The male fear of the feminine
The male fear of the feminine is a phenomenon that has been discussed since the 1930s. It was first introduced by the German psychoanalyst and critic of Freudian theory, Karen Horney (1932) in her paper titled “the dread of women.” Erich Neumann (1954), a German-born Jungian analyst, dedicated one essay to the discussion, titled “The fear of the feminine” (Orig: Die Angst vor dem Weiblichen, 1959). Neumann regards “patriarchal normality as a form of fear of the feminine” (p. 261).
A later contributor is Chris Blazina, a psychodynamic psychologist and professor based at Tennessee State University. Blazina considers that “the fear of the feminine helps define what is masculine” (1997). In 1986, James O’Neil et al. theorized that the male fear of the feminine is a core aspect of the male psyche. He developed a 37-question psychometric test, a gender role conflict scale (GRCS), to measure the extent to which a man is in conflict with traditional masculine role values. This test is built upon the notion of the male fear of the feminine.
In 2003, Werner Kierski, a London-based German-born psychotherapist and researcher, associated with humanistic psychology and transpersonal and existential psychotherapy designed the first empirical research into the male fear of the feminine with the results published in 2007 and presented to the public at the 2007 annual conference of the American Men’s Studies Association (AMSA) and at the 2007 research conference of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP).
According to the various sources, the male fear of the feminine is connected to influences from their mothers and to cultural norms that prescribe how men must behave in order to feel accepted as men.
When men experience vulnerable feelings and other feelings that are associated with women, men can become frightened. According to Kierski (2007), the fear of the feminine then acts in two ways: a) Like an internal monitor to ensure that men stay within the boundaries of what is regarded as masculine, i.e. being action orientated, self-reliant, guarded, and seemingly independent; b) if a man fails to experience this and feels out of control, vulnerable or dependent, the fear of the feminine can act like a defence, leading to splitting off, repressing, or projecting those feelings.
Kierski’s research claimed that men do acknowledge that male fear of the feminine can have a strong influence on both hetero- and homosexual men. The research has also indicated that there appears to be a link between fear of the feminine and men’s negative views about counseling and psychotherapy. In addition, this research has identified four possible groups of experiences that lead to male fear of the feminine, which relate to internal and external triggers. These are: Experiencing vulnerability and uncertainty; women who are strong and competent; women who are angry or aggressive; women who are like their mothers.