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Feminine Psychology – A journey of mindset across generations of women

To anyone reading this article, the term feminine psychology will come across as unheard of. The term feminist psychology was originally coined by Karen Horney.

Karen Horney was a pioneer in this field and actively challenged the lack of a female perspective to psychological theories and the view of female sexuality, role and mental health. She contradicted Freud’s psychoanalytical theory as being male-driven and dominated, which lacked an objective view of both genders. She brought a different perspective to some traditional concepts.

Karen Horney

Feminist psychology is oriented on the values and principles of feminism. It includes gender, how it affects women, and their perspective on the field. It is based on gender equality. 

Horney wrote a bookFeminine Psychology, including articles on this topic from 1922–1937. She talked about some previously held beliefs about women, relationships, and how female psychology was affected by society. Her approach/theory was majorly in response to Sigmund Freud’s theory of “penis envy” which stated that girls experienced Electra complex (envied their fathers for possessing a penis and rivalled their mothers).

Since then, many women have contributed immensely to the field of Psychology and have proposed theories and investigations to understand the concepts better. 
Let us look at a few feminist psychology organisations.

  • Society for the Psychology of Women, Division 35 – It is an inclusive organisation for all feminists involved in research, teaching and practice in the psychology of women. They use the term “womxn’’ to highlight its purpose and work. It provides networking opportunities, upskilling and cultivating leadership potential. 

Feminist Psychology aims to enhance women’s lives and of all people through research, clinical practice, and social advocacy. It focuses on the social contexts in which women live. (Anderson and Martinez, 2014).

In the initial years of psychology, women experienced difficulties, discrimination and obstacles. But over the years, they have fought hard to contribute to the field. Let’s look at the groundbreaking work of some women in Psychology.

  1. Anna Freud– she is known more for her work in ego psychology and child psychotherapy than being the daughter of Sigmund Freud.
  2. Mary Ainsworth– conducted research on mother-child attachments and interactions to understand the attachment styles between children and caregivers, especially mothers.
  3. Mary Whiton Calkins, who studied at Harvard, was denied her degree based on her gender. This did not deter her passion and perseverance, which finally led her to become the first female president of the American Psychological Association.
  4. Judith S. Beck– the president of Beck Institute, is working extensively in training, research and practice in Cognitive behaviour therapy.
  5. Nalini Ambady– an Indian-American social psychologist and an expert on nonverbal behaviour and interpersonal perception. She received her PhD in social psychology from Harvard and later joined the Stanford faculty in 2011, becoming the first individual of Indian origin to teach Stanford’s psychology department. At Stanford, she founded SPARQ, the Center for Social Psychological Answers to Real-World Questions. 

These are a few names, while there are a lot of others who are contributing to the field with their unique ideas and interests. India is gradually picking up where females are rising in the field of Psychology. We need to encourage people to conduct more research around gender constructs in social settings, the role of women in psychology and support female psychologists. 

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