POWS Prize 2017 Announcement

At POWS we are acutely aware of the difficulties student feminist researchers face in what is still a largely neoliberal and often androcentric  discipline.

For example, in her brilliant article, Teaching About Gender: Rewards and Challenges (2013), Joan Chrisler discusses the issues she notes in bringing feminism into undergraduate psychology courses:

My own students sometimes write on their course evaluations that I did not teach them anything about the psychology of women, by which they mean how women think “differently.” The popularity of evolutionary psychology in social psychology and in the popular press is also undoing many of the gains made by gender researchers and feminist activists ( Chrisler & Erchull, 2011). Faculty who teach about gender are swimming against the tide of essentialist information in the mass media, which tells students that gender roles are natural and necessary (pg. 265).

At the same time there is a growing feminist backlash in which female undergraduate students are seen as ‘dominating’ their male peers in psychology . More broadly white working class men are now seen as the most disadvantaged in higher education. Women and BME people are regarded as tipping the balance and pushing out White men from the academy.

Not only does this blithely ignore the fact that those who rise in the ranks of psychology (let alone higher education) are still more likely to be men, it also skates over the actual source of the disadvantage that White, working class men face – their class (for a great outline of this argument see Sveinson). Furthermore class is a disadvantage that doesn’t belong to White men only, it affects compounds with the specific oppressions that women and BME people face too.

We need to challenge this feminist backlash. We need to recognize the pockets of feminist and intersectional resistance occurring in our discipline.

As a small way of doing this, we are pleased to announce, in  conjunction with Feminism and Psychology,  two awards: The POWS and Feminism and Psychology Postgraduate Student Award and The POWS Undergraduate Student Award. Both awards includes prizes of a complimentary place at our 2017 conference and opportunities for research dissemination.

Please do disseminate this to anyone eligible. Submissions need only send a 3,500 (postgraduate) or (undergraduate) Word.doc article to g.jankowski@leedsbeckett.ac.uk by 30th April 2017. More information can be found on the posters below also available in pdfs (cfp_prize2017_ugcfp_prize2017_pg) and any queries can be sent to g.jankowski@leedsbeckett.ac.uk.

Sue Wilkinson: A POWS trailblazer & founding member


There was not much of an institutional space for women, women’s concerns or women’s voices in psychology. And that lead to the beginnings of my feminism and my helping organize POWS. As soon as there was a sort of rallying point [POWS} feminists came out of the woodwork”

This quote is from one of a brilliant series of video interviews by Psychologist’s Feminist Voices with Professors Sue Wilkinson (below) and Celia Kitzinger.

As you can see from the video interview below, Sue was instrumental in setting up POWS. She and Celia then helped set up the BPS section for LGBT people. Two radical groups in an otherwise neoliberal field.

Sue and Celia’s work has spanned conversation analysis, to the social constructionism of lesbian and gay identites, to their joint 10 year battle to recognize their same sex marriage, to more recently their fight for assisted suicide rights (spurred by the tragic car accident of Celia’s sister, Polly, in 2009). Always critical, applied and radical, their work really has blazed a trail for so many of us.

By now you’ll know it is POWS’ 30 year anniversary next year and our conference (12-14th July) will be celebrating work like Sue’s and Celia’s over the years. Please – save the date!

save the date

Internet Trolls

TROLOLOL… Feminist Psychology & Internet Trolling

Today we’re sharing a blog post co-authored by Lucy Thompson & Jessica Drakett, both lecturers in psychology and POWS committee members. Find them on Twitter @Quiet_Rumours and @JessicaDrakett

‘Trolling’ is defined as ‘a specific type of malicious online behaviour, intended to disrupt interactions, aggravate interactional partners and lure them into fruitless argumentation’ (Coles & West, 2016, p. 233). This particular behaviour is known under various names (e.g. cyber-bullying, flaming, etc.) and has been the subject of research spanning several decades and disciplines. Whilst instances of such online harassment have increased, to the point of becoming increasingly visible and normative within mainstream social media, scholarly work addressing it has decreased (Jane, 2015).

Rather than being reserved for subversive and supposedly anonymous media spaces (e.g. 4chan), trolling is firmly established as a practice in mainstream, public media spaces, such as Facebook and Twitter. Indeed, people are now clearly self-identifying as trolls in such public spaces. This move away from anonymous trolling has brought about a clear shift in the ways in which trolling is performed and its functions within the public domain. For example, trolling is now presented and interpreted in ways that construct it as socially acceptable, such as ‘banter’. However, as research has clearly demonstrated, banter is as much a crystallization of patriarchal power as explicit forms of harassment – indeed, Worth, Augoustinos and Hastie (2016) note that in a post-feminist climate, sexism and misogyny can manifest in surprising new ways disguised as jokes, irony and humour. In addition, we have seen the rise of the ‘ironic troll’, who is afforded the luxury of toying and playing with this ‘troll’ identity, by way of his uber-privilege. This “ironic” harassment is reminiscent of so-called “hipster sexism” (Quart, 2012) whereby problematic sexist statements are reframed as jokes so ludicrous nobody could possibly believe them to be said in earnest.

