Psychoanalytic theory and practice both have a part to play in addressing the question of ‘the feminine’. Our goal for this Congress is to focus on issues that affect the everyday life and experiences of both women and men. Since the late nineteenth century, concerns and problems related to the female condition, which were previously normalised or silenced, have become increasingly visible in different cultures.
Psychoanalytic theories on the feminine have widened and diversified. Important debates emerged early on, such as the Freud-Jones controversy on primary and secondary femininity, and primary and secondary penis envy. Many female analysts developed and presented their ideas on these issues. These debates are ongoing and have become increasingly sophisticated.
The riddle of bisexuality has stood at the centre of psychoanalysis since the beginning, and contains both the feminine and the masculine. The question of whether there is a set of fantasies that are connected more with the feminine than with the masculine remains open. Each society, culture or historical period attributes certain behaviours to the feminine or the masculine. However, most people have their own personal mixture of these, and it would be an over-simplification to prescribe a fixed set of properties to one particular sex.
The psychoanalytic approach is now broader, including the feminine within the field of the masculine. New family configurations and sexual and gender diversity have challenged established standards of sexual binarism and have invited new questions about femininity and masculinity.
The feminine protects the infant and its development; it guarantees survival and furnishes the mother tongue. In the intermediary spaces of two, three or more persons, all the involved persons continuously negotiate the positions of the feminine and the masculine, changing the question of what should be labelled as feminine and what as masculine.
We have therefore had to revisit many concepts whose relevance for clinical practice is unquestionable: among them, the Oedipal-castration complex and its traditional resolution, the feminine superego, and women’s desire for children. Within this framework, the IPA takes up the challenge of updating and rethinking classical psychoanalytic views on the feminine and their repercussions in psychoanalysis.
Watch our promotional video for our next congress in London 2019.