Penis Envy and Other Bad Feelings: The Emotional Costs of Everyday Life

Columbia Univ. May 2018. 288p. notes. index. ISBN 9780231186681. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780231546768. PHIL
Ruti (critical theory, gender & sexuality studies, Univ. of Toronto; The Ethics of Opting Out) makes a compelling case for understanding the Freudian attribution of the female as a state of lack in metaphoric rather than physical terms. The envy, that is, arises from most cultures ascribing power to the (straight, and typically white) male of the human species in opposition to other humans who lack—and envy—this status. By referencing her own childhood in Finland, where gender parity is close to normative, Ruti offers lived experiences as well as cogent readings of Sigmund Freud, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Lacan, to make her case for how feelings of inadequacy are culturally reproduced, rather than biologically determined. Her writing unfolds in increasingly theoretical passages, bringing readers almost effortlessly from the concrete to the abstract. As with her course on heteropatriarchy's damages to the emotional well-being of those who are seen as lacking the effective penis, Ruti's book invites discussion among men and women, the repressed and the celebrated, as a way of correcting fetishistic acceptance of phallic primacy.
VERDICT For all academic and large public libraries. Philosophers, gender scholars, and well-read and curious feminists, as well as queer studies students, will find much here to consider and discuss.
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