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Satow, R. (1975). Psychoanalysis and Women. Jean Baker Miller (Ed.). New York: Brunner/Mazel, Inc., 1973.. Psychoanal. Rev., 62(3):515-516.

(1975). Psychoanalytic Review, 62(3):515-516

Book Reviews

Psychoanalysis and Women. Jean Baker Miller (Ed.). New York: Brunner/Mazel, Inc., 1973.

Review by:
Roberta Satow

Jean Baker Miller has done both feminists and psychoanalysts a favor by publishing this volume. The only other work which is similar is Ruitenbeck's Psychoanalysis and Female Sexuality (1966), but Miller's volume has included more than twice as many selections, all of which reflect the fact that psychoanalysis is relevant to women today and is not inherently sexist. Whereas Ruitenbeck included selections from Helene Deutsch and Marie Bonaparte as well as Clara Thompson and Karen Horney, Miller has no selections representing the orthodox Freudian view on this subject.

The book is divided into three sections: “The Early Innovators,” “The Emergence of New Evidence,” and “Problems and Possibilities—Several Views.” In the first section the esays by Karen Horney and Clara Thompson seemed to be the most insightful and interesting. In fact, reading these essays one is struck by the similarity between the critiques of the concept of penis envy by Thompson and Horney and those by Kate Millett and Shulamith Firestone. Yet Horney's brilliant essay, in which she argues that penis envy is essentially a projection of men's castration anxiety, was first published in 1926. It is even more interesting that radical feminists usually quote Marie Bonaparte and Helen Deutsch and do not mention Horney or Thompson when they attack psychoanalysis. Yet Clara Thompson wrote in 1942:

In a patriarchal culture the restricted opportunities afforded women, the limitations placed on her development and independence, give a real basis for envy of the male quite apart from any neurosis. If the competitive attitude is greatly developed by personal life experiences, then the hatred of being a woman is correspondingly increased. Moreover, in an industrialized culture in which the traditional family is no longer of central importance, the specially female contribution, the bearing of children, loses value to the various factors which encourage a diminishing birth rate. (p. 46)

The theme of this first section is that female behavior and attitudes which Freud interpreted as universal and biologically determined are actually reflective of historically specific social circumstances, and what was interpreted as the envy of the penis is actually the envy of the social position of the male.

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