Wednesday 19 September 2018

Karen Horney and Psychoanalytic Feminism

"Psychoanalytic theory, if Horney is correct, is a theory of masculine psychology."
Kerr (1987)

Karen Horney was born in a little German town in 1885. As a young girl, she argued with her parents to let her attend grammar school - which was not the most typical thing to do for girls. Later, Horney studied medicine and - inspired by Freud - psychoanalysis. And later again, she started criticising Freud ... and was criticised for doing so (Hitchcock, 2005).
"Like all sciences and all valuations, the psychology of women has hitherto been considered only from the point of view of men." Karen Horney
"The view that women are infantile and emotional creatures, and as such, incapable of responsibility and independence is the work of the masculine tendency to lower women's self-respect." Karen Horney
"Karen Horney's contributions to psychology and, in particular, the psychology of women, are considerable. She remains one of the only women to be included in personality theory texts and was the first woman to present a paper on feminine psychology at an international conference. Her critique of Freud and the entire discipline of Psychology as androcentric unfolded in light of her observations relating to the sociocultural determinants of women's inferior position. She found it problematic that women were defined in relation to men and argued that penis envy, if it existed at all, was rooted, not in a wish to possess a penis but, rather, in a desire for the status and recognition afforded to men by the culture. She further argued that men's need to succeed and leave a name for themselves sprung from womb envy - their inability to carry and bear children. Horney was particularly moved to defend women against the charge that they were naturally masochistic. Women's dependence on men for love, money, security, and protection led women to overemphasize qualities like beauty and charm, Horney argued, but also to seek meaning through their relationships with husbands, children, and family."
Held (2010)

"Even in Freud's circle, not all analysts agreed with Freud's assessment and there were debates concerning women's sexuality and the roles of castration and penis envy therein, notably among Karl Abraham, Ernest Jones, Helene Deutsch, and Karen Horney. Horney in particular argued for an inherent feminine disposition that is not merely a secondary formation premised on castration and she took issue with the ostensible effects of penis envy and women's supposed feelings of inferiority. As with some later feminist criticisms of Freud, Horney attempted to retrieve female sexuality, and by extension a valid form of feminine existence, by appealing to a genuinely independent nature and holding culture culpable for women's subordinate status. By thus reasserting the primacy of biological and social forces, however, Horney disputes precisely the idea that is central to Freud's hypothesis and that marks psychoanalysis as a unique field of inquiry, that of a distinctive psychical realm of representation that is unconscious."
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
"The conception of what is normal varies not only with the culture but also within the same culture, in the course of time." Karen Horney
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- Hitchcock, S. T. (2005). Karen Horney. Pioneer of Feminine Psychology. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers.
- Kerr, N. J. (1987). "Wounded Womanhood". An Analysis of Karen Horney's Theory of Feminine Psychology.