The Folly of Matriarchy <br> Sandra Berivi - Antonio Grassi

The Folly of Matriarchy
Sandra Berivi - Antonio Grassi


The Folly of Matriarchy

‘And then I understood everything.

 When she stopped on the path under the Baxter’s garden

and heard Roz’s laughter,

she understood it was a derisive laugh.

She was mocking her, and Mary finally

understood everything. It was all clear’

by Doris Lessing, “The Grandmothers”, 2003.

‘The asymmetry between men and women is so

 evident that few, apart from psychologists and

psychoanalysts, deal with female violence.

 Among feminists, it is a taboo subject.

It is unthinkable and unthought of that anything

could diminish the concept of

 male domination female victimization’

by Elisabeth Badinter, “Fausse Route”, 2003:53.

Sandra Berivi – Psicologa

Psicologo Analista – Docente di Psicoterapia Dinamica

SSVPC . Università Medicina e Psicologia – Sapienza di Roma


Antonio Grassi – Psichiatra

Psicologo Analista – Docente di Psicoterapia Dinamica

SSVPC . Università Medicina e Psicologia – Sapienza di Roma

Key-Words: Matriarchy – Hypercare- Violence – Ethics of care

Key-Words: Matriarchy – Hypercare- Violence – Ethics of care

The report starts from the case of Marco, a 16 year old teenager. We will evaluate the behaviour, particularly that of the mother, addressing the concept of hyper care or hyper / protection (over-involved/ protective) both from the psychological point of view, pointing to studies that have shown the related psychopathology of this style of care, and social studies regarding the so-called phenomenon of “the long family” and the resulting tendency of young Italians to remain close to parents for a very long time. Many authors have now clearly shown that the intrusive maternal style and autonomy inhibition aid to establish in children and adolescents a style of avoidance or anxious worries that favours internalizing problems, such as depression and anxiety, and externalizing, antisocial and borderline traits, as for neglect or ill-treatment. Finally, the report will touch authors who spoke of ethics of care, from Carol Gilligan to Sara Ruddick, Eva Feder Kittay, Joan Tronto and Sara Brotto. After a brief examination of the positions of the authors, the incestuous aspects that the ethics of care can hold will be emphasised. Finally, the proposal will be, in line with Gilligan, that the ethics of care has to integrate the real aspects of care, how the gratuitous love towards another person, with the principles of justice, identified by Kohlberg.



I would like to clarify that with the folly of matriarchy I am not eluding to, or worse, denying, that in the patriarchal world women often become victims, marginalized or banished into submission.

In this paper we would like to give a voice to the underground phenomenon which emerges in our  daily clinical work, to uncover the uncountable feral spiral which mothers create around their children in hidden ways, in our world the intrinsic violence of such behavior is not only not recognized, but it is encouraged in all possible forms – psychological, cultural, social, legal and economic. This perpetuates a status quo in which men can react with violence, children follow a path of psychopathy and we women become more and more rooted in an inevitable victimistic image. This image, on the one hand,  renders us prey to odious rivendications, and on the other, condemns us to a dramatic existential solitude, which offers, however a secondary advantage: always being daughters in need of help. We ourselves, as women, should speak up for the ethics of care, female and male, which establishes limits and boundaries to paternal and maternal action for the well-being of children and families in general.



Marco’s Story

Marco is sixteen years old. He came for help in January 2016 on his own initiative to the Sportello Giovani, ASL Roma 3 (public health youth help center) and on registering, he explained that he wanted to go abroad to study but his mother was opposed to this and he was tired of her oppression. According to him, his father insisted on many rules and prohibitions without understanding him and ‘forcing’ him, as a reaction, to do the opposite.  Actually, the case history shows that Marco was a heavy cannabis user who negatively affected his school performance, despite his sharp intelligence and solid cultural education, as well as his extremely conflictual and aggressive relationship with his parents, especially his mother. His separated parents conduct a violent war regarding the organizational and economic management of their son. As far as studying abroad is concerned, his mother denies any possible financial support, knowing full well that the father cannot afford the expense, as he pays child support to is ex-wife, using this an excuse to keep his son for an extra day, even though they share joint custody. The hated father forces him to be more independent, to take care of his things, to contribute somewhat to the daily routine, even though the father himself isn’t able to contain his ex-wife or represent a real escape route. He doesn’t have a steady job, he has the habits of an adolescent, dresses like a teenager and finds it hard to enforce the rules for his son, who he often treats as an equal.

