Note: Page numbers enclosed in parentheses are citations from The Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler: A systematic presentation in selections from his writings. (H. L. and R. R. Ansbacher, Eds.). © 1964, Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. Used by permission of Perseus Books Group.
In the early days of Adler's period (1870-1937), in the cultural world of Imperial Austria, it was a given that girls and women were inferior to boys and men. "This myth of the inferiority of everything female," Adler stated, results in a "dichotomy of concepts: Masculine is simply identified with valuable, strong, and victorious, and feminine with obedient, servile, and subordinated" (Adler, 1978, p. 8).
Most women of that day accepted their inferiority as a verity, though some resisted by adopting roles then associated with men. Others, unable in such an atmosphere even to understand or state their resistance openly, fought unconsciously to subvert the dominant order by means of organ dialect (as in vaginismus or hysteria). Still others, called feminists, dared voice their demands for equality in both the private and public spheres. Adler, influenced by Marxist ideals of equality and justice, was a feminist. He joined the Socialist party (whose platform in 1885 was the first in history to embrace the equality of women). He later married Raissa Epstein (a Muscovite who had come to Vienna to study), also a feminist and socialist. Adler was politically active until he formed the Comparative Individual Psychology Society, from which time he devoted himself to the development of his psychology, never losing sight of the need for social change.
Throughout the development of Adlerian theory and practice, Adler's feminism never wavered. In addition to supporting demands for economic, social, and political equality he addressed such issues as reforming bias in language, equal pay for equal work, obstacles for women arising from their employment, and women's role in family planning. [In fact, it is not too much to say that Adler's feminism was the most important factor in the theoretical dispute leading to his separation from the Freudian circle.] [See masculine protest; historical context: Adler in his time; overburdening childhood situations.]
The arch evil of our culture [is] the excessive pre-eminence of manliness (p. 55).
The number of men who show no accomplishments but a high degree of incompetence is so great that one could defend with an equal mass of evidence a myth of the inferiority of men — of course, equally unjustly (Adler, 1978, p. 8).
Art, like science, so far has been almost exclusively the work of men and reflects primarily man's [opinions taken as] knowledge of the female soul. . . . The masculine preponderance among these opinions is certainly an evil (Adler, 1978, pp. 83-84).
[The] low esteem [in which women are held and in which they hold themselves] is also expressed in far lower pay for women than for men, even when the work is equal in value to men's work (Adler, 1978, p. 7).
The knowledge of being an unwanted child poisons the life of many individuals [and] plants the root for serious psychological disturbance. . . . Alone in the interest in these children . . . I am in favor of telling every woman very plainly: "You need not have children if you don't want to” . . . . [All arguments take a secondary role] compared to this argument: Only a woman who wants the child can be a good mother to him or her (Adler, 1978, p. 30).
The question of deciding the number of children had best be left entirely to the woman (p. 434).
© Griffith, J., & Powers, R. L. (2007). The Lexicon of Adlerian Psychology: 106 terms Associated with the Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler (2nd ed.). Port Townsend, WA: Adlerian Psychology Associates (p. 40).
Definitions of concepts are used by permission of Jane Griffith. A comprehensive list of concepts and definitions can be found in The Lexicon of Adlerian Psychology: 106 Terms Associated with the Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler by Jane Griffith and Robert L. Powers, available for purchase on Amazon.com.
Adler, A. (1978). Cooperation between the sexes: Writings on women, love and marriage, sexuality and its disorders (468 pp.). (H. L. Ansbacher & R. R. Ansbacher, Eds. and Trans.). New York: Doubleday. [Also see Adler, A. (1982). Cooperation between the sexes: Writings on women and men, love and marriage, and sexuality (184 pp.). (H. L. Ansbacher and R. R. Ansbacher, Eds. and Trans.). New York: Norton.]