Feminist Critique of Freud

Freud had been widely discredited by early second wave feminists including Simone de Beauvoir, Kate Millett and Germaine Greer. Millett, in particular, had persuasively argued that Freudian theory worked to perpetuate sexual difference and reinforce the belief that inferiority was an inherent quality of the female. His discussions on sexuality referred almost entirely to men, and considered women in negative terms — as lacking, the ‘other” and as having penis-envy — which reduced female development to a frustrated desire for masculinity. Freud’s reputation was further diminished when his ideas were employed by conservative neo-Freudians to persuade unhappy women that their social fate was biologically determined.

Betty Friedan s The Feminine Mystique gives an account of the detrimental effects of conservative popular psychology on American women, and Shulamith Firestone, in her The Dialectic of Sex had called Freudianism as “the misguided feminism”: both inquiring into the nature of sexual difference, but Feminism telling women to change society, and Freud telling them to change themselves, In North America, in particular, Freud came to be known as the “most famous enemy of women’s liberation.”

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