Jessica Benjamin believes that love is facilitated through power dynamics in relationships. She explains many ways binaries can be seen in society and how the gender binary is the one that sets up the rest. Due to the fact that sex is the first indicator of who someone is when they are born, it sets people up to be seen as dominant or submissive in the gender binary and then in other ones as they grow up. She explains that one’s entire sense of identity is based on these binaries. These power relationships, whether binary or not, define people’s lives and make power central in everyone’s lives, ultimately contributing to people feeling like they lack fulfillment in their lives. She contradicts Freud’s ideas about one’s sense of identity revolving around their father’s role, also symbolizing society, law, and authority, in separating them from their mother. She argues that identity is found by making efforts to relate to others, rather than by separation but that society makes that difficult because of the way people are socialized. She explains that if people can accomplish this, mutual recognition is possible.
Benjamin’s theory can be seen across most aspects of life, from personal relationships to a global scale. In my life, it operates as all of my relationships feed into some sort of binary whether it’s the MALE/female one or something more specific like MOTHER/daughter. These all impact my ability to have autonomy and how I interact with others. According to Benjamin, if there wasn’t a difference of power in these relationships, I would feel like my life is more fulfilling. I agree mostly with this theory, lots of these binaries, especially more obvious ones such as gender and race can lead to a lot of oppression which is interwoven into all aspects of one’s life and can have many negative effects on someone’s life and their perception of it. Another example of this is binaries based on class, this can alter our perceptions of others and how we perceive our ability to impact their lives. Even if it is done out of sympathy, it can easily perpetuate the idea of dominance as we feel like their lives can be better because of our actions or charity.