Vitamin F

Better living through feminist psychology

Welcome to Feminist Psychology

How I become a feminist psychologist, and you can too!

One of my favorite Saturday Night Live skits is a mock commercial featuring Queen Latifah as a much put-upon Black woman who reaches for “Excedrin for Racial Tension Headaches.” Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a pill or a product existed that could rid us of discrimination, or at least of the discomfort of discrimination? When it comes to sexism, there is, sort of. It isn’t a real pill, but for the many women and men that have used it, “Vitamin F”, for feminism, has given them the support, courage, and energy to challenge sexism at all levels -- way better than anything Prozac or Xanax could ever do.

 Like many little girls, I grew up being told girls could do anything. The message was that you can be anything, yet assert yourself and you are labeled as “bossy.” Because I was smart and assertive, my mother told me, “You intimidate the boys” (apparently that was a bad thing). As a child, I never saw a woman who was a principal at a school, or an astronaut, or President of the United States. I’m still waiting for the President. In a study of eminent women psychologists, many reported that because there were so few women in positions of power, their childhood role model was Nancy Drew. At least she had her own car and solved mysteries.

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 I was given my first dose of Vitamin F in an undergraduate Developmental Psychology course. Wow, I could mix feminism with psychology??!! I first heard the actual term Vitamin F used during my second year of graduate school at the annual conference of the Association for Women in Psychology. I learned that these women and supportive men are Vitamin F, encouraging, mentoring, and inspiring each other to go beyond what might be expected or mandated because of gender. I also learned that feminists are great dancers.

 Since then, it has been my mission to spread Vitamin F through writing, research, and general merrymaking. Because sexism can be ridiculously funny, sometimes the best reaction may be to respond with humor. A great example is Lenore Tiefer’s response to the rise in female genital surgery…hand out information while dressed up like a woman’s vulva. Now that will get people’s attention. Grocery list…coffee, broccoli, vulva suit.

 As a social psychologist, I am particularly fond of statistics and quantitative methods in general. Yes, I know the saying that “there are three kinds of lies…lies, damn lies, and statistics.” But the people who say this are often those who don’t know much about statistics. I firmly believe that good research is an incredible weapon against patriarchy.

 I have on my Facebook page the quote “Feminism loves you.” The idea that we can challenge systemic sexist oppression and create a world where women and men can maximize their potential…now that’s love. That’s Vitamin F. And what better vessel than through psychology? Ultimately the goal of this blog is to spread feminist love. Yes, there may be some complaining, but there will also be humor, and I will always return to “So what can we do about it?” You know, love in action. And remember, not only does feminism love you, feminism will always respect you in the morning.

 

Christine Smith Ph.D., is a professor of psychology, human development, and women and gender studies at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

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