Call for Papers: Feminism & Psychology Special Focus 2016/2017

Call for Papers

Feminism & Psychology Special Focus 2016/2017

Functionalism, Darwinism, and the psychology of women forty years on: reflections, implications and empirical work

Editors: Hale Bolak Boratav, Helen Clegg and Lisa Lazard 

Stephanie Shields’s (1975) paper Functionalism, Darwinism, and the psychology of women is seminal in its consideration of the gendered social myths operating in mainstream psychology. It pays homage to the foremothers of feminist psychology, and honors the works of Leta Stetter Hollingworth and Helen Thomas Wooley, two of the pioneers of research on gender and feminist psychology. Their meticulous empirical research served to refute problematic assumptions about women’s lives.

Shields traces the study of the psychology of women from the late 19th century through the first third of the 20th century, focusing particularly on claims about sex differences in the brain, the variablity hypothesis and the expression of the maternal instinct. Each topic is discussed in relation to evolutionary theory and its impact on the way science was carried out in the 19th century. From a perspective rooted in the history of science, Shields demonstrates how androcentric values in research in the late 19th century produced neurological explanations for the subordinate status of women.  

Shields considers how axes of difference represent dimensions of privilege/disadvantage, and how the study of ‘difference’ should be connected with an analysis of power and inequality. This reasonates with contemporary discussions of potential misuses of claims about biologically-based gender differences. For example, in the late 20th century, arguments emerged for the ‘less specialized female brain.’ Shields warns against neurosexism whilst also arguing that feminists should be engaged with and involved in neuroscience research. This engagement has begun in burgeoning work that reconciles/integrates feminist theory with biological and evolutionary perspectives.

We invite contributions that engage with issues/questions as raised in Shields’s (1975) classic paper. These may include but are not limited to the following:

·       In psychology, what are the highlights of the debates in the last 40 years around the study of women? This could include consideration of contemporary challenges to ‘scientific myths’ and heteronormative assumptions in psychological theory.

·       How has the relationship between feminist theory and evolutionary theory evolved, particularly in relation to the study of sex differences (for example, social, behavioral, neurobiological) and the dichotomization of nature and nurture?

·       How is ‘maternal instinct’ understood today in psychology? How does psychology theorize the relationship between notions of ‘family’ and challenges/choices that women face in contemporary societies?

Contributions may draw on research, theory, practice and/or personal reflections. They may include original articles (up to 8000 words), observations and commentaries (500 to 2000 words), and brief reports (up to 3000 words). For further details, consult the manuscript submission guidelines at Submissions will be subject to the usual review process.  The deadline for submissions is April 30, 2015. Queries can be sent to Hale Boratav (, Helen Clegg ( or Lisa Lazard ( .


Shields, S. A. (1975). Functionalism, Darwinism, and the psychology of women: A study in social myth. American Psychologist, 30, 739-754.