Reviewed Books & Films

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September 2014

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Challenging Master Narratives in Battling Women’s Oppression


In her review of Women Voicing Resistance: Discursive and Narrative Explorations, Janice Yoder explores how well the counternarratives offered in the book function in contrast to accepted master narratives of women’s lives. Yoder notes that master narratives, which reflect dominant understandings and descriptions of behavior and social phenomena, are frequently implicitly understood and invisible. Counternarratives are important, in part, because of their ability to make these master narratives more visible so that they are examined and challenged. Women Voicing Resistance highlights several master narratives and the emergence of counternarratives to explain women’s functioning and response to oppressive conditions and expectations.

The social context affects the value of constructions that give rise to counternarratives. Some constructions useful during transitions in social attitudes do not hold beyond the specified period of change; lesbian coming-out narratives in postapartheid South Africa are offered as an example in the book. Yoder is also careful to note that counternarratives are not perfect, and like master narratives, they can fall short in efforts to foster social justice and empowerment at individual and collective levels. Yoder calls for more analysis of master and counternarratives alike, and I concur.

It seems fundamental to discuss women’s internalization of oppression and their role in their own oppression. For example, it seems that men’s oppression of women is an accepted master narrative. Is it time to counter the traditional narrative of male oppression to examine women’s engagement in victim blaming in response to rape and intimate partner violence and their role in efforts to limit women’s reproductive rights, to name a few?

Read the Review
ReviewDismantling Resistances to Hearing Women’s Voices
By Janice D. Yoder
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(37)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Does Variability in Skin Tone Among European Americans Matter?


Martha E. Banks reviews Color Matters:  Skin Tone Bias and the Myth of a Post-Racial America edited by Kimberly Jade Norwood.  The book discusses the issue of colorism in the United States. I discuss the issues related to colorism and skin tone in my classes and inform students that it is not just an issue in the perception African Americans (usually lighter skin tone is preferred, related to more favorable outcomes compared with darker skin tone), but I also note that skin tone and colorism issues are relevant to other minority ethnic groups in the United States, and for people in other countries as well (e.g., India).

However, few, if any, researchers study skin tone and colorism issues in the perception of European Americans. Some European Americans have a very light or milky skin tone, some a more reddish tone, some a darker skin tone (who may be mistaken for Latino or African American).  If skin tone has implications for minority groups such as African Americans, could it not also have negative implications for European Americans who are perceived as too light or too dark in skin tone?

Read the Review
ReviewColorism: (Still) Getting Away With Racism
By Martha E. Banks
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(36)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Is Universal Screening Worth the Investment for Schools?


Universal Screening in Educational Settings: Evidence-Based Decision Making for Schools, edited by Ryan J. Kettler, Todd A. Glover, Craig A. Albers, and Kelly A. Feeney-Kettler, addresses the utility of universal screenings in schools for assessing academic competencies and the socioemotional and behavioral needs of students. The book provides guidance for implementing universal screening in educational settings and framing the approach within a Response to Intervention (RTI) model, and it heralds the use of screening as an important strategy for improving school performance.

According to reviewer Oscar Barbarin, the book makes a convincing case for universal screenings in educational settings, as it “highlights the relevance and applicability of psychological science to many of the most pressing and worrisome issues facing schools” (para. 8). Barbarin also points out lingering issues that need further consideration:

• Although schools are likely to see the value in screening for academic competencies given the current climate of “high-stakes” testing, the same cannot be said for allocating resources to universal socioemotional and behavioral screening. Do you agree with this assumption? Can a convincing case be made that socialemotional/behavioral screening is worth the investment given schools’ limited resources?

• Barbarin believes there is “the danger of reifying children's status on a screening tool in a way that transforms individual differences on a screening tool into a category such as deficient, at risk, or failing” (para. 9). Do you agree that this is cause for concern? How can schools minimize the risk of labeling on the basis of results from screening?

Read the Review
ReviewDo More Data Make for Better School Outcomes?
By Oscar Barbarin
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(32)

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Strong Health Policy or the Nanny State?


In their review of A Big Fat Crisis, Mary Ellen Olbrisch and Lauren King question how realistic author Deborah Cohen’s policy recommendations are with respect to supermarket, restaurant, and food industry products and advertising. Whereas Cohen focuses on the failure of individuals’ approaches to control obesity, the reviewers provide insight into how the public health approach to the obesity problem has been received and suggest some reasons for negative reactions and responses. Public health approaches to issues typically focus on system-wide, population-level interventions, which in the case of obesity challenge the individual effort/personal responsibility ideology frequently encountered in the political discourse of the United States. It is perhaps this deeply ingrained ideology that leads to the public’s resistance to a broad range of policy efforts, such as school lunch standards and the recent effort to regulate the size of soft drinks sold in New York City, designed to protect the public health.  

Olbrisch and King call for a “balanced message that counterweighs a public health approach with education about effective individual actions that do not blame but do empower” (last para.). However, as a reader, I was struck by the need to think through a balanced approach to American ideology; the increased complexity of living in a society strongly influenced by corporate interests and economic influence may increase the need for government, as the publicly elected social institution, to protect the population in a way that individual action cannot. Finally, can psychology help to move the public discourse away from blame and stigma directed toward those who are obese to business and industry accountability for the food environment that has been created? 

Read the Review
ReviewPie in the Sky? Another Run at a Public Health Approach to the Obesity Epidemic
By Mary Ellen Olbrisch and Lauren A. King
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(32)

Editor of PsycCRITIQUES

Danny Wedding, PhD

Chair of Behavioral Sciences,
College of Medicine,
American University of Antigua

Associate Editors of PsycCRITIQUES

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