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Mermaid and the Minotaur [Paperback]

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Item Number 283536  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   295
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.2" Width: 5.4" Height: 0.98"
Weight:   0.89 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jun 17, 1999
Publisher   Other Press
ISBN  1892746255  
EAN  9781892746252  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
"A seminal text in the womenís movement."
–Ethel S. Person, author of The Sexual Century

"Still the most important work of feminist psychoanalytic exploration, its re-release is a celebratory occasion."
–Eli Sagan, author of Freud, Women and Mortality

"[The Mermaid and the Minotaur] continues to astonish us with the depth and wisdom of its psychoanalytic approach even as its major ideas have become as unobtrusively essential to psychoanalytic feminism as the atmosphere."
–Jessica Benjamin, author of The Bonds of Love
Dorothy Dinnerstein

Dorothy Dinnerstein was born in a poor Jewish section of the Bronx, New York City, in 1923. As a psychologist, she worked with such well-known names as Kohler, Wertheimer, and Asch. She was a distinguished professor of psychology at Rutgers University for thirty years and lived in New Jersey until her death in a car accident in 1992.

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Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Dorothy Dinnerstein
Dorothy Dinnerstein was born in a poor Jewish section of the Bronx, New York City, in 1923. As a psychologist, she worked with such well-known names as Kohler, Wertheimer, and Asch. She was a distinguished professor of psychology at Rutgers University for thirty years and lived in New Jersey until her death in a car accident in 1992.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Darwin ,Freud and Dinnerstein  Mar 11, 2008
This book is at least as groundbreaking as Darwin's On the Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection or Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams.
And like these two books, The Mermaid and the Minotaur is difficult to accept.
Human beings did not like the idea that we are related to "lower" species like apes (Darwin) nor did we like to know that our waking consciousness was not necessarily in charge of what we do(Freud).
Dinnerstein proposes we now need to look at why we seem to be working so hard to destroy the planet (mother) on which we depend.
Whether we repudiate or embrace her findings may well be our defining moment.The Mermaid and the Minotaur
Why isn't this book more widely read?  May 17, 2007
Why this book has sort of fallen out of popularity truly escapes me. Dinnerstein's ideas are totally revolutionary and she conveys them with a powerful clarity and conviction that I found amazingly easy to read. As other reviewers have indicated, Dinnerstein's ideas are grounded in the notion that the female monopoly over infancy and child-rearing serves as the emotional germinating process, as it were, for the resultant wholesale acceptance of male domination over the remaining aspects of society and breeds disdain for all things related to feminine authority/power.

From the perspective of the infant/child, the father appears more human, independently hovering outside of the seemingly omnipotent female power universe -- a state of being to which the child naturally aspires and comes to associate with gender.

Once the child casts off the biological tyranny of the mother, he/she enters the realm of the world outside of the family, where he/she exchanges the mother tyrant for a whole litany of male tyrants, whose authority is viewed as being more rational and legitimate.

And yet, we all subconsciously cling to our desire to escape the burdens/responsibilities of freedom and sink back into the helplessness of infancy from time to time, seduced by feminine maternal power. This is indicative of the prevailing male/female love dynamic. While the man still reigns over the woman, he needs her (the maternal, feminine authority captured, kept alive and harnessed to his will) to assuage the "sting" of his acquiescence to the tyranny of other men. Dinnerstein states that this cycle continues to plague our social relationships as a result of the feminine monopoly on infant care and child-rearing.

In a nutshell, Dinnerstein asserts that, when it comes to child-rearing responsibilities, a healthier, more inclusive balance between the sexes is indispensable to breaking the still iron-clad patriarchical hierarchy that is rooted in our consciousness from infancy. Moreover, our present gender arrangements keep us pigeonholed, preventing both men and women from ever becoming whole individuals able to employ all aspects of their humanity (i.e. men exploring their nurturing qualities and women exploring their "executive" qualities.) The lopsided current arrangement exists to our detriment, as it places undue burden upon our relationships and social framework, as a whole. In fact, it threatens our survival as a species.

Dinnerstein's ideas provoke serious thought regarding our perception of and attitudes toward women (particularly female attitudes toward feminine authority), the structure of adult tyranny (why is it even necessary?), and the division of responsibility within the family unit ("Just wait 'til your father gets home!"). It's a must read!
The Blazing Truth & Glaring Errors of Dorothy Dinnerstein  May 12, 2003
This is one of the most important feminist texts ever written. It's also, along with Mary Daly's "Beyond God the Father," one of the most neglected and underrated. Dinnerstein's influence, however, is far greater than the fame of this witty and intelligent but verbose and academic book: More than any one person, she's behind the idea of "Mr. Mom's," men who insist on equal involvement with women in the care of children.

Dinnerstein subverts the nuclear family like Daly subverts Christianity: Both writers expose the ugly misogyny at the core of old, venerable institutions. Dinnerstein was right to say the nuclear family of the mid-century was patriarchal and sexist. She is even right about the explanation for this, namely, that men are so humiliatingly indebted to women (who as mothers are their "first love, first witness, and first boss") that they grow up and say in effect "OK, now it's women's turn to feel inferior."

This is Dinnerstein's blazing truth: Women need to share their god-like maternal power, their be-all and end-all status in the eyes of helpless infants, toddlers, and children, if they are to escape the mutinous resentment this creates, resentment which later leads to adult male sexism.