Marco, on the other hand, would like to obtain a prestigious scholarship which would allow him to complete the last two years of his education in England. He is not sure of succeeding as there are very few positions available.

Following a psycho-diagnostic evaluation of the young man and his family, Marco, on agreement with myself, underwent communicative psychotherapy analysis for 6 months (Langs 1973/1974, 1988; Grassi 2000, 2012), with weekly sessions and Sand Play Therapy (Kalf 1966). At the 4th month, after he had failed in obtaining this much-desired scholarship, he found an alternative solution – another less prestigious scholarship for England. Marco recounted the following dream “I am at the beach, I am carefully making sandcastles. But my mother is in front of me, she squeezes her naked breasts and from her nipples she spurts water all over my sandcastles destroying them.” That same night “I have a swim with my father. I bleed and drown”. The analyst asks him to associate further on his mother who, up till that moment, had always been depicted as negative. In the previous session he had complained that every time he went to his father’s, sometimes staying a few extra days, she called him and asked him to come home, she sent him affectionate texts, writing that she missed him, she couldn’t be without him, that she felt sick without him. He complained about her behaviors, stating that is wasn’t normal, that she talked to him like a girlfriend would, that she always made him feel guilty. However, in that session something previously undisclosed came up. Marco told me for the first time that he had been breastfed until the age of three. The mother drove him everywhere – to school, to see his friends, to the doctor’s, to the sessions. Living together just the two of them, she takes care of his every need – she wakes him up, even if he is at his father’s, brings him breakfast in bed, buys him anything he wants. She telephones him several times a day and has nicknamed him ‘my little actor’, in reference to his aptitude for acting the part of the good boy and charming his teacher and peers[1]. She constantly talks to him about his father, how he is so spineless and unmasculine. She had also told him that she had recently got her partner to buy her a house and told her son that it was his and that she had done it for him and his future. Marco was both pleased with this but also afraid, as he confessed that he believed if his mother were happy with her partner she would loosen her reins on him. His father would be happy to see his son go abroad, also to get away from the drugs, but he always makes rules, and Marco doesn’t like rules. So when things get bad with his father, he takes refuge at his mother’s, and viceversa. Marco associates and laughs and blushes, aware of the new image emerging from his dream, quite different from the revendications he had previously spoken of, and recognizing that he feels guilty because he knows what he does is wrong. But he hates taking the bus, and his mother’s almost suffocating attention is convenient for him. All his friends live like this. He hadn’t understood, before his dream, the meaning of this convenience-centered behavior.

This is a picture of what we call hyper-care which the mother has always given to the son and from which the son benefits and objects to[2], and ta the same time he becomes his mother’s ‘man’.

To offer an interpretation of the dream, in the light of Marco’s account, the breasts which expand with water easily remind us of breastfeeding which has its own time and sense. The milk, first colostrum, then little more than sugary water, becomes milk that feeds and protects the infant. At around 6-8 months the milk returns to colostrum and loses its properties in order to facilitate the weaning process and subsequent development phases. Breastfeeding till the age of three means that the mother/child prolonging the natural process excessively. Aside from being useless, this assumes other inappropriate incestual and passifying significance, and above all it destroys, as the dream symbolically reveals, the process of autonomy of the child, then the boy, to create his own form.

Obviously the milk/water now refers to the current behavior of the mother towards her son. Highly seductive, as represented by the naked breast, and seen in the language and means of communication more appropriate to a lover than to an adolescent son, and in the ‘maternal concern’ which allows the boy to avoid any effort, including the effort of growing up. The water is destructive because it is untimely. Water is also associated with the child support received and the purchase of the house, immediately recognized unconsciously and consciously by Marco as a sort of ‘corruption’ from which he can hardly keep a distance.

