Marilyn Monroe and Misogyny

Sigmund Freud was a misogynist. There are penty of reasons that support this statement. For one thing, Freud didn’t believe his female patients when they reported they were victims of incest or Sigmund_Freud_1926sexual abuse. Instead, Freud decided these women had sexual fantasies or perhaps “penis envy”. That is to say, women of the Victorian Era desired to be men due to their lack of sociopolitical power. Although it is undeniable that the politics of being female during that era weren’t especially dignified I refuse to believe that translates into wishing one had a penis. According to Freud, this occurs when a girl realizes that she has no penis. “Girls hold their mother responsible for their lack of a penis and do not forgive her for their being thus put at a disadvantage,” Fraud – oops Freud – believed that penis envy was one of his greatest accomplishments,

Although Freud believed that his form of counselling, known as psychoanalysis, allowed one’s client to speak freely and uninterrupted, a forward movement for its time, Freud held a great deal of cynicism towards his clients concerns. So get this straight: Freud encouraged his female clients to confess their greatest fears and abuses then he decided not to believe them. Like many men in this era, Freud wrote women off as “hysterics” who suffered from a “wandering uterus”, hence the reason for their lack of rationality. Seriously. Of course Freud also believed that when a woman reported she suffered from incest she was actually expressing the desire to have relations with her male relativesInitially, Freud suggested that the causes of hysteria were rooted in childhood sexual abuse. So far so good.  He later abandoned this theory (boo) and instead emphasized the role of sexual fantasies in the development of a variety of neuroses and illnesses. His understanding of women was notoriously inadequate, but he did make great steps beyond what was understood about women when he came on the scene. It was very unusual in Freud’s time even to acknowledge that women had sexual desire, much less to say that the repression of their sexual desire could make them hysterical”,I have to speculate as to whether Freud would have considered Marilyn to have penis envy in her lifelong quest to identify and locate her father.But perhaps not as hysterical as Freud during his decade-long addiction to cocaine. 

Freud was a man of his times. He was opposed to the women’s emancipation movement and believed that women’s lives were dominated by their sexual reproductive functions”  06hysterical431x300Wonderful. While Freud described women as inferior to men, many women were instrumental in the development and advancement of psychoanalysis.his own daughter, Anna Freud, played a vital role in advancing many of her father’s theories and contributed greatly to child psychoanalysis.Freud responded to women psychologists who argued against the penis envy theory  “We shall not be very greatly surprised if a woman analyst who has not been sufficiently convinced of the intensity of her own wish for a penis also fails to attach proper importance to that factor in her patients” According to Freud, these womens’ concept of womb envy emerged as a result of her own supposed penis envy. Finally Freud admitted that his understanding of women was limited. “That is all I have to say to you about femininity,” he wrote in 1933. “It is certainly incomplete and fragmentary.” Marilyn’s publication Fragments demonstrated a thing or two about people failing to understand her sexuality and childhood abuse. One wonders whether Marilyn’s sex abuse by several men in her early career would have made her a candidate for penis envy in Freud’s view. He might have concluded something bizarre such as her revulsion toward the casting couch was actually a projection of her wish to be male so she couldn’t be used. Ridiculous of course, but there’s Freud for you.

Sadly Dr. Ralph Greenson, Marilyn’s psychiatrist for several years of her life until her death, Marilyn-Monroe-Psychiatrist-Ralph-Greensonbelieved in psychoanalysis and used it on Marilyn. Considering how vulnerable Marilyn was, it couldn’t possibly have helped her with her traumatic issues. If anything, Greenson must have made them worse. In fact, one comment he wrote about his famous client after she died was “she was a dear creature I tried to help and ended up hurting.” Love the use of the word creature. Perhaps he referred to the Creature of the Black Lagoon Ewell and Marilyn supposedly watched in the Seven Year Itch. How exactly did Greenson treat Marilyn? How did he use psychoanalysis with her? How did they interact? We know she became completely dependent on him because he counselled her every day during the last few months of her life. This isn’t supposed to be a goal of any psychotherapy, psychoanalysis or otherwise. What did Greenson do to make Marilyn so dependent on him?

There were times the Greensons accepted Marilyn into their home and treated her as family. What role she occupied as family I haven’t discovered. Most likely she was treated not as an equal (more misogyny) but as a lost child, receiving the attention and reassurance she had missed as a child. This isn’t supposed to be the goal of any therapy as clients become too dependent upon their divorcetherapists, barely able to live their lives in the real world, outside of a false sense of security. This can’t have been anything but bad news for the insecure Marilyn. This is not to state that Marilyn didn’t have responsibility for her own mental health. She most certainly did and whether she lived up to that responsibility is debatable. Consider points 4, 6, 7 and 8 in this article Therapists Spill: 8 Ways Clients Spoil Their Progress in Therapy Most definitely Marilyn didn’t live up to point (4) – not doing the work outside of sessions. For one thing, Greenson tried to get Marilyn off chloral hydrate ye secretly she obtained prescriptions for the drug and took it without telling Greenson. A quick fix may have been what Marilyn wanted and needed. Perhaps that explains why she agreed to live with Greenson although that has more to do with Greenson’s ability as a psychiatrist than Marilyn’s as a client.  (7) Did Marilyn expect Greenson to do all the work? It seems like it. Having him visit her daily for counselling makes little sense unless Marilyn expected Greenson to work miracles for her. (8) When didn’t Marilyn reenact the same patterns? She continually exposed herself to men who used her sexually then discarded her. She attempted suicide on 4 occasions prior to her actual suicide. She married and divorced men who didn’t understand her, two of whom refused to support her career. Most definitely Marilyn did not make an ideal client for psychotherapy or psychoanalysis.

Dr. Giosue Ghisalberti released a “fictional” text about Marilyn Monroe entitled The Psychoanalysis of Marilyn Monroe. He explained his reasoning for using this genre: My 

marilyn16PhD was on something called hermeneutics, which is the art of interpretation. So when I look at historical moments that are factual, by interpreting them, I can then give fictional accounts that give you a better understanding of what occurred. “I want readers to understand her mind. Who was this woman? She’s not the bedroom voice that everyone sees. That’s not Marilyn Monroe. The Marilyn Monroe that is real is the one inside her mind – that nobody sees. And that’s the one that’s in this book.”

Perhaps Ghisalberti’s text may be somewhat feasible. I haven’t read it and I don’t intend to do so. I’m not interested in fiction about Marilyn or anyone else (it seems to me there is enough fiction about Marilyn’s life as it is).








Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s