Masculinity and Femininity

Monday, April 17, 1950

This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.

Harold Kelman discuss the concepts of Masculinity and Femininity. States that these are cultural constructs not related to sex. These cultural influences begin at birth with the gendered naming of the child and continue throughout life.

These constructs develop because children are reared almost entirely by the women. Women become associated with comfort, love, and nourishment, growth development. "Love is theirs to give and to receive, to withhold and to refuse. Women become not only the greatest source of love but also the deepest source of pain through their refusal to love or be loved."

Because mothers are responsible for "bowel and bladder training" they impart negative connotations to genitals, resulting in "prudishness and feminine attitudes towards sex." Distorts functions of genitals to young women, leaving them unprepared for their role as wife and mother.

Young men, at 3 or 4, will notice themselves different from their sisters. Realize their special treatment by their mothers (who feel a proud sense of "their son" but also resent the easy life they will have in this "Man's world"). Sense difference between girl's world (closer with the mother) and boy's world (being on their own - independent and resourceful). Also the role of bodily conflict and activities, going in the nude in front of other men, "defecating and urinating openly in front of one another is encouraged." "Mutual examination and comparison of the genitals further breaks down the feminine taboos regarding sex."

Mother as the glorified martyr who has lost her looks and figure in service of her family.

Sexual neurosis in boys: excessive action and hostility, neutrality, femininity (Determine the role the boy will take in a homosexual relationship.)

Presents detailed example of neurosis throughout a family - parents and children - and their "reorientation" through the mother's psychoanalysis treatment.

Homosexuality also mentioned.

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection

WNYC archives id: 69371
Municipal archives id: LT659


Harold Kelman


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About Psychoanalysis and Everyday Living

This series of academic lectures revolves around family issues, particularly child rearing and sex and love lives of adults.

The series (1949-1950) is based on the work of Dr. Karen Horney (horn-AY), a German psychoanalyst whose views both relied on and questioned those of Sigmund Freud. Speakers are members of the Association for the Advancement for Psychoanalysis who have taken up Dr. Horney's work after her 1952 death.

Four major problems are addressed are: the problems of childhood and the beginnings of neurosis, the role of sex in the life of man, the general problems that every human being must face, and the specific personality problems that beset humanity.

The series ends with a lecture for those who are considering psychoanalysis and addresses the "general" and "specific" problems of sadism and frigidity. 

In the age when families gathered around the radio for entertainment and news, Psychoanalysis and Everyday Living may have provided good reason to avoid making eye contact with other people in the room.  These talks expand well beyond the somewhat awkward subject of your sex life into humiliation, sibling rivalry, competition, narcissism, and neurosis.  The show, and psychoanalysis as a field, dispenses with the fluff and gets right to the point.


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