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Dedicated to the study of gender, sexuality, and violence

Current Projects

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Psychology, Power, and Genderfluidity

Dr. Jem Tosh is currently working on a book proposal for her fourth book, a book chapter for an edited collection on psychology, gender, and power, and a journal article on genderfluidity. She uses feminist intersectionality theory and critical discursive psychology in her analyses.

Awards

Colorful Diamond

Gender Identity Research and Education Society (GIRES) Research Award (2020)

Psygentra Founding Director Jem Tosh has been awarded by the Gender Identity Research and Education Society (GIRES) for their contribution to the article: 'A critical commentary on follow-up studies and 'desistance' theories about transgender and gender non-conforming children' published in the International Journal of Transgender Health (originally named the International Journal of Transgenderism).

with Julia Temple Newhook, Jake Pyne, Kelley Winters, Stephen Feder, Cindy Holmes, Mari-Lynne Sinnott, Ally Jamieson, and Sarah Pickett

Collaborations

Woman Typing

The Trans Priorities Project: Cross Country Trans Women and HIV Research Priority Setting (2016-17)

We collected and analysed data for the REACH 2.0 Trans Priorities Project - a project that aimed to identify research priorities for trans women impacted by HIV. The project centred around asking trans women and their allies across Canada what they thought researchers should be focusing on in their work. We collected material through interviews, analysed the material using content and discourse analyses, prepared materials for conference presentations, and drafted papers for publication.

in collaboration with REACH 2.0

Sexual Violence and Trauma

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This groundbreaking text interrogates the constructed boundary between therapy and violence, by examining therapeutic practice and discourse through the lens of a psychologist and a survivor of sexual abuse. It asks, what happens when those we approach for help cause further harm? Can we identify coercive practices and stop sexual abuse in psychology, psychiatry, and medicine? Tosh explores these questions and more to illustrate that many of the therapies considered fundamental to clinical practice are deeply problematic when issues of consent and sexual abuse are considered. 

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Perverse Psychology
Dr. Jem Tosh (2014)

Perverse Psychology examines psychiatric constructions of sexual violence and transgender identities from the 19th century until the latest DSM-5 diagnoses. It uses discourse analysis to interrogate the discursive boundaries between 'normal' and 'abnormal' rape, as well as the pathologization of gender and sexual diversity. The book illuminates for the first time the parallels between psychiatry's construction of gender diversity and sexual violence, and leads us to question whether it is the violence that the profession finds so intriguing, or the gender nonconformity it represents

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Sexual Abuse and Surviving with(in) Psychology
Dr. Jem Tosh with Fionnuala Dempsey (2020)

In this chapter Tosh describes their experiences as a queer and genderfluid survivor growing up in Northern Ireland, and how those experiences influenced their career as a psychologist who specialises in sexual abuse and violence. Tosh outlines the complex intersections of gender, sexuality, race, place, and historical context and shows why these intersections should be central to therapeutic approaches that aim to help survivors heal from sexual trauma.The chapter also has a discussion section where the authors talk about abuse, psychology, intersectionality and more.

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'Paraphilias'
Dr. Jem Tosh (2017)

There is a long and complex history regarding clinical counselling and forensic psychology's roles in defining sexual 'abnormality'. From 19th century studies of 'perversion' to current understandings of 'paraphilia disorders', there has been a wealth of debate, disagreement, and controversy. This chapter outlines several key diagnoses in the field, describing their history and criticisms from the inside and outside of the profession. It encourages critical reflexivity on the context and ethics of categorising diverse sexualities as 'abnormal'. The chapter includes examples of pathologised sexualities in relation to sexual orientation, gender expression, and sexual consent. 

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Sexual violence is an ever-increasing feature in online culture, with rape the central aim of 'stalking simulators' as well as the infamous violence directed towards avatar sex workers in the Grand Theft Auto franchise (Martinez & Manolovitz, 2010). This is in addition to the word 'rape' being commandeered and redefined by online gaming communities to refer to murder, humiliation and destructions (Hernandez, 2012) while simultaneously being ridiculed in online rape 'jokes' (Kramer, 2011). Using discourse analysis (Parker, 1992; 2003), this chapter examines discussions from online forums about the use of the word rape to refer to instances of sexual violence in online spaces. 

