old ass studies in Feminist Therapy

April 23, 2010 ginginbonbon

From http://fugitivus.wordpress.com/2008/04/17/female-traits/: (my comments are in blue)

This is from an article titled “Feminist Therapy: Redefining Power for the Powerless,” by Adrienne J. Smith and Ruth F. Siegel.

“Increasing evidence indicates that the differences between women and men in their expression of power are due to status rather than sex. According to Frieze, Parsons, Johnson, Ruble, and Zellman (1978, p. 304) status is ‘a hierarchy of inferiority and superiority on some dimension or set of dimensions.’  Because ‘male in itself means higher status’ (p. 305) the two variables of gender and status are almost completely confounded. Unger (1979) in an extensive review of the literature on status, gender, and power, shows that ‘male-female relationships are essentially similar to relationships between high and low status individuals and thus status is a more parsimonious explanation of behaviour than gender.’ (p. 6)

“Women ‘get what they want’ through indirect, covert influencing techniques, often using the assigned sex-role-appropriate behaviors of helplessness, dependency, coyness, and appeal to emotions. Under the oppressive constraints of patriarchy, women, who are low-status people, use second-class power tactics that usually are not acknowledged as power (McClelland, 1975). Even when women achieve their objectives, therefore, both sexes continue to see a woman as powerless. The frequent attribution of women’s successes to luck and men’s successes to skill is evidence that neither sex believes women have sufficient abilities to control their own lives.

Contrast this interesting theory with contemporary evolutionary psychology, when someone writes an article saying that women behave in certain ways because of fundamental biological differences, and that since they control men through sexuality, there is no need for feminism or even parity. [And this crap gets a hell of a lot more mainstream exposure than the shit I have to go dig up on the internet.] Hmmmm Iunno does using feminine wiles to get resources from men (traditionally, things like security, money and not getting abused as much) seem like a sound power structure? Even if, say, we could explain away all behaviour with only evolution and biology–it wouldn’t change the basic (ethical) premise of feminism, that we are equals. Or is the jury still waiting on Science’s findings?

One of the most basic exercises in Ethics programs is to design/imagine a society, and then ask yourself if you could live as any one of those citizens, and if you consider all of their individual situations acceptable, then the society is just. Being able to rationally observe and understand someone else’s experience does not mean you lack objectivity. If you reject what people say as too subjective, the problem isn’t their point of view, it’s yours; it means you aren’t ready to listen. I don’t think I have ever seen a scientific study or an appeal to my rationality used to serve any interest in equality, although those tactics are frequently used to justify things that are unfair, especially when it comes to social structures. We see it in every aspect of life where one party has power over another and therefore an interest in maintaining that power. Look at economics. The same techniques are used in the subjugation of women.


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