Feminine psychology

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Feminine psychology is an approach that focuses on social, economic, and political issues confronting women all throughout their lives. It can be considered a reaction to male-dominated theories such as Sigmund Freud's view of female sexuality. The groundbreaking works of Karen Horney argued that male realities cannot describe female psychology or define their gender because they are not informed by girls' or women's experiences.[1] Theorists, thus, claim this new approach is required. There is the position that women's social existence is crucial in understanding their psychology.[2] For instance, it is claimed that some characteristics of female psychology emerge to comply with the given social order defined by men and not necessarily because it is the nature of their gender or psychology.[3]

Horney's theory[edit]

The feminine psychology is often attributed to the pioneering work of Horney, who was the first woman to present a paper on feminine psychology at an international meeting.[4] She famously contradicted Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic theory, arguing that it is male-dominated and, therefore, harbored biases and phalocentric views.[5] For this reason, such theory - Horney claimed - cannot describe femininity because it is informed by male reality and not by actual female experience.[5] For instance, there is the case of Freud's proposition that the female personality tends to exhibit the so-called penis envy, where a girl interprets her failure to possess a penis as a punishment for wrongdoing and later blames her mother responsible.[6] As Freud stated, "she has seen it and knows that she is without it and wants to have it."[7] Horney argued that it is not penis envy but a basic anxiety, hostility, and anger towards the opposite-sex parent, whom she views as competition for the affection of the same-sex parent, thus, a direct threat to her safety and security.[8] Her view, which formed a significant part of her feminine psychology theory, is that this aspect should be resolved based on interpersonal dynamics (e.g. differences in social power) than sexual dynamics.

Horney countered the Freudian concept with her own "womb envy" theory where men envy women's capability to bear children and they compensate for it with achievement and success. She deconstructed penis envy and described it as nothing more than women wanting to express their own natural needs for success and the security that is characteristic of both sexes. There is an analogy that describes Horney's feminine psychology as optimistic in the sense of world and life affirmation in comparison with Freud's pessimism oriented towards world and life negation.[9] In the fourteen papers she wrote about feminine psychology, Horney offered a new way of thinking about women, underscoring how they should not gain value through their husbands, children, and family.[4]

Motherhood vs. career[edit]

One dynamic outlined by feminine psychologists is the balancing act that women partake in between the more traditional role of motherhood and the more modern one of a career woman. Balancing the roles means attempting to satisfy both the need for personal achievement and the need for love and emotional security.

This does not mean that the roles contradict each other. The additional income from work may both relieve some stress and give the mother the ability to provide greater advantages (education, healthcare) to her children. Working also allows women to feel as though they are making a contribution to society beyond the family. A more fulfilled mother, in most cases, will be a better mother. Although this is true, many children feel neglected by their mothers when they are more focused on their career [10] Twenty three percent of mothers feel that they are not spending enough time with their children, but believe that their children will become more independent and understanding once they get older.

A lot has changed throughout the years as mothers and fathers both feel the pressure of balancing both work and family life. Fifty six percent of mothers say that handling work and family life is difficult for them as they are doing more than just housework and child care. Adding to the burden is society's concept that the mother's role is to spend more time with their children. A study conducted by the Pew Research Center indicates that 42% of respondents believe that a mother who works part-time is an ideal scenario while 16% thinks that working full-time is ideal for mothers, and the rest think that mothers should stay at home.

In addition, fathers have always been viewed as the bread makers in the family. However, times have changed and they are now more included in the parenting role. Fathers spend more time at home and they engage in taking care of their children and helping around the house a lot more than they did a century ago. For example, 50% of working fathers state that it is extremely difficult to balance work and taking care of their children (Pew Research Center 2012).[11] The Pew Research Center also asked parents to rate themselves as good or bad parents. It was found that most mothers rated themselves a lot higher than fathers did and working mothers rated themselves a lot higher than non-working mothers did (Pew Research Center 2012).[11]

According to a study conducted by Dr. Jennifer Stuart, sometimes the history of the woman affects how she chooses to balance the two roles, or if she will balance at all. Specifically, Stuart asserts that the primary determinant is a woman's "quality of her relationship with her mother. Women whose mothers fostered feelings of both warm attachment and confident autonomy may find ways to enjoy their children and/or work, often modifying work and family environments in ways that favor both".[12]

Some women have no choice other than to work while raising children because of financial need. Others work for personal fulfillment. In either case, women are making compromises in their careers so that they can balance paid work and motherhood responsibilities. They are cutting back hours and accepting lower pay or a lower job status. In order to make the compromise, they have chosen to be satisfied with being average rather than being a top performer in the workplace (Kapur, 2004).

What mothers have to remember, according to Dr. Ramon Resa, is that "children are fairly resilient and will adapt to whatever changes are required. They are also astute at sensing unhappiness, disappointment and apathy" (Resa, 2009). There is no harm in trying any path in order to find fulfillment, because no decision is permanent and can be changed as the situation warrants.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Miletic, Michelle Price (October 2013). "The Introduction of a Feminine Psychology to Psychoanalysis". Contemporary Psychoanalysis. 38 (2): 287–299. doi:10.1080/00107530.2002.10747102. ISSN 0010-7530.
  2. ^ Roazen, Paul (2003). Cultural Foundations of Political Psychology (Clt). New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers. p. 259. ISBN 978-0765801821.
  3. ^ Berger, Milton (1994). Women Beyond Freud: New Concepts Of Feminine Psychology. New York: Brunner/Mazel. p. 150. ISBN 978-0876307090.
  4. ^ a b "Karen Horney". faculty.webster.edu. Retrieved 2018-09-05.
  5. ^ a b Miletic, Michelle Price (2002). "The Introduction of a Feminine Psychology to Psychoanalysis". Contemporary Psychoanalysis. 38 (2): 287–299. doi:10.1080/00107530.2002.10747102. ISSN 0010-7530.
  6. ^ Erwin, Edward (2002). The Freud Encyclopedia: Theory, Therapy, and Culture. London: Taylor & Francis. p. 179. ISBN 978-0415936774.
  7. ^ Klages, Mary (2017). Literary Theory: The Complete Guide. London: Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 45. ISBN 9781472592750.
  8. ^ Carducci, Bernardo (2009). The Psychology of Personality: Viewpoints, Research, and Applications. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell. p. 184. ISBN 9781405136358.
  9. ^ Kelman, Harold (1967). "Karen Horney on feminine psychology". The American Journal of Psychoanalysis. 27 (1–2): 163–183. doi:10.1007/bf01873051. ISSN 0002-9548.
  10. ^ Parker, Kim (2013). "Modern Parenthood". Social and Demographic Trends: 13.
  11. ^ a b "Nothing found for 2013 03 14 Modern Parenthood Roles Of Moms And Dads Converge As They Balance Work And Family %3E". Retrieved 2016-02-22.[permanent dead link]
  12. ^ Stuart, Jennifer J. (2008, October 7). "Work and motherhood: a clinical study". The American Psychoanalyst. Vol.42, No.1. Pp.22–23. Reprinted by Wellsphere (Archived version available here via Internet Archive. Archive date 5 October 2011.) Access date 9 February 2015.


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