Society, Relationships, and Pleasure: An Interview with Dr. Carol Gilligan
by Carol Gilligan
Watch one of feminist psychology’s most renowned theorists discuss how psychotherapy can combat the ills of patriarchy. In this engaging interview, Dr. Carol Gilligan reflects on feminism, emotional honesty, mother-child relationships, and the conflicted role of pleasure in women’s lives.
Successful therapy moves us beyond our limiting personal beliefs; so does it follow that psychotherapy can challenge the dominance of patriarchy? According to Dr. Carol Gilligan, an early leader within feminist psychology and one of the field’s most prolific authors, the answer is a resounding yes. In this illuminating personal interview, Gilligan challenges the long-held idea of “patriarchy” as the oppression of women by men, examining it instead as an insidious, systemic set of gender constructs we’re all held to, and all diminished by. She then links these ideas to psychotherapy, highlighting its role in supporting our openness to vulnerability—the key to our collective healing and an urgently needed paradigm shift.

Calling feminism “one of the great liberation movements in human history,” Gilligan argues that not only is patriarchy alive and well, but our mainstream definition itself is flat-out wrong. Holding that “patriarchal femininity” requires women to be selfless in order to maintain relationships, Gilligan laments the negative impact this distortion has on both mother-child bonding and children’s development of a strong sense of self.

Over a series of brief, themed segments, Gilligan makes the case that patriarchal gender norms compromise our authentic expression and limit our capacity for real connection, leaving both women and men disconnected from their true feelings, their own sons and daughters, and the very practice of democracy. Psychotherapy, she maintains, can support women’s empowerment by getting them in touch with the pain that leads them to deny their own pleasure—an action condoned by a culture that looks disdainfully on women’s desire.

Wherever you stand on feminism, you’ll find this a deeply rich interview marked by Gilligan’s incisive, engaging style. There’s plenty to chew on in this concise video, so be sure to take a look.
In Depth
Does the idea of patriarchy still resonate today, given our increasingly gender-diverse culture and feminist achievements? Gilligan gives a definitive yes in this interview, where the longtime professor and author gives her thoughts on modern feminism, gender within the family, and the positive potential impact of women’s empowerment on child development.

Over the hour-long interview, Gilligan draws compelling connections to suggest a relationship between patriarchy, parenting, and pleasure. She examines ways that the family unit, particularly mother-daughter and mother-son relationships, exemplifies and maintains patriarchy; the ways that self-denial women are conditioned to adopt leads to a denial of their own pleasure, as well as their power both as women and as strong maternal figures. For women, she continues, pleasure is a psychosocial dilemma that can be even harder to acknowledge than pain, both because women aren’t socially allowed to embrace their desire and because feeling into desire triggers grief and shame.

Feminist psychotherapy, she maintains, can compel women to face up to their disowned selves, own their authentic voices, and be more present for the sake of their children—especially their daughters, who long for empowered role models. Gilligan offers a rich overview of the nuances of feminism today—be sure to add this one to your library.

By watching this video, you will:
  •  Understand Gilligan’s definition of “patriarchy” and its relevance to modern feminism and families.
  • Discover how children’s emotional honesty can be threatening to patriarchy.
  • Learn how psychotherapy can support women’s empowerment as it pertains to embracing desire and pleasure.

Length of video: 00:31:00

English subtitles available

Individual ISBN-10 #: 1-60124-446-0

Individual ISBN-13 #: 978-1-60124-446-8

Group ISBN-10 #: 1-60124-447-9

Group ISBN-13 #: 978-1-60124-447-5

Carol Gilligan, PhD, is an American feminist, psychologist, ethicist, and author of many books, including In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development (1982), Between Voice and Silence: Women and Girls, Race and Relationships (1997), The Birth of Pleasure (2002), and The Deepening Darkness: Patriarchy, Resistance, & Democracy's Future (2009). She is a professor at New York University.

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