Is America still a patriarchy? Pretty much, though we’re conditioned to think otherwise. What are truths, what is perception, and how did Jessica Heriot rise above that conditioning when she poured her newly found feminist knowledge into a career? These are some of the issues addressed in Heriot’s book Feminist Therapist: How Second Wave Feminism Changed Therapy and Me.
Heriot writes about both her personal and professional experiences, infusing her stories with commentary about the political ramifications of being a woman in a society governed mostly by men.
• Were we born second class?
• Did conditioning make us second class?
• How does all of this apply to our lives today?
• What actions could and should we take?
She looks at the lives of second-class citizens, who never intended to be that way, through the feminist perspective that is now ingrained in her. She says women are caught in a double bind that “could make someone crazy, which it does…. Society conveys to women that they should find happiness and fulfillment in caring for and serving others, but at the same time asserting that they are not really valuable for doing this…” Heroit recognized her own frustrations with the life she’d been handed, with the double-standards, and she chose to break through the bonds, one patient at a time, one project at a time, and one thread at a time. As she counseled others, she discovered truths about self-image, aging, and empowerment. Truly she took a road less traveled, which turned her into the woman she was meant to be.
Despite her feminist views, Heriot seems trapped in a bit of vanity. Toward the end of Part One she writes, “Many women never make peace with their bodies, though feminism has stood on the side of honoring womanly bodies whatever the size.” Later she adds the effects of age into the picture, saying, “One summer on Cape Cod, in a sun-drenched cottage overlooking the bay, I obsessively glanced in the mirror or any other ‘reflecting surface,’ not believing how old I looked. I cried and was angry, then ashamed of myself for caring.”
Clearly, she approaches her subject three dimensionally.
Readers become flies on the wall, observing and translating her work on herself and with others into their own lives. There’s a sense of joy, camaraderie, and purpose in her life’s work, and I’m glad she’s sharing that through this book. Please take a look. She might open your eyes.