Horney and feminist thought


She is said to be at home only in the realm of Eros. Spiritual matters are alien to her innermost being, and she is at odds with cultural trends. She therefore is, as Asians frankly state, a second-rate being. She is prevented from real accomplishments by the deplorable, bloody tragedies of menstruation and childbirth. And so every man silently thanks his God, just as the pious Jew does in his prayers, that he was not created a woman.

These words, from Horney's first book, Feminine Psychology published in 1936, are echoes of earlier essays written in the 1920s, soon after Freud first published his theories of female sexuality. Horney believed that classic Freudian psychoanalysis (which she had then recently undergone with Freud disciple Karl Abraham) inherently perceived women as imperfect because it was the work of a male (Freud) in a male-dominated society. Horney saw Freud's hypotheses regarding female sexuality were nothing more than an attempt to curb the "power struggle between the sexes." Horney made every effort to stimulate debate on this difference between Freud and feminists during her years at the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute, but was unsuccessful. Both Freud in Vienna and her male colleagues at the Institute in Berlin allowed the issue to die a natural death by simply ignoring it. For Horney, though, it did not die.

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