Is There Such a Thing As a Normal Woman? Alternatives to the Mental Health System’s Sexism

Paula Caplan, Ph.D.

A devastating confluence of sexism built in to both the mental health system and the wider society results in the rarity with which women’s behavior and feelings are classified as “normal” in the sense of not pathological and not needing to be changed. Taken together, the manifestations of sexism succeed in silencing and harming women disproportionately, and the author’s research has shown that sexism is more likely to be invisible or considered normal and unproblematic than is racism. Compelling, feminist alternatives to sexist interpretations of girls’ and women’s behavior and feelings will be discussed; these have long existed but are rarely used in mental health practice.