In Uterus Envy, Ilie Nasty Nastase  

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Some recent Romanian news led me to consider the possibility that many Romanian men suffer from an undiagnosed affliction: Uterus envy. Let us together discover what that means, and how this was already named “womb envy” by a psychoanalyst named HORNEY.

halep-nastaseI remember growing up, in my parents’ library, with the book “It would have been too beautiful” (Ar fi fost prea frumos in Romanian: gr-chirila), a book devoted to Ion Tiriac (an ice hockey player cum tennis player cum business man cum Boris Becker manager cum model husband cum father) who, with Ilie Nastase, won the men’s doubles in the 1970 French Open and reached the Davis Cup finals several times in the 1970s. Regrettably, Nastase, having had far less achievements than Tiriac, has become a fervent critic of Simona Halep. His rambling attacks make very little sense (za-hanasty) but I don’t think he’s simply trolling like Mihaela Radulescu aka Mrrr.

I’ve been trying to make sense of it (why are all these old timers picking on Simona?) and for a moment I thought it might be something like penis envy but for men. Then I thought of Jana Novotna and understood that maybe all these old farts criticize her because she’s so sweet, with her “girl next door” looks, and she makes winning seem so easy and within anyone’s reach, thereby making them feel unimportant and unaccomplished. Add to the mix their huge, long-ignored egos and the reality of having been forgotten or on the verge of being forgotten and you get all these attacks.

Still, it’s one thing to be attacked frontally, as you expect it on the tennis court, and another from behind, from people who were supposed to “have your back”, much like it happened to Monica Seles, who never fully recovered.

It is unlikely that Simona trained less or worked less than either Nastase or Novotna – if anything, she worked more. More importantly, she is far more centered and psychologically stable than either one of them. She doesn’t need “ego licking” in the way Nastase needed (and still does, despite having nothing to show for it). To be a player, to be a winner, to be a success, you need to develop far more than physical skill and physical prowess: you have to have a mind and a personality to sustain success, and that’s far less discussed, far less explained and far less understood. This is perhaps most evident in the matches between Simona and Serena. Serena has a slight advantage in terms of physicality, but Simona’s strength is her unrelenting psyche. While Serena’s physical prowess has at best flatlined and is most likely declining, Simona’s strength will likely keep increasing. Only time will tell.

This stuff is what makes the difference between a life lived well and one not worth remembering. This is what Getty was getting at with How to be rich (.CA, .UK, .FR, .DE, .IT, .ES), but did he follow his own advice (inbo-getty)?

Either way, you may vote for Simona to be the WTA Player of the month until Thursday at 11:59pm ET (wta-vote). She’s already been voted player of the month for February.


And then I’ve read about 30 Romanian gynaecologists (aka pussy doctors) who are pussying out of performing abortions for a week. It is, in their puny little minds and their priest’s interpretation, connected to and/or against the Christian Orthodox Easter, which is the most important celebration of the Romanian Orthodox Church. This comes after the Romanian media spread outrage over president Klaus Iohannis having dared to spend his [Lutheran] Easter with his family in Germany, then go to Madeiras (Portuguese archipelago) with his wife (kmkz-vac).

This “abortion strike” is a bit tough to swallow, especially since I learned about it right after having watched The Tribe (no, not the Uncontacted Amazonian ones), an “Ukrainian beauty” kind of movie where one of the lowest points is the painful abortion the young girl has to go through. Yet Romanians don’t need to look that far for the horrors of restricted abortions: 4m3w2d, Cristian Mungiu’s 2007 creation, is still one of the most talked about and celebrated Romanian movies and it is all about an abortion.

Before writing about uterus envy, a term I thought I had come up with myself, I thought I check if it hasn’t been used already. And guess what, a female psychoanalyst from the previous century has already used it, though she used mostly “womb” instead. Let us first recall what penis envy is.

Penis envy (German: Penisneid) is a stage theorized by Sigmund Freud regarding female psychosexual development, in which female adolescents experience anxiety upon realization that they do not have a penis. Freud considered this realization a defining moment in a series of transitions toward a mature female sexuality and gender identity. In Freudian theory, the penis envy stage begins the transition from an attachment to the mother to competition with the mother for the attention, recognition and affection of the father. The parallel reaction of a boy's realization that women do not have a penis is castration anxiety.

Staying true to Freudian psychoanalysis, we should be diagnosing the 30 gynaecologists (and, possibly, Ilie Nastase,) with castration anxiety. Luckily, psychoanalysis has evolved and we can now talk about a different, more feminist kind of envy, rather than anxiety.

So how did we get from penis envy to uterus or womb envy (w-penvy)?

Feminists argue that Freud's developmental theory is heteronormative and denies women a mature sexuality independent of men and for privileging the vagina over the clitoris as the center of women's sexuality. Freud's sociosexual theory has additionally come under criticism from feminists for privileging heterosexual sexual activity and penile penetration in defining women's "mature state of sexuality". Counter-critics have responded that feminists misunderstand penis envy, which was not intended by Freud to refer literally to the envy of the male physical penis but to be understood as an abstract, evolving force in psychosexual development. Penis envy is theorized as a discrete event and reoccurring force in psychosexual development, not as "envy of the penis," but is sometimes used inexactly in contemporary culture to refer to women who are presumed to wish they were men.

