stated that feminist values undergird her articulation of work and relationships, prioritizing those values and gender as two significant factors in her perspective. Yet the fact that market work includes discriminatory social systems and practices for many men and women from various cultural groups encourages a moving away from not only androcentric views of work and relationships but also ethnocentric views of these domains. Richardson noted several cultural groups that would benefit from a revaluation of personal care work, including individuals who are actively parenting, who are in late middle life, and individuals identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered (LGBT). She also highlighted the importance of untangling individual and
cultural variation in client behavior such as expressions of agentic action. To aid in such “untangling” of cultural variations, I suggest that a critical multicultural vantage point is needed to reconstruct disciplinary (e.g., vocational psychology) knowledge previously held and based on exclusionary paradigms of dominant groups (Byars-Winston etal., 2004
A critical multicultural vantage point would centralize the knowledge and experiences related to work and relationships of traditionally marginalized groups often understudied in vocational psychology, including racial/ethnic minorities, LGBT persons, and people who are economically poor or working class. “Shifting the center” of our knowledge construction illuminates the experiences of both oppressed as well as dominant groups, integrating personal narratives to understand how social structures, identities, power, and privilege have shaped our collective experiences and, thus, social science disciplines (Andersen & Collins, 2001
). Just as Richardson (2012)
advocated to bring personal care work from the margins to the center, I advocate to centralize the knowledge from more culturally diverse groups within her perspective.
For example, much of the discourse surrounding workplace gender equity begins with the women’s movement at the turn of the 20th century, which centers on White/European/Caucasian constructions of women’s roles and the (de-) valuation of women’s personal care work, like mothering. However, women from other ethnocultural groups, such as African American women, historically have successfully navigated work inside and outside of the home, maintained and preserved relationships, as well as provided community service. One direct result of slavery was that the lack of gender-based division of labor (e.g., African American men were also house servants and African American women were also field laborers) translated into “egalitarianism characterizing their social relations” (Davis, 1981
, p. 18). Dill (1994)
noted that because “Black men were denied the male resources of a patriarchal society,” they were therefore “unable to turn gender distinctions into female subordination, even if that had been their desire” (p. 154). Consequently, many African American women in the United States have developmentally integrated characteristics and roles typically viewed as male, such as achievement, autonomy, and independence, with characteristics and roles typically viewed as female, such as nurturer and caretaker (Turner, 1997
). Thus, they may experience the interface and negotiation of personal care work and market work and relationships in unique ways. The assertions Richardson (2012)
made would be strengthened by a greater understanding of how work and relationships operate across diverse cultural groups.
Nonetheless, Richardson (2012)
invites psychologists to consider not just various domains of relationships (personal and market based) but also the varying forms of relationships through which people construct their lives. These forms may include community, kinship, civic, religious, and spiritual relationships in which women and men function and create new institutions and social structures through which to seek autonomy, gain a sense of personal validation and significance, and experience authentic mattering to others. For many ethnocultural groups, relationships outside of market work domains serve as psychological and social resources that counterbalance non-affirming market-based work and relationships.
Instead of work being the context in which affirmation, dignity, and prestige were sought after for African Americans and Latino/as, for instance, public participation and volunteerism in their community became the vehicles through which social standing, prominence, and social regard were achieved. “Working for the race” through community work and community organizations are often significant means by which women of color seek to advance an “oppressed public family” (Gilkes, 1991). For example, many people can identify the social and community significance of Rosa Parks in the civil rights movement in the 1950s or the civil rights work of Dolores Huerta, who co-founded the National Farm Workers Association in 1962. But few may know that Dolores Huerta was a school teacher or that Rosa Parks ended high school before completing her degree to care for her ailing grandmother and later for her mother (she eventually earned a high school diploma at her husband’s urging). Both individuals illustrate the importance of valuing personal care work and personal relationships, especially in community and civic forms, in addition to market work in people’s lives as articulated by Richardson (2012)
Practice and research considerations
Personal (and market-based) relationships serve purpose beyond providing interpersonal grounding, connectedness, and social support. It is in connectedness and relationship that agency and resistance are also evident. The novel The Women of Brewster Place,
authored by Gloria Naylor, powerfully depicts the notion of agency and resistance within the context of personal care relationships. In the story, African American women diverse in life space and stage and who live on a dead-end street named Brewster Place are challenged by various social structures resulting from race, gender, and class oppression. These structures are metaphorically represented by a wall at the end of their street that separates them from the rest of the community. The novel concludes with the Brewster Place women residents tearing down the wall in a final act of collective defiance. Personal (and market-based) relationships, like those illustrated in The Women of Brewster Place,
may also be sources of tacit knowledge for cultural survival that may be intergenerationally transmitted. Joe and Miller (1994)
found that American Indian women of the Tohono O’odham and Yaqui tribes resisted cultural assimilation in their children by promoting cultural heritage in relational and group contexts as a means for their children to cope with discrimination and poverty. There may be valuable knowledge and insight to be gained about agentic action by centering the knowledge of individuals and groups who have dealt with and confronted numerous “Brewster Places.”
extends to vocational psychology the Stone Center’s self-in-relation theory to restate that all individuals are relational beings who experience a primary need for connection with others and emotional joining (Jordan, 1997
). Richardson draws counseling psychology’s attention to not only the relational contexts in which people live and work, but also their relational capabilities. Consideration of relational capabilities acknowledges that for both women and men authentic relatedness facilitates clarity about one’s own experience and that of others, thereby engendering a greater sense of vitality and capacity for further connection (Jordan). In this vein, research questions may follow such as: How are women and men enhanced and empowered by relational processes across personal care work and market work domains? How do non-market work relationships contribute to market-work pursuits (e.g., family influences, community values), agentic action, and resilience, especially for cultural groups often understudied in counseling psychology research like racial/ethnic minority women and individuals of low socioeconomic status?