News

Undergraduates Celebrate Second Consecutive Virtual Housing Day

News

Dean of Students Office Discusses Housing Day, Anti-Racism Goals

News

Renowned Cardiologist and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Bernard Lown Dies at 99

News

Native American Nonprofit Accuses Harvard of Violating Federal Graves Protection and Repatriation Act

News

U.S. Reps Assess Biden’s Progress on Immigration at HKS Event

A Trailblazer Takes Off

With Harvard's name behind her, Carol Gilligan put gender studies on the map—and became the world's most famous public intellectual on gender. This year, she left for NYU.

By Lauren R. Dorgan, Crimson Staff Writer

By LAUREN R. DORGAN

CRIMSON STAFF WRITER

Her famous mane of wild gray-brown hair flowing behind her, Carol Gilligan looks like an erstwhile hippie as she expertly navigates her way through Starbucks.

Between sipping her decaf and munching on an apple, the soft-spoken giant of the psychology world tells the circuitous story of her life at Harvard, from grad student to activist to professor to world-famous public intellectual on gender.

The Harvard of the 1950s and 1960s, she recalls, was a place where women rarely taught—or even studied—at the graduate level as Gilligan did.

“We were told when we arrived that they were concerned we would have babies and basically waste our graduate education,” she says.

And in the psychology department, where she earned her Ph.D., women were rarely even subjects of study. The department went so far as to advise its students against using female subjects, since they would have to double the size of their test samples. Besides, Gilligan added, psychologists could never make sense of women’s responses.

When she wrote her dissertation on how people respond to temptations, she went along and only studied men.

Then women got their turn.

In 1982, having returned to Harvard as an assistant professor at the Graduate School of Education (GSE), she wrote In a Different Voice, in which she argued that women tend to think differently than men do—in a way that psychology, she said, had left completely unstudied.

Harvard University Press published it, and the book became a best-seller, changing the field of psychology and sending ripples across pop culture.

It made Gilligan a star.

In 1984, when Ms. Magazine selected its first-ever Woman of the Year, the editors picked Gilligan. The editors said they found it an easy choice, and they called her one of the leaders in a “revolution in values.” In 1996, when Time magazine drew up its list of the 25 most influential Americans, Gilligan was one of them.

Some consider the well-spoken, persuasive psychologist a genius and a heroine, a paradigm-maker on the order of Freud who dramatically changed the way the world understands women.

Just as loudly, others have denounced her as a fraud, and one scholarly critic has called her work “social science at sea without an anchor.”

Fans and detractors alike say that Gilligan changed the world of psychology to make women card-carrying members.

But regardless of what else they call her, no one calls Gilligan a Harvard professor anymore: the Starbucks she frequents these days is in Manhattan, not Cambridge. She left the confines of the Ed School this fall to become a full-time university professor at New York University, with the freedom to teach any class in any discipline.

At 65, Gilligan describes herself today as an “artist-psychologist” who still likes to be “on the edge.”

Harvard was perhaps the only place that could have lent fame and enduring credibility to her innovative work. But Gilligan says it is no longer a place where she can pursue new edges in a still-forming field.

The Roundabout Ways of Carol

After her relatively typical undergraduate career at Swarthmore and her doctoral work at Harvard, Carol Gilligan started edging closer to the unconventional in academia.

She smiles as she tells about her life in the 1960s and 1970s, between grad school and professorship, when she was an instructor at the University of Chicago in social science, filling her time with dancing and activism and raising three sons with her doctor husband.

In 19TK, she returned to Harvard and taught General Education at the College as she worked on research with famed GSE Professor Lawrence Kohlberg.

Kohlberg had constructed a widely used six-stage scale of moral development based on extensive testing of boys and men. On his scale, women rated, on average, one full step behind men.

With her ties to Kohlberg, who had become one of her mentors, she sought out a professorship at the GSE because she considered it the best place to do work on the “edge” between disciplines.

She knocked on doors looking for a place at Harvard that would support her, and she found it. The Ed School gave her an assistant professor post. . Radcliffe awarded her a Bunting fellowship in 1983.

