Women's Ethnicities: Journeys through Psychology

Women's Ethnicities: Journeys through Psychology

Women's Ethnicities: Journeys through Psychology

Women's Ethnicities: Journeys through Psychology

Synopsis

Having agreed that gender constitutes a fundamental category of analysis, feminists are now paying attention to variations among women. This book is part of that effort. In this volume, seventeen women psychologists address issues of diversity while exploring the effects of essentialism- the presumed sameness of all women. By exposing the ways in which their own work incorporates their gender and ethnicities, the contributors invite us on a journey of awareness, a journey built on communication and collaboration. This accessible, lively book explores dilemmas of gender and ethnicity facing psychologists. It looks at various ethnic communities, including African Americans, Japanese Americans, and Mexican Americans, within settings involving issues of parenting, education, and personal and professional achievement. It should appeal to those exploring the role of women, especially ethnic minority women, from feminist as well as cultural perspectives.

Excerpt

Mythology tells us that for women, looking is a transgression. Pandora, the first woman, was unable or unwilling to contain her curiosity. She looked into the forbidden box, unleashing all evil upon the world. Lot's wife (we know her only by her husband's name) looked back at the city as she fled and was turned into a pillar of salt. Even the Gorgon Medusa, whose frightful demeanor turned all who looked upon her into stone, was undone by gazing at her own reflection in a mirror. In these stories, the protagonist who defies the order to look away is invariably punished, often in such a way that she is literally paralyzed. These myths, then, communicate the message that boxes of unknown contents are better off sealed, that history and self ought to remain unexamined, and that those who choose instead to look will be condemned.

As a discipline, much of psychology implicitly shares these prohibitions, particularly concerning the subject of race and ethnicity. Even today, when university politics often focuses on whether and how to achieve "diversity," many scholars consider the race and ethnicity of the people they study to have little or no relationship to the interpretation of their findings. For these psychologists, race and ethnicity remain unopened boxes. Indeed, the prospect of revealing their contents may be worrisome. Similarly, relatively few psychologists attend to the historical contexts of their work and of the people they study. Their unwillingness to "look back" means that their scholarship floats in a kind of historical vacuum, abstracted from the larger contexts that may give meaning both to the research and to the lives of the people studied. Finally, the ideal of scholarly "objectivity" dictates that researchers strive to divorce themselves from their own backgrounds of race, ethnicity, and gender. This principle suggests that the scholar who looks reflexively upon the self will, like the Gorgon, be frozen in the attempt to gen-

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