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In this chapter we analyse two case studies of bullying in United Kingdom (UK) universities, one involving a student of social work and another a faculty member in a psychology department. The initial disjuncture in one case study occurred when a victims of bullying was labeled as 'mentally ill', and the second was when someone was bullied because of a label of 'mental illness'. These two similar but opposing disjunctures offer an opportunity for comparative analysis. This includes an investigation of the process and discourses at play within the broader context of UK higher education and constructions of bullying and emotional distress.

Public discussions about trauma are circulating exponentially in the wake of global movements against structural violence, and efforts to mainstream 'trauma-informed' approaches in mental health, human services, and organisational contexts. Within these discussions, the term 'institutional trauma' is increasingly being deployed to make sense of structural violence and its impacts. However, such discussions typically reproduce highly individualistic understandings of trauma. Recent feminist advances in trauma theory articulate trauma as a distinctly socio-political form of distress (Tseris, 2015, 2018, 2019), and critical feminist psychological work argues that gender and other institutions play a substantial role in defining and mediating experiences of trauma (Segalo, 2015). However, the role of institutions in the (re)production of trauma remains under-theorised in the psychological literature.

Psychiatry's problematic framing of femininity, women's bodies, and sexuality has attracted much condemnation (Caplan & Cosgrove, 2004; Frith, 2013; Ussher, 2011). The intersection of sanism and sexism is particularly overt in the psi-complex's (Rose, 1979) response to violence. While psychiatry acknowledges that many of those diagnosed with 'female sexual dysfunction' have experienced sexual abuse, addressing the problems of violence against women is starkly absent within psychiatric discourse. The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) combined 'vaginismus' and 'dyspareunia' to produce a new diagnostic classification: 'genito-pelvic pain/penetration disorder'. Using discourse analysisand critical intersectional analysis, this paper analyses psychiatric discourse to illuminate the violence inherent in procedures and treatments that perpetuate sanism and (heterosexual)sexism.

While it has been acknowledged that the language used to describe natural resource extraction is highly gendered (Russell, 2013), the relationship between gender and natural resource extraction is under-researched, 'undiscussed and silenced' (Laplonge, 2013, p. 2). Similarly, there are increasing reports that the introduction of extraction industries results in an increase in sexualised violence in workers camps and host communities proximal to intensive industrial activity (Hotaling, 2013; James & Smith, 2014; Minor, 2014). In this brief commentary, we reflect on the relationship between gender, the environment, and violence, in particular in relation to psychological, social and ecological impacts of intensive natural resource extraction. 

In 2009 a Us based television programme, The View, discussed the arrest of film director Roman Polanski. Polanski was wanted for six outstanding charges related to the rape of Samantha Gailey in 1977. During this episode of The View, Whoopi Goldberg made a controversial statement that Polanski was not guilty of 'rape-rape'. This statement, along with the long history of Polanski's avoidance of incarceration, illustrates the ongoing challenges for feminists to confront the trivialisation of sexual sexual coercion and violence. Goldberg's comments initiated an enthusiastic response on online forums and reinvigorated debates around definitions of rape. In this paper, I analyse online discussions on a feminist blog using discourse analysis and the importance of considering the interrelated concepts of consent/non-consent, pleasure/distress, and power in understanding the complexity and diversity of experiences of sexual violence.

Gender Violence
Dr. Jem Tosh (2016)

Theories regarding gender violence have moved beyond a simple dichotomy, where women are positioned as victims and men are perpetrarors. This complexity is through a nuanced analysis of privilege, power, and oppression, drawing on intersectionality theory, as well as problematising the gender binary itself. 

