In browsing CNN’s website, I read about a current event close to the nation’s capital—the women’s march in Washington D.C. The main gist of the article is that the march isn’t going well because of a lack of alignment among the marchers in terms of goals (Jones, 2019). This relates to counseling psychology because it highlights both the fruits and challenges of social justice advocacy within counseling psychology.
On one hand, the women’s march shows us that the theme of social justice is something that is working across the country. As we read in Laura Brown’s (2009) Feminist Therapy chapter, the historical struggle of women has been the gender stereotype of powerlessness and inherent subjugation to men. The march represented the positive impact of female voices as this last election cycle had almost 500 women run for office—a record setting amount (Jones, 2019). This march is a clear example of how women are empowered to express themselves and be heard on a national stage. This isn’t the first women’s march either. There was one during the 2016 election and many issues related to women were prominently discussed in the media. This relates closely to counseling psychology because in the course we learned a lot about the important role of advocacy through policy making. From my perspective, I see advocacy in action with these marches.
I also recognized internal strife between the groups of allies during the march, much like how social justice advocates have to deal with internal conflict on topics of note. As the article by Jones (2019) noted, there was conflict over ideologies and inclusion, which resulted in strife: “…rather than working together to develop a deeper diversity of ideologies, or to build on the common concerns we share, the conversation has deteriorated into bullying, public shaming and demands for apologies.” Essentially, groups were at odds among one another and retaliated. This is indicative of the internal challenges that the APA has according to Vasquez (2012). Vasquez’s (2012) article noted that when allied groups disagree, there can be strong feelings of betrayal and hurt from each side. This is one unique challenge of social justice progress and something that people must figure out in order to move forward on making progress.
I chose this topic because the course has opened my eyes to the important role that counseling psychologists have in driving personal, policy, and country wide change. I was extremely disappointed to read in our course how so many people with different identities have a tough time going through the motions of life. For example, as a tall, white, male I never considered how personal safety is such a serious consideration for women who have to deal with the physical power imbalance. Similarly, the article I read reflected women collectively fighting for their rights against the dominant group in society. To see this play out and work from an advocacy standpoint is powerful and a refreshed perspective that I gained from the course.
My reaction to the article was that it was amazing to see how different groups and identities can clash while simultaneously being on the same side. All of the women at the march had so much in common but found strong reasons to not like one another (accusations of anti-Semitism and falling to different sides on other issues). It makes you appreciate the importance of human cooperation in getting things done. Another reaction I had was the thought that so many people had to work hard over many years to enable these women to peacefully march. It’s a shame that their progress may be delayed and compromised by internal strife. It also reminded me how much we have to rely on the work of others before us to pave the way. The thought of many dedicated counselors and advocates who paved the way for marchers and protestors reminded me of the famous quote by Isaac Newton: “If I have seen further it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants.”
Brown, L. (2009). Chapter 3. Feminist therapy, 29-76.
Jones, R. (2019, January 18). Women's March is losing its way. CNN. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/18/opinions/womens-march-losing-its-way-roxanne-jones/index.html
Vasquez, M. J. (2012). Psychology and Social Justice: Why We Do What We Do. PsycEXTRA Dataset. doi:10.1037/e692142011-001