Psychology of Women (Psy 374)

Psychology of Women (Psy 374)


Psychology of Women and Gender (Psy 374)

Term 7, Spring, 2005

Carolyn Zerbe EnnsClass hours selected from

Office: Law 106D9-11 A.M., Monday - Friday

Telephone: 895-4351(office)1-3 P.M., Monday - Thursday

895-6605 (home)



"Psychology has nothing to say about what women are really like, what they need and what they want, essentially, because psychology does not know."

More than thirty-five years have passed since Naomi Weisstein (1968/1993) made this statement. As a result of Naomi Weisstein's and many other psychologists' efforts, the psychology of women and gender has become an important and exciting area of research and study. Furthermore, the entire field of psychology has been influenced by the work of feminist psychologists who have made extensive progress in correcting biases within the field of psychology. This course will increase your awareness of this progress, review major theoretical orientations and research findings relating to the psychology of women and gender, and identify the ways in which gender bias, sexism, and related systems of oppression (e.g., heterosexism and racism) still influence the lives of people.

As noted by feminist theorist bell hooks, “Feminism is for everybody” (2000), including women, men, people of color, gay and lesbian and transgendered persons, religious and nonreligious persons, persons of all class backgrounds, persons from around the world etc. As knowledge about women’s lives has increased over the past 35 years, feminist psychologists have also been influential in creating a new psychology of men and masculinities. Although this course focuses primarily on the lives of women, it is also highly relevant to the lives of men in society.

We will discuss issues related to the psychology of women and men such as achievement, interpersonal relationships, victimization, parenting, health, and adjustment. We will focus on theories of and research about women and gender, as well as historical and social themes that influence human experience. Women's and men’s life choices and tasks, gender similarities and differences, and the psychological health of women will receive special emphasis. This class will also explore the diversity of women by examining the impact of social factors, race, ethnicity, class values, cultural themes, and sexual and gender role orientations on women and men. We will explore the complex intersections of these various social identities and how certain identities may confer privilege while others are often associated with societal oppression and discrimination.


hooks, b. (2000). Feminism is for everybody: Passionate politics.. Cambridge: South End Press.

Weisstein, N. (1968/1993). Psychology constructs the female; or the fantasy life of the male psychologist. Feminism and Psychology, 3, 195-210.

Assumptions for learning about the psychology of women (Adapted from Michele Paludi)

Assumption 1: The course should be a laboratory of feminist principles (e.g., egalitarianism, shared power) and every individual in the class is a potential teaching resource.

Assumption 2: A psychology of women and gender course centralizes content relevant to women’s and gender issues. However, this course is relevant to the lives of all people. All lives are characterized by a diversity of choices and life paths. Respect for difference is essential.

Assumption 3: A focus on human behavior in social interactions and within social systems is important for understanding the relationship between the personal and the political. Integrating knowledge of the self with knowledge of social factors that influence our lives is central to developing a complete view of human experience.

Assumption 4: The subjective, personal, emotional experiences of individuals are valid and important to learning. The objective, empirical study of human experience is also useful. The integration of subjective and objective, as well as emotional and cognitive experiences supports comprehensive forms of learning.

Assumption 5: It is important for learners to assume responsibility and claim their own learning and growth. Self-directed learning is often the most empowering form of learning. Cooperation between class members in pursuing learning objectives creates a more positive learning climate than does competition. Full participation of all class members will contribute to a positive learning experience. I encourage class members to help equalize participation in order to assure that all persons are heard: both highly verbal and less verbal class members.

Assumption 6: Opportunities outside of class (e.g. informal discussion, journals) are useful for enhancing classroom discussion and interaction. Assignments that encourage reflective observation about women's and men’s lives are useful tools for applying knowledge about women and men. Objective, analytical exploration of theory and research is also productive, especially when integrated with personal reflection.

Assumption 7: Individuals hold a wide range of views about the appropriate role of feminism in the study of women, as well as the causes of sexism, other “isms” that intersect with gender, and appropriate solutions for eradicating gender inequity. In addition, feminists with different theoretical orientations frequently disagree about solutions to important issues. Disagreement need not be alienating. An exploration of and appreciation for these differences is useful in defining one's own theoretical orientation to feminism and the psychology of women.

