Writing is Writing, Right? Write. On Feminine Psychology and Introverts. A Few Words.

I’ve pondered posting the two papers I’ve written this week for my pscyh classes. I mean, it’s not like I haven’t been writing, I just haven’t been writing anything bloggish. I finished up a final paper on Karen Horney (Horn-EYE people, not horn-ee), widely regarded as the mother of Feminine Psychology. Turns out that about 50 years lapsed between the time she took old Freud to task on his penis envy nonsense and women making any inroads into psychology. I found a fascinating video on women in the field as there just wasn’t much out there on Karen H. herself, but quite a lot about on feminine or feminist psychology.  The Changing Face of Feminist Psychology was an excellent historical document.

At one point in this video, one of the women mentions the publication of Our Bodies, Ourselves, the manual on women’s health published by the Boston Women’s Health Collective in 1974 and how that single publication dramatically changed things for women. I remember my best friend (and first ever girlfriend) in high school had that book and how scandalized and tantalized I was by it at the time. I’ve since given it as a gift to many young women in my life, my daughters included. It’s really hard to believe sometimes how huge the strides are that have been made in my lifetime. And then not. As Jane Yoder points out in this video, she watched as her 22 year old daughter graduated from college and went to work in a world where not much had changed at all for women in the past 30 years. And how the university for which she works still has a bare bones maternity policy. Steps forward. Steps backward. We stand still sometimes.

I finished this paper thankful for women like Karen Horney, women who stuck their necks out and challenged the status quo, spoke up when things seemed weird and one-sided, like penis envy. Really? Was it such a stretch that the good old boys couldn’t figure out that it wasn’t the penis women envied but the power conferred upon those who had one? I mean, really, guys.

I then tackled a shorter assignment on the 5 Personality Traits. The assignment was to do a report on our “favorite trait.” Well, that seemed a little odd, given that we all have these traits, allegedly. Hard to choose a favorite. Not like ice cream or a sports team, exactly. Here are the traits, the five traits that modern personality theorists claim we all have (and upon which we each claim a place on the spectrum, more or less): Extraversion, Neuroticism, Openness, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness.

In hindsight, I probably should have chosen Neuroticism (that, along with Feminine Psychology) is the thing Karen Horney is known for, after all (and, you know, it takes one to know one), but instead I decided to focus on Introversion (yeah, it’s not on the list, right?). Because as an introvert I was so insulted by the way the theorists demeaned us introverts–monotonous they said, boring, passive, meek, not open to new experiences. Come on! Just because I don’t like to make small talk at a cocktail party doesn’t mean I don’t value new experiences, don’t like a thrill, don’t like to leave the house fer chrissake.

A few months ago, maybe a year ago, I read Susan Cain’s excellent book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Just Can’t Stop Talking. She also has an excellent TED talk, The Power of Introverts in which she takes our culture to task on the devaluation of quiet, of solitude, and the space and time to dream. She’s so right in her assessment of schools and businesses focusing on the group at the expense of the individual. We are sacrificing the thinkers and the dreamers and turning our future over to the people who talk the loudest.

As Cain points out, there is ZERO correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas. She says that we have given in to a new group think—that all creativity comes from a gregarious place. But, she says, quite correctly, most creative people have a serious streak of introversion because creativity needs long flights of fancy. Kids in school don’t get any time to pursue individual thoughts as they are all involved in group work, even when it comes to creative writing, and if you’ve been in a modern office building lately, you’ll see that the open concept is all the rage. No one gets an office where they can close the door on the noise–now they sit together so they can share ideas. I don’t even know how anything gets accomplished. The Little Woman works in such a space–and frankly I don’t know how she does it. But, she’s an extravert. I’m an introvert.

Hey look–I had a blog post after all. Feminists. Introverts. My people.

7 thoughts on “Writing is Writing, Right? Write. On Feminine Psychology and Introverts. A Few Words.

  1. Our Bodies, Ourselves went viral when it first came out and impacted many of us like nothing before. But for some, Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés was even more inspirational in helping us to name and harness the power that we’d been feeling forever. Cain’s Quiet is a life-raft in a churning sea. Thanks for writing this resourceful post, Pam.

    1. I just recently read Women Who Run with the Wolves for the first time. Amazing. I think we come to what we need when we are ready for it. Thanks for being such a faithful reader, Susan 🙂

  2. Okay, I’ve been resisting getting Cain’s book for a while now (why, I’m not sure; just because there are so many other fascinating things to read), but your post has pushed me over the edge. It’s made me think about grad school, and how I felt a bit marginalized because I didn’t contribute to seminars as quickly and enthusiastically as everyone else. The reason, I think, was that, inside, I was furiously trying to compare what everyone was saying to my own, very different theories, and I couldn’t find a succinct way to express the differences and their importance. But I brooded on it all, and the result was an award-winning dissertation. I just wish there had been some acknowledgment in my program that you don’t have to be loud and running off at the mouth to have important ideas. And that maybe contributing less to the run-of-the-mill sorts of discussions that happen in grad school seminars is a sign of increased INNER activity. The more creative, methodical, and enduring kind. Okay, going to look for Cain’s book….

    1. Sharon, I hear you–thank you for reading and commenting. I think you’ll enjoy Cain’s book. As I start a new grad school program in a few weeks, I certainly hope that there will be room for my quiet contemplation. I know that I will be challenged by the people who like to fill the silences. I”m looking forward to the thinking and contemplating that will go into writing the papers.

      1. Oh, I’m sure you’ll get a lot out of grad school. I think it’s great that you got to read Cain’s book BEFORE you go! I think it might have given me a little more confidence if I had.

  3. Business is such that collaboration and information sharing is a must. Our software is so integrated that one person cannot often work independently. That’s not to say we don’t have separate projects but it’s much easier to bounce ideas off fellow workers or learn just by listening to conversations around me. Most workers wear headphones but I rarely use them – only when I need to block out a specific noise or when I’m sensitive to external chatter. There are smaller conference rooms I can go to if I need privacy and a Starbucks downstairs. Business doesn’t function in closed door environments any longer. I’m an extrovert at work because I need to be effective but I too enjoy my quiet time to think, recharge, and be creative.

    1. I can appreciate the need for collaboration–i understand that new business models require new ways of working, but I also think that business ignores a critical component when it focuses almost exclusively on collaboration and the open office concept. Everyone should be able to work in an environment that fits their needs and optimizes their strengths. That’s all. Thanks for reading 🙂

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