As it happens, the majority of our editorial staff identify as women; and recently, as we’ve been getting to know bestselling author Eve Rodsky, a keynoter at our upcoming Symposium, we found that every one of us resonated with certain themes in her work, especially the largely unseen burdens that many women carry at home. It surprised us. After all, this isn’t 1972. It’s 2022, and we all live in households where gender equity is a priority.
Putting out an issue of the magazine is always a leap of faith. With this one, I’ve spent serious time wondering if all our readers will find the topics we raise here to be as relevant and timely as we do. But the fact is that, despite significant gains made in education and employment over the last several decades, study after study shows the same finding: women’s sense of well-being in America is on a downward slope.
Many sociologists are calling it “the female happiness paradox,” arguing that greater opportunities for work have meant that women’s workloads—as workers inside and outside the home—have doubled, so of course we’re stressed out and unhappy. How can this be when plenty of partners are doing their share of household chores? Recently, researchers have highlighted just how much of the emotional labor associated with these tasks—the “anticipating, identifying, deciding, and monitoring,” as sociologist Allison Daminger defines it—still falls on women in a heterosexual household, regardless of who’s cooking, cleaning, and driving the kids to their various activities. She told The New York Times, “Women’s antennas seemed to be constantly up. . . . The $1 million question is what to do about that.”
So, in this issue, we hear about an intriguing new tool to ensure one person in a household isn’t carrying an unfair portion of the “mental load” to the detriment of their relationship and mental health. We also hear from Carol Gilligan, a pivotal force in feminist psychotherapy, on what she believes therapists should consider regarding women’s voices and choices today. From other authors, we hear about the challenges—and vital importance—of women, cis and trans, taking pleasure in their bodies and gender. As one of our writers points out, “Pleasureful experiences generate a positive feedback loop,” because they communicate that “you deserve joy. You deserve rest. You deserve ecstasy. You deserve comfort. You deserve love.”
No one can deny that women face many challenges in our culture—much more so if they’re women of color or LGBTQ+. But it’s also true that it can be incredibly fun and rewarding to be a woman. As therapists, can we attend closely to both realities?
Livia Kent, MFA, is the editor in chief of Psychotherapy Networker. She worked for 10 years with Rich Simon as managing editor of Psychotherapy Networker, and taught writing at American University as well as for various programs around the country. As a bibliotherapist, she’s facilitated therapy groups in Washington, DC-area schools and in the DC prison system. In 2020, she was named one of Folio Magazine’s Top Women in Media “Change-Makers.” She’s the recipient of Roux Magazine‘s Editor’s Choice Award, The Ledge Magazine‘s National Fiction Award, and American University’s Myra Sklarew Award for Original Novel.