The experience of Irish Diaspora in England has been well documented, such as humiliation, discrimination, and higher rates of suicide and psychiatric intervention (Hickman, 2000). However, the construction of the Irish in relation to rape has rarely been considered, this is despite the longstanding history of the term being used as a metaphor in the context of colonisation (Sharkey, 1994). This paper examines intersecting discourses around anti-Irish racism and sexual violence through a genealogical tracing of the concept of rape in relation to men, women, and the discursive category of 'the Irish'. This historically situated discourse analysis (Parker, 2003, 2014) included contemporary material from microblogs (Java et al. 2007). It reveals the construction of 'the Irish' as passive recipients of sexual conquest (whether consensual or coercive) that implies sexual availability. 

Psychiatric diagnoses related to transgenderism span a wide range of terms, theories, and treatments. Similarly, intersexuality is coming increasingly under the psychiatric gaze, being incorporated into the 'gender dysphoria' criteria as with or without a 'disorder of sex development'. Despite the diagnostic link between these two groups, histories of childhood sexual abuse within psychiatric theorising are particularly visible within 'gender dysphoria' but markedly invisible within medical discourse on 'disorders of sex development'. While sexual abuse has been problematically argued by psychiatry to play a role on the development of gender dysphoria, the potentially abusive touching of intersex children's bodies in distressing or painful ways is legitimised and standardised. Thus pathological accounts of transgenderism and intersexuality are given prominence, whereas non-consensual touching is marginalised. 

In 2010 the American Psychiatric Association (APA) proposed revisions for the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental Disorders (DSM-5). These revisions included criteria for 'Paraphilia Coercive Disorder' (PCD), which state that the individual '...has sought sexual stimulation from forcing sex on three or more non-consenting persons on separate occasions' (APA, 2010a). This proposed revision represents current attempts of psychiatry to medicalise 'sadistic' rape and normalise what the APA calls 'opportunistic' rape (APA, 2010b). This paper uses discourse analysis (Parker, 1992) to critically interrogate the construction of rape as a mental disorder using online texts. 

How Does The Sun Newspaper Portray Rape?
Dr. Jem Tosh & Dr. Jeremy Phillips (2009)

The most popular newspaper in Britain is Th Sun (Matheson & Babb, 2002; National Readership Survey for October 2007 - September 2008). It is well known for its sensationalised approach to reporting, but due to the stories being classed as 'news' the fundamental details may often be assumed to be true/accurate (Alexander, 1999). However, the media is known for its misrepresentation of reality, such as over representing stranger rapes of White middle-class victims (Korn and Efrat, 2004; Ardovini-Brooker & Caringella-MacDonald, 2002). Therefore, even apparent accuracies can paint a very distorted picture. 

Gender

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This chapter reflects on the conflicted history of the diagnosis of 'gender dysphoria', as well as describe a collaborative project challenging its implementation. This project addressed the DSM-5 Chair of the Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders Section and involved contributions and support from lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex and feminist activists, academics, and clinicians. The acceptance of diverse differences in relation to philosophical or political issues was nurtured through the commitment to a common goal: the condemnation of psychiatric intervention with young gender creative children. 

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Drawing on discursive psychology, this book traces the historical development of psychiatric constructions of ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’ gender expression. It contextualises the recent reconstruction of gender through the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) and its criteria for gender dysphoria. This latest diagnosis illustrates the continued disagreement and debate within the profession surrounding gender identity as ‘disordered’. It also provides an opportunity to reflect on the conflicted history between feminist and transgender communities in the changing context of a more trans-positive feminism, and the potential implications of the diagnoses for these distinct but linked communities.

Coming Soon

Trans Bodies

Dr. Jem Tosh 

This chapter explores the embodiment of gender and power and how they are related to transphobia and gender violence.

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A Critical Commentary on Follow-Up Studies and 'Desistance' Theories about Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Children
J. Temple Newhook, J. Pyne, K. Winters, S. Feder, C. Holmes, J. Tosh, M. Sinnott, A. Jamieson, and S. Pickett (2019)

The tethering of childhood gender diversity to the framework of 'desistance' or 'persistence' has stifled advancements in our understanding of children's gender in all its complexity. These follow-up studies fall short in helping us understand what children need. As work begins on the 8th version of the Standards of Care by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, we call for a more inclusive conceptual framework that takes children's voices seriously. Listening to children's experiences will enable a more comprehensive understanding of the needs of gender nonconforming children and provide guidance to scientific and lay communities. 

