Who started the feminist revolution in Psychology?

In this blog we will answer the question Who started the feminist revolution in Psychology and discuss how the women rose to realize their potential, thus breaking the stigma.

Who started the feminist revolution in Psychology?

Karen Horney was the first one to use term ‘feminist psychology’ in her book between 1922-1937. Feminist Psychology focuses on the principles, signifiance and values of feminism. Karen Horney was a German psychoanalyst who was a Neo Freudian, refuting Freud’s ‘penis envy’ theory and giving the women their due significance in terms of sexuality and responsibility.

Karen’s inclination towards feminism could have arisen from being raised in a house with a domineering disciplinarian father. 

What is Feminism?

Feminism is the equal rights for women, in terms of personal dealing, socialization, workplace or organizational and in education. It emphasizes on the women themselves, on how they are to be treated, what place they should have in the house, in the society and how equal opportunities to education, health and work should be given to them.

A woman is a mother. She is an all encompassing force that keeps the house and the lives of her family go clockwork round. Women are the embodiment of love, care, support and have will of iron when they get down to business. She has all the rights to pursue what she aspires to, making sure that she manages all that she is responsible for.

Equal rights is the key word! Equality for men and women alike in the past women were seen as an object fit for desires, house chores, reproduction and caring for the entire family. This was altered when a new shift dawned with Karen Horn’s feminist revolution in Psychology.

Identification is very important, and gender identification is a part of feminine psychology and gives it the due importance it deserves. “Feminine Psychology’ is a book written by Karen H. which is a collection of articles she wrote on the subject.

She was one of the first female psychiatrists and the first to present a paper on feminine psychology. The Feminine Psychology comprises fourteen papers that she wrote between 1922-1937.

In her essay titled, “The Problem of Feminine Masochism”, Horney felt that cultures teach women to be meek and dependent on men. The will to satisfy men was the theme of what the women did.

in her another essay “The Distrust Between the Sexes” she compared the husband-wife relationship to a parent-child relationship. Women traditionally gain importance through their children.

“The Problem of the Monogamous Ideal” was fixed upon marriage, as were six other of Horney’s papers. Her essay “Maternal Conflicts” discussed newer trends women experience when raising adolescents.

Horney presented her ideas in “self-help” books in 1946, entitled Are You Considering Psychoanalysis?. She stressed that self help is the best way of treating oneself.

What was the need for feminine psychology?

After World War II, APA coined a condition in women as the ‘mom-ism’, meaning the mothers were pampering the men or the children to such an extent that their masculinity was being marred and they could not grow out of the shadow of their mothers.

It was criticized that the mothers clung to the psyche of the child and he could never grow out of it.

The men wanted the women to stay in the house and do domestic chores only, they were not even involved in political or general discussions, thinking them to be of fair mind. It was assumed that the women will become masculine if they are permitted in the role of someone who is going out to work and men will take a more feminine approach.

In those days the men wanted to keep an upper hand by being the bread earners. Thus, the women leaving the house to earn a living left them insecure as to their dominant role in the society. 

The need for feminine psychology arose with all perspective in mind that undermined the importance of a woman. Women did not have the will to fight the oppression they faced, not because they were weak, but because they did not know they were oppressed in the first place.

How Psychology itself sparked women liberation?

Psychology was dominated by male psychiatrists and psychologists, like Sigmund Freud, Erik Ericcsson and others. Their theories were more inclined towards male domination and were coloured by sexism. 

These theories themselves gave rise to the women liberation movements that initiated, thus breaking the norm that males are the ‘only in thing’ in Psychology as well as other fields. 

Breaking the barriers and pushing their way forward through a crowd of male figures in Psychology, Karen Horney has pioneered the feministic psychology with her all encompassing thoughts of progression.

She was against Freud’s ‘penis envy’ in a way that this envy was not because women wanted to possess a penis, but they wanted to be recognized the same way as men were. The attributes that were conjoined with men only could be extended to women as well, as they were no less than men. 

Karen’s Theory on Neurosis

Karen Horney theorized the neurosis in a way that even today is being followed in psychoanalysis. She theorized neurosis as a continuous process and so far was her one of the best theories.

She named 10 patterns of neurotic needs, through her experience with patients. 

Moving Toward People (Compliance)

1. The need for affection and approval; pleasing others and being liked by them.

2. The need for a partner; one whom they can love and who will solve all problems.

3. The need for social recognition; prestige and limelight.

4. The need for personal admiration; for both inner and outer qualities—to be valued.

Moving Against People (Aggression)

5. The need for power; the ability to bend wills and achieve control over others—while most persons seek strength, the neurotic may be desperate for it.

6. The need to exploit others; to get the better of them. To become manipulative, fostering the belief that people are there simply to be used.

Moving Away from People (Withdrawal)

7. The need for personal achievement; the neurotic may be desperate for achievement.

8. The need for self-sufficiency and independence; while most desire some autonomy, the neurotic may simply wish to discard other individuals entirely.

9. The need for perfection; while many are driven to perfect their lives in the form of well being, the neurotic may display a fear of being slightly flawed.

10.The need to restrict life practices to within narrow borders; to live as inconspicuous a life as possible.

It is because of heroes like Karen Horney, who started the feminist revolution in Psychology, women today stand tall in all areas of life, be it the armed Forces, the organizational set up or cultivating minds of the future. 

“She remembered who she was and then the game changed.”

In this blog we have answered the question Who started the feminist revolution in Psychology and discussed how the women rose to realize their potential, thus breaking the stigma.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Who started the feminist revolution?

Feminist Elizabeth Cady Stanton concentrated entirely on making women equal to men. However, the christian feminist movement started to concentrate on the language of religion because they viewed God as a male since the out-turn of the influence of patriarchy.

Who was the first female psychologist?

Margaret Floy Washburn was the first woman to earn a degree in American psychology in 1894  and the second woman to serve as APA President.

What are the 4 types of feminism?

There are four types of feminism including, liberal feminism, the socilaist feminism, cultural feminism, and radical feminism. 

Whats the opposite of feminist?

Masculism or masculinism refers to the rights or needs of men and boys. And the promotion of attributes like values, opinions, attitudes, habits considered as typical of men and boys.

Titles to Read

  • Susan B. Anthony: Biography of a Rebel, Crusader, and Humanitarian of the Women?s Rights and Feminist Movements (Hardcover)

by Alma Lutz

  • Separate Roads to Feminism: Black, Chicana, and White Feminist Movements in America’s Second Wave

by Benita Roth

  • The Trouble Between Us: An Uneasy History of White and Black Women in the Feminist Movement

by Winifred Breines


  • https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2004-21898-013
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminist_psychology#:~:text=The%20term%20feminist%20psychology%20was,of%20society%20on%20female%20psychology.
  • https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/000271620057100113

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