Mainstream psychological research seems to define trolling in singular and objective terms as a variable, seeking to understand its impact on those who experience it (e.g. Maltby et al. 2015). Although some discursive work has been done to understand the multiple meanings around trolling, this again has been directed at those who experience this practice (Coles & West, 2016). At present, the functions of trolling as a discursive practice are underexplored within the field, leaving the ideological power of this practice somewhat intact. In order to dismantle this power, we argue that the features of trolling should be named as two well-established and problematic discursive practices.

  • Gaslighting
    • Undermining another’s views or experiences in order to promote one’s own views as ‘correct’ or ‘real’
    • Denial of another’s reality through the privileging of one’s own
  • Silencing
    • ‘Mansplaining’ to correct apparent ‘inaccuracies’ in another’s account
    • The use of ‘banter’ to construct others as humourless, and make light of one’s own problematic behaviour
    • Framing legitimate concerns as ridiculous or unreasonable
    • Attacking those seen to be easy targets

Of course, a troll would argue that all of these things are myths, overreactions, or simply imagined, employing their rational objective position to justify these claims (See ‘Mansplaining’; ‘Denial of another’s reality’; ‘Framing legitimate concerns as ridiculous’). This is the ultimate enactment of privilege: assuming the power to (re)define the lines along which something is described and understood. It also rests on painfully obvious reproductions of historical discourses around women’s hysteria, which serve the enduring function of justifying the inferiority of anything deemed ‘feminine’ (Showalter, 1993; Tosh, 2015; Ussher, 1991).

Michel Foucault (e.g. Foucault, 1969/2002) reserves this kind of practice for powerful institutions that construct and reproduce discourses to preserve existing inequitable power relations. This has been noted by scholars such as Cole (2015), who draws on Foucauldian notions of disciplinary rhetoric in making sense of the kinds of abuse that visible and active women face too often in online spaces. Cole notes that the most common threats issued to women participating in feminist activism online are rape threats – though in line with the “ironic” trolling mentioned previously, these threats are often softened through the use of emoticons, acronyms such as “lol” (laugh out loud) and other such markers of humour.

In the case of trolling, it is easy to see that the institution embodied within the troll is patriarchy. For these reasons, trolling is implicitly patriarchal, and must be recognized as such. Whilst we should be welcoming of public calls to tackle online misogyny (e.g. the Reclaim the Internet project) we should also be mindful of attempts to shift the focus onto women who troll. We assert that trolling is a product of the patriarchy – regardless of who is doing it. From a feminist perspective, then, the practice of trolling therefore offers a site for the examination of patriarchy and how this is crystallized, reproduced, and preserved within contemporary cyber-spaces.


Cole, K. K. (2015). “It’s Like She’s Eager to be Verbally Abused”: Twitter, Trolls, and (En) Gendering Disciplinary Rhetoric. Feminist media studies 15(2), 356-358.

Coles, B. A., & West, M. (2016). Trolling the trolls: Online Forum Users Constructions of the Nature and Properties of Trolling. Computers in Human Behaviour, 60, 233 – 244.

Foucault, Michel. 2002. The Archaeology of Knowledge. (A. M. Sheridan Smith, Trans.). London: Routledge. (Original work published 1969).

Jane, E. A. (2015). Flaming? What flaming? The pitfalls and potentials of researching online hostility. Ethics and Information Technology 17(1), 65-87.

Maltby, J., Day, L., Hatcher, R. M., Tazzyman, S., Flowe, H. D., Palmer, E. J., … Cutts, K. (2015). Implicit theories of online trolling: Evidence that attention-seeking conceptions are associated with increasing psychological resilience. British Journal of Psychology, 107(2), doi:10.1111/bjop.12154

Quart, A. (2012). The Age of Hipster Sexism. Retrieved from http://nymag.com/thecut/2012/10/age-of-hipster-sexism.html

Showalter, E. (1993). Hysteria, Feminism, and Gender. In S. L. Gilman, H. King, R. Porter., G.S. Rousseau. & E. Showalter (Eds.), Hysteria Beyond Freud (286 – 344). Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Tosh, J. (2015). Psychology and Gender Dysphoria: Feminist and Transgender Perspectives. London: Routledge.