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It is now widely understood that human health and well-being is affected not only be the social and economic contexts and conditions within which people live, but also by ecological systems and services. Yet dramatic social and ecological challenges to people's health and well-being, and their impacts in particular on vulnerable populations, are not always carefully studied. In this chapter, we consider a range of ways that Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal women and children living in northern British Columbia (BC) are impacted by intensive resource extraction (IRE), and how these complex, regional dynamics needs to be taken into account when seeking to understand the dynamics of climate change and health. 

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In den Hauptströmungen der Psychologie und Psychiatrie gibt es eine lange Tradition von Definitionen und Festlegungen was bezüglich Gender und Sexualität als 'abnormal' gilt. Diese und die mit ihnen assoziierten Theorien haben meist minorisierte Gender und Sexualitäten äußerst negativ dargestellt. Diejenigen, die sich als Frauen/weiblich, schwul, lesbisch, bisexuell oder transsexuell identifizieren oder diejenigen, denen die Legitimität ihrer Geschlechtsidentität abgesprochen wird (Ansara, 2012), sind oft als geistig minderwertig, pathologisch oder deviant dargestellt worden (Foucault, 1990; Lev, 2005; Ussher, 1991). 

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Gender nonconformity has been pathologised by psychiatry for well over a century, and critiques of this pathologisation are numerous. I add to this body of analysis by drawing on feminist, transgender and critical psychology perspectives to critique current psychiatric diagnostic approaches to gender. I also foreground the role of power in psychiatry's defining of gender normality by interweaving poststructuralist and intersectionality theory (Crenshaw, 1991; Foucault, 1977), including a discursive analysis of the criteria for 'gender dysphoria' (Parker, 2003). 

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General training in psychology, whether undergraduate or postgraduate, can contain little content on the issues and complexities regarding the psychology of gender. The problems I go on to discuss here, regarding psychology, can be applied across the spy-professions of psychiatry and psychotherapy. It is not the case that discussions of 'essential sex differences' and comparisons of men and women do not feature in these trainings, but that critical examinations of the psychology of gender, and of psychological approaches to gender identity and gender-related distress, are often absent. 

What is Genderfluidity? 
Dr. Jem Tosh (2021)

I came out as genderfluid on National Coming Out Day 2018, and more recently I have started to write about my gender in my published work (e.g. Tosh, 2020). For the most part, the response I have received has been positive and supportive, but over two years later I still find that the most common response to me 'outing' myself as genderfluid is one of confusion. I can see the anxiety on loving faces as they worry about 'getting it wrong' while trying their best to be supportive, I hear colleagues and acquaintances apologise in advance of making mistakes because they are so sure that they will misgender or offend me in some way, I watch as allies and strangers grapple with how to show their support for something that they do not fully understand. So, below I answer some common questions about what genderfluidity is and how you can support the genderfluid people in your life...

Learning to Listen to Trans and Gender Diverse Children: A Response to Zucker (2018) and Steensma and Cohen-Kettenis (2018)
K. Winters, J. Temple Newhook, J. Pyne, S. Feder, A. Jamieson, C. Holmes, M. Sinnott, S. Pickett, & J. Tosh (2018)

The authors answer recent responses by Steensma & Cohen-Kettenis (2018) and Zucker (2018) to our critical commentary on "desistance" stereotypes and their underlying research on trans and gender diverse children (Temple Newhook et al., 2018). We provide clarification in the following areas: (1) the scope of our paper; (2) our support of longitudinal studies; (3) consequences of harm to trans and gender diverse children; (4) clinical practice implications; (5) concerns about validity of research methodology; and (6) the importance of learning to listen to trans and gender diverse children. 

