Taking a Warm Feminist Bath: Feminist Mentoring

By Pam Remer

One of my favorite parts of being a feminist psychological practitioner and an active member of the Society for the Psychology of Women is participating in feminist mentorship—being mentored by and being a mentor for other feminist women. Being mentored by feminists has nourished both my professional development and my personal well-being for 37 years. So I want to take this opportunity to talk about what makes feminist mentoring unique and very different than traditional, androcentric models of mentoring.

Feminist mentoring relationships:

  • Are collaborative and mutually enhancing. The mentee’s voice is valued and encouraged. They are reciprocally beneficial to both the mentee and the mentor.

  • Value diversity. Mentors and mentees examine how their relationships are influenced by their diverse and intersecting social identities. Diverse cultural perspectives are valued. Drawing on these alternative views of what is valuable, mentors and mentees collaboratively redefine how professional roles may be enacted.

  • Value subjective ways of knowing and honor each woman’s diverse lived experiences. They involve mutual caring and emotional support.

  • Are founded in a mutual understanding of how traditional gender-role socialization and institutionalized oppression limit the potential of all women. Feminist mentors and mentees identify and share the ways both of their lives have been and are impacted by being women in a society that devalues and oppresses women. Strategies for confronting and coping with all forms of oppression are mutually identified. Ultimately feminist mentors and their mentees work together to change institutional values, policies, and procedures and to eliminate oppression. They are collaborative change agents.

  • Encompass all the major dimensions of women’s lives. They reflect that the personal and professional dimensions of women’s lives are interwoven and cannot be separated. Mentors and mentees share their professional and personal experiences and explore work-life tensions and balances.

  • Last a lifetime, developing into a mutual mentoring peer process. They are flexible and adaptable to the changing needs of their participants. These relationships evolve over time and are co-created.

For a long time, I have described attending Division 35 meetings as taking a long, warm feminist bath. What I have realized in writing this blurb is that the water I step into is filled with the benefits of mutual feminist mentoring.