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Main article: Psychology of women

Feminist psychology, is a form of psychology centered on societal structures, and gender. Feminist psychology critiques the fact that historically psychological research has been done from a male perspective with the view that males are the norm.[1] Feminist psychology is oriented on the values and principles of feminism. It incorporates gender and the ways women are affected by issues resulting from it.

Gender issues can include the way people identify their gender (male, female, transgender), how they have been affected by societal structures related to gender (gender hierarchy), the role of gender in the individual’s life (such as stereotypical gender roles), and any other gender related issues. The objective behind this field of study is to understand the individual within the larger social and political aspects of society.[2] Feminist Psychology puts a strong emphasis on gender equality and women's rights.


Feminist Psychoanalysis

The term feminist psychology was originally coined by Karen Horney,[3] a neo-Freudian psychologist who founded a psychology focused on gender and discovering how gender affected the individual.[4] In her book, Feminine Psychology, which is a collection of articles Horney wrote on the subject from 1922–1937, she addresses previously held beliefs about women, relationships, and the effect of society on female psychology. Horney developed this form of psychology specifically in response to Sigmund Freud’s theory of “penis envy”[5]

Functionalism, Darwinism and the Psychology of Women

The beginning of psychology research presents very little in the way of female psychology. Once the functionalist movement came about in the United States, academic psychology’s study of sex difference and a prototypic psychology of woman were developed.[6]

Feminist Psychology Organizations

The Association for Women in Psychology (AWP)

The Association for Women in Psychology was created in 1969 in response to the American Psychological Association’s apparent lack of involvement in the Women’s Liberation Movement.[7] The organization formed with the purpose of fighting for and raising awareness of feminist issues within the field of psychology. The association focused its efforts toward feminist representation in the APA and finally succeed in 1973 with the establishment of APA Division 35.

The Society for the Psychology of Women

APA Division 35, The Society for Psychology of Women,[7] was established in 1973. It was created to provide a place for all people interested in the psychology of women to access information and resources in the field. SWP works to incorporate feminist concerns into the teaching and practice of psychology. Div 35 also runs a number of committees, projects, and programs.

Current Research


A major topic of study within feminist psychology is that of gender differences in emotion. In general, feminist psychologists view emotion as culturally controlled and state that the differences lie in the expression of emotion rather than the actual experience.[8] The way a person shows his or her emotions is defined by socially enforced display rules which guide the acceptable forms of expression for particular people and feelings.[8]

Stereotypes of emotion view women as the more emotional sex. However, feminist psychologists point out that women are only viewed as experiencing passive emotions such as sadness, happiness, fear, and surprise more strongly. Conversely, men are viewed as more likely to express emotions of a more dominant nature, such as anger.[9] Feminist psychologists believe that men and women are socialized throughout their lifetimes to view and express emotions differently. From infancy mothers use more facial expression when speaking to female babies and use more emotion words in conversation with them as they get older.[9]

Girls and boys are further socialized by peers where girls are rewarded for being sensitive and emotional and boys are rewarded for dominance and lack of most emotional expression.[9] Psychologists have also found that women, overall, are more skilled at decoding emotion using non-verbal cues. These signals include facial expression, tone of voice, and posture.[10] Studies have shown gender differences in decoding ability beginning as early as age 3 ½.[9]


There is a bias by healthcare providers in the way that they treat and interpret pain in men vs. women.[11]

Feminist Therapy

Main article: Feminist therapy

Feminist Therapy is a type of therapy based on viewing women within their sociocultural context. The main idea behind this therapy is that women's psychological problems are often a symptom of larger problems in the social structure in which they live. There is a general agreement that women are more frequently diagnosed with internalizing disorders such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders than men.[1] Feminist therapists dispute earlier theories that this is a result of psychological weakness in women and instead view it as a result of encountering more stress because of sexist practices in our culture.[1]

The goal of feminist therapy is the empowerment of the client. Generally, therapists avoid giving specific diagnoses or labels and instead focus on problems within the context of living in a sexist culture. Clients are given assertiveness training and encouraged to understand their problems with the intent of changing or challenging their circumstances.[9] Feminist therapists view lack of power as a major issue in the psychology of women. Accordingly, the client-therapist relationship is meant to be as egalitarian as possible with both sides communicating on equal ground and sharing experiences.[10]

Feminist therapy is different than nonsexist therapy in that it goes beyond the idea that men and women should be treated equally in the therapeutic relationship. Feminist therapy incorporates political values while nonsexist therapy does not. Also, feminist therapy demands social change as well as personal change in order to improve the psychological state of the client.[1]

Feminist Therapists

Feminist therapists often work with clientele who have experienced gender-related trauma such as dating/relationship violence or sexual assault, but feminist psychologists also work with women in search of counseling, as well as men.[4] Feminist therapists are therapists with an interest in gender. Psychologists who have earned their doctoral degree in psychology can then take postdoctoral training in feminist and gender issues.[2] Certainly, psychologists who also identify with the feminism, the belief that women and men are equals, may call themselves feminist psychologists, as these are two identifying qualities about an individual. However, specific postdoctoral training programs hold higher accreditation for the title of feminist psychologists. Currently, there are not many postdoctoral training programs in feminist psychology, but models for this training are being developed and modified for institutions to start offering them.[12] Most of this training is modeled around gender-fair counseling techniques.[2]

External links

Ways to Get Involved in social issues:

Ways to get involved in Media Outlets:

Getting Involved Everywhere:


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Crawford, M. & Unger, R. (2000). Women and Gender: A feminist psychology (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill Companies Inc.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 (Worell & Johnson, 1997)
  3. (1885-1952)
  4. 4.0 4.1 (Horney, 1967)
  5. (Heffner, 2004)
  6. Shields, S. A. (1992). Functionalism, Darwinism, and the psychology of women: A study in social myth. In J. S. Bohan (Ed.), Seldom seen, rarely heard: Women's place in psychology (pp. 79-106). Boulder, CO: Westview.
  7. 7.0 7.1 The association for women in psychology. Retrieved April 6, 2010, from The Association for Women in Psychology Official Website:
  8. 8.0 8.1 Brannon, L. (2005). Gender: Psychological perspectives (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education Inc.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 Shibley Hyde. J. (2007). Half the human experience: The psychology of women (7th ed.). Boston MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Matlin, M. W. (2008). The psychology of women (6th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.
  11. Hoffman, E. D. & Tarzian, A. J. (2001). The girl who cried pain: A bias against women in the treatment of pain. Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics, 29, 13-27.
  12. (Crawford, 2006)

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