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Psychology of Women


 The way that women describe their success and failure is due to the attribution process.  The cognitive attribution theory of achievement motivation was proposed by a man named Bernard Weiner. It explains the differences between high and low achievement individuals as due to the attributions they make regarding the causes of their success and failures.  Women show a pattern for having greater externality for success and more internality for failure.  Women are more likely to attribute their successes to luck and their failures to low ability.  When it comes to success, men make only slightly more attributions to ability than women do, and women make slightly more attributions to luck.  Women make more luck attributions to causal questions, but not to informational ones. 

 The “Just-World” hypothesis states that it is one’s tendency to blame others for one’s misfortunes, or the belief that bad things happen only to those who somehow bring on their own problems or deserve the consequences of their acts.  Involving the issue of rape, a likely result of this hypothesis is that the defenders of rapists will try to show that the rape victims “had it coming” because of their actions.  This way of thinking also goes for issues such as molestation and under-employment.  People may believe that depending on the actions of a child or adolescent, molestation is what they had coming to them for acting out or not respecting the parent or other person doing the molesting.  People who don’t have motivation or the determination to achieve as others do may have a harder time finding work and therefore do not have a good job, if one at all, and that is “what they had coming” for their lack of motivation or whatever the reason may be. 

For women students in college, gender stereotypes create a “chilly climate” in the classroom and science laboratories.  These stereotypes include a variety of different behaviors such as discouraging women’s participation in class discussions.  It involves interrupting women in class as well as preventing women from seeking help outside of class.  The chilly environment undermines women’s confidence, dampens their career aspirations and minimizes women’s development of collegial relationships with faculty.  This behavior makes women feel as if their capacity for full intellectual development and professional success is limited. It can also make them feel as if their participation in class discussion is not expected, and their contributions are not important.  

Girls and boys who are victims of incest suffer after effects that are serious enough to keep them involved in therapy continuing into adulthood.  Incest victims suffer from a variety of things, including depression, guilt, anger and loss of self-esteem. Girls who have been victims of incest often suffer from nightmares, crying spells and fear reactions in certain situations.  Long term effects included identifiable degrees of impairment when compared with non-victims.  Adults who were incest victims as children experience clinical depression and were considered severely psychoneurotic.  Throughout their lives, they are more likely to have problems with depression, alcohol and other drug abuse, panic and obsessive-compulsive symptoms. 

Battered women may stay in a violent relationship because they believe the situation is inescapable or is part of their lot in life.  They feel helpless about changing their lives and fear that any action taken will result in more violence.  Injuries that battered women receive include bruises, cuts, concussions, black eyes, broken bones, scars from burns, knife wounds and loss of hearing and/or vision.  From the victims view, reactions to battering include shock, denial, confusion, psychological numbing, fear, substance abuse, disturbed sleep and eating disorders.  Children are at high risk for experiencing their mothers being assaulted by their fathers.  They are often in the middle of acts of domestic violence even though they are not the cause of the violence.  When children observe such acts, they tend to act out in ways such as delinquency or running away.  Children will be affected by the behaviors that are modeled, by the trauma they are experiencing, and by the distress of their parents.  They will lie to prevent inappropriate behavior, and they learn to suspend fulfillment of their needs rather than risk another confrontation. 

The individual level of change refers to redefining gender roles at the individual level, which would include changes through interpersonal relationships with mates for example.  Let’s take women and childcare for instance. The reasons for women working outside the home are related primarily to financial needs as well as self-actualization.   Families must have two incomes to support them at a level previously achieved by one wage earner.  Therefore, employment is not always a choice for women, but often a necessity.  Women are also wanting to work for the social support, adult companionships, and social networks offered by work places.  It does not always have to be the men that go to work and the women that stay at home and take care of the house and the kids.  Gender roles can be easily reversed so the women are able to have some time for themselves as well. 

Misogyny falls sometime in the eighth century B.C., and takes place somewhere in the eastern Mediterranean.  Holland believes this is the birthplace and time for misogyny due to the fact that about this time, both Greece and Judea had creation stories arise.  The stories describe the Fall of man and how women’s weakness is responsible for all subsequent human suffering, misery and death.  Both stories have flowed into Western civilization carried along by two of its most powerful tributaries.  These would include Genesis, in the Jewish tradition where the culprit is Eve, and in the Greek tradition, the culprit is Pandora.

