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"...another reason I'm intrigued with the hanged of Salem, especially the women, is that a number of them aroused suspicion in the first place because they were financially independent, or sharp-tongued, or kept to themselves. In other words, they were killed off for the same sort of life I live right now but with longer skirts and fewer cable channels." Sarah Vowell, The partly cloudy patriot.


I'm more than happy to blame grad school for a lot of things...

but not this.

A few days ago, someone posted to a psych listserv I'm on a complaint about a recent article in the magazine Psychotherapy Networker. She was frustrated that they highlighted the "10 most influential therapists" and that only one of them was a woman. She asked everyone to write letters of complaint to the magazine for their exclusion of women.

I emailed her privately, partly because my email in that account is wonky and I couldn't post to the listserv, and partly because I was hoping she would correct her error herself. I suggested she actually read the article as she would see that in fact the magazine was simply reporting on the results of a study of psychotherapists, over 70% of whom were women, who were asked to name the therapists who most influenced them. Thus in a study of predominantly female therapists, male therapists were overwhelmingly seen as having the most significant influence.

Thus, the problem was not with the magazine, rather that the women surveyed saw male therapist influences as more significant than women's.

The person who originally posted the complaint did not correct her error, but emailed me back and said that it must be the grad programs' faults, as she had to go out on her own to learn about women therapy theorizers.

This annoys me. Plus others began jumping on the bandwagon on the list and lambasting the magazine.

So, I sent out a version of the above and noted that it was interesting that female therapists chose mostly male therapists as being influential. I noted that I wondered if it might have something to do with my noticings that in my part of the field male psychologists are seen as being far more valuable, influential, important than female psychologists - despite the fact that at least my part of the field is female dominated.

It's kind of like if a woman enters a male dominated field, she is not seen positively - she has to fight to gain respect, to get promotions, may have to fight sexual harassment, bias, labeling, etc. If a male enters a female dominated field, he may get razzed by other males but he is far more likely to get promoted than females, be seen as almost heroic, and is more highly valued than his female counterparts.

Thus, I think that when men display gender aschematic traits in their career choices (teachers, nurses, shrinks) they are lionized (is that the right word?). Their contributions and influence are seen as far more valuable than women's. Women are supposed to be nurturing and helpers - so their influence is gender-schematic and is expected (but woe to the woman who steps out of this gender role!). So, women therapists who create theories or types of therapy are just seen as doing what women do - they create ways of thinking about helping or improving helping methods in ways that are congruent with women's roles in society.

But men who do!? Wow, they are so smart and skilled and brilliant and so influential.

Does that make sense?

So back to the listserv debate - after I posted a brief version of the above, two people emailed the list and said they thought the issue was that grad schools didn't teach women theorists - and that's why they are not seen as influential.

This chaps my hide. First, what a boring explanation! Blame grad school! Oooh, never thought of that before. C'mon, do we really expect grad school to teach us everything? Really? Are we so naive as to believe that what we learn in grad school is going to help us in our fields 100%? Please! What on earth would make them think grad schools would? Shouldn't we take responsibility for our education?

Second, well let's say that's true. Why is it true? Let's get to a more interesting discussion here. If women theorists are not covered in grad school, why is that?

Third, the therapists surveyed were no longer in grad school. Are they saying that they haven't done any more self-education since grad school? Don't they have some responsibility here?

I honestly believe that there is some internalized sexism at play here - and to me, that is a much more interesting discussion than "grad schools aren't teaching us about women."


At 1:51 AM, Blogger Breena Ronan said...

What are the ratios of men/women as faculty? I don't know much about the field but wouldn't academics have a greater likelihood of publishing significant works? Do people in the field take works from academic presses more seriously? Also, are women getting stuck with administration tasks and so not finding time to publish?


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