Empowerment, Diversity and Difference...Really, have we come that far?

I just returned from a wonderful 5 days in Boston where I presented my research on  Creating Growth Fostering Communities at a conference on Relational Cultural Theory at Wellesley College. My interest in RCT began back in the 1980's when I was introduced to the work of Jean Baker Miller, MD through her new book at that time entitled Towards a New Psychology of Women.  She and other women researchers were looking into the established developmental theories of the time, Freud, Erikson, Object Relations and others that were only based on male development and claimed to be the norm.

Interesting how far we've come along these days. Now we know that only half the world is men and the other half women. And that not all people are the same race, ethnicity, religion, or have the same sexual orientation...I hope!


In any event, I learned about oppression and how being born into a culture that operates in oppressive structures leaves an imprint...a 'footprint' if you will on our lives. I learned about dominant and subordinate relational setups and how that is called 'power over'. I also learned how the antidote to power/over relational models is to create relationships based on 'power with' or 'power from within'.

I learned how girls grow and develop differently than boys...not in a less than way...just differently. I learned how their way of thinking involves care and concern for the interconnectedness of relationships...How their thinking involves both head logic...and...heart logic and that  head logic is not better than heart logic..both are required for thinking and evaluating.

I learned about stratification and know...the one's who have and the one's who don't...remember that's the way we learned 'who was who' and 'who got what'  based on some arbitrary system of privilege.

I thought all those years ago that I was just learning and having my consciousness raised about the plight of 'women and blacks' ( that's how we said it back then).  I'm a Boomer who lived through Civil rights, Martin Luther King, the Vietnam War, Kent State Protests, Women's liberation, Gloria Steinem, Janis Joplin...and all that jazz (or should I say sex, drugs and rock n roll). Then in the 1980's I discovered what it was called...oppression...power/over.

I began teaching a Psychology of Women course and I used Jean Baker Miller's book Towards a New Psychology of Women...and...added another voice articulating the new discoveries in moral development ...Carol Gilligan... written about in her book  In a Different Voice.  I was on fire, alive and spreading the message to girls and women who came to college.  And they were responsive. They too loved being able to share their life stories and have their experience, their thinking and their feelings validated through the work of these women.  They too learned about power over structures and the imprint left in their lives.

This article was originally published at . Reprinted with permission.
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