The mother’s discourse could sound like this: “My dear son, your father wasn’t any good for me, even though I still take his child support payments but we both share your custody. Even the man I am with now doesn’t really satisfy me. Actually I am using him for economic advantages in your favor, so you are my accomplice. In the end, you are my only man. My favorite!”

The dream about the father, instead, unconsciously comments upon not only his maternal behavior, where the rules push him towards going abroad, and ending his maternal dependence, but analysis can also highlight, through the temporality, the setting and the rules, his participation in the maternal sphere for its undoubted daily and economic advantages, and of the avoidance of the separation which the boy experiences as a death to escape from at any cost, even that of remaining a child (Chasseguet-Smirgel 1985).

We ask you: how can this boy ever leave his mother when faced with so much ‘maternal’ devotion and the consequential sense of guilt towards her than any form of autonomy will inevitably make him feel? Will he ever find the courage to refuse the current and promised economic benefits in the name of existential autonomy? We cannot answer this right now, but we know that Marco, unsurprisingly, then failed at his second attempt to qualify for the scholarship, and due to his anger and desperation and was  found with a considerable amount of hashish and was arrested and sent to trial. We shall stop here as the youth is still in analysis.

The psychological aspects of hyper-caring

We start with this emblematic but also enormously widespread case, in order to discuss what we have denominated the folly of matriarchy, what we call hyper-caring. What do we mean by this term? Where does maternal concern end and abuse begin? In a 2011 sentence the Court of Appeals convicted a mother and her father, the child’s grandfather, of child abuse, stating that ‘overprotection and hyper-caring constitute a crime of abuse especially if these excesses cause damage to the minor’s psychic integrity’ (Sentence n.36503/2011).

Evidence demonstrated motor and socialization limits, a serious denigration of the father figure and delayed schooling.

Although seemingly far from Marco’s case, this sentence, we believe, should give us food for deep thought. The field of child psychology offers much research on very similar phenomena (over-involvement /protectiveness), This is an intrusive and anxious style of parenting which does not allow the child to face the natural challenges of life and interferes with the development of problem management” (Patrizi et al. 2010). This category includes intrusiveness, encouragement of dependence and exclusion of the child to the outside world (Parker 1983).

Several authors, through a meta-analysis of clinical samples, have suggested that internalized disorders – depression and anxiety- often accompanied by substance use or abuse, are connected to the hyperactivation of bonding related to passivity and low self-esteem (Van Jzendoorn & Bakermans-Kranemburg 2008). If a parent exercises excessive psychological control over their child, they actually deny him or her any psychological independence, (Barber 1996; Barber & Harmon 2002; Kering 2003). Overprotectiveness seen as the inhibition of behavior and encouragement of dependence, falls into this category, seeing that the support characteristics of a parenting style which favors independence and psychological growth is lacking (Grolnick et al. 2002; Gronlick & Ryan 1989; Pomerantz & Rubble 1998; Grolnick 2003).

Other research reveals how over-involvement/protectiveness, in equal measure to maternal depression and parent anxiety, is a predictor for the presence of internationalization difficulties in children aged between two and four (Bayer et al. 2006).

Cordato (2010), in an Italian sample of 1570 students between the ages of 18 and 38, subjected them to a series of standardized tests and measured the level of attachment, the scale of moral disengagement and if they live at home, autonomously or sharing, such as in a university dormitory. The students who lived at home with their parents showed higher for anxious/preoccupied attachment, in line with other studies (Maione & Franceschini 1999; Barber & Harmon 2002; Cassidy & Shaver 2008), while those who lived autonomously were less anxious, more altruistic and happier. The researcher then stated that ‘several other studies, both longitudinal and correctional, demonstrate that a child brought up in an over-involved overprotective environment develops what Bowlby (1988) calls “insecure attachment”, and this is related to moral and community disengagement, weak personal convictions and unhappiness’.

Similarly, several Italian social scientists have studied the phenomenon of the so-called long family (Scabini & Donati 1988). Many researchers have carefully studied this very Italian phenomenon of living at home until an advanced age. In an interesting study by Scabini & Donati (1988) the phenomenon of the long family reveals itself to be problematic because it interferes with the real process if emancipation of children from their parents. Even more seriously, we believe, this characterizes young people who cannot take on the typical responsibilities of an adult, build themselves a stable family unit, and choose a path to lead to a career rather than another, leaving them ‘to wander aimlessly’ (Scabini & Donati 1988).