The “counter-critics” contention makes some sense: we reinterpreted the Bible, we certainly can re-interpret the psychoanalysis bible to adapt it to our changing times.

So who was the woman psychoanalyst who stole my thunder and came up with the envy term before I have?

She disagreed with Freud about inherent differences in the psychology of men and women, and she traced such differences to society and culture rather than biology. As such, she is often classified as Neo-Freudian. (..) Horney's mother died in 1911, an event which put much strain on the young Karen. Her marriage with Oscar proved consistent with the optional Freudian theory; he was just as authoritarian and strict with his children as Karen's own father was with his. During these years, Karen was receptive to having her children raised in this atmosphere; it was only later, during the 1920s, that her attitude towards rearing children changed. (w-kh)

Karen Horney (1885–1952) proposed that men experience womb envy more powerfully than women experience penis envy, because "men need to disparage women more than women need to disparage men." As a psychoanalyst, Horney considered womb envy a cultural, psychosocial tendency, like the concept of penis envy, rather than an innate male psychological trait.

Furthermore, in Eve's Seed: Biology, the Sexes, and the Course of History (.CA, .UK, .FR, .DE, .IT, .ES, w), historian Robert S. McElvaine extended Horney’s argument that womb envy is a powerful, elementary factor in the psychological insecurity suffered by many men. He coined the term non-menstrual syndrome (NMS), denoting a man's insecurity before the biologic and reproductive powers of woman; thus, womb envy impels men to define their identities in opposition to women. Hence, men who are envious of women's reproductive power insist that a "real man" must be "not-a-woman", thus they seek to socially dominate women — what they may or may not do in life — as psychological compensation for what men cannot do biologically. (w-wve)

(..) believed that the male bias in psychoanalysis actually reinforced and reproduced the devaluation of women. She changed her focus from the Freudian infantile origins of personality formation, distanced herself from Freud's belief that “anatomy is destiny” to develop a psychoanalytic system in which society and conflicting human relationships replaced biology as the main causes of neurosis (emotional disorder), and wherein social and cultural factors were considered the bases of gender identity and women's issues. (1) Horney rejected the concept of “penis envy” as both flawed and derogatory to women, and suggested a female view on girls’ sexual development and disturbances in the relations between women and men. She argued that lack of penis did not make women deficient, but in fact it was the other way around: men’s inability to bear children and women’s power of motherhood deeply troubled them, causing them dread, resentment and an anxiety that she called “womb envy.”

Karen Horney‘s theories of psychoanalytic feminism established the foundation of our current understandings of gender.  Contrary to Freud’s view that no major development occurs after the age of five, she believed in individuals’ ability to develop throughout their lives. She argued that penis envy and its concurrent envy of men in some women was a reaction to the manner in which girls were brought up by their parents. (ir-cogen)

This concept explains the Conservatives “war on women” in the USA and their repeated attempts to control female reproduction.

LE: A US website picked up on the news under the title Thirty Romanian abortionists admit their work ‘upsets God,’ shut down for Orthodox Easter.

In “Feministing” the author links via Marcotte “womb envy” with the rampant misogyny and “womb envy” in USA (fem-tk).

What they fail to understand is that “life begins at conception” is a misogynist statement. It’s the erasure of a woman’s role in making new people, and a claim that the only effort that counts is the effort a man put into ejaculating.  Abortion is horrifying because it’s a reminder that men do not actually make babies, but that women do through a 9 month process, and that if a woman chooses to interrupt that process, there will not be a baby.  Which is pretty conclusive proof that men don’t make babies.  Which directly contradicts the misogynist belief that only men are capable of really doing jobs worth doing.

What Marcotte is describing here [pand-mrctt] is the phenomenon that psychoanalyst Karen Horney (1885-1952) called “womb envy.” Basically, boys and men are jealous of women because women have the ability to go through pregnancy and nursing. Women can find fulfillment from creating new life and from enhancing their own lives through work outside the home. Since men can’t give birth, they can only turn to the outside world for personal fulfillment. She believed that the womb envy that is experienced by males is the source of denying women equal rights, blaming women for the perceived downfall of society, and demonizing women’s sexuality. Whatever your feelings about pregnancy, I think Horney makes a clearly pro-choice, pro-woman point. “Life begins at conception” is a way for anti-choice men to claim a piece of the womb they secretly covet by claiming sole responsibility for the creation of the next generation. I think Marcotte applies the concept of womb envy beautifully in the passage I quoted, even if she didn’t mean to.

The gynos claim, in their defense, that abortions in Romania are still very high and that women use them instead of contraception. That is definitely a bad thing and it is unhealthy. Yet the reason why abortions spiked after 1989 is the same as church-building: a latent demand formed as this was not possible earlier. Getting women to use more contraception can be achieved through education and outreach; forbidding anything will set Romania back to the 80s.

Sources / More info: za-hanasty, za-tm, gr-chirila, w-penvy, w-wvenvy, ind-wenvy, bk-uenvy, pc-pevsue, wta-vote, kmkz-vac, fem-tk, pand-mrctt, ir-cogen, inbo-getty

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