Pandora was devised to be a trick in the form of a gift to men, which would be an evil thing for their delight.  Pandora is also known as the “all giver” and the Greek phrase used to describe her was “kalon kakon,” meaning “the beautiful evil.”  Pandora was given a large jar that she was told never to open, but inside that jar was the beginning of the race of womankind.  Pandora opened the jar, curious to see what was inside and scattered pains and evil against all men.  From then on, mankind would be doomed to labor, growing old, getting sick and would die in suffering.  Holland titles this chapter “Pandora’s daughters” insinuating that since this evil goddess that uncorked the jar opened up the race of womankind, and her daughters represent all other women.

During Christianity’s first three centuries, women were a key to its remarkable success, due to the fact that it gave them a kind of liberation unheard of in the ancient world.  The misogynists of Greece and Rome were constantly berating women for moral failings.  At the crucifixion, there were many women there, which remained there to pray, while the men fled from the scene.  After Jesus’ resurrection, he appears first to a woman, which is Mary.   The resurrection is the central doctrine of Christianity, which promises salvation.  It was revealed to a woman and the one that was first to accept it, gave women in general a powerful basis to play a dramatic role in the new religion.  Jesus’ whole attitude towards women was revolutionary.  Women became crucial to early Christianity’s spread. 

Holland’s chapter entitled “From Queen of Heaven to Devil Women” indicates the development of two contradictory processes.  These processes include the beautification of woman and her demonization.  The middle ages would begin by elevating women towards heaven and end by consigning many thousands of them to hell.  It was a period when the human spirit was convulsed by outbreaks of mass hysteria and witch hunts.  The Queen of Heaven was Mary, the mother of God.  As a role model for women, Mary set contradictory standards for them to meet.  These included her representation of the apotheosis of passivity, obedience, motherhood and virginity.  The Queen of Heaven acquires the name of Notre Dame, meaning “Our Lady,” due to the merge of the concepts of “the Mother of God,” and “Queen of Heaven.”  This deification dehumanizes women as its opposite, which is “demonization.”  In the time of the witch hunt craze, it is argued by Walter Stephens that doubt lay at the root of it, not misogyny.  He argues that the preoccupation with women having sex with demons was mainly a concern with finding evidence that demons really existed. 

In Holland’s conclusion, he comments about the responses he received when he said he was writing a book about misogyny.  He claims the women were interested to know and learn what he had found out about it, but the men’s responses were just the opposite.  They were insinuating that Holland was basically going to write a book about misogyny and do none the less but to justify it.  He claims that if he was going to write a book about racism, people would not look at him in terms of being a racist, but when writing on the topic of misogyny, he realized that men did not see it as a prejudice, but merely as an inevitable issue.  He believes that misogyny is still somewhat part of the western culture today.  For example, when men feel angry or humiliated, the women still provide the universal scapegoat for them.  He believes that no other race has received such prejudicial treatment over such an extended period of time, and that no group of individuals has been discriminated against on such a global level as misogyny. 

According to Levy, “raunch culture” is the period of time we are now living in, in terms of women bringing about more open sexuality within themselves as well as in the media.  Women want to be more like “one of the guys” and hoped to be experienced “like a man.”  For example, they will talk about porn stars or go to strip clubs as a way of showing themselves and the men around them that they are not “prissy little women” or “girly-girls.”  Other examples of this raunch culture would include a very popular production known as “Girls Gone Wild.”  GGW is everything from girl-on-girl action, girls taking off their clothes for the camera, spring break drinking binges with no inhibitions for acting out of conservativeness, etc.  Crunch Gyms, in various locations of the nation, offer classes called “Cardio Striptease.”  This involves women and girls of all ages coming to do cardio exercise in nothing but their bras and underwear, so they can get the feeling of doing real stripper moves while they exercise.  Another example would be the reality shows on television that bring about much of this raunchy culture.  On the show, “The Bachelor,” twenty-five women are competing for one man, and the competition holds no boundaries as to what these women will do, much of the time in their tiny bikinis.  There is always Paris Hilton to rely on when it comes to acting “raunchy.”  Between the ways she promotes herself in “barely there” clothing, to the sex videos she has made with various boyfriends, she is constantly trying to come across as more “sexy.” 