“I was very happy to be on that edge, because it gave me a kind of freedom in my work,” Gilligan says, adding that she was at liberty to use innovative inter-disciplinary methods.

More secure now, Gilligan decided to strike out on a new path. She had spent years working with great psychologists who didn’t include women in their research—and who, like Kohlberg, applied to women the standards of scales made for men.

“I had come to see a huge cultural blindness that made it possible for psychology to map the human world without listening to women,” she says.

So, in an era when a textbook entitled The Psychological World of the Teenager contained not a single chapter on girls, Gilligan set out to publish an entire study focused on young women.

Sometimes drafting at her kitchen table and other times working in the sanctuary of Radcliffe Yard, Gilligan wrote the manuscript of what became In a Different Voice.

The result was a landmark book that argued that women are not behind men in their moral reasoning, as Kohlberg had suggested, but that they just approach ethical dilemmas differently.

“Implicitly adopting the male life as the norm, they have tried to fashion women out of a masculine cloth,” she wrote in the introduction. “In the life cycle, the woman has been the deviant.”

The book was a far cry from her dissertation days: here she catalogued 144 interviews and, while some were with men, many were with girls and women.

She moved away from a single set of explanations and identified two different voices in moral thought.

Women tend to make moral judgments with an ethic of care, thinking about relationships and how their actions would affect the people around them, according to Gilligan. Men tend to apply a more hierarchical system, more based on law and rights and justice.

Gilligan has spent much of the last two decades elaborating on the distinction that she proposed in 1982. When she explains her thesis of rights/justice versus response/care modes to the unindoctrinated, one example she likes to cite involves a story about a family of moles.

The moles invite a porcupine to get out of the cold and stay in their house. When the porcupine’s quills prick them and cause them pain, the moles ask the porcupine to leave, but he refuses.

When given this scenario, girls tend to focus on the feelings of both the moles and the porcupine. Gilligan says one girl asked if she could put a blanket on the porcupine to soften the blow of its quills and let it stay in the moles’ house.

On the other hand, the justice-centric voice more typical of males would focus on the fact that the house belongs to the moles and the porcupine has no right to be there, Gilligan says.

Gilligan argues that when girls become teenagers and are indoctrinated into patriarchy, the voice that characterizes women’s way of thinking goes “underground” and becomes masked underneath the logic of rights/justice.

Though the idea of adolescent girls in crisis is now a staple of psychology, pop and otherwise, Gilligan’s thesis came as a jolt at the time.

She freely admits that having the Harvard name behind her lent a sort of credibility to her work.

“When Harvard takes a step a path opens,” Gilligan says. “Because it was published by Harvard University Press it had a kind of credibility.”

She became a pop culture star and inspired a wide variety of offshoots, both in other works of psychology and across other fields.

She has inspired feminists and fathers and editorial columnists and, according to a profile in The New York Times, is considered a motivation for the 1994 Gender Equity in Education Act, which banned classroom gender discrimination.

Gilligan inspired an increasing literature on the problems of adolescent girls, including Reviving Ophelia, a best-selling book about troubled teenage girls written by a clinical psychologist.

Gilligan’s book, and the fanfare it received, is also often credited with inspiring a study of girls’ self-esteem called “Shortchanging Girls, Shortchanging America,” which was commissioned by the American Association of University Women.

Gilligan’s Island?

But the response to Gilligan’s book wasn’t entirely positive. The criticism has continued for 20 years and has included attacks from both conservatives and feminists.

In 1992—ten years after the book’s publication—an article in The Nation called “Marooned on Gilligan’s Island” attacked Gilligan’s theory of difference as just a new incarnation of old sexist attitudes.

“Woman as sharer and carer, woman as earth mother, woman as unsung guardian of all the small rituals that knit together a family and a community, woman as beneath, above or beyond such manly concerns as law, reason, abstract ideals—these images are as old as time,” wrote Katha Pollitt, a noted feminist.

Again in 2000—18 years after In a Different Voice—Gilligan became the very visible subject of attack, this time in an Atlantic Monthly cover article called “The War Against Boys,” in which noted conservative Christine Hoff Sommers called Gilligan’s book “an extravagant piece of speculation.”