Other authors have discussed the diffusion of ‘nihilism’, that is the lack of prospects, of plans for the future, of inconclusiveness and of falling back on the past and their golden childhood (Galimberti 2007; Testoni 1997). Alberto Alesina and Andrea Ichino (2009) describe young people choosing the faculty closest to home, even if it is less desirable, as opposed to their English or American peers who choose the most prestigious – albeit it miles and miles away from the family home. We can also compare this to the expansion of the phenomenon of the Not engaged in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) which in Italy in 2013 reached 22,2%, the highest all over Europe, where the average is around 13% (Rapporto Openpolis, 2014)[3].

We can now deal with your question in the light if what has been discussed. Does the concept of hyper-caring extend to Marco’s family and those patients we see at the services for Addiction or Mental Health?

What difference is there between highly pathological situations and those which were once considered ‘spoiling’ a child? The transition from rule-based families to those based on involvement has taken place during in our generations. Can this be a counterbalance to an excessive emphasis on personal needs, extreme focus on personal freedom, typical of inbreeding? Doesn’t the absence of precise rules and boundaries, the flattening of roles and generational levels actually mean breaking down natural barriers to make room for the incestuous desires of children and parents? It well known that whoever follows the  path of addiction to drugs or behavior, either with violence or passivity, is looking for their death or that of others, including the foreign fighters[4], whether they are children of the  well-to-do (Testoni&Zamperino 2003; Orsini 2010) or the children of neglect and war?

We shall attempt to delineate the boundaries between maternal and matriarchy, between care and hyper-caring and briefly address the debate around the ethics of care. This term was first introduced by Carol Gilligan in 1982 in antithesis to Kohlberg’s moral development pattern (Kohlberg&Gilligan 1971; Kohlberg 1976). She was his pupil and collaborator. Lawrence Kohlberg, like Jean Piaget, describes moral development in six vertical stages. The mature moral person is able to assume an impartial and detached perspective, and can reason in the Kantian sense, about abstract and universal principles, in a perspective of the generalized other, George Herbert Mead (Casalini 2015). Women, however, stop at the third stage because they reason in view of maintaining interpersonal relations and dedicate themselves to others. Gilligan challenges Kohlberg’s methodology, as he had only interviewed males, as well as his meta-theoretical construct.

Actually women are more interested in relationships and the emotional-affective implications that different moral choices bring about This difference, however, is not a non-value, but a qualitative difference which need specific parameters and the author calls this the ethics of care.

We would like to point out that it is not the choices themselves that we are examining, but the moral reasoning that leads to the different choices. The author writes: ‘it is understandable that a moral of rights and non-intervention can appear threatening to a woman, as it indicates indifference and non-involvement. At the same time it becomes clear that, as in the male view, a moral of responsibility appears inconclusive and dispersive, given the insistence on contextual relativism’ (ibid., p.30).

Gilligan, nonetheless, within the logic of differences, emphasizes the difference between genders and somehow wishes for an integration of the moral logics. ‘Understanding how the dynamics of human development springs from tension between responsibility and rights means seeing the integrity of the two modalities of parallel experience eventually converging. Whereas the ethics of natural law are based on a premise of equality… the ethics of care is based on the premise of non-violence (no one must be hurt)’ (cit.).

Gillian’s work certainly caused an intense debate. After her many authors examined the ethics of care. Several, such as Sara Rudddick and Eva Feder Kittay, have considered the concept of difference and tried to define its specific philosophical, social and wider contexts. Ruddick (1989) believes that there is a maternal thinking which is quite pragmatic as it is related to daily actions. It is ambivalent, because the aspects of care and work intersect and join a society which, perhaps only minimally, accepts work as a positive. It is unequal, as it is based on juvenalisation and needs. It is pervasive because the continual times and responsibilities can maximize and concretize to the detriment of reflection. Maternal care can therefore implicate the recognition of the vulnerability of the child and suggests that the mother can herself become the primary cause of well-being as well as discomfort for her child. The author thus recognizes that maternal thinking has the task of reflecting on this ambivalence, recognizing its roots, and finally of protecting her children, who are vulnerable and exposed to the control of their mother.

