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Carol Gilligan

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Carol Gilligan, Ph.D., named one of the 25 most influential Americans in 1996 by Time Magazine, has shown how the inclusion of women and girls’ voices changes the paradigm of psychology, opening up new ways of thinking about education and mental health. Her books include In a Different Voice, Meeting at the Crossroads, Between Voice and Silence, and The Birth of Pleasure. Together with her students, Gilligan founded the Harvard Project on Women’s Psychology and Girls’ Development, and in 1997, she was appointed to Harvard’s first professorship in gender studies. Gilligan is currently a professor at New York University.

But it was when I started working with girls, that I had the experience that I had touched the power... I listened to them...we found we were hearing something that was at once familiar and surprising. It was something we knew and it was something that we had come to not know that we knew. The power, you see, was in the force behind that not knowing. And I touched it with girls, and then with young boys. And when I touched young boys, then I had really touched the power.

I learned how much of what is said about children, who they are, their stages, is not true. And the second thing that I learned is the power to change things, to transform things, is basically within all of us...It is part of our human nature.

There is a voice that has colonized, by the patriarchy, creating stereotypes of what is a girl, or a "good girl" or what is a "real boy" and that these are overlays.

So once you know this, about boys, about girls – then you see there the same potential for resistance to the patriarchal gender stereotypes.

Here’s the good news – like we know about the immune system of the body – the body resists infection – the psyche resists infection and disease, the psyche resists infection that would divide us from vital parts of ourselves. That would, in the name of gender, split mind from body, thoughts from emotion, self from relationships, and allocate mind, self and thought to men, body, emotion and relationship to women – it makes no sense.

There is within us a healthy resistance to patriarchy. In other words there is within us the grounds for a truly democratic society. But to join the healthy resistance of the human psyche to these kind of psychic splits that divide us from vital part of ourselves – to join the healthy resistance of children means to become involved in a political resistance. And if we cannot move forward into that kind of action, then it’s very hard to hold onto these voices, or even to access them. We begin to now know what we know and we buy into it. Psychology has largely bought into the gender stereotypes of patriarchy.

So feminism – my definition – one of the great liberation movements in human history – the “movement to liberate democracy from patriarchy” because it’s a movement that unites women and men, recognizing the destructive effect of patriarchy on women and men.

The patriarchy has a much greater interest in the induction of the boy and it only needs some women. You have a choice – you can buy in...or you can fall off the edge of the world and they don’t care what you do. Which is why activism is such an issue, since how do you have a voice without joining them and taking on their voice.

This is something we can all do, whether we do it within ourselves, within our own homes, with our family, with our children, our grand-children, which is to listen for this voice, in girls, in boys and in ourselves. It is an empowered voice, and it is a voice for peace.

Join the healthy resistance of children. I hope you’ll take some of this encouragement to join that resistance which means doing that work in yourself.

Interview with Carol Gilligan

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