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  • Fe Robinson

The relationship of power and gender

Power shows up in relationships, it can't not. In relationship we play out our psychological patterns, showing them most clearly with the people closest to us.

The prevailing wisdom socially is often that men have more power than women. Given my experience as a couples psychotherapist and the variety of dynamics I witness, I wonder if that is really always the case?

Warren Farell talks about the myth of male power. He suggests that there may well be a glass ceiling beyond which women are stopped from rising. This is a well known phenomenon, for example seen in the lack of women in senior positions in business and politics, the valuing in these contexts of 'male' attributes and the more 'feminine' aspects of self being denied.

However, Farell also talks about the idea of a glass cellar, beyond which men, but not women, are allowed to fall. He suggests that women are somehow perceived to be more precious. Historically this shows up in sending men to war (and to die), in men doing dangerous and physical work, and in the protection of women from these fates.

Perhaps women's perceived vulnerability in these contexts had some value as well as some costs? Farell suggests that the way women are treated when something goes wrong is more sympathetic and less judgemental, than is the case for men. Somehow the media may treat a story of women dying differently to that of men being killed, as if it were more shocking perhaps.

All this is controversial stuff, I'm not saying it is true or untrue, for me it is not that simple. I think the value it brings is to consider the concepts of power and vulnerability, and ask how they impact your attitudes and the judgements you and others make.

Who if anyone is 'more' valued in your relationship? Are you equally allowed to rise and fall? Are there ceilings and cellars at play in how you relate?


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