Throughout the storms of controversy, Gilligan has quietly defended her book as an early attempt to widen a field that, up to that time, had left half of the population unaccounted for.

“It’s a caricature of my book that gets attacked,” she says. “What my question was, was what was lost by not listening to women. I’m not comparing all men and all women. I couldn’t possibly be with that small sample of research.”

But the research itself has been at the center of the scholarly debate, and increasingly the public debate as well.

Many scholars say they can’t reproduce her findings, and Gilligan keeps a tight watch over who gets access to the original data.

On these questions, too, which go to the heart of the scholarly acceptance that Gilligan has sought after, she defends herself. The interviews were conducted with confidentiality agreements that Gilligan says she can’t breach even now.

She has granted permission to about 30 individuals, she says, but insists that the data must be kept out of the hands of people such as Hoff Sommers “who felt no sense of connection and therefore no accountability.”

Refuting or refining Gilligan’s theory has become a cottage industry within the field of developmental psychology. Often, she’s now grouped with Kohlberg, as someone whose theory on moral judgment is interesting and important and yet not authoritative.

Losing A Center

Also like her famed teachers, she became a GSE legend.

Despite controversy and the passage of two decades, her work brought fame and fortune to the Ed School and, from 1997 to 2000, inspired five women to donate millions.

In 2000, Jane Fonda announced a pledge of $12.5 million dollars to create a Carol Gilligan chair for gender studies and a gender center at GSE—a gift which would have been by far the largest gift in the Ed School’s history.

At the same press conference, Gilligan announced that she would be leaving.

“I felt for many years, I was so committed to this work and bringing it to this point,” Gilligan said at the time. “My realization that [the research] will broaden and expand—it frees me to leave.”

When she announced her donation, Fonda said she first learned of Gilligan’s work in 1985, when famed feminist Gloria Steinem sent her a copy of In a Different Voice.

She called her donation a "thank you gift" to Gilligan, whom Fonda said had made her realize the "toxic" effect of gender roles.

At the press conference, Fonda said that only in the past few years—while working for causes like teen pregnancy prevention—sdid she come “to understand the effect that gender roles have had on me.”

“Everywhere I go, gender norms impact the healthy development of young people,” she added.

In an interview this fall, Gilligan called the gender center at Harvard a “seed place”—a place from which serious academic study of gender roles would spread across the country.

Gilligan often said that she never felt free to leave Harvard until the Fonda donation created a mandate for future work in gender studies.

And since the money—and the mandate—would be at Harvard, Gilligan said, the center would once and for all legitimize gender studies in academia.

But after she left, Harvard never hired someone to fill the chair in Gilligan’s name. Nor did the GSE take even the first steps towards creating the gender center. Even the gender studies chair that Gilligan had vacated when she left—the Graham chair—was never filled.

This fall—amidst rumors that Fonda was considering cutting off the gift since Harvard was making no progress—Gilligan reiterated the importance of the center.

“What’s important is not to dribble away these resources,” she said, adding that Fonda’s heavy investment in ailing AOL Time Warner stocks made the actress reluctant to give to a program that had shown no progress.

But the resources were not dribbled away—they were cut off entirely. This February, Harvard and Fonda issued a joint statement that practically all of the gift would be returned to the actress.

Neither Gilligan nor Fonda have not been available for comment since then.

One of Fonda's stipulations for the gender center was that it must have connections to other Harvard schools besides the GSE.

Katharine Park, who chairs the committee on women's studies in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, says that the undergraduate program used to have "real ties" to Gilligan—but, she says, in the nearly two years of planning before Fonda cut the funding, no one contacted the women's studies program about the center.

Park, who used to serve as the FAS representative to the Boston area-wide Graduate Consortium on Women's Studies, says that Ed School student interest in gender studies is clear by the large number of GSE students who enroll in Consortium classes. But, Park says, now that Gilligan has gone, there is very little interest on the part of the GSE faculty in gender studies.

Still, Gilligan's legacy goes on—even if her biggest legacy at Harvard has nearly vanished.

Meanwhile, at NYU, she has wasted no time incorporating her love of literature into major projects. She recently adapted The Scarlet Letter into a play and wrote a book called The Birth of Pleasure, using both psychology and literature as evidence to show how pleasure is associated with pain in Western culture.

