Psyching the Zietgeist:
Current Culture Through a Mental Health Lens

What is Feminism?

At a recent Women’s Therapy Referral Service member meeting, we explored the questions, “What is feminism?” and “What does it mean to be a feminist?”. We are a feminist organization, after all, and questions such as these are good ones for us to periodically explore.

The outcome of this discussion was interesting. While we all could agree that WTRS is a feminist cooperative, not all of us identified as feminists. Some of us don’t identify with that label because we believe in lifting up ALL people, not just women, but could get behind the idea of  Intersectional Feminism once they understood what it meant. Others resonate with Radical Feminism, which is about getting to the roots of bias in our society. 

What does Feminism mean to you? Here’s what it means to these feminists:

Nellie McKay sings a catchy, tongue-in-cheek little song. 

Chimanda Adichie tells us we should all be feminists, and talks with Trevor Noah about feminism in this great interview .

These two “unapologetic feminists” have regular conversations about all kinds of things, from a feminist point of view.

And finally – here are Irish Women celebrating the repeal of their country’s strict abortion laws with hugs, tears, and a feeling that Ireland is finally “embracing” its women.

These are just a start; there are lots of great resources available online for learning about feminism. And as you reflect on what Feminism means to you, we invite you to explore these and other resources.

by Anne Ihnen

Working Hard to Keep Everyone Around Us Happy

In her 4/7/18 New York Times Opinion Pages piece, Maureen Dowd writes about the “weird pattern” of women having sex with men they’re not attracted to. She asks, “You can lean in, but you can’t walk out?” I squirmed at this seeming suggestion of blame and letting men’s bad behavior off the hook.  At the same time, this misses a phenomenon I’ve noticed in many of the women, young or not, with whom I meet to match with therapists. They are competent, driven, well-spoken, and professional in their career identity, but in interpersonal relationships, they struggle to maintain a sense of self. Dowd refers to The New Yorker short story on the perils of romance, “Cat Person”, that caused a stir when it was published last year. The story’s author told the magazine that her protagonist “… speaks to the way that many women, especially young women, move through the world: not making people angry, taking responsibility for other people’s emotions, working extremely hard to keep everyone around them happy. It’s reflexive and self-protective, and it’s also exhausting.”

I’m struck by her observation, which is consistent with the impression I have of many of the women who sit across from me waiting to be referred for therapy. These traits are so deeply socialized in us women. The best therapy, I think, helps us identify, untangle, and begin to shift this defeating, self-negating way of being in the world.

by Judy Koven, WTRS Coordinator