insights into the human condition, only to squander their hard-won reputations. Celebrity is a heady experience. Like alcohol or drugs, people seek fame because they think it will alleviate whatever it is they think needs alleviating; a boring job, a tiresome spouse, a general dissatisfaction with life. Freud said similar things, although he used different language (1).
Which brings me to the topic at hand…your love affair with the good doctor. Freud too had the ability to synthesize words and ideas into top-notch literary prose. Unfortunately, (or fortunately depending on perspective) that’s all it was. Sorry to tell you this, but Freud is dead. He is dead both literally and figuratively. Very little of what he said has had any enduring value. And do you know why? Because none of it was true. It was all made up gibberish. It had no factual basis. It had no underpinning in what actually happens in the human psyche. Psychoanalysis, the Id, Ego, Super-ego, Oedipus Complex, etc, all of it was fake.
But here’s the really strange part. In spite of its dubious theoretical origins, psychoanalysis became a huge intellectual and cultural fad. A medical fad too. As a treatment for people’s emotional troubles, it caused more harm than good, really (2). It eventually faded away in the psychiatric profession after much soul-searching; but only slowly, taking 30 or more years to die. It does, however, live on in the public mind and in the mind of intellectuals. And why do intellectuals such as yourself find Freud so fascinating? It’s the sex, of course! No surprise there. Freudianism is saturated with it. But more importantly, it gives you a theoretical framework on which to build. Freud built his fantastical conceptual structure and others started piling on. You are not the first, Professor. In fact, you are late to the party. Very late.
You saw the game and you piled on too. The game is interesting because it seems to make the difficult to fathom – why people do the things they do – understandable. Mind you, it was and is a false understanding. Nevertheless, it is a fascinating game because it intellectualizes people’s behavior; making it easier to talk about on an emotionally detached basis. In the game of pile-on, me-too-ism, other ideas were tacked-on to gain the same level of credence, particularly in the criminal justice system. Without being attached to a solid theoretical scaffolding, you see, such ideas are only so much gobble-de-gook.
Why does this seem so appealing to people? Particularly intelligent people? Because it is a way to avoid constraints on human sexuality. And really…who likes being constrained? It is a way to side-step the whole issue of culturally imposed expectations on behavior. Wasn’t Freud clever? The Schlomo Side-Step (3).
The civilization-wide effect was to absorb the jargon and the underlying ideas such that everybody from truck drivers, to school-girls, to artists and musicians tagged along for the fun of it. They too could do psychoanalysis at home, on friends and neighbors, and particularly on love interests. Anyone could do it as well as the psychiatrists. Even better! Learn a few words and some principles by which the words are applied and Bang. Instant intellectual. Now everybody does the Schlomo Side-Step. Except for the really bad things that happen in people’s lives when they operate by Freudian principles, its all a great deal of fun.
Does this sound familiar Professor? But, and this is a really big but, you should know better. You should know Freud’s framework was fake; I mean, you being an intellectual and all. But you just can’t let him go. Like a narcissistic boyfriend with charming habits, it’s so, so hard getting rid of him. But let Freud go you must. Please. For your sake.
On the other hand, with Freud out of the picture, that would leave you with whom as inspiration? Oscar Wilde? Boy George? Good luck, madam.
- Civilization and Its Discontents; Freud S; Martino Publishing; Mansfield Centre; 2010
- Decline and Fall of the Freudian Empire; Eysenck, HJ; Transaction Publishers; New Brunswick and London; 1985
- Freud’s given name was Sigismund Schlomo Freud.