She has embraced her newfound freedom at NYU and NYU has welcomed her with open arms. This year, the university is hosting two symposia in celebration of her work.

Looking back on her Harvard years, Gilligan recalls a handful of individuals who wrote her letters or shared words of support when her work came under attack.

But already when she talks about NYU, she’s quick to say she’s supported by everyone from the administration on down.

“They’ve been very outspoken in response to criticism,” Gilligan says. “I like to work in a place where I feel that sort of support. I like now being back on the edge.”

As she takes on less conventional, more interdisciplinary projects, Gilligan says NYU is a place where she can keep her three main interests—art, psychology and literature—alive and intertwined.

She calls the triumvirate the three “feet” of her scholarship.

“I’ll always look for a place where I can keep those three feet alive,” she says.

Back in Boston

Last fall, on a brief return trip to Boston, a conference on “Women, Health and the Environment” that Gilligan was headlining got off to a rough start.

As keynote speaker, she was slotted to kick off the day with remarks at 9:15 a.m.

But from just after 9 until nearly 10 o’clock, the well-known philanthropist who sponsored the conference hijacked the podium. She attempted to speak on women and gender, but instead rambled on about chicken farming and Africa and estrogen and the Chinese language.

The crowd, mostly middle-aged women, exchanged glances and stared into their coffee cups in disbelief.

When the philanthropist at last relinquished the podium, the day ahead looked unbelievably long.

Before she went on, Gilligan looked nervous, flipping through her notes and rubbing her teeth with her fingers.

But on stage, she made quick work of cleaning up the mess. First, she rescheduled the badly off-track symposium from the podium.

Then she launched into what she lovingly calls her “schtick” and won the crowd over: they visibly, and audibly, perked up, sitting up straight, nodding their heads and asking questions.

She’s political, she’s funny, she’s personal, and the crowd responded. This was Carol Gilligan, Harvard made and Harvard free, a woman who carries the dignity of a scholar and makes wide-ranging allusions like an intellectual of the 1950s.

She told about a group of sixth-graders she once took to the Museum of Fine Arts, asking them to investigate how women are shown in the museum, and she recalled young Emma’s one-word answer to the question: “naked.”

When Gilligan asked the girls to construct a dialogue with a piece of art, Emma picked a statue and asked: “Are you cold? Would you like some clothes?”

Gilligan used Emma’s innocent, honest voice to illustrate what she said many girls lose in adolescence, when they are indoctrinated into a patriarchal system—the ability to “know what they know.”

This idea gets at Gilligan’s definition of patriarchy. She said the word’s roots are linked to the ancient word for priests who were trusted to be the ministers of knowledge, and she uses the term as shorthand for people not trusting what they know from their own experience.

“How is it that an honest voice comes to seem or to sound stupid?” she asked.

Then she nearly turned into a self-help guru, telling the women in her audience that they too can speak with an honest voice, without fear of what the rest of the world will think.

“If that voice is in 11-year-old girls, it’s in every woman in the room,” she said.

She told the crowd about The Birth of Pleasure and about her conclusion that pleasure is mixed with pain in Western culture.

“I’ve just written a book about pleasure, partially because it was the hardest thing to talk about,” she said softly. “Patriarchal societies over history go after women’s desires, women’s knowledge.”

Near the end of her speech, she talked about the relationship between mothers and children, and the shame of showing one’s children the concessions one has made to patriarchy.

“Don’t relinquish control over the future,” the tired-looking but vibrant psychologist told her audience, winning nods and applause.

Gilligan paused for a moment before stepping down from the podium and moving on to her next Starbucks, her next speech, her next reporter, her next theory and her next book.

“I was very happy to be on that edge, because it gave me a kind of freedom in my work,” Gilligan says, adding that she was at liberty to use innovative inter-disciplinary methods.

More secure now, Gilligan decided to strike out on a new path. She had spent years working with great psychologists who didn’t include women in their research—and who, like Kohlberg, applied to women the standards of scales made for men.

“I had come to see a huge cultural blindness that made it possible for psychology to map the human world without listening to women,” she says.