If women can succeed in this, maternal thinking could become a model for more peaceful and civil living. Kittay (1999) also is involved with the logic of differences. This American author, mother of a seriously disabled child, believes that the ethics of care, which she calls ‘Love’s Labor’, is based on several fundamental premises. It is a job, because the ‘effective involvement … overlaps with “dependent work” but is not identical’ (1999, p.53). Its nature is not reciprocal, as it embraces vulnerability and inequality. A wife’s care for her husband does not fall into the same category, she says. The prototype is actually maternal practice, a concept also used by Ruddick, although it can also be practiced by men. Kittay write that ‘the maternal relationship becomes a paradigm, an analogous element, for social relations based on vulnerability’. (1999, p.124).

In this case Jane Martin’s ‘three Cs’ – care, concern e connection, are fundamental characteristics. However, or perhaps for this reason, both Kittay and Rudddick are both aware of the risks of this position, so much so that Kittay introduces the possibility that this power becomes domination.

The woman, she who socially takes care because she is disadvantaged, can become domination.

She provides the example of her own mother who used to stand up during meals and not participate while the husband/father and daughter ate, is truly emblematic and calls for reflection.[5] In those years, as discussed by Nel Nooddings (1984), a new theme was being introduced – a naturalistic view of differences which suggests that the ethics of care does not require reciprocity because taking care of someone requires detachment- not receiving anything in return- and implies making a place inside for the other. We can see this as the moral idea that the other’s well-being corresponds to one’s own well-being: giving oneself.

Bion’s psychological concept of reverie describes the symbol of the mother who accommodates. This author is little known due to the fact that feminism, while accepting the concept of differences, is reluctant to believe the concept of nature. Even the most moderate exponents recognize the risk of placing the woman in a ‘destiny’ such as that experienced in patriarchal societies. Several authors have responded to Gilligan’s ideas and denied the existence of differences. Since Chodorow (1978, 1994) maternity has been seen as a cultural consequence, and the term caregiver, thanks to psycho-dynamic relational psychological theories, has replaced the term mother, as used by Bowlby. Joan Tronto (1993) confirms this, criticizing the view of differences and focusing on the unnatural ethics of care attributed to women in order to exclude them from the public sphere. She proposes taking this concept from the private sphere to a public and political one. She calls it, in fact, ‘the power of the weak’ (1993, p.136). Tronto[6] is also aware of the implicit risks of women’s caregiving. ‘ … most caregivers end up getting angry … caregivers are often irritated because their needs are not met’. (1993, p.160). If this anger is not recognized the risk is that it is addressed towards the person receiving the care. Many years earlier Adrienne Rich (1976) had written that the feelings of hate and love that women feel for the ‘the job of being a mother’, as well as the awareness that ‘inequality originates from relationships unequal as far as authority, domination and subordination are concerned’ (1976, p.154).

A moral reflection on needs and sacrifice is important. We quote Susan Moller Okin (1989), representing the most extreme feminist thoughts on the ethics of care, who prefers to resolve the problem by imagining an androgynous society, because only by breaking down differences can there be a fair division of duties and tasks, hitherto left to women and thereby penalizing and marginalizing them .This looks like the choice of post-modern society.

