ILENE SERLIN AND ELEANOR CRISWELL
THE ROLE OF WOMEN in humanistic psychology is complex. On the one hand, much of humanistic thought, especially with regard to the centrality of personal experience and holistic and tacit ways of knowing (Polanyi, 1958), has much in common with feminist theories of inter subjectivity (Chodorow, 1978; Jordan, 1991), personal knowledge, and the importance of finding one’s own voice (Gilligan, 1982; Heilbronn, 1998; Woolf, 1929/1989). On the other hand, existential, humanistic, and transpersonal psychologies all have been subject to feminist critiques all have been subject to feminist critiques that these perspectives privilege the sole self evolving individual on a solitary and heroic journey of self-discovery is characterized by subduing nature; overcoming matter; transcending the body (Wilber, 1986); and promoting individuation, differentiation, and abstraction. It is filled with masculine terms of agency, control, and self-sufficiency (Crocker, 1999). Humanistic psychology, these critics charged, had for gotten the body and nature (Starhawk, 1988; Wright, 1995). In Fact, existential humanism was based on the experience of the modern, alienated, urban white European male (Roszak, 1992), thereby leaving out relevant experiences of women, children, and indigenous people. Even the postmodern trend in humanistic psychology also can be critiqued as sharing “modernity’s groundlessness” (Weil, 1999), being disembodied, and lacking a sense of place and body. A truly radical feminist postmodern humanistic psychology, therefore, would have to be grounded in an “ecosocial matrix” (Spretnak, 1997) that restored element of earth, body, and community. Finally, a feminist perspective on humanistic psychology can itself be critiqued as being insensitive to issues of power and social context. “Womanish” philosophy extends the themes of feminist psychology through its focus on concrete and social-political activism. This activism is expressed through the practice of mutual caring in community and through the centrality of the family. It challenges psychologists to move beyond individualizes experience to liberation and transformation (canon, 1995; Jacklin, 1987; Leslie, 1999). Although these criticisms are true for only part of humanistic psychology, as challenges, they are important reminders for the field.
THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN HUMANISTIC PSYCHOLOGY
Whereas the “third force” or humanistic orientation to psychology was fathered by men such as Abraham Malow, Carl Rogers, Rollo May, and Sidney Jourard, many women served as the mothers of humanistic psychology. Humanistic psychologists believes that all humans are basically creative and behave with intentionality and value. Their focus was on the experiencing person and the meaning of experience to the person, they emphasized the human qualities of choice and self-realization, they were concerned with problems that are meaningful to humans, and their ultimate concern was with the dignity and worth of humans and an interest in the development of the potential inherent in every person (Krippner & Murphy, 1973). During the late 1960s and 1970s, many women were attracted to humanistic psychology because of its philosophy, practices, and promises of self fulfillment.
At approximately the same time, parallel social movements were beginning. For example, during the late 1950s, the women’s liberation movement led by Betty Freidan Championed similar humanistic principles and rights. The world of humanistic psychology was a favorable environment for women. Many women attended workshops in growth centers throughout the country, and these continue to be characterized by a great deal of exploration, experimentation, and creativity. The Humanistic Psychology Institute (now Sat brook Graduate School and Research Center) was founded by Eleanor Criswell from the Association for Humanistic Psychology (AHP) in 1970 as its academic arm-as a place for training humanistic psychologists, both men and women.
WOMEN’S WAY OF KNOWING AND HUMANISTIC PSYCHOLOGY
In a recent sequel to the now well-known Women’s Ways of Knowing (Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger, & Tarule, 1986), this same group of women extended their epistemological analysis to Knowledge, Difference, and Power (Goldberger, Tarule, Clinchy, & Belenky, 1996). The position that they laid out echoes core values of humanistic psychology (p. 205).
In their opening chapter to Knowledge, Difference, and Power, Goldberger and colleagues (1996) framed their argument with a statement that the discussion would be in terms of gender roles and the archetypally feminine, not in terms of real complex women and men. In the same way, the distinctions that we make here about women’s versus men’s ways of knowing, and about experiential versus cognitive approaches to humanistic psychology, are simply helpful conceptual tools. Because society always has “tenderized” knowledge, understanding women’s ways of knowing can raise our consciousness to include “the situational and cultural determinants of knowing” and “the relationship between power and knowledge” (p.8), ‘standpoint epistemologies” (Harding, 1986; Jagger, 1983), and “social positionality and situated knowledge” (Collins, 1990; de Laurentis, 1986; Haraway, 1991; hooks, 1993).
Therefore, the key concepts of those women’s ways of knowing are the following.
On the one hand, categories of feminist epistemologies are close to humanistic values of holism, subjectivity, and the centrality of the experiencing human (Bugental, 1976; Malow, 1962; May, 1953; Yalom, 1980) and “experiential humanism” (Schneider, 1998; see also the introduction to this volume). On the other hand, feminist values can help to bring humanistic theory back down to earth, to matter and flesh, and to connection with other humans, other species, and nature (see also the chapter by Pilisuk & Joy [Chapter 9] in this volume).
What can humanistic psychology often women in the future? One of the trends that emerged over the years, encouraged by humanistic psychology, is the greater actualization of potential for all. Women have been allowed and encouraged to develop more of their potential for all. Women have been allowed and encouraged to develop more of their potential. This also is true for men; they have been allowed to become more emotionally expressive and to embrace life. These advances in gender role expansion need to be maintained and further developed. After differentiation comes integration. Perhaps it is time for gender transcendence without losing the richness of gender differences. As humanistic psychologists, we have a concern for all persons and their basic human rights-the right to be treated as individuals with worth and dignity, the right to the primacy of their experiences, the right to the holistic development of their various talents and capacities, and the right of society to receive the contributions of all individuals toward the cultural evolution of humankind. This is a fertile ground for the continued development of all toward global and environmental wellbeing.
American Psychological Association. (1999). Report on the status of women in psychology. Washington, DC: Author.
Belenky, M., Clinchy, B., Goldberger, N., & Tarule, J. (1986). Women’s ways of knowing: The development of self, voice, and mind. New York: Basic Books.
Buber, M. (1985). Between man and man. (R. G. Smith, Trans.) New York: Macmillan.
Bugental, J. F. T. (1976). The search for existential identity. San Fransisco: Jossey Bass.
Cannon, K. G. (1995). Kaite’s canon: Womanism and the soul of the community. New York: Guilford.