Why Feminist Psychological Approaches Are Still Necessary

Everyday, I’m reminded of my intersecting identities. Whether if it is how African American females are portrayed in popular culture or the accepted norm of Caucasian males as the referent (and thus anyone else as abnormal), my intersectional experiences are not only marginalized in the literature, but also in the spaces of society.

Not only is there a need for differential feminist theoretical perspectives, but there remains a need for a comprehensive spectrum of gender perspectives that is inclusive of both genders and adequately embraces the multiple constructs or identities that contribute to an individual’s identity development. Understanding an individual’s complete identity makeup is critical for the development of efficacious health programs and social interventions and requires an understanding of the multiple constructs that contribute to gender roles, habits and values within diverse (gender, class, ethnicity, sexuality, geographical) populations. There are different schools of thought in feminist and gendered perspectives, particularly within the development of measurement scales. What is most critical to note is that none of the scales are completely inclusive of the diversity within the human race. It is for this reason alone that there cannot be a true measurement of what evolutionary theorists consider basic biology or the theory of natural selection around gendered issues. Rather, an understanding of a “subpopulation” of the U.S. population still creates a referent group that some scholars could consider an “oppressive” group, but continues to force comparisons that may not otherwise be appropriate. This warrants the need for a “within-groups” approach towards research, which would force further analysis of gendered constructs & health behaviors within racially & ethnically diverse populations. More variation is often found within the group vs. between groups and this would contribute strongly to the literature. This is why critical feminist psychological approaches are still necessary.

Until research, practice and media reflect the current population’s diversity and health needs, we have much work to do as feminist psychologists, particularly as students. From the work of scholars such as Stephanie Shields to Elizabeth Cole, conducting intersectional psychology must become the norm, rather than the exception. Collectively, we must engage in purposeful actions of research and practice that engage diverse audiences and consider their intersectional experiences. These actions will enable us to adequately address the needs and perspectives of diverse populations and further contributions to addressing health inequities. As students, we must demand this and, as future professionals and academics, we must employ these methods in our work.

Written by Jameta N. Barlow, MPH

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