Let us leave aside the social and political debate on the ethics of care which include many aspects which we will only mention briefly. Is it possible to conciliate endogenic and exogenic views? When can a society such as ours provide welfare for the ethics of care? What risks of extending aid and passivization can this bring about? Several disability theorists have criticized the view of family care, and prefer to include care in a professional environment with the introduction of personal assistants for the disabled as an expression of freedom and autonomy. Are they right? Moreover, will the women who, in good  faith, still today are involved in caring as a primary occupation  ever succeed in conciliating their ambivalent feelings discussed by all the authors above? Within the theory of differences, is there paternal care which is specific to men, and what does it consist of? When we talk about civil rights, usually connected to money, to ‘alimony’, pensions, inheritance, what do we mean? Are we talking about, frankly, a family salary? We would like to remember some psychological aspects related to the ethics of care in its narrowest sense. These aspects have today become prevalent, but inexplicably are absent from both philosophical and psychological debates  First of all, caring for others can be performed as a function of auto-referential narcissism, I exist because I am the center of your world, or else I take care of you and I expect you to never leave me. In this case, hyper-caring is simply the passivization of the other, undermining any autonomy and offering as a reward to keep the child close like Hansel and Gretel’s gingerbread house (Grimm 1951), so they wouldn’t be eaten up by the witch[7]. In other words, you need to stay a needy child all your life. Kittay, showing absurd unawareness of such statements, writes about the disloyalty of her son towards his mother when he left the maternal home.[8] His mother, she says, “makes her son’s joys and suffering her own, and assigns her own emotional life to him and acts on his behalf” and is devastated by such disloyalty. Marco is also afraid of leaving because he feels his mother would experience it exactly like an infidelity, and so detachment evokes in him his own death. In reality, living at home is not necessary to be entrenched in an eternal childhood.

Our services, as well as our entire society, are full of sons and daughters who live in an eternal state of adolescence-They feel, in an absolutely egosyntonic way, that ‘my mother is the most important person in my life’. In this sense the moral responsibility of women and mothers is fundamental and the enormous relational power of women, as dangerous as men’s power, needs so be examined honestly, without ideology. This axiom is very common in clinical practice, but seldom discussed in theory. Gilligan’s desired integration of ethics of care and justice isn’t other than the awareness of others’ needs together with the understanding of a universal moral which transcends the individual and our selfish needs which lie inside us all. The ethics of care, to really dominate ethics, needs to be integrated into the universal and legal justice system in that the rules that humans set for themselves and relationships also have roles to be respected in generational relations. This means maximum acceptance of ‘basic life rules’, as described by Robert Langs, and these and their profound significance must be considered in every daily action.

The ethics of care implies, we believe, the recognition of the other, in that he/she is loved and set free to approach life and towards a man or woman who becomes the center of their life, exogamically speaking. To further examine this perspective, we refer to (Berivi, Grassi) and their integrated formula for ‘the ethics of the sense of care’.

Secondly, hyper-caring is not only ‘excessive care’, an incessant widening of goods and aid, which can also create dependence, lack of autonomy and insecurity. Hyper-caring is involved, another aspect of mere relationality (Berivi 2011), whenever a mother, father or family go from a vertical existence, necessary for growth and moral development, to a horizontal existence where everything and anything goes, and the moral system is highly compromised and secondary material benefits make detachment absolutely impossible. This system is the fruit of the eternal sense of revenge that women feel towards their men and this can lead to a breaking down of every paternal principle, perhaps by cultivating rancor towards men and their father, and creating in the child an image of ‘ideal man’ in boys as well as in girls. If the father, is actively marginalized by his or the mother’s choice, the incestuous boundaries are in fact removed and this leaves room for those central masturbatory fantasies described by the Laufer couple (1984)[9]. This is easy to imagine in a world where increasingly mothers live alone with their children, as in single parent families.

Our thesis is the following: although attachment studies have discovered and emphasized abuse and neglect, which obviously are important factors in psychology, hyper-caring also represents the folly of matriarchy. Currently this is extremely widespread and hidden, and replaces maternal care and reveals a dark side, as seen in the various configurations of the figure of the stepmother in fairy tales (Von Franz 1969, 1972).

This results in identity confusing and serious pathological forms, ranging from  substance abuse and personality disorders in serious cases, to learning difficulties and relational problems like promiscuity, difficulty in becoming autonomous and authority figure problems in less severe cases.

These observations confirm our thesis that in the ethics of care, maternal relations and indeed family relations become the ethics of maternal power, in opposition to patriarchal ethics, which are also feral and dangerous, and risk leading both women and men into a senseless world in which mere relationality transforms a world into an anal universe as Chasseguet-Smirgel (1985) warned us in her excellent publication entitled “Creativity and Perversion”.

