The Meaning Of Difference: Gender Theory, Postmodernism, And Psychology

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American Psychologist


Two recent postmodern movements, constructivism and deconstruction, challenge the idea of a single meaning of reality and suggest that meanings result from social experience. We show how these postmodern approaches can be applied to the psychology of gender. Examining gender theories from a constructivist stand-point, we note that the primary meaning of gender in psychology has been difference. The exaggeration of differences, which we call alpha bias, can be seen in approaches that focus on the contrasting experiences of men and women. The minimizing of differences, beta bias, can be seen in approaches that stress the similarity or equality of men and women. From a deconstructivist position, we examine previously hidden meanings in the discourse of therapy that reveal cultural assumptions about gender relations. Paradoxes in contemporary constructions of gender impel us to go beyond these constructions. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2013 APA, all rights reserved)


Reprinted in: (1998). The Gender And Psychology Reader. 125-158.

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