Today some men told me “you are the problem” and suddenly I was transported back to Freud’s 1932 lecture on femininity:
Throughout history people have knocked their heads against the riddle of femininity. Nor will you have escaped worrying over this problem – those of you who are men; to those of you who are women this will not apply – you are yourselves the problem.
Classicist Vered Lev Kenaan opens her book Pandora’s Senses: The Feminine Character of the Ancient Text with this passage of Freud’s lecture, describing the process of writing about Pandora by explaining how she found herself empathizing with Freud’s projected male audience:
In writing Pandora’s Senses, I found myself thinking through and revisiting Freud’s gendered response to “the problem” of femininity. Being myself “the riddle”, as Freud would have it, I nonetheless find myself sharing the responses of Freud’s male listeners to the mysteries at hand. Ever since I can remember I have been knocking my head against the riddle of femininity.
This experience led to “the dazzling Pandora”, the myth at the heart of Western misogynistic ‘womanufacture’. If the heroine of Pandora’s Senses originated through a collusion between the Freud and “the riddle”, what kind of Pandora would we get from Luce Irigaray’s reading of Freud’s lecture in Speculum of the Other Woman?
So it would be the case of you men speaking among yourselves about woman, who cannot be involved in hearing or producing a discourse that concerns the riddle, the logogriph she represents for you. The enigma that is woman will therefore constitute the target, the object, the stake, of a masculine discourse, of a debate among men, which would not consult her, would not concern her. Which, ultimately, she is not supposed to know anything about.
The Pandora of Irigaray can not be found in ancient texts. No ingenious reading of Hesiod could undo her enigmatic role as the male “Other” (as target, as object, as stake). But perhaps we can find Irigaray’s Pandora in the 1975 work of the same name by Italian artist Ketty La Rocca.
Here the “you” of Freud’s lecture is written on the face of the woman as Pandora.
But then, the problem of “you” takes on a life of its own. Gone is Pandora and all that is left is “you”, a scattering of “you”.
It is only at this point that you realize that the “you” of men who tell you that “you are the problem” is the place from which to build your feminism. This is no enigmatic femininity of Pandora, but a collective “gift of all” that lines up in opposition to those men who tell you “you are the problem” knowing full well that it is them and that they are determined to keep it that way.