PSYCHOLOGY RECONSTRUCTS THE FEMALE 1968–1988

Authors


  • This article was written while Mary Crawford was Jane Watson Irwin Visiting Professor of Psychology at Hamilton College and Jeanne Marecek was Fulbright Senior Lecturer at the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka. Order of authorship was determined alphabetically.

  • We thank Rhoda Unger for her comments on an earlier draft and the participants at the 1988 Nags Head Sex and Gender Conference for their lively discussion of the ideas in this article.

may be addressed to either Mary Crawford, Department of Psychology, West Chester University, West Chester, PA 19383; or Jeanne Marecek, Department of Psychology, Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA 19081.

Abstract

Recent work on the psychology of gender is pluralistic, stemming from varied specialty areas within psychology, grounded in several intellectual frameworks, and reflecting a spectrum of feminist perspectives. This article is a critical appraisal of diverse approaches to the study of women and gender. It first describes prefeminist or “womanless” psychology, then analyzes four co-existing frameworks that have generated recent research. The four frameworks are: Exceptional Women, in which empirical research focuses on the correlates of high achievement for women, and women's history in the discipline is re-evaluated; Women as Problem (or Anomaly), in which research emphasizes explanations for female “deficiencies” (e.g., fear of success); the Psychology of Gender, in which the focus of inquiry shifts from women to gender, conceived as a principle of social organization that structures relations between women and men; and a (currently relatively undeveloped) Transformation framework that reflexively challenges the values, assumptions, and normative practices of the discipline. Examples of research programs within each approach are described, and the strengths and limitations of each approach are critically examined.

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