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GENDER-SKEW IN DREAMS

From Chris Wayan's journal 1998/2/2


My friend Lily and I are talking of gender differences in dreaming. I mention that huge old study by Van De Castle or Hall, of the dreams of hundreds of college students, that found the boys dreamed largely of other males (like, 70% of their dream figures! That's right, women formed only 30% of their world)--and of conflict, competition and anxiety. Curiously like TV, isn't it? But girls dreamed about equally of males and females, with maybe a slight preponderance of female figures (55/45 at most), with less overt conflict, though the dreams were equally anxious.

I wasn't satisfied with a summary, so I read the raw data--reams of dreams! It was true. Not just the gender-skew, but the tone. They were mundane, dreary, sad and anxious. Not a world I want to live in.

My dreams were far wilder, and more fun on average, and they just didn't fit the gender pattern. I'm male, but the dreams I recall resemble women's dreams--roughly equal gender balance, little violence. Of course I was raised feminist--could I be selectively recalling my dreams, only the ones I approve of?

Lily snorts at this. "There are men who just have a veneer of feminism, but after hearing your dreams for years, I can attest you're not faking. You dream MORE about women then men, and in more varied roles. But why's that surprising? You grew up with gifted sisters, you worked in a big university library surrounded by women... Why the hell shouldn't you see women as people? What's weird is all those men who don't."

Suddenly something comes clear--I've wondered why fellow dreamworkers and even therapists all see the female characters in my dreams so strangely--always reducing them to animas, sex objects, stand-ins for my mom, or symbols. Such a limited spectrum! I always attributed this to knee-jerk Freudianism (though I still worried they were right and I was deluded. They were so sure, you know).

But if most male dreamers really do live in and dream of a man's world, where women are just accents and symbols and background extras, no wonder therapists think my dreams are weird, and suspect I'm faking or in denial.

Well, I'm not faking, but why ARE they weird?

Hey, wait a minute! MINE aren't weird. Nor are women's dreams. We reflect reality--an equal world. What's weird is why most men have such gender-skewed dreams, distorting reality as much as TV... or even government.

I wonder if the skew is changing in younger men now, and if it varies across cultures.

And I'll bet you anything you like that no one is getting funded to find that out.

As Winston Churchill never said, "Millions for defense, but not one cent for mushy stuff!"

Especially if it shows that half the human race is delusional...

Especially that half.



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