Psychology is Sexist. // Lauren Weisberg
Psychology is inherently sexist. In academia, the overwhelming majority of respected psychological theorists are men. When women are worthy of mention, they are presented as an exception to the norm, rather than as intertwined with the dominant academic discourse. In clinical practice, these theories have resulted in therapeutic modalities that fail to acknowledge the intersectionality of an individual’s experience. The field of psychology as a whole has started the long process of examining how we treat people who are marginalized, some of whom are a part of multiple marginalized groups. In the past, with our White, male-dominated theories dictating the way therapy progressed, women, gender minorities, sexual minorities, people of color, and basically anyone not in the male, White, heterosexual hegemonic group were engaging in therapies that failed to acknowledge the complexity of their intersectional identities. Theories such as Relational-Cultural Therapy and Feminist Therapy offer alternatives to therapies developed by and for the dominant cultural group, but these are still not necessarily considered mainstream in the same way that, for example, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is. I know a psychology professor who described feminist theory as “forcing your opinions onto the client”, rather than viewing it as an alternative to male-dominated pedagogy. This illustrates one of many reasons why feminist theories should be taught in all academic programs. Therapy cannot be done well if our theories ignore major parts of a person’s experiences or identity. The theories that emphasize culture and emphasize relationship need to be underscored because they incorporate the person’s whole existence. An alternative to this is to take a critical look at the theories that already exist and are well established, such as psychodynamic psychotherapies and CBT, so that we can consciously improve them so that they are appropriate for a multicultural population.
Truthfully, it is difficult for a field as a whole to address gender inequality in its theories if there is a substantial pay gap based on gender. Within our own field, women earn substantially less than men. According to the APA’s Center for Workforce Studies, “the largest pay gap for psychology doctorates occurs in health services, where men earn an average of $39,648 more than women. This work setting employs the largest number of psychologists” (2014). It is important to note that people of color face a pay gap as well, compounding the issue of unequal pay for women of color, who are paid less than any other demographic group (American Association of University Women, 2014). Professionals in the field of psychology work hard to establish themselves and to earn a living. The argument that women are not as qualified, or that they are not as educated as the men in the same positions does not apply here, because this group is essentially equal on those two categories. It is critical that sexism in the field of psychology, whether in academia or in clinical practice, is eradicated because it is the only way that as a field we can better serve the multicultural population we seek to understand and help.
American Association of University Women. (2014). “How does race affect the gender
American Psychological Association Center for Workforce Studies. (2014). “Does the
gender pay gap in psychology differ by work setting”.