Feminist Therapy

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Introduction to Feminist Therapy

Kristen Martinez, a Seattle-based therapist at Pacific NorthWell who specializes in women’s issues and LGBT+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender +) issues, put together this easy-to-read introduction to feminist therapy and her take on it.

Want to see this in action? For a feminist take on a classic film, check out Kristen’s exploration of anti-feminism and gender inequality in “Un Chien Andalou”.


 

When I tell you that I’m writing about feminist therapy, the phrase probably brings certain images and thoughts into your mind, which may or may not include: it’s for women only, or even, lesbian women only; only women can be feminist therapists; it propagates a hatred of men; bra-burning is an important theoretical technique. All of these ideas are completely untrue, and even if you hadn’t personally thought of any of them, you can still probably understand or appreciate that the term “feminist” brings along with it some very specific connotations.

You are right, however, to assume that feminist therapy has its roots in the feminist movement of the late 1960s, originally centered toward women – “[i]f this were not true, the movement would not have been called feminism” (Bruns, 2010, p. 30). In the 1960s, women began to question and protest their de facto position as second-class citizens in a world they viewed as dominated by patriarchy. Women found themselves limited in many aspects of their lives, seen either as primary caretakers of children if they stayed at home, or, if they were lucky enough to be able to leave the house, stuck in menial jobs with little to no upward mobility. Women found this treatment divisive and grossly unfair, and they were puzzled as to why they could only perform certain tasks in society; after all, “women exhibit a wide range of human characteristics and are not determined to follow specific roles as a function of their sex” (Kahn, 2010, p. 62). These women opened their eyes to the oppression they had been suffering throughout all of history and wanted equal rights.

The most privileged group of people at that time in society were (and arguably still are) “White, Heterosexual, Christian, Upper Class, Educated, Able-bodied, Average-sized, Men at the top of the pyramid (capitalization intentional)” (Bruns, 2010, p. 32). White women viewed men as their binary opposition, positing sex and gender as the central issue, but for non-white women, who weren’t even members of the dominant racial group, divisions got substantially more complicated; disparities between race, social class, gender identity, biological sex, and religion could all become potential talking points (Bruns, 2010, p. 30). While there were many oppositional categories to challenge, the main goal and the forefront of the women’s liberation movement was a plea for equality in all forms.

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