Feminine psychology is an approach to psychology that focuses on issues concerning gender, female human identity, and the issues that women face throughout their lives.
Motherhood vs. career
One dynamic outlined by feminine psychologists is the balancing act that women partake in between the more traditional role of motherhood and the more modern one of a career woman. Balancing the roles means attempting to satisfy both the need for personal achievement and the need for love and emotional security.
This does not mean that the roles contradict each other. The additional income from work may both relieve some stress and give the mother the ability to provide greater advantages (education, healthcare) to her children. Working also allows women to feel as though they are making a contribution to society beyond the family. A more fulfilled mother, in most cases, will be a better mother. Feminine psychologists argue that, since women often neglect their own needs to satisfy the demands of these roles, they will neglect their health (Hansen et al., 2002).
According to a study conducted by Dr. Jennifer Stuart, sometimes the history of the woman affects how she chooses to balance the two roles, or if she will balance at all. Specifically, Stuart asserts that the primary determinant is a woman's "quality of her relationship with her mother. Women whose mothers fostered feelings of both warm attachment and confident autonomy may find ways to enjoy their children and/or work, often modifying work and family environments in ways that favor both".
Some women have no choice other than to work while raising children because of financial need. Others work for personal fulfillment. In either case, women are making compromises in their careers so that they can balance paid work and motherhood responsibilities. They are cutting back hours and accepting lower pay or a lower job status. In order to make the compromise, they have chosen to be satisfied with being average rather than being a top performer in the workplace (Kapur, 2004).
What mothers have to remember, according to Dr. Ramon Resa, is that "children are fairly resilient and will adapt to whatever changes are required. They are also astute at sensing unhappiness, disappointment and apathy" (Resa, 2009). There is no harm in trying any path in order to find fulfillment, because no decision is permanent and can be changed as the situation warrants.
Cultural influences on women
Throughout history, women have been regarded as the weaker of the sexes and afforded fewer rights, which include but are not limited to education, legal and career opportunities. For women, being a wife and a mother has long been regarded their most significant and only important profession. It was only in the 20th century that widespread countries finally saw women as a sex with a persuasive voice. In the 20th century, most women were afforded the right to go to school beyond elementary education and the opportunity to go to college, opening the door to more career opportunities than becoming a teacher or nurse. In that century, feminism also opened the door to women gaining a voice in politics with the right to vote, which in turn gave women the right to run for office. The cultural shifts and changes in attitude toward women began in the 20th century in almost every nation and continued into the 21st century, as the traditional roles of women in society continued to be rewritten.
The old school of thought was that women were the weaker of the two sexes and therefore inferior to men. Under the common law of England in the 19th century, an unmarried woman could own property, make a contract, or sue and be sued, but a married woman, defined as being one with her husband, gave up her name and virtually all her property, inherited or otherwise, and came under her husband's control (Brinjikji, 1999). In early days of the USA, life for a woman was much different from that in England. In the US, a man more or less owned his wife and children as if they were material possessions. If a poor man decided to send his children to the poor house, the mother had no legal grounds and, by all accounts, was defenseless. It was only in the 19th century that things began to change significantly in the States. In the early to mid-19th century, some local governments began modifying the laws to allow women to act as lawyers, to own property in their own names if their husbands saw fit, and sue for property (Lambert). As of the early 21st century in the United States and throughout many nations, married or not, a woman can buy, sell, or own her own property, go into contractual relationships, sue and be sued, act in her own defense, and protect her children.
In 1848, when the Seneca Falls Convention for women's rights was held in New York State, one of the complaints documented in the Declaration of Sentiments was that the "history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her... He has denied her the facilities for obtaining a thorough education, all colleges being closed against her." One of outcomes of the convention was a demand for higher education (Lowe, 1989). For women, formal education had always been second in importance and subpar to that for men, and colonial America was no exception. In colonial America, girls usually learned to read and write at dame schools and could only attend the master schools for boys when there was room, which was usually during the summer months when most boys were working (Lowe, 1989). In fact, women did not begin to go to college until after the Civil War, and for the most part they went to coeducational institutions. The newly established land grant colleges in the Midwest opened as coeducational facilities, while the more established institutions of the northeast resisted the move to coeducation (Lowe, 1989).
Being denied the opportunity to be fully educated meant that women had to learn from their mother's example that cooking, cleaning, and caring for children was the behavior expected of them when they grew up uneducated. Beginning in colonial times and extending as late as 1900, the only jobs available to women were seamstress work or keeping boardinghouses. Some women did work in professions available mostly to men, becoming doctors, lawyers, preachers, teachers, writers, and singers. By the end of the 19th century and due to increasing need for education in the above fields, the only acceptable occupations for working women were limited to factory labor or domestic work. Women were excluded from the professions, except for writing and teaching (Lowe, 1989). As of the early 21st century in most nations, there has been progress such that women are allowed to complete as much education as they want and to choose what profession they wish. Though the glass ceiling still exists in some industries, women are making great advances in every area from working in coal mines to working on the front lines.
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• Women in the Senate • The Woman Suffrage Timeline • Maggie Lowe • Tim Lambert • Karen Horney: Major Concepts