Assumption 8: Individuals come to a psychology of women and gender course with varied levels of exposure to women's and gender issues. Some individuals define themselves as feminists and others do not. Some individuals find the content of this course to be emotionally intense and others do not. Those individuals who have extensive background with women's issues and/or women's studies may need to demonstrate patience, tolerance, and understanding of those who do not have less background. Those individuals with less background may need to engage in personal "homework" to catch up with some discussions. However, each person's contribution is valuable and sometimes questions or comments that appear simple can help bring a new perspective to an issue.


Roberts, Tomi-Ann (Ed.). (2004). The Lanahan Readings in the Psychology of Women (2nd ed.). Baltimore, MD: Lanahan Publishers, Inc.

Hernández, Daisy, & Rehman, Bushra (Eds.). (2002). Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism. New York: Seal Press.

Selected readings on reserve (see class schedule)


In order for you to meet the goals that I have outlined above, it will be important for you to attend class regularly and to participate actively. I appreciate your efforts to let me know if you are unable to attend a class session. You may e-mail me, speak with me in person,or leave a voice mail message. If you are absent for more than two full sick days, I will expect you to submit a statement from a medical professional. Given the importance of active participation to your own learning and that of others, excessive absences may result in a lowering of your final grade.


You will be asked to respond to essays, some short answer items, and some multiple choice questions. Test dates are Thursday, March 10 and Wednesday, March 23.


These short directed papers represent overnight assignments that will require approximately one or two-page responses related to the topic of study for a specific day.


Each class is responsible for reading assigned material, reflecting on the issues raised by readings prior to class meetings, and participating in class discussion. Each class member is responsible for leading a portion of class discussion on one day. Discussion facilitators should prepare questions designed to guide discussion for approximately half an hour.


A. Social Identity Analysis

Length: Approximately 3 pages

Due: Friday, March 4

During the first several days of class, we will complete several activities that explore social identity. This short paper provides an occasion for you to consider how the various social identities you inhabit influence your self-definition, experiences of privilege and/or discrimination, goals, and style of coping. I encourage you to write this short paper about yourself. However, you may also focus on the life of a parent, friend, or a character portrayed in the media, a novel, or an autobiography.

How do the interconnections among the social identities and social locations influence your life experience? As you answer this question, I encourage you to consider some or all of the following areas: sexuality, relationships with women and men, education, adjustment, achievement, and encounters with negative life events.

B. Case Study of a Contributor to the Psychology of Women

Length: 5-7 pages (submit an electronic and paper version)

Due: Saturday, March 19 at 5 P.M.

Class Presentation: Class members will make presentations about the contributors they are studying during the final week of class. Class members will use Powerpoint to communicate salient points to the class. Class members will also submit a copy of their Powerpoint presentation with their papers.

Use this paper to explore the life and work of a past or current contributor to the psychology of women and/or gender. Whenever possible, you should also locate and explore whatever autobiographical or biographical information that is available about this person. Many contemporary contributors are likely to maintain home pages within their institutions, and this may be the best source of biographical information about individuals. You should also describe and evaluate the nature of this person’s research and/or theoretical contributions. You should be able to gain access to a list of this person's publications through PsychInfo, and ideally, you should read/summarize some of this person’s most important works. Please include an annotated bibliography at the end of the paper.

The following questions may help you focus your thinking. What did this person contribute to the field of psychology (or what is she currently contributing)? What is the nature of this person's theoretical, applied, or empirical contributions (in other words, a summary of her or his major work)? How did this person's ideas evolve? If information about this person’s life is available, what life experiences and/or historical/cultural trends appear to have influenced the nature of her or his work and research? How did this person overcome traditional stereotypes in order to make her or his contribution? What barriers did this person experience as she or he attempted to meet career goals? If relevant, what factors led to this person’s lack of recognition within psychology?

