Women’s Place in Developmental Theory: From Androcentrism to Anti-Feminism

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Abstract Summary
This talk highlights the relevance of gender in American and European accounts of identity development in the latter half of the twentieth century. Going beyond existing analyses by Carol Gilligan and other relational psychologists, feminist social scientists and writers, who have read dominant theories of individuation as androcentric, I argue that these were based on normative assumptions about women’s selves and capacities. Reconsidering the implications of male-centered perspectives in the social and human sciences changes our understanding of anti-feminism. More than just an extreme opinion, anti-feminist positions structured basic constructions of the self and social order. Not simply implying that Man was the measure of all people, Erik Erikson, Benjamin Spock, Daniel Levinson, and other social and developmental psychologists, practitioners, and psychoanalytic thinkers also exempted women from personal development. Their theories applied to boys and men almost exclusively, whose growth and self-realization they described. Yet despite their focus on men, these developmental models were primarily directed at women. The formulations and effects of identity theories in social policy as well as public debates about work and the family show that they provided a guideline for wives and mothers, describing as the primary task of women to produce, even embody a “facilitating environment” (Donald Winnicott) for male development. When women challenged these directions, experts responded by barring them from redefining their lives and seeking self-fulfillment outside the home. By arguing that women’s liberation hindered men from releasing their full potential, they used the notion of identity to defend traditional gender roles.
Abstract ID :
HSS127
Submission Type
Abstract Topic
Chronological Classification :
20th century, late
Self-Designated Keywords :
gender, developmental psychology, anti-feminism

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