But here is her glaring error: She assumes that as parents men and women play identical roles, that they raise children in a similar rather than complementary way. I think her ideas are like communism: good on paper but virtually unworkable in real life. Yes, many men since Dinnerstein wrote "The Mermaid and the Minotaur" in 1975 have taken a greater role in child-rearing (feeding, diapering, and singing lullabies) but usually they become their wives' junior partner rather than a coequal. This is because women for aeons have been slow-cooking the patience, compassion, and multi-tasking that parenting the very young requires. Men cannot just decide they're as skilled with babies and children as women are overnight, as a current film like Eddie Murphy's "Daddy Day Care" (2003) makes explicitly and hilariously plain.

I suspect that men have a different role in raising the young, one which ascends in importance as the mother's wanes. Masculinity, which has also been slow-cooking for aeons, is better suited than "sit still" femininity to an antsy, exploratory, risk-taking, lustful, transgressive lifestage called adolescence. It is here where men can make the best contribution to "child"-rearing, such as the mentoring of teen boys, which the Men's Movement has plaintively called for in the last 20 years.

Dinnerstein was right about one thing: Men and women deserve equal weight in the lives of the young. But since men and women are very different, even the opposite in some ways, we can expect their roles to be very different, even the opposite in some ways. Some of the best "fathers" I know exist outside of nuclear families, which tend anyway to turn adult males into bullies or eunuchs (or some strange combination of the two). These men are teachers, counselors, or simply "friends to the young." Their unfettered masculinity is a source of pride to themselves and excitement to their "sons" and "daughters."

If I don't agree with the conclusions of "The Mermaid and the Minotaur," why the solid 4-star review? Because this book is fiercely intelligent. Because it does the surprising, fusing Freud with feminism. Because of its unique organization: central text plus sidebars which develop certain thoughts further. Because it's a learned scientific text which is unafraid to call on the power of poetry. Because, except for her misplaced faith in a mass and permanent conversion to androgyny, Dinnerstein had it right: We need fathers.

A classic work of great importance  Sep 7, 2002
I read this book twenty years ago when I was in college. I found (and still find) Dinnerstein's feminist argument for shared parenting to be one of those books that has the potential to change lives. She employs a variety of intellectual resources to make the case for a feminist social criticism that focuses on the dynamics of the nuclear family as the source of many, if not most, social problems. Her re-interpretation of Freud's work, and of the neo-Freudians who have moved beyond him (particularly Marcuse and Norman O. Brown) is sometimes difficult reading, but can with careful attention be followed even by those who have not waded through the original texts.

This is a book that combines crystalline prose and incisive rational argument with passion and emotion. She argues for nothing less than a radical restructuring of the human family, and of the social/economic relationships that undergird family life. The kernel of her argument is that so long as we all are raised (exclusively or predominantly) by our mothers or by female caregivers, children will grow up with a deep-seated resentment of the feminine (since no parent can perfectly anticipate a child's needs, and all children, in growing up, will be conditioned by our infantile rage at our parent's imperfections).

There's much more to it than this. I've read dozens of self-help and pop psychology books (think of Deborah Tannen and John Gray) which try to explain why males and females are the way they are; I've never read an analysis which goes as deeply as this one into a powerful and persuasive explanation of the role of sexuality in the formation of human character. If you read this book and pay attention, you will experience multiple shocks of recognition; you will suddenly understand your self and your relationships with the opposite sex in a new light; and you may even be persuaded to change the way you live your life and raise your children.

At the age of twenty, I was persuaded by Dinnerstein to be (when I did have kids) an active and equal participant in the raising of my children, from changing diapers to feeding and everything else. I was so convinced of the importance of her analysis, and of its potential to change lives, that I have, in the past few decades, bought and given away as gifts eighty-eight copies to male and female friends. (I figured that if I just told people what a great book it was, few would follow up, but that if I actually bought it and thrust it into their hands, they might be moved to actually read it.) I'm not sure how many of these were actually read by the recipients. But I can report that out of 88 copies given away, eight people came to me afterward and said something to the effect of, "This book changed my life." I think that's not a bad rate of return, especially when you consider that many people probably never got around to looking at it, or never had the patience to follow the argument through to the end.

One bit of advice: Dinnerstein frequently interrupts herself to continue lines of thought in footnotes, endnotes, and boxes which focus on various controversies, reviews of other authors, and parenthetical developments of the whole structure of her argument. It is worth your while to read this book through, if not on the first go-round, then at least once, in exactly the sequence she sets forth: that is, when you see a footnote, or a note saying "See Box F for further development of this point," stop the linear reading and follow her through all the eddies in the current of thought.

The book is a masterpiece of social criticism; a classic of feminist analysis; an important addition to the literature of psychoanalysis which rescues Freud for feminism; and a book that can change forever the way you view yourself, your relations with your partner, and your children.

I'm older and wiser now, and it remains to be seen how my children will benefit from growing up with a dad who changed their diapers, cooked for them, and took too long getting up in the middle of the night to attend to their needs. But I am convinced that this book is one of a handful which, if read and assimilated by everyone, would make the world a better place.

the book I most recommend, period  Oct 19, 2000
I'd second the reviews below. Dinnerstein also relates the fear of death to how women rule the infant's world and men the adult's world. Seem unrelated? Phrase "womb to tomb" captures it best perhaps.

I did not find her hard reading at all and I delighted in her sardonic humor, but another book that talks about similar issues, and in really nice prose, is Lillian B. Rubin's "Intimate Strangers: Men and Women Together." In a footnote of that, I discovered Dinnerstein. Anyway, I've never met anyone else who's read Dinnerstein--though I've pestered others to read it--so I'd be very glad to get email: (for a character in Catch-22, but a lot of other people had the same idea).


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