Psychosocial Changes and Continuities in Gender

Looking at the three generations of women and men we have encountered in the preceding chapters, it becomes evident that huge changes in life and family patterns and in reflections on gender, as well as in the contours of a changed psychology of gender, have taken place. In this chapter I draw special attention to the changing psychological patterns, whereas in the final chapter I will integrate this into a broader frame of changing gender cultures, life forms and life choices, and will summarise how feelings of gender may have worked as emotional links in these processes of historical change.

I will first summarise, analyse and compare the relationships to parents and the perceptions of bodies and sexuality between the generations, and will see how this has contributed to changes in gender identities and gendered subjectivities. The relationship between parents and children has changed dramatically over the three generations, but there are also dimensions of the father-son, the mother-son, the father-daughter and the mother-daughter relationships that seem to be more sluggish than others. The same applies for women’s and men’s relation to bodies and sexuality. These relations crystallise into generational patterns in gender identities and gendered subjectivities. Over the three generations, we see

© The Author(s) 2017 H.B. Nielsen, Feeling Gender,

DOI 10.1057/978-1-349-95082-9_9

a move from single-gendered to multi-gendered and sometimes degend- ered identities and subjectivities. There are similarities between the oldest and youngest generations in relation to a securely felt gender identity and positive parental identification, whereas the middle generation stands out in this respect. However, the deviation in the middle generation, in interaction with huge changes in the societal context across all of these three generations, contributed to a very different psychological dynamic behind the apparent similarity in the oldest and youngest generations. I will look into these changes and continuities for each gender under the headings ‘The Changing Psychological World of the Men’ and ‘The Changing Psychological World of the Women’.

In the second part of the chapter I will return to the questions posed in Chap. 2 about the historical character of theories and will examine the observed changes in psychological gender from the perspective of different psychoanalytic theories that have evolved in the historical period of our three generations. The analytical level in this chapter will also be the dominant patterns of feelings within each gender and generation, which becomes the background of which individual variation emerges, are seen and interpreted. In order to remind the reader that I am describing changing patterns of generations rather than the individual variations, I will use ‘gender identity’ and ‘gendered subjectivity’ in the singular to designate a particular generational pattern. The focus on this general level also entails that my use of psychoanalytic concepts and theories on gender and development which address individual dynamics and unconscious fantasies will necessarily have to be somewhat speculative. Furthermore, as the data concerns the feelings of gender as they emerged in the interviews (cf. Chap. 3), it is also important to keep an eye on both the element of retrospective interpretation of feelings and the conditions at different points in life that may have had an impact on them.

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