In some cases, you will have limited access to biographical information. In such situations, you will focus primarily on the person's professional contributions to psychology. If the individual's personal life influenced her or his professional work, I encourage you to comment on the relationship between these factors.

Our library contains a selection of books that will help you begin your exploration of women's lives. They include: Untold Lives: The First Generation of American Women Psychologists (by E. Scarborough & L. Furumoto), In the Shadow of the Past: Psychology Portrays the Sexes (edited by M. Lewin), Eminent Women in Psychology: Models of Achievement (several volumes, edited by A. O'Connell & N. Russo), and Women in Psychology: A Bio-Bibliographic Sourcebook (edited by Agnes O'Connell and Nancy Felipe Russo).

There are many current contributors to psychology whose work may be featured in a paper such as this. The following represents a sample of some prominent feminist psychologists whose work might be especially appropriate:

Sandra Bem (androgyny, gender role issues)

Laura Brown (feminist therapy, lesbian issues)

Alice Chang (health issues, multicultural and gender issues)

Hortensia Amaro (minority women and health, especially AIDS)

Lillian Comas-Diaz (feminist therapy and women of color in psychology)

Pamela Trotman Reid (developmental issues and issues of poor women/women of color)

Evelyn Hooker (mental health of homosexual people)

Carolyn West (images and stereotypes of women of color)

Maria Root (feminist therapy and biracial women)

Paula Caplan (feminist therapy, mother-blaming, and research bias issues)

Janet Shibley Hyde (feminist identity, sexuality, maternity/paternity leave)

Patricia Devine (prejudice)

Carol Gilligan (personality issues, adolescence)

Michele Paludi (sexual harassment)

Louise Fitzgerald (sexual harassment, career development)

Nancy Felipe Russo (abortion, women of color in psychology)

Oliva Espin (feminist therapy, women of color in psychology, lesbian issues)

Susan Fiske (stereotyping and power)

Mary Crawford (women and language)

Lenore Walker (feminist therapy, battered women)

Mary Koss (violence against women, rape)

Ruth Fassinger (career development, lesbian identity)

Janice Yoder (women and work)

Mary Heppner (women and career development)

Melba Vasquez (Latinas, multicultural issues, affirmative action, ethics)

Rhoda Unger (research methodology)

Glenn Good, James O’Neal, Jim Mahalik, Robert Levant, William Pollack (psychology of gender and masculinity)

Arnold Kahn (violence against women)


94%=A, 90%=A-, 88%=B+, 83%=B, 80%=B-, 77%=C+=, 73%=C

Tests:70-80 points each

Paper:social identity analysis 20-25 points

Paper: Contributor to psychology of women65-70 points

Discussion/participation30-40 points

Total pointsApproximately 300


Plagiarism is the unacknowledged borrowing of information, wording, organization, or ideas. Whether the original source is public (e.g., a newspaper or critical article) or private (e.g., a classmate’s paper), you need to indicate your indebtedness in any of the above areas. Where you repeat the exact language of your source, you must treat the borrowed material as a quotation and place it within quotation marks. However, by merely changing a few words or the word order or by paraphrasing, you do not avoid plagiarism. In all cases, you should cite your sources by using a recognized format such as APA style).

CornellCollege policies regarding academic dishonesty are available in the Student Handbook (The Compass).


Schedule and Readings

Term 7, 2005

Note: Class readings should be completed prior to class meetings.

Monday, February 28

Introduction to feminist psychology

Overview: Women and the study of women and gender in psychology

Placing the Psychology of Women in the context of social and feminist movements

Tuesday, March 1

Feminist foundations and history


Reader selection 29: Bernstein, M. D., & Russo, N. F., The history of psychology revisited: Or, up with our foremothers.

Reader selection 30: Weisstein, N., “Kinder, Küche, Kirche” as scientific law: Psychology constructs the female.

Reader chapter 31: Shields, S., Functionalism, Darwinism, and the psychology of women: A study in social myth.

On classroom reserve:

Shields, S. A. (1975). Ms. Pilgrim's Progress: The contributions to Leta Stetter Hollingworth to the psychology of women. American Psychologist, 30, 852-857.