A Critical Commentary on Follow-Up Studies and "Desistance" Theories about Transgender and Gender-Nonconforming Children
J. Temple Newhook, J. Pyne, K. Winters, S. Feder, C. Holmes, J. Tosh, M. Sinnott, A. Jamieson, & S. Pickett (2018)

It has been widely suggested that over 80% of transgender children will come to identify as cisgender (i.e. desist) as they mature, with the assumption that for this 80%, the trans identity was a temporary 'phase'. This statistic is used as the scientific rationale for discouraging social transition for pre-pubertal children. This article is a critical commentary on the limitations of this research and a caution against using these studies to develop care recommendations for gender nonconforming children. A critical review methodology is employed to systematically interpret four frequently cited studies that sought to document identity outcomes for gender nonconforming children (often referred to as "desistance" research). Methodological, theoretical, ethical, and interpretative concerns regarding four "desistance" studies are presented. 

This year the POWS conference examined women and austerity. It denaturalised austerity by highlighting it as a discourse and a practice, and one that not everyone is subject to; the rich continue to get richer. Building on these discussions, Erica posed four questions for contributors to consider: (1) In what ways is austerity a psychological issue? (2) In what way is it a gender(ed) or feminist issues? (3) What might a POWS arena contribute to the analysis of austerity? And (4) What might POWS do about current conditions of austerity?

Feminist and Critical Discursive Psychology

Feminist Relational Discourse Analysis: Putting the Personal in the Political in Feminist Research 
Dr. Lucy Thompson, Dr. Bridgette Rickett, & Dr. Katy Day (2018)

Discourse analysis is a useful and flexible method for exploring power and identity . While there are many forms of discourse analysis, discourse is the central site of identity construction. However, recent feminist concerns over power, agency, and resistance have drawn attention to the absence of participant's first-hand experiences with broad discursive accounts (Lafrance & McKenzie-MOhr, 2014; Saukko, 2008). For those with an interest in power relations, such as feminist researchers, this is a problematic silence which renders the personal functions of discourse invisible. In this article, we argue that the 'personal' and 'political' are inextricable, and we make a case for putting the 'personal' into broader discursive frameworks of understanding. 

Although it has been argued that feminist work has gained recognition in mainstream psychology (Eagly, Eaton, Rose, Riger, & McHugh, 2012), these arguments tends to cite a proliferation of research in high-ranking Euro-American academic journals, on topics that concern women or gender in psychology. However, the majority of this work is not presented as explicitly feminist. Rather, it tends to be incorporated into mainstream spaces under the umbrella of the psychology of women. This is often interpreted uncritically to mean the study of womanhood as a stable category or variable, reproducing binary accounts of sex and gender that are largely devoid of feminist analysis.

I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer (BtVS) (Dark Horse Comics, 1998-2003; Whedon, 1997-2003). The concept "was explicitly conceived as a feminist reworking of horrors film in which 'bubble headed blondes wandered into dark alleys and got murdered by some creature" (Pender, 2004, p. 165). I'm not saying it is perfect (e.g. Grzanka, 2010; Kirkland, 2005; Ono, 2000), but I found it helpful to grow up alongside a cast of those who were socially excluded and felt like the weight of the world was on their shoulders. As a feminist, the show and comics provided many examples of femininity and strength that had been lacking for sometime in media representations, as well as dealing with topics related to sexual violence, domestic abuse, and sexuality (Pender, 2004). It continues to do so with season eight onwards being released solely as graphic novels. 

T-tests, correlations, objectivity, validity, reliability, control groups - typical contents of an accredited undergraduate psychology research methods module at university. Despite the popularity of qualitative methodologies within the profession (such as the success of the Qualitative in Psychology Section), the predominant focus on statistical analysis and experimental design remains a barrier for students who wish to pursue qualitative research in their undergraduate dissertation. 

