Changes in Psychology of Women and Psychology
of Gender Textbooks (1975–2010)
Susan A. Basow
Published online: 30 January 2010
Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010
Abstract In this section, four authors contributed their
thoughts on how writing textbooks on the psychology of
women and gender has changed over the last 35 years. The
introduction summarizes common themes in these reflections:
the explosion in research and theory about women and gender;
increased inclusion of diversity and intersectionality;
increased appreciation of the power of the social context and
power itself; the challenge of keeping a feminist perspective;
changes in the student population; and changes in the
publishing industry. Some comments about the future of the
field are included.
In honor of the 35th anniversary of Sex Roles, I asked four
authors of psychology of women and gender textbooks
(Hilary Lips, Margaret Matlin, Rhoda Unger, Jan Yoder) to
reflect on how their books and the field have changed over
that time period. Specifically, I asked each to answer the
& Why (and when) did you first write your textbook?
& How often (and/or how many times) have you revised
& How has your textbook changed over time?
& What do you see as the biggest changes in the field over
the last 35 years?
& What are the biggest challenges you face as a textbook
author in this field?
& What changes do you foresee in the field in the next
What follows are four very thoughtful reflections, each
written in the author’s unique voice. Unger’s(2010) article,
in particular, provides a very useful history of textbooks in
this field. Despite the individualized perspective, there are
several common themes. My own experience publishing
three editions of a textbook on gender (Basow 1980, 1986,
1992) supports these themes.
The first theme is the enormous increase in research
studies and books on the psychology of women and gender.
Every author comments on the explosion of research in this
area, and the attendant challenges of keeping up with the
literature. As Matlin (2010) notes, from 1975 to 2009 the
number of publications on the psychology of women and
gender have increased 10-fold. When I was writing my first
textbook on gender in the late 1970s, I felt that I was
abreast of the field. By the time of my 3rd edition in 1992, I
no longer could possibly read all that had been written.
Indeed, this increasing volume of research was a major
reason I decided against doing a 4th edition; I simply
couldn’t keep up.
Another common theme among the authors in this
section is the increased recognition and appreciation of
diversity. The early textbooks reflected the research base
and focused mainly on white heterosexual women. Over
time, that focus has broadened and deepened in recognition
of the diverse aspects of individual identity: race, ethnicity,
class, sexual orientation, and so on. Unger (2010) points
out how early texts, if they included information on non-
majority women, put that information in separate chapters.
Current texts attempt to integrate diversity throughout the
chapters. Still, as many authors note, the field still has a
long way to go to be truly representative of the diversity
Related to the increased recognition of how gender
intersects with other aspects of one’s identity is the
increased appreciation of the power of the social context,
S. A. Basow (*)
Department of Psychology, Lafayette College,
Easton, PA 18042, USA
Sex Roles (2010) 62:151–152