Gender Equality and the New Psychology of Men: Comment on "The Politics of Gender in Family Therapy"

By Levant, Ronald F. | Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, October 1997 | Go to article overview

Gender Equality and the New Psychology of Men: Comment on "The Politics of Gender in Family Therapy"


Levant, Ronald F., Journal of Marital and Family Therapy


COMMENTARY

Knudson-Martin (1997) presents a very thoughtful, balanced, and penetrating discussion of the politics of gender in family therapy. I find myself in fundamental agreement with the author, particularly in her assertions that: (1) all social interaction has a political component, whether recognized or not; (2) gender is such a central organizing schema in family and social life that one "cannot not do gender"; but (3) most people are, in fact, unaware of the role that gender ideologies have played in the development of their personalities and continue to play in the structuring of their adult lives; and, as a consequence, (4) both therapists and clients misinterpret the meaning of gendered behavior and/or fail to recognize its underlying political implications.

Knudson-Martin also delineates three points on the continuum of marital and family therapy practice with respect to gender (the "cultural differences" approach, the "power differences" approach, and the "gender as process" approach), highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of each approach. I have to point out that I had trouble placing myself in one of these three categories (actually finding elements of all three in my work), and thus I wonder whether gender-aware therapeutic approaches are more complex than this schema allows.

Finally, Knudson-Martin discusses the ethical dilemmas that arise from intervening in the politics of gender. Since gender is so ubiquitous that therapists and clients alike are constantly constructing gender, and since the gendered nature of family problems is "usually invisible to clients and [therefore] not likely to be raised by them," therapists face ethical dilemmas in deciding how to respond (or not respond) to the hidden gender implications of family interaction and conflict. Knudson-Martin places these dilemmas in the larger context of the therapist's use of self and power, therapist neutrality, and the moral consequences of therapy, and she offers a consistent set of suggestions for practice based on her understanding of gender as process and of the therapist's role as making the invisible visible.

After reading the paper I found myself mulling over how very difficult it is to achieve gender equality in any context, therapeutic or otherwise. I have just written up a case study of a couple who had a truly "postmodern" marriage, both being fast-paced professionals who pledged equality at the beginning of their relationship, but who experienced a nearly complete reversion to stereotyped roles after the birth of their first child. Fifteen months later, they managed to move closer to their professed goal of equality, but not without tremendous struggle and sacrifice (Levant & Silverstein, 1997). The gains that this couple achieved were facilitated by a deep understanding of gender, particularly the male gender, and how certain aspects of masculinity make change difficult.

It is my view that unexamined aspects of masculinity may account for much of the variance in failures to achieve gender equality, both in therapy and in the larger social context. These unexamined aspects can be expressed as two themes, which at first blush may sound as if they are at opposite ends of the spectrum, but in reality interact in complex ways: (1) the greater power and privilege accorded to men in a patriarchal society (Kaufman, 1994); and (2) the vulnerabilities and severe limitations that accrue to most men by virtue of their gender role socialization under traditional masculinity ideology (Levant & Kopecky, 1995). Hence, in the spirit of making the invisible (or at least less visible) visible, I have decided to make a few comments about the newer perspectives on the psychology of men. Of necessity, these comments will be brief. For more information, the reader is directed to some of the newer writings in this area (Andronico,1996; Betcher & Pollack,1993; Brooks, 1995; Eisler, 1995; Krugman, 1995; Lazur & Majors, 1995; Levant & Brooks, 1997; Levant & Pollack, 1995; Morris, 1997; O'Neil, Good, & Holmes, 1995; Pasick, 1992; Pleck, 1995; Silverstein, 1996). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Gender Equality and the New Psychology of Men: Comment on "The Politics of Gender in Family Therapy"
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.