Author: John Barry

How Feminism Has Constrained Our Understanding of Gender

This week Melinda Gates said that she is committing $1 billion to promote gender equality by doing things like dismantling “harmful gender norms.” To many people, this sounds like a wonderful idea, but in reality, how effective are gender equality strategies that blame inequality solely on social factors such as gender norms and stereotypes? Professor Alice Eagly, in her paper “The Shaping of Science by Ideology: How Feminism Inspired, Led, and Constrained Scientific Understanding of Sex and Gender,”1 explores the ways in which feminism helped to create the now widely held misconception that gender is simply a product of social influence. This feminist misconception is not simply a dry academic fossil from the nature-nurture debate—it’s a flawed notion that has become central to how we treat men and women in all areas of life. This one-sided view of gender has caused problems in a range of areas, including therapy, the workplace, sports, and the law. Much of Eagly’s expertise relates to workplace psychology, so this is the area on which she focuses. The central problem …

We Need Guidelines for Working with Men, but Not the APA Guidelines

Men are more likely than women to kill themselves, but less likely to seek therapy. Research suggests part of the problem is that our general model for psychological therapy is more suited to women than men. Therefore we urgently need to develop ways of doing therapy that are more suited to men. The APA recently released guidelines on therapy for men and boys, which were heavily criticised. The new guidance, critics argued, owes more to ideology than science. However, one of the APA guidelines makes perfect sense. Guideline nine recommends that psychologists should strive to build and promote gender-sensitive psychological services. In a survey of responses to the APA advice published in Quillette, psychiatrist Sally Satel commented that: “’Gender-sensitive’ psychological practice … is questionable because it encourages clinicians to assume … that gender is a cause or a major determinant of the patient’s troubles.” In the context of the APA guidelines, I can see why she said this. But being gender-sensitive is not per se a bad thing, so let’s not throw the baby out …