To Nurture and Protect

Male Ethos Infiltration

The infiltration of the male ethos is made glaringly obvious by the extrapolation of male behavior as the guideline and foundation for human behavior.

Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, supported the myth of male supremacy by suggesting that women are naturally masochistic, prone to victimization and morally undeveloped.

Early in his career, many of Freud’s female patients frequently reported sexual abuse, most often naming their fathers as the abusers. Initially, Freud attributed his female patients’ symptoms to repressed memories of sexual abuse trauma. That these symptoms were so prevalent throughout Viennese society meant that child abuse was rampant.

According to Freudian scholar Dr. Jeffrey Masson, Freud dodged the prospect of scandal and political suicide by discrediting his findings of sexual abuse.

Rather, he revised that these traumatic memories were in fact unconscious fantasies. Hence, Freud abandoned his female patients by supporting the male ethos and the prevailing Victorian mores of his time.

An example of the tragic repercussions of Freud’s decision is documented in Louise DeSalvo’s book “Virginia Woolf: The Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse on her Life and Work” (1989). DeSalvo postulates that Virginia Woolf’s confusion about Freud’s Oepidal theory, which states that children fantasize their sexual abuse, contributed to Virginia’s decision to commit suicide.

In response to Freud’s theories, neo-Freudian Karen Horney introduced feminist psychology. Proponents of feminist psychology challenged the premise that male behavior defined the psychological model for healthy development.

In 1982, feminist psychologist Carol Gilligan’s classic book “in a Different Voice” refuted misogynist psychological theory by suggesting that applying developmental theories based on privileged mainstream white males to the masses was inherently biased.

Gilligan asserted that a woman’s fundamental sense of identity is strongly rooted in affiliation and that an ethic of care, in contrast to the male ethic of justice, defines a woman’s moral reasoning.

Unlike her predecessors, Gilligan’s radical claim postulated that developmental differences between men and women did not imply one-upmanship, nor did it imply iron clad hard wiring. Nevertheless, a blatant bias persists indicative of the stringent entrenchment of the male ethos ideology. A woman’s inherent sensibilities of care ethics when compared to a man’s inherent sensibilities of justice ethics continues to be devalued.

A structural analysis of our major economic, political and cultural institutions shows us that hierarchy, domination and exploitation are the driving force behind hegemonic decision making processes. What are construed as strict ‘male oriented’ principles over ride ’female oriented’ moral abstraction. As the white male ruling class champions the construct of the male ethos, oppression and exploitation take precedence over ethical decision-making.

In fact, one can go so far as to say that moral reasoning, be it a care ethic or justice ethic, has become largely obsolete. The distribution of power in male-female relationships and the domestic and political spheres reflect these systemic realities.

Cooperative Unity

A radical departure from a survival of the fittest world-view to a psychological and spiritually focused agenda is sorely needed if we are to heal the cultural wounding of the male ethos and move from oppression and violence to cooperative unity and respect.

In “Dancing in the Flames: The Dark Goddess in the Transformation of Consciousness,” Jungian analyst Marion Woodman and Elinor Dickison wrote about the critical need for a shift in global consciousness. They conjectured that “the new paradigm would be neither matriarchal nor patriarchal; it would be androgynous. Rather than tribal or hierarchal, the structures of such a society would be ecological.”

The achievement of this Utopian egalitarian model rests on a commitment to self-actualization and the idea that our personal pursuit of an integrated Self and the healing and re-integrating of the wounded parts of our psyche organically leads to transpersonal healing.

Jungian psychoanalytic theory posits that the innate quest for wholeness depends on the integration of the masculine (animus) and feminine (anima) archetypes. Author Robert Bly wrote in “Iron John” that the journeying male must eventually come to “the meeting with the God-Woman in the Garden.”

In the garden, he continues, “the soul and nature marry….In the garden we cultivate yearning and longing [which] encourages true desire for the infinite more than greed for objects.”

Along these lines, Maureen Murdock conveys in “The Heroine’s Journey” that a woman has to adopt the masculine perspective if she is to journey through the “road of trials” and overcome the “myth of feminine inferiority.”

To Nurture and Protect

Rev Sheri Heller, LCSW

Rev. Sheri Heller, LCSW, is a seasoned NYC psychotherapist with 25+ years experience in the addiction and mental health fields. Sheri is also an interfaith minister and playwright, and the founder of The Sistah Tribe - Phoenix Project, a therapeutic theater event for at-risk women and girls in the public sector of NYC. For more information, visit


APA Reference
Heller, R. (2016). To Nurture and Protect. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 10, 2020, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 9 Feb 2016
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 9 Feb 2016
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