Oh the Places We’ll Go! Where will Sandra Bem’s Work Lead
Clare M. Mehta
Published online: 30 January 2017
Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017
You ’re off to Great Places!
You ’re off and away!
Sandra Bem’s proposition that our culture’semphasisona
gender dichotomy has significant cognitive, psychological,
and social consequences meaningfully shaped the field of
psychology (Keener et al. 2017). As a feminist and social
advocate, the promotion of gender equality was at the core
of all of Bem’s work and carried over into her own life (Carr
et al. 2015). Bem also served as a model for scholar activism,
moving theory and research on gender beyond academia to
shape both political (e.g., social policy) and personal (e.g.,
parenting, romantic relationships) outcomes (Keener and
Mehta 2017; Keener et al. 2017; Liben and Bigler 2016). In
this way, the work of Sandra Bem laid the groundwork for
contemporary feminist theory and research and has influenced
the academic and personal lives of generations of gender
scholars (Keener and Mehta 2017;Keeneretal.2017).
In our initial call for papers for the special issue commem-
orating Sandra Bem, we invited manuscript submissions that
highlighted the past, present, and future of Bem’scontribution
to the study of gender. As we noted in our Introduction to the
first special issue (Keener and Mehta 2017), we were
overwhelmed with submissions and were heartened to see
how Bem’s legacy lives on in the work of our colleagues.
We also highlighted the past and present of gender scholar-
ship, illustrating Bem’s countless contributions to the field and
how her work continues to inspire gender researchers today. In
the present Introduction to the second special issue commem-
orating Bem, we highlight where Bem’s work can take us by
considering the future of gender scholarship.
The Places We’ll Go!
Editing this special issue provided us with the opportunity to
reflect not only on Bem’s life and work but also on where our
field is going. Our assessment of the future of gender is cer-
tainly not exhaustive, but in reviewing papers for the special
issue, a number of themes emerged that highlighted the future
of gender research. We review these themes and describe how
the papers in this second special issue fit with them.
Complexity of Gender
For decades Bem proposed that gender researchers and activ-
ists should Bturn down the volume^ on gender, minimizing
gender differences and promoting androgyny. However, in a
later paper, Bem (1995) proposed doing the opposite.
Specifically, Bem suggested turning up the volume on gender
by creating so many gender categories that the categories
themselves lose their meaning. We believe that Bem’spropos-
al is slowly being realized and that this is evident in the ex-
plosion of categories that can be observed in much of the
current gender scholarship. Specifically, researchers are in-
creasingly recognizing that, to gain a more complete picture
of gender, they need to broaden the scope of gender by em-
bracing its complexities and moving beyond the gender binary
(Keener 2015). This idea has even been embraced by
* Clare M. Mehta
Department of Psychology, Emmanuel College and Division of
Adolescent Medicine, Boston Children’s Hospital, 400 The Fenway,
Boston, MA 02115, USA
Department of Psychology, Slippery Rock University, 106 Central
Loop, Slippery Rock, PA 16057, USA
Sex Roles (2017) 76:637–642