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Wieland, C. (1988). Femininity as neurosis. Free Associations, 1(13):48-58.

(1988). Free Associations, 1(13):48-58

Femininity as neurosis

Christina Wieland

The Feminist Legacy of Karen Horney, by Marcia Westcott, New Haven, CT/London: Yale University Press, 1986, 242 pages, £17.50

Fifty years after Freud's admission of his inability to draw any final conclusions on femininity, the question remains largely unresolved. After the impasse of the ‘great debate’1 of the 1920s and 30s and the uneasy silence that followed, during which psychoanalysis and psychology investigated child development paying little attention to sex differences, the subject is back with equal force and urgency. The last ten years have witnessed a spate of books on feminine development and, faced with yet another book and yet another theory, one feels the need to put it into a wider perspective.

Broadly speaking, theories of femininity fall into two categories. In the first category belong those books which assume an essential femininity which is biologically determined and which stands in opposition to a biologically determined masculinity. In this model masculinity and femininity are seen as complementary opposites. Jungian theory is an example of this, but such diverse theories as Karen Horney's, Melanie Klein's and Ernest Jones's also fall into this category. Some feminist writers also belong here, Simone de Beauvoir being a notable example. Some of these theories (Jung, Klein) bypass the social world as irrelevant, while others (Horney, de Beauvoir) treat it as a force oppressing natural femininity.

To

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