Ussher, J. (1991). Women’s Madness: Misogyny or Mental Illness?. Brighton: Harvester-Wheatsheaf.

Worth, A., Augoustinos, M., & Hastie, B., (2016). “Playing the gender card”: Media representations of Julia Gillard’s sexism and misogyny speech. Feminism & Psychology, 26(1), 52-72. doi:10.1177/0959353515605544

Gender Disparities in British Psychology

For nearly 40 years (1920-1958), there was just one woman president of the British Psychological Society (BPS) and men (white, middle class) dominated much of the decisions in the field of British psychology. In 2016, nearly 100 years later, we should expect that the gender balance is slightly more equal. However, between 1920-2016, just 17% of past presidents of the BPS have been women. Since the 1980s, approx. 1 in 3 have been women.

Decision-making positions still appear to be dominated by men despite over 80% of psychology students at university being women and it’s likely that a large percentage of women make up the membership of the BPS.

Let’s dig a little deeper…

The British Psychology Society presents over ten different types of awards to psychologists for recognition of their work in different fields. 35% of past award winners have been women, but just 17% of women have won the President’s award – notably one of the most prestigious awards.

In a relatively new section, the Division of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 3 (out of 9) past chairs have been women (1993-2015).

This is a complex issue that isn’t just about the exclusion of women in selection processes but also to do with the way the posts themselves are set up. For example, whilst women may be encouraged to ‘put themselves forward’ for posts, the (voluntary and demanding) posts themselves by their nature exclude people with remotely complex lives which leave these roles available only to those who have the time and (financial) resources. This is not to mention the disparate representation of women in the discipline along the lines of race and class, which constrains access in the first place. For many women candidates who are already performing ‘double shifts’ this would mean squeezing the role (e.g. BPS Presidency) alongside other commitments (e.g. care, domestic commitments) and our ever increasing multifaceted institutional roles.

Indeed, an institutionalised culture biased against women seems to exist in the sciences:

  • Women have to provide more evidence of competence
  • Women walk a tightrope between being seen as too feminine or masculine
  • Women have to battle myths and assumptions around the notion that women lose their ambition, commitment and competence after motherhood

One study (2014) found that bias exists and furthermore, it exists for black and minority ethnic women: “100% of the sixty scientists interviewed for this study reported encountering one or more of these patterns of gender bias“. A survey by the British Psychological Society in 2015 reported that only 181 (1.8%) of its members are Black. Whilst there is little known about the sexuality of women and men in academia or the sciences, we wonder how much diversity there is being represented in the society.

This bleak picture is just one of the many reasons why there was a necessity to found the Psychology of Women’s Section in 1988. Now, it seems the goals of feminist psychology are still essential in raising awareness and action around gender and inequality disparity within the British Psychological Society, the psychology profession and the teaching of psychology; issues that extend far beyond ‘just’ the exclusion of women in psychology.

Blog by Helen Owton. You can find Helen on Twitter @Dr_HLO. With thanks to Jane Callaghan, Lucy Thompson and Glen Jankowski.

POWS Review Editorial Team Vacancies

The Psychology of Women’s Section’s Review (POWSR) publishes original research (via a peer review process), theoretical papers, reviews of events and books, commentaries and non-traditional submissions. The aim of POWSR is to promote and support academic research and debates on issues related to the development of theory and practice concerning gender and other social divisions. The review has a well-established, skilled and committed editorial board who share responsibility for the publication and we are now looking to recruit two new member to join our lively and dedicated team.

Post 1: Agora Section Editorial Assistant

The successful applicant will commission and the editorially manage submissions of non-traditional pieces including: short papers, commentaries, interviews, research-in-progress articles, creative writing pieces and other contributions that fall under the remit of the Agora section.

Post 2: Book Reviews Editorial Assistant

The successful applicant will commission and the editorially manage book review submissions. This may involve identifying books that resonate with themes of the edition or special issue features.

Post 3: Newsletter and Commissioning Strategy Editorial Assistant

We are currently seeking an editorial assistant to produce a newsletter publication to promote the work of the POWS committee and its members at regular intervals during the year. This post will also involve commissioning papers through developing relationships with other journals and advertisement.

Applicant Criteria

All applicants should be paid members of Psychology of Women Section (BPS) or be willing to become a member. We welcome applications from members at various stages of their career

To apply

Please send an expressions of interest of no longer than 500 words together with your CV (of no more than 4 pages) to the editor by 3rd June 2016: lisa.lazard@open.ac.uk. Please contact the editor for further information.