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Volume 52 Number 4 Fall 2019
Written by Susie Paterson, Collaborators Consulting Group and Dominique Lyew, Vanderbilt University
The Society for Community Research and Action (SCRA) has gone through many changes in relation to issues of women and gender. In the early years of SCRA, little attention was given to women’s and feminist issues, and most of the division’s leadership was white and male. For the first five years of its existence, no women served on the Executive Committee, and it wasn’t until 1979 that a woman served as Associate Editor for the flagship journal. The Committee on Women was only established as a Standing Committee in 1986, twenty years after SCRA was officially formed (Bond & Mulvey, 2000). Many women within community psychology fought for decades to establish a feminist presence within the field. Today, women make up the majority of the Executive Committee and for the first time, we have a woman editor of the American Journal of Community Psychology. While visibility was central to early feminist community psychologists’ work, we no longer contend with a lack of women in leadership.
Understanding the history of the Committee on Women is important for understanding where we are as a Committee today, both within a broader feminist perspective and within SCRA. While we have made many strides in including feminist perspectives in the work of community psychology, SCRA continues to exist as a predominantly white organization. The Committee on Women has reflected this larger culture and has largely operated through a second wave feminist lens. We hope to move the committee in the direction of upholding the values of intersectional feminism, understanding that the connection between, and the multiplicative effect of racism, anti-blackness, classism, queerphobia, and other oppressions interact with patriarchal values to impact and oppress some more than others. We have to ask ourselves, how do these spaces need to change in order to reflect the values we espouse as a field? As a first step, the Committee on Women has changed its name to the Committee on Gender and Justice. We would like to discuss the route we took to this name change.
At our meeting at the 2019 Biennial in Chicago, one member suggested a name change to re-energize the Committee. Numerous names were floated, including the “Feminist Committee,”, “Committee on Intersectional Feminism,” and the “Committee on Gender and Justice.” One request from long-standing members was that we do not erase the past efforts of past women community psychologists who fought for gender equality throughout the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. We intend to honor this history, while also making sure our spaces are inclusive and reflect the values we support and fight for in the present day. I (Susie) sent a survey after the meeting to the listserv to ask for feedback on the name with the Committee on Gender and Justice as the overall first choice. We have only received positive feedback and have just received confirmation that the SCRA Executive Committee approved the name change.
By changing the name to the Gender and Justice Committee we hope to convey that social justice using an intersectional lens is at the core of our work in the committee. With the word ‘gender’ we expand our understanding of who is impacted by the patriarchy. The 'justice' here is meant to represent our fight against oppressive structural forces on many levels. Justice also implies an orientation towards action, which we believe reflects the past work and substantial impact on SCRA in the history of this committee, as well as the work we hope to continue in the future.
Our next steps are to solidify our mission statement, figure out a leadership structure that works best for the Committee on Gender and Justice, and figure out the work we want to do to ensure that our values are reflected in action. We are excited for these new changes for the Committee and hope that it moves us closer to a more liberation-focused community psychology.
Bond, M. A., & Mulvey, A. (2000). A history of women and feminist perspectives in community psychology. American Journal of Community Psychology, 28(5), 599-630.