She says: ‘I have stated that trying to replace genitality with its previous state means to deny reality. It is an attempt to replace the world with deceit and fiction of reality, “Planet of the Apes” takes the place of the world of men. The subsequent chaos, the confusion of values, the abolition of differences: can all be ascribed to a regression back to the sadistic-anal state. It is an escape from the patriarchal order. And this fatherless world without genital procreation is also a world without causality. I borrow a simple but effective idea expressed by Bela Grumberger, who often stated that the cause is to the effect as a father is to his child. In the universe I describe the world has been inserted into a giant grinding machine (the digestive system) and has been reduced to homogeneous pulp (excrement)-So, Everything is equal’ (1985, p.192-3).

In conclusion, in Doris Lessing’s “The Grandmothers” she talks about the incestuous love of two mothers who each lived with the other’s adolescent son. The son, while making love to his childhood friend’s mother, ‘…he shouted “No, don’t, don’t, don’t even think about it, I won’t let you grow old”. “Well” said Roz, “It is going to happen for that”.

“ … No!” and he wept. “So I mustn’t get old, is that it, Ian? I’m not allowed to? Mad, the boy is mad”… And alone, she felt uneasiness, and, indeed, awe. It really did seem that he had refused to think she might grow old. Mad! But perhaps lunacy is one of the great invisible wheels that keep our world turning’ (Lessing 2003, p.42).


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[1] The first time his father took him to the Youth Desk the diagnosis was not however so good-natured. His manipulative aspects and his lack of motivation to change had emerged clearly, rendering the intervention impossible due to the lack of minimum requirements. This diagnosis was communicated to the boy directly and on its own, while an explanation in accordance with protecting the boy’s privacy was given to his parents. After about two years the boy independently and only with his father’s help, he resumes contact with the Centre, claiming to have changed and wishing to deal with his problems.

[2] The contempt for the mother, hidden but very strong, becomes in our opinion the contempt for other women.

[3] Incidentally, these studies, of course, are counter-argued by other authors that the continuous presence of children in the family of origin is the direct result of the economic crisis of recent years. However, Francesco Giavazzi, in his review of the book by Alesina &Ichino, questions why the Italian welfare state spending represents 6%, while in other countries reaches 20%, with which we also agree. Or it is because the hours that the Italian women spend on household work is twice compared to those of the other Mediterranean countries such as Spain? It also appears that in Italy still many women leave their jobs or they resort to part-time jobs to take care of their children, the elderly, their grandchildren, etc. And is it only because of the responsibility of Catholic morality that Italy cannot change? Or is it because the Italian women are struggling to change their mentality as suggested by the young economists Fernandez, Sheets, Olivetti (2009)?

[4] As claimed by Alessandro Orsini, sociologist and expert in terrorism, the Messenger of November 20, 2015, after the massacre of Paris of November 13, 2015.

[5] Indeed there seems to be a very special, extreme version of the maternal “devotion”. So special to influence the young Kittay?

[6] The author, incidentally, criticizes the Kantian morality because it puts mankind and the reason at the center of the ‘complete and authentic moral’ (1993, p.60) and re-evaluates the eighteenth-century authors who preceded him that ‘still showed the feelings of closeness, moral sensitivity and attachment to others and to the community that are often attributed to women’ (1993, p.61). Only the ‘sympathy’, or perhaps we should call it empathy, can make people able to extend the ethics of care to all alike, ‘beyond our social group … fundamental for our contemporary moral life’ (1993, p.63).

[7] ‘But aggression is also possessive exclusion determined by the excess of love, of an unhealthy love, all-absorbing, which clings instead of embraces’ (Votrico 2004, p.93).

[8] However, the boy is arrested for crimes. In our view, the boy in fact does not leave his mother, but rather his behavior has indeed allow him to forever remain her son, as Chasseguet- Smirgel says (1985).

[9] Always Marco, in a conversation, informs me about the habit of teenagers talking and fantasizing about the MILF (Mother I’d like to Fuck), for example, female adults, mothers of their friends, with whom they can have virtual sex. On the Internet, porn sites also exist with women of older age targeting young teenagers.


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