For enrichment:

Furumoto, L., & Scarborough, E. (1986). Placing women in the history of psychology: The first American women psychologists. American Psychologist, 41, 35-42.

Wednesday, March 2

Challenging sexism and other biases through gender-fair research practices

Feminism and scientific methodology


Reader selection 32: Parlee, M. B., Psychology and women.

Reader selection 33: McHugh, M. C., Koeske, R. D., & Frieze, I.H., Issues to consider in conducting nonsexist psychological research: A guide for researchers.

From Colonize This (CT):Weiner-Mahfuz, L., Organizing 101: A mixed-race feminist in movements for social justice, p. 29-39.

From CT: Jones, D., Falling off the tightrope onto a bed of feathers, pp. 312-325.

From CT: Leong, P. L., Living outside the box, pp. 343-356.

From CT: Jamila, S., Can I get a witness? Testimony from a hip hop feminist, pp. 382-394.

From CT: Mody, B., Lost in the Indophile translation: A validation of my experience, pp. 268-278.

On classroom reserve:

Glick, P., & Fiske, S. T. (2001). An ambivalent alliance: Hostile and benevolent sexism as complementary justifications for gender inequality. American Psychologist, 56, 109-118.

Ostenson, R. S. (2004). Who’s in and who’s out: The results of oppression. In J. C. Chrisler, C. Golder, & R. D. Rozee (Eds.), Lectures on the psychology of women (3rd ed.) (pp. 16-26). Boston: McGraw-Hill.

Tavris, C. (1993). The mismeasure of woman. Feminism and Psychology, 3, 149-168.

Thursday, March 3

Explaining gender and becoming gendered: Theoretical and research perspectives

The meanings of gender and sex


Reader selection 1: Rubin, J. A., Provenzano, F. J., & Luria, Z., The eye of the beholder: Parents’ views of sex of newborns.

Reader selection 2: Thorne, B., Girls and boys together…but mostly apart: Gender arrangements in elementary schools.

Reader selection 3: Thompson, B. W., Childhood lessons: Culture, race, class, and sexuality.

Reader selection 37: Bem, S. L., Gender schema theory and its implications for child development: Raising gender-aschematic children in a gender schematic society.

From CT: Ijeoma, A. “Because you’re a girl.”

Friday, March 4

Stereotyping and gender role scripts, and their alternatives

Diverse meanings of femininity, masculinity, and gender


From CT: Profete, L., Feminist musing on the No. 3 train., pp. 170-181.

From CT: Martinez, E. G. Dutiful hijas: Dependency, power and guilt, pp. 142-156.

From CT: Austin, P., Femme-Inism: Lessons of my mother, pp. 157-169.

On classroom reserve:

Golden, C. (2004). The intersexed and the transgendered: Rethinking sex/gender. In J. C. Chrisler, C. Golden, & P. D. Rozee (Eds.), Lectures on the psychology of women (3rd ed.) (pp. 95-109). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Mahalik, J. R., Good, G. E., & Englar-Carlson, M. (2003). Masculinity scripts, presenting concerns, and help seeking: Implications for practice and training. Professional Psychology, 34, 123-131.

Monday, March 7

Embodied selves: Images of women and men


Reader selection 5: Angier, N., Default line: Is the female body a passive construct?

Reader selection 6: Fredrickson, B. L., & Roberts, T., Objectification theory: An explanation for women’s lived experience and mental health risks.

Reader selection 7: Malkin, A., Wornian, K., & Chrisler, J. C., Women and weight, Gendered messages on magazine covers.

Reader selection 8: Young, I. M., Throwing like a girl.

From CT: Riley, S. J., The Black beauty myth.

On classroom reserve:

West, C. (2004). Mammy, Jezebel, and Sapphire: Developing an “oppositional gaze” toward the images of Black women. In In J. C. Chrisler, C. Golder, & R. D. Rozee (Eds.), Lectures on the psychology of women (3rd ed.) (pp. 236-252). Boston: McGraw-Hill.