The always-amazing blog Geek Feminism has a series called “Wednesday Geek Woman,” where they solicit guest posts about women, past or present, who represent excellence and passionate devotion in their field of interest. For the most part, the series has focused on women in the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and math), fields that are notoriously hostile to women and which are most closely associated with the idea of “being a geek.”
But having taught Marriage and Family Therapy for most of the past decade, I’m aware that even though our field has come to be female-dominated at the practitioner and student level, it has its own history of patriarchy, misogyny, and plain ol’ sexism. This shows up in ways both subtle and unsubtle. One that has always stood out for me is an example that comes up every time I teach a survey class on MFT theories (one of my favorite topics to teach, in fact): The way that nearly all survey textbooks minimize, obscure, or ignore the contributions of Virginia Satir.
In fact it’s turned into one of the tests I use to quickly assess all the theory textbooks that come across my desk.
- I look to see whether Satir is given her own chapter or if she’s lumped in with Carl Whitaker (Nichols, I’m looking at you – you revise that book every couple of years and the Satir material never gets better!)
- Whether her techniques are clearly spelled out or hand-waved away as “personality-driven” or idiosyncratic
- Whether her significant contributions to communications theory and family systems theory are highlighted or whether they’re ignored in favor of her playful techniques and “cute” anecdotes about her work
- Whether the significant contemporary writing about and training in her approach is acknowledged or ignored
That tells me a lot about the author’s understanding of Satir and possible prejudices against her work. And it’s been pretty hard, in my experience, to find a textbook that doesn’t suffer from at least one of the above problems.
So I decided to write a post for “Wednesday Geek Woman” about Satir and her contributions to the family therapy field and the sexism she faced in her time and that persists in her legacy today. And today, Geek Feminism published it! I have been a little nervous about whether it would be received well by the GF readership, whether it would attract any comments, etc. because the topic is outside the sphere of GF’s usual interests. But I’m so glad they gave it a shot!
PS – I gave a shout-out to Satir’s work with families in my Halloween post, “So, you have a zombie in your family.”