When activist and psychology professor Dorothy Dinnerstein died in a car crash in 1992, she had only one book to her name, The Mermaid and the Minotaur: Sexual Arrangements and Human Malaise first published in 1976. This book's thesis is that all of us are psychologically and socially disadvantaged by being brought up under asymmetrical parenting roles, and that most sexist convictions can be traced back to the common reality that fathers (men) are mostly absent while mothers (women) are omnipresent. Being raised almost exclusively by women encourages humans to overvalue masculine qualities, including a propensity toward brute "mastery" of external circumstances, reaching its pinnacle in the invention and subsequent profusion of nuclear weapons. If this sounds both epic and ridiculous, well, it is. But so is much of human behavior, and history. Charlotte Shane revisits Dinnerstein and Mermaid, a work feverishly praised but largely neglected.


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pp. 93-100
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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