issue 2 08 - APS Member Groups - Australian Psychological Society

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issue 2 08 - APS Member Groups - Australian Psychological Society

Textbook answers?90examined from a queer theory perspective.Although the above is presented as aseries of steps, in line with therecommendations of Parker (1992), the processwas neither sequential nor rigid but movediteratively back and forth between the subprocessesas seemed appropriate.The textbooks critiqued were Psychologyfor A2 Level, an introductory A-level text byMichael Eysenck (Eysenck, 2001), aprominent mainstream male British professorof psychology, and DeconstructingDevelopmental Psychology by Erica Burman(Burman, 2007), a prominent feminist femaleBritish professor of psychology. Both bookswere marketed as for beginners in psychology.The full analysis is too lengthy to include butbelow we include a summary of the findingsdrawing on the research process.In terms of moral development,Eysenck’s (2001) text, Psychology for A2Level, supports the widely known Kohlbergianstage theory of moral development in whichmen are positioned as achieving higher levelsof moral development than women. The textprivileges this theory in a number of ways. Theauthority of Gilligan’s work was underminedin the text by Eysenck, by being positionedalong with Freud’s but in contrast toKohlberg’s, as lacking good empirical support,that is, as being scientifically suspect. Forexample, when Gilligan’s criticism ofKohlberg’s theory is described, the textneutralises it by the addition of a comment that“It might be worth noting that the findings ofGilligan’s original research study involved arelatively small number of women, and a ratherunsystematic and potentially biased method ofinterviewing” (p. 406). Eysenck’s textreproduces a discourse of ‘sex differences’which are positioned as being undeniablemanifestations of an essentialising biological‘reality’ amenable to standardised, empiricalmeasurements, which is consistent withKohlberg’s but not Gilligan’s theory andwithin which discourse females are lessmorally developed than males as a matter ofbiological fact.This discourse is reproduced throughoutthe text through the way in which most majorstudies have an evaluation box whichtokenistic-ally states the ‘sex’ differences’. Inthis textbook, gender was positioned asirrelevant to the understanding of the topicbecause it could not be empirically quantifiedand was thus unrelated to the pure, ‘objective’nature of psychology (as the dominantdiscourse would have it). From a queer theorystandpoint this categorisation is extremelydangerous as it shackles in a way which is predeterminedand therefore unchangeable.Furthermore, this separates and dismisses therole of society in the construction of women,men and morality, rendering an individualistic,essentialistic explanation as the only option forexplaining women’s failure in development.Tellingly, Erica Burman’s textbook,Deconstructing Developmental Psychology, didnot have a specific chapter or section on genderbut unlike the Eysenck text but rather addressedthroughout the whole text how gender isimplicated and embedded in all psychologicalinventions and issues. In the chapter discussingmoral development, the core assumption is ofgender differences rather than sex differences.Burman’s (2007) textbook strongly privilegesthe work of Gilligan, and quickly separates itfrom the other models: “Carol Gilligan (1982)points out that both Piaget and Kohlbergderived their norms from studying boys andmen” (p. 289). These models are criticised ontheir methodological shortcomings, but thiscomment also illustrates how many prominenttheories of moral development have beenformed from a male perspective.With respect to Kohlberg’s theory ofmore development, Burman claims thatGilligan:…argues that it subscribesto a model of morality based onindividual rights and freedoms of thekind enshrined in Western legalsystems, whereas, she i.e. Gilliganholds, women’s moral developmentThe Australian Community Psychologist Volume 20 No 2 December 2008

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