In the phrase, the ‘Future that never happened,”  Levy is referring to Susan Brownmiller who was one of the earliest and most involved members of the Women’s Liberation Movement.  Brownmiller stated, “I would like to be in close association with a man whose work I respect, but that it had not happened.”  Women want to be neither oppressor or oppressed, and Brownmiller was not interested in messing up the system already in place.  “The goals of liberation go beyond a simple concept of equality,” Brownmiller claimed.  What Brownmiller and the other member of the women’s liberation movement wanted was a transfiguration of society that included politics, business, child-rearing, sex, romance, housework, entertainment and academics.  Women were specifically fighting to be seen as real people, and to show the world that they too could be difficult, sophisticated and formidable.  A couple years later, Brownmiller went on to be one of the founders of a group named Women Against Pornography.  This group formed to try and end pornography at all costs because they thought it was demoralizing to women.  They believed that “pornography was the theory and rape was the practice.”  They had hopes not only to inform people (housewives, children) about these issues, but to abolish pornography all together, to keep it from leading to other problems. 

Levy refers to the “female chauvinist pigs” as being women who make sex objects out of other women and out of ourselves.  Some examples would include people such as Pamela Anderson and the ways she portrays herself throughout the sexual movies she’s involved in, down to the way she expresses her image as being a “sex object” with the large fake breasts, bleached blonde hair, and barely any clothes she is ever wearing.  Another example would be Jenna Jameson, who is the world’s highest grossing adult film performer.  Aside from her film career, she is predominately used in advertising.  One advertisement she has done is for Abercrombie & Fitch, which is a line targeted for teenagers.  She has been almost completely naked in music videos and has written a book titled “How to Make Love like a Porn Star.”  In Levy’s chapter “Pigs in Training,” she is describing how the age range for these types of sexual behavior is getting younger all the time.  Younger girls, especially teenagers, are acting in a behavior that is not quite acceptable at such a young age.  Some examples would include a young middle-school girl in Massachusetts that performed fellatio on a high school boy sitting next to her on a bus, while the classmates watched.  There was another eighth-grade girl that attended Horace Mann, one of the top private schools in NYC that made a digital recording of herself masturbating and simulating fellatio on a mop.

In the chapter “Shopping for Sex,” Levy explains that sex actually requires shopping in the raunch culture.  A person needs plastic surgery, peroxide, a manicure and a mall, in order to get the big fake boobs, bleached blonde hair, long nails, poles and thongs.  After shopping for all the big stuff, one is able to turn around and sell it.  Levy feels that porn is not real because no one person is able to be taught how to have sex, it is purely based on identifying and satisfying tastes and cravings.  She believes there is a problem with using porn as a tool for mind expansion, because you can see almost any sexual act imaginable on the internet or what not, but no matter how much porn you watch, you will end up with a limited knowledge of your own sexuality because you won’t know how these things actually feel.  The Playboy emblem represents the sexual personalities of the Playboy bunnies, which each individual bunny has completely shopped for her entire appearance, so again, this involves shopping for sex.  The HBO hit show, “Sex and the City” was entirely about four women shopping for sex.  Carrie, one of the main characters wore a Playboy rabbit necklace, another character had a pendent shaped like the mud flap girl, and all four girls attended a party at the mansion of Hugh Hefner.  This show represented women as consumers and women as things to be consumed, involving both sex and money.

In the conclusion of Levy’s book, she is discussing her end view points on the whole issue of the book.  She states that sex is one of the most interesting things that humans have to play with and we have completely changed the entire view on it, and believes we are selling ourselves incredibly short.  She also feels that there are many women being constrained in this environment, who would feel happier and hotter, more empowered, and more sexually liberated if they explored other avenues of expression and entertainment.  She feels that if we are going to be sexually liberated, we need to make room for a range of options as wide as the variety of human desire.  Also we need to allow ourselves freedom to actually figure out what we want as individuals from sex rather than accepting the image that is portrayed to us as what it is suppose to be in terms of “sexiness.”  In the afterword, she talks about various interactions she has had with different people concerning her book and how wide the variety of responses were to it.  I have to say that I truly enjoyed this book.  It was amazing to me how real it all was because we deal with all these issues in everyday life, and it’s something that is all around us.  I completely agree with her on many topics and saw her point of view, which in turn made it all the more interesting when I have the same thoughts myself.