The Birth of Pleasure by Carol Gilligan

Carol Gilligan Birth of Pleasure can be considered a research in social science. She has hypothesised certain theories regarding men and women behaviour. One of her main hypothesis is that women are different from men in various ways; she argues that female have a higher level of morality that cements the relation among sexes. At times she seems a feminist who is playing for female audience. She overcomes the limitation as the book flows.

For example she starts the human life story from a child perspective that is “under father’s authority” (Pg 5). She mentions that in patriarchy society there are different ways of dealing with boys and girl. For example boys are forced to learn and be disciplined at a young age compared to female. Female are forced to learn from age 13 and above at puberty. The reason for such approach; she argues is the utility of women. In a patriarchal society, women become important when they become fertile; before fertility they have no existence.

However the problem arises when a child becomes adult and he has to unlearn the older behaviour. Sometimes it is hard to undo the learned behaviour; deep inside sometimes adults feel guilty, if they do not follow the behaviour they have been taught in childhood. Gilligan does not argue in straight forward manner about the theme patriarchy in teenagers life, but the book overall covers the relationship between children and parents as pathologies.
For example she mentions that boys have two choices; either becomes good boy or bad boy; either by following the parent’s instructions or negating them to create their own social identities. The problem with such approach is that boys cannot form their own identities with reference to their true self. For girls the process began at much later stage when they approach the puberty. She insists that girls are forced by mothers to follow their footsteps and behave according to the established norms of the society.
This situation gives rise to conflict and breaking of the bond that exists between parents and children. She insists that love is based on democracy; while the patriarchy is based on hierarchy of men and women. The result of such hierarchy is patriarchy; where individuals find pain in love rather than pleasure due to the inherent conflict (in these relations). She suggests that it is possible to find pleasure with in the social norms, if couples overcome their limited roles and try to unlearn the behaviour childhood behaviour.
Gilligan has taken ideas from various sources, but she is able to develop her own ideas by studying life of children and couples including her own experience of life spiced with various Western myths and legends; such as Psyche and Cupid. She successfully weaves different pieces together to form one narrative immersing reader in interesting stories with one common theme. The positive effect of this style is that reader finds new interpretations about the stories and myths he is familiar with.
Gilligan sometimes seems to speak in a mystical language, when she declares that the yoke of Western love stories is made of tragedy because of the presence of patriarchy; where male justify their authority by trampling true feelings of women. Her idea of democracy of love seems un-restricted by social norms; such idea seems far from practical. All societies need to survive; the hierarchy allows a society to survive which may look cruel at time but this is how civilization are made from. Reference Gilligan, Carol (2002). The Birth of Pleasure. Random House.

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New York University

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