Jessica Benjamin argues that the key to freedom is through intersubjectivity and those who seek powerful figures early on. She believes that the people who submit power as well as exercise the usage of power are more dominant. The struggle for power in most cases is between the father and the son and it resonates from that into real life situations. There are steps to show the structure of how power forms and the domination of power as well. Jessica firmly believes that opposite sexs have different sorts of power but that one always has less than the other in certain situations. In order to understand the split between femininity and masculinity there must be critics of the masculine side but also the feminine side. But then to also to be focused on the power and dualistic structure between the two major factors. The Binary usage between many ideas that she has is very important to look at comparing two different types of people and seeing what they can and what they cant do to show which one of them has more power over the other. Because there will always be leaders and there will always be followers.
An application of Benjamin’s theory may help to explain why people stay in abusive relationships; they acknowledge their partner’s subjectivity by recognizing that they are a separate person and fulfilling their demands, but their partner refuses to reciprocate and sees the partner as an object.
By refusing to reciprocate, the abused subconsciously begins to perceive themself as an object and disregards their own emotional wants and needs. Which then creates further trauma for the abused, until eventually they cannot function emotionally or otherwise without their abuser supporting them.
This definitely changes my understanding of how certain patterns of abuse and social control work, as many other systems of power and oppression are formed and maintained in this same manner as the domestic abuser. An action that I might urge others to take is to validate other’s emotional subjectivity.
Domestic abuse and oppression occurs because of a refusal to recognize someone as a person, as a conscious individual just like you or me;if you want to overome the deleterious and detrimental systems ingrained in our society, start with recognizing others as individuals.
To understand this obscured question one must understand Jessica Benjamin’s theory on Mutal Respect & Domination. In Bonds of Love, Benjamin proposes a seemingly normal question: Why don’t we have gender equality when society wants it? Benjamin goes on to explain how gender stereotypes, binary norms, and expectations feed into this unnatural dynamic of Domination/Submission. Elaborating that when looking at identity most people look at negotiation and conflict which creates the unnatural power struggle. This idea leads to a controversial take on domination and submission. While it’s noted that this power dynamic is not only unnatural but unhealthy it’s also emphasized how in certain regards it is allowed. Benjamin notates how domination is a two-way street and in some capacity, the one being oppressed is allowing for the dynamic whether it be consciously or unconsciously. However, a possible solution is proposed and that solution is the concept of mutual recognition which essentially moves out of the binaries and deconstructs unnatural power dynamics through connection, understanding, and respect.
Where do I stand?
I feel that Benjamin has a very different and interesting perspective in regard to the power dynamics of society. While I agree to some extent that domination/submission bias is allowed by both parties, I also believe that there are instances where the dynamic is not allowed and happens forcefully. Of the aspects I agree with I have gained an understanding of how certain power dynamics are allowed like teacher/student and parent/child. The respect given to an extent is out of societal expectations, however, part of it is also genuine respect that is constantly changing through experiences. Benjamin’s ideas have led me to contemplate the idea of mutual respect and really work to get rid of those biases I carry whether it is something simple or complex.
Jessica Benjamin’s book, Bonds of Love, introduces her theoretical argument around subjectivity and power combining the ideas of domination and social, gender, and family roles to bring light to the problem of the power structure. She uses the idea of binary thinking as leverage for domination and hierarchical thought processes. Benjamin ties individualism and the idea that you are you because you are not them into what creates a false sense of self hood and the roles or expectations given to certain people.
The main argument, evident throughout the examples she presents, is that there needs to be a mutual recognition of power and a connectedness to find a common ground on theory of identity. She also highlights the importance that the theory doesn’t deny anyone else’s sense of self as a means to achieve personal individuality and self.
Total domination is a result of unhealthy subjectivity, not being able to be humble enough to fathom the idea of being equally powerful. Mutual respect and recognition between others, being able to recognize an equally respectable sense of self, is what generates a healthy identification of individuality and balance of subjectivity.