So, in an era when a textbook entitled The Psychological World of the Teenager contained not a single chapter on girls, Gilligan set out to publish an entire study focused on young women.

Sometimes drafting at her kitchen table and other times working in the sanctuary of Radcliffe Yard, Gilligan wrote the manuscript of what became In a Different Voice.

The result was a landmark book that argued that women are not behind men in their moral reasoning, as Kohlberg had suggested, but that they just approach ethical dilemmas differently.

“Implicitly adopting the male life as the norm, they have tried to fashion women out of a masculine cloth,” she wrote in the introduction. “In the life cycle, the woman has been the deviant.”

The book was a far cry from her dissertation days: here she catalogued 144 interviews and, while some were with men, many were with girls and women.

She moved away from a single set of explanations and identified two different voices in moral thought.

Women tend to make moral judgments with an ethic of care, thinking about relationships and how their actions would affect the people around them, according to Gilligan. Men tend to apply a more hierarchical system, more based on law and rights and justice.

Gilligan has spent much of the last two decades elaborating on the distinction that she proposed in 1982. When she explains her thesis of rights/justice versus response/care modes to the unindoctrinated, one example she likes to cite involves a story about a family of moles.

The moles invite a porcupine to get out of the cold and stay in their house. When the porcupine’s quills prick them and cause them pain, the moles ask the porcupine to leave, but he refuses.

When given this scenario, girls tend to focus on the feelings of both the moles and the porcupine. Gilligan says one girl asked if she could put a blanket on the porcupine to soften the blow of its quills and let it stay in the moles’ house.

On the other hand, the justice-centric voice more typical of males would focus on the fact that the house belongs to the moles and the porcupine has no right to be there, Gilligan says.

Gilligan argues that when girls become teenagers and are indoctrinated into patriarchy, the voice that characterizes women’s way of thinking goes “underground” and becomes masked underneath the logic of rights/justice.

Though the idea of adolescent girls in crisis is now a staple of psychology, pop and otherwise, Gilligan’s thesis came as a jolt at the time.

She freely admits that having the Harvard name behind her lent a sort of credibility to her work.

“When Harvard takes a step a path opens,” Gilligan says. “Because it was published by Harvard University Press it had a kind of credibility.”

She became a pop culture star and inspired a wide variety of offshoots, both in other works of psychology and across other fields.

She has inspired feminists and fathers and editorial columnists and, according to a profile in The New York Times, is considered a motivation for the 1994 Gender Equity in Education Act, which banned classroom gender discrimination.

Gilligan inspired an increasing literature on the problems of adolescent girls, including Reviving Ophelia, a best-selling book about troubled teenage girls written by a clinical psychologist.

Gilligan’s book, and the fanfare it received, is also often credited with inspiring a study of girls’ self-esteem called “Shortchanging Girls, Shortchanging America,” which was commissioned by the American Association of University Women.

Gilligan’s Island?

But the response to Gilligan’s book wasn’t entirely positive. The criticism has continued for 20 years and has included attacks from both conservatives and feminists.

In 1992—ten years after the book’s publication—an article in The Nation called “Marooned on Gilligan’s Island” attacked Gilligan’s theory of difference as just a new incarnation of old sexist attitudes.

“Woman as sharer and carer, woman as earth mother, woman as unsung guardian of all the small rituals that knit together a family and a community, woman as beneath, above or beyond such manly concerns as law, reason, abstract ideals—these images are as old as time,” wrote Katha Pollitt, a noted feminist.

Again in 2000—18 years after In a Different Voice—Gilligan became the very visible subject of attack, this time in an Atlantic Monthly cover article called “The War Against Boys,” in which noted conservative Christine Hoff Sommers called Gilligan’s book “an extravagant piece of speculation.”

Throughout the storms of controversy, Gilligan has quietly defended her book as an early attempt to widen a field that, up to that time, had left half of the population unaccounted for.

“It’s a caricature of my book that gets attacked,” she says. “What my question was, was what was lost by not listening to women. I’m not comparing all men and all women. I couldn’t possibly be with that small sample of research.”

But the research itself has been at the center of the scholarly debate, and increasingly the public debate as well.

