Thompson's psychology of women
Clara Thompson was an important figure in the revisionist “cultural school” of psychoanalysis in the 1940s and 1950s, though today she is less well remembered than her culturalist colleagues Karen Horney, Harry Stack Sullivan and Erich Fromm. Thompson herself had no pretensions to theoretical innovation but primarily was seen as a very capable teacher, clinician and organizational leader.
In Clara Thompson’s opinion one of the weakest links in the Freudian thinking has been the explanation of the psychology of women. She can be seen as one of the feminists who were against the penis envy theory explained by Sigmund Freud. In her view it has been shown that cultural factors can explain the tendency of women feeling inferior about their sex. Thus one can say that the "penis envy" is a symbolic representation of the attitude of the women in this culture.
She presented an outline about the main facts towards the psychology of women in 1953  and discussed the way culture and society have a discriminating and suppressing effect on women. In discussing woman's biological differences from man, she indicated the general ways in which society frustrates or distorts these basic drives. Not denying the necessity of female passive mindset, Thompson argued society has had a greater impact on female passivity than biological influences. She thought that patriarchal society utilizes these differences as a basis for establishing the male as superior, and the female as inferior. An example of the discrimination of women is the fact of the biological difference between men and women in the nature of their sex lives. She did not share the opinion of Freud that women are doomed to less sexual satisfaction than men. In her opinion it is the liabilities in the society that limit women from not having strong sexual needs.
The 1940s and 1950s, followed WWII feminism, of the 1930s. It was a time of lost opportunity to women in the US. Women began leaving the work force and returning home, while men where gaining jobs. This era is associated with severe alcoholism and strict physical punishment of children. In the 1960s the civil rights movement brought about the radical feminist movement. Some radical feminists combined feminism with the mental health movements. Literary work such as that of Chesler which strangely suggests that girls who have been abused and develop psychosis as a result are in essence "masculine". Her use of the word masculine indicates a sexist attitude, in which, masculinity plays no role in nurture or affection. Men are reduced to the severe stigma of schizophrenia.
Another important point of discussion in Thompson's psychology of women is the problems women face when they must choose between being a home mother or a career woman without marriage. On the one hand the married women with children feel themselves as not fully using their capacities and on the other hand unmarried career women often seek psychoanalytic help for the restless loneliness the feel. This indicates that for the today women finding a balance in very difficult. Women have the desire for permanency and this can give a conflict. She is educated in two directions at the same time. On the one hand she is, like men, indoctrinated with the ideas of success and on the other hand she hopes to get married and have children. It is clear that Clara Thompson wanted to stress that all societies make some distinction between men and women roles but that these distinctions may have little to do with biological evolution.
Further studies have found different distributions of personality when compared to gender in a variety of cultures. The two most common personalities for women in the United States are nurturing and care giving. Very few women are the executive personality and most people find the executive personality one of the most confrontational personalities overall. Thompson's belief that female behavior is not affected by their biology has more to do with addressing sexism than actually understanding the biochemistry of sex hormones.
- Capelle, E. (1998). Clara Thompson as Culturalist. Psychoanal. Rev., 85, 75-93
- Ruitenbeek, H.M. (1971). Psychoanalysis and female sexuality. Journal of marriage and the family, 33, 599-599
- Thompson, C.M. (1953). Towards a psychology of women. Pastoral Psychology, 4, 29-38
- Chesler, Phyllis. Women and Madness New York: Springer Publishing Co, Inc., 1983