The study of feminist psychology is the study of psychology that delves into gender issues as well as the social structures in our society. It is deeply rooted in the morals and principles of feminism. It strives to point out that all throughout history, research was done from the viewpoint of the male and that it always proved that the male was dominant in society. Feminist psychology tries to show how women have been adversely affected by those results.
Issues relating to gender refer to the way that people classify their gender, whether male or female, and how the structures within society have affected them in relation to their gender with respect to the chain of command and other stereotypical roles. Feminist psychology stresses the importance of equality for both genders, especially emphasizing women's rights. It places a lot of emphasis on understanding the scope of the individual within the larger realm of society and social structure.
Feminist psychologists have continued to push for the importance of paying greater attention to cultural multiplicity among women and to incorporate this understanding into teaching, researching, theory building and practicing.
Feminist psychology is the direct result of the women's movement and revolution that took hold in the late 1960s. It stems from the repercussions from the theory of male domination, practices and research especially in the theory of psychoanalysis. Scholars of feminist psychology took great offense at the Freudian theory of hysteria and "penis envy," which showed a bias toward males and was based totally on studies relating to the development of men. Feminist psychology was created by women who realized that psychological counseling methods were colored by sexism and male chauvinism.
Women found that they were belittled in many clever and subtle ways, and that the therapy process was full of expectations of how a woman should act. As a result, they created their own psychological approach and set up their own therapy centers with their own trained therapists.
Feminist psychologists' complaints against traditional psychology include:
• Traditional theories of psychology, with its biases towards men, are harmful to women.
• When women did not conform to the male stereotype, they were automatically labeled as mentally ill.
• In the professional field of psychology, women were mainly shut out and could not practice.
• Women's experiences and feelings from the perspective of another woman were not reported.
There were three phases in the development of feminist psychology. The first phase borrowed from the various techniques of therapy that fit directly and matched feminist philosophies with the goal of strengthening all women by the strengthening of each individual woman. The second phase manifested itself when feminist theories were included in the therapeutic approach. They tried to keep parts of psychological theories that worked and made sense to the feminist movement, at the same time eliminating all sexist theories. The last phase, and the one that is constantly being expanded upon, is the development of a complete theory that explains the difficulties women face from interacting and working in a society that degrades and undervalues them.
There are a number of concepts of feminist therapy:
• The patient understands what is best for her and is in total possession of her life.
• All problems are viewed in a social, political and cultural perspective.
• The traditional ways of diagnosing and evaluating the mental health of an individual are not followed.
• There is a great deal of emphasis placed on teaching patients about the process and the diagnosis.
• The best results for patients will come through social change.
• All patients are expected to take social action.
The goals of feminist therapy are to make sure that the patient is cognizant of her gender-role in
society. It also tries to teach people to acquire the necessary skills to bring about certain environmental and sociological changes. Some of the other goals attempt to make the person aware of her sensuality and body image and of the social and political climate of the times.
Though women are usually viewed as the gender that is more emotional, feminist psychologists deny that this is true. They claim that women show their emotions differently than men, but both are equally emotional.