Within a culture that is heavily dependent on psychological, psychiatric,and medical concepts to explain the 'human condition' (Rose, 2006), it may be difficult to imagine what Tiefer (1996) describes as a 'postmedicalisation' era. 'Medicalisation' refers to the reconstruction of a concept specifically within medical terms (Conrad, 2004). For example, the range of physical and emotional experiences that can coincide with menstruation were reframed as 'Premenstrual Tension' (PMT) in 1931, then 'Premenstraul Syndrome' (PMS) (Ussher, 2003) before the pathologisation of 'Late Luteal Phase Dysphoric Disorder' and the DSM-5 proposal for 'Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder' (APA, 2011a). The application of biomedical understanding to sexuality brings with it 'binarised thinking' of healthy and unhealthy or normal and abnormal "...that delimit the existence of alternative conceptualisations" (Potts, 2002, p. 3). 

Academic Activism

The Division of Clinical Psychology (DCP) of the British Psychological Society (BPS) invited Professor Ken Zucker as a keynote speaker to their annual conference in December 2010. Zucker works at the Toronto Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and is considered an authoritative figure in the controversial diagnosis and 'treatment' of children with 'Gender Identity Disorder' (Hill et al., 2006). He is also the Chair of the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders Work Group for the DSM-5 (APA, 2010). His invitation was proposed by the DCP conference committee expert group who research potential speakers for the Division (J. Unwin, personal communication, November 15, 2010). This invitation sparked an angry response from many. Zucker's work at the CAMH GID clinic has been widely criticised by academics (e.g. Wilson, 2000; Wren, 2002; Menvielle & Tuerk, 2002; Hird, 2003; Langer & Martin, 2004; Lev, 2005; Bryant, 2008), organisations (e.g. Burton, 2008; Choe, 2008; Queerty, 2009) and individuals concerned with LGBT issues and gender diversity.

As an assistant psychologist working in Manchester and a PhD student studying issues around gender, I felt it was necessary to respond to Zucker's keynote at the Division of Clinical Psychology (DCP) Annual Conference. I was shocked and confused as to why he had been invited; with his well known and controversial take on 'treating' childhood 'Gender Identity Disorder' (GID) (Hill et al., 2006). However, what was equally unexpected was the progress made in opening up these issues for discussion and the collaboration between the DCP and a variety of other groups and individuals with very different perspectives.

The Division of Clinical Psychology has invited Professor Kenneth Zucker from Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) as a keynote for their annual conference in December 2010. Professor Zucker is considered an authoritative figure in the controversial diagnosis and 'treatment' of children with 'Gender Identity Disorder' (Hill et al., 2006). He is also the Chair for the American Psychiatric Association's (APA) Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders Work Group for the DSM-5, who have proposed several highly contentious revisions including the introduction of 'Paraphilic Coercive Disorder'.

Recommended Journals

Intersectionalities

The journal aims to underscore issues relating to oppression, privilege and resistance in society and social work. Of critical consideration are the ways in which intersections of age, disability, class, poverty, gender and sexual identity, madness, spirituality, geographical (dis)location, rurality, colonialism/imperialism, indigeneity, racialization, ethnicity, citizenship and the environment are enmeshed in processes of social justice and injustice. 

Journal of Psychology, Gender, & Trauma

The Journal of Psychology, Gender, & Trauma is Open Access and accepts papers, commentaries, research summaries, creative pieces, and reviews regarding psychology, gender, and/or trauma. It aims to promote discussion and awareness of intersecting issues related to gender (e.g. transgender, cisgender, intersex, nonbinary), gender identity, gender dysphoria, violence, abuse, and rape. Intersectional and qualitative research approaches are encouraged. The journal is interdisciplinary and accepts novel and innovative forms of analysis. 

Psychology of Women And Equalities Review

The Psychology of Women and Equalities Review provides a forum for discussion of all aspects of the psychology of women in research, teaching and professional practice. It aims to encourage the development of theory and practice concerning gender and other social inequalities. 

Annual Review of Critical Psychology

The Annual Review of Critical Psychology (ARCP) is an international peer review Open Access publication developing varieties of critical research concerned with language, subjectivity, and practice.