The Electra complex is an ambiguous psychiatric concept which attempts to explain the maturation of the human female. It is said to be the female counterpart to the Oedipus complex in males. Its name comes from the Greek myth of Electra who sought to avenge the murder of her father Agamemnon.
Electra was the daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra who wanted her brother to avenge their father's death by killing their mother.
Carl Gustav Jung proposed the name Electra complex for Sigmund Freud's concept of the "feminine Oedipus attitude" in young girls. According to Sigmund Freud, the girl is originally attached to the mother as well; however, when she discovers that she lacks a penis during the phallic stage the daughter becomes libidinally attached to her father and imagines that she will become pregnant by him, while becoming more hostile towards her mother. This is due mostly to the idea that the girl is "envious" of her father's penis and wants to possess it so strongly that she dreams of bearing his children, thus the term "penis-envy". She believes that the pregnancy would replace the missing penis which she envies, and would allow her to gain equal status with the father.
This leads to resentment towards her mother, whom the girl believes caused her castration. According to some radical psychologists, the male psyche is the dominant entity in human relations. This may be due in part to the belief that females have a weaker superego, where morality is developed and values internalized. This judicial component of human personality is developed during the phallic stage.
Furthermore, if there is a perversion in the development of females or if their aggression is somehow stifled, resentment can in turn be displaced towards the dominant male (the father) or patriarchal cultures in general. This, according to some, explains the phenomena of lesbianism and by extention feminism (though this not universally accepted, as it assumes that women loving and/or supporting equality for other women requires an animosity toward men).
Feminists generally regard this theory as sexist. The assertion that women suffer from penis envy is generally attributed to the Victorian assertion that male sex organs are somehow better than those of females. Others believe that due to the extensive privilege of the male sex in comparison to the female sex that at the time it was true, because women wanted these rights and after the success of the women's rights movement this penis envy ended for all but a few women.
Feminist theory has mostly rejected Freud's concept of penis envy, either by dismissing psychoanalysis as a project of masculine mastery, by essentializing femininity thus reclaiming difference as an asset, by using psychoanalysis and simply ignoring it, for example by adopting a version of the Electra Complex or an alternative identificatory pattern (e.g. Hélène Cixous) or by adopting / developing more progressive rereadings of Freud, like those of Jacques Lacan (e.g. Juliet Mitchell, Jacqueline Rose and Judith Butler).
These theories are highly controversial and are continually subject to much heated debate. While fashionable for a number of decades, the theory lost mainstream acceptance during the 1960s and 1970s.It has since gone mainly rejected or ignored by mainstream academia. A modern counter to this idea is offered, known as the Westermarck effect in which imprinting during childhood prevents incestual sexual attraction. However, there are some psychologists who still subscribe to the Electra Complex theory. Supporters of this theory blame it's loss of mainstream acceptance on rise in socialist and neo-liberal ideological stances that occured around the same time, though there are capitalists and conservatives who also reject the Electra Complex theory.