I’m reading a fascinating book for my grad school studies, Meeting the Shadow: The Hidden Power of the Dark Side of Human Nature. It’s a well-organized collection of essays introducing the reader to Jungian thought, especially on the ‘dark side’ and the construction of the self. It was published in 1991, so perhaps times have changed enough since then that my surprise is unwarranted when I note that so far, there has been no discussion of homosexuality.

At this point, I imagine some of you may roll your eyes and think that I’m being ‘politically correct’ by demanding a little GLBT in my human psych. However, the way these theories handle gender is important. The development of the self is linked to archetypes like the ‘anima/animus’, defined as “the internalized ideal images of the opposite sex” (MtS, p. 5). While it isn’t made explicit until later, that is a sexual ideal, an ideal of attractiveness. The anima/animus is in sharp contrast to other archetypes, like the double or twin, which ARE the same gender as the person in question. It’s important to the theory that the anima/animus is the opposite gender from the person. To me, reading this, in full awareness of the many female people who aren’t attracted to males and vice versa, this constitutes a hole in the theory. It makes the theory less useful1.

Heteronormative language like this isn’t just marginalizing or insulting to non-heterosexuals — it weakens discourse by distancing that discourse further from reality. Theories that attempt to explain or model things in the real world need to reflect that real world more closely, and that real world has gay and lesbian people in it.

Disclaimer: As I said, this book was written in 1991, so I’m not raging against its heteronormative oppression. Rather, my frustration at the holes in the theories sparked this musing on the necessity of avoiding heteronormative language in academic discourse.

1 I do plan to do some research, or at least wiki-digging, after I finish the book and find out how and whether Jungian thought has expanded to consider non-heterosexual individuals.


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