Freud vs Horney

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Sigmund Freud’s influence on modern day thinking permeates into our lives every day whether or not we realize it. Although much of his work has either been refuted or revised, his ideas have influenced an enormous spectrum of psychology and how we view life through our own thoughts. While his influence is irrefutable, the opinions concerning Freud and his writings vary greatly throughout the world. Individuals may distinguish the great genius in his groundbreaking theories of psychoanalysis, or they may reject his writings arguing that he had pushed the envelope too far. Either way, it is safe to say that his theories still evoke a considerable amount of debate to this day. Out of all of Freud’s theories, however, it can be argued that his views on women and feminine psychology are the most controversial. The debate between Freud and feminists has been well documented through the writings of many authors. The Enigma of Women is one of several books that have been published that analyzes the issues between Freud and feminism. In The Enigma of Women, Sarah Kofman comments on Freud’s prediction that feminists would take to the warpath against his writings on the women arguing that Freud’s theories are “rife” with masculine prejudice (11). Other credible books, such as Samuel Slipp’s The Freudian Mystique raise important questions on Freud’s theories of feminism. Why did Freud make such grossly biased and incorrect statements about women, while in other areas he was a very perceptive and accurate observer? Slipp argues that it was Freud’s genius and his monumental discoveries in other areas of mental functioning that lent credibility to his theories on women (12). Some of the earliest disagreements about Freud’s feminine psychology had been voiced by the German female psychoanalyst Karen Horney. Horney composed a series of essays between 1922 and 1935 arguing against Freud’s theories on women that would become compiled into a book known as Feminine Psychology. As distinguished by Susan Quinn in A Mind of Her Own: The Legacy of Karen Horney: “Taken together, they constitute an impressively full and persuasive counter to Freud’s theory of female sexual development” (211). A large part of Freud’s theories on the subject of feminism were based around biological components such as the penis, and Freud based his theory of feminine development around what he coined as “penis envy.” The idea that “penis envy” is what caused females to adopt the feminist role was what Horney found particularly demeaning and inaccurate to women. As a result, Horney countered Freud’s theories with her own concepts such as “womb envy”, and other biological elements in feminine development. Horney eventually examined the effects of culture on women as well, and this would become extremely important as the role of culture was an unexplored area in Freud’s feminist theories. Because Horney failed to deviate from basic biological determinism in her early essays, however, she would not fully demonstrate the outside influences on feminine development which resulted in a dismissal of her theories by the psychoanalytical community. Horney’s argument would become much more significant after she had introduced the effects that culture had on femininity. Her later arguments initiated debate within the psychoanalytical community, and also influenced more individuals to argue against Freud’s theories. By accounting for all of the internal and external factors that influence feminine development, Horney would devalue Freud’s one dimensional theories that resulted as a product of his masculine bias. In the end, Horney would ultimately help change the views on feminine psychology and eventually psychoanalysis as a whole. One of Horney’s early critiques of Freud’s theories about feminine development lies in the concept of penis envy. A very strong sense of the masculine bias that was present in Freud’s work on women can be recognized in his theory on penis envy. In a...
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