Many scholars say they can’t reproduce her findings, and Gilligan keeps a tight watch over who gets access to the original data.

On these questions, too, which go to the heart of the scholarly acceptance that Gilligan has sought after, she defends herself. The interviews were conducted with confidentiality agreements that Gilligan says she can’t breach even now.

She has granted permission to about 30 individuals, she says, but insists that the data must be kept out of the hands of people such as Hoff Sommers “who felt no sense of connection and therefore no accountability.”

Refuting or refining Gilligan’s theory has become a cottage industry within the field of developmental psychology. Often, she’s now grouped with Kohlberg, as someone whose theory on moral judgment is interesting and important and yet not authoritative.

Losing A Center

Also like her famed teachers, she became a GSE legend.

Despite controversy and the passage of two decades, her work brought fame and fortune to the Ed School and, from 1997 to 2000, inspired five women to donate millions.

In 2000, Jane Fonda announced a pledge of $12.5 million dollars to create a Carol Gilligan chair for gender studies and a gender center at GSE—a gift which would have been by far the largest gift in the Ed School’s history.

At the same press conference, Gilligan announced that she would be leaving.

“I felt for many years, I was so committed to this work and bringing it to this point,” Gilligan said at the time. “My realization that [the research] will broaden and expand—it frees me to leave.”

When she announced her donation, Fonda said she first learned of Gilligan’s work in 1985, when famed feminist Gloria Steinem sent her a copy of In a Different Voice.

She called her donation a "thank you gift" to Gilligan, whom Fonda said had made her realize the "toxic" effect of gender roles.

At the press conference, Fonda said that only in the past few years—while working for causes like teen pregnancy prevention—sdid she come “to understand the effect that gender roles have had on me.”

“Everywhere I go, gender norms impact the healthy development of young people,” she added.

In an interview this fall, Gilligan called the gender center at Harvard a “seed place”—a place from which serious academic study of gender roles would spread across the country.

Gilligan often said that she never felt free to leave Harvard until the Fonda donation created a mandate for future work in gender studies.

And since the money—and the mandate—would be at Harvard, Gilligan said, the center would once and for all legitimize gender studies in academia.

But after she left, Harvard never hired someone to fill the chair in Gilligan’s name. Nor did the GSE take even the first steps towards creating the gender center. Even the gender studies chair that Gilligan had vacated when she left—the Graham chair—was never filled.

This fall—amidst rumors that Fonda was considering cutting off the gift since Harvard was making no progress—Gilligan reiterated the importance of the center.

“What’s important is not to dribble away these resources,” she said, adding that Fonda’s heavy investment in ailing AOL Time Warner stocks made the actress reluctant to give to a program that had shown no progress.

But the resources were not dribbled away—they were cut off entirely. This February, Harvard and Fonda issued a joint statement that practically all of the gift would be returned to the actress.

Neither Gilligan nor Fonda have not been available for comment since then.

One of Fonda's stipulations for the gender center was that it must have connections to other Harvard schools besides the GSE.

Katharine Park, who chairs the committee on women's studies in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, says that the undergraduate program used to have "real ties" to Gilligan—but, she says, in the nearly two years of planning before Fonda cut the funding, no one contacted the women's studies program about the center.

Park, who used to serve as the FAS representative to the Boston area-wide Graduate Consortium on Women's Studies, says that Ed School student interest in gender studies is clear by the large number of GSE students who enroll in Consortium classes. But, Park says, now that Gilligan has gone, there is very little interest on the part of the GSE faculty in gender studies.

Still, Gilligan's legacy goes on—even if her biggest legacy at Harvard has nearly vanished.

Meanwhile, at NYU, she has wasted no time incorporating her love of literature into major projects. She recently adapted The Scarlet Letter into a play and wrote a book called The Birth of Pleasure, using both psychology and literature as evidence to show how pleasure is associated with pain in Western culture.

She has embraced her newfound freedom at NYU and NYU has welcomed her with open arms. This year, the university is hosting two symposia in celebration of her work.

Looking back on her Harvard years, Gilligan recalls a handful of individuals who wrote her letters or shared words of support when her work came under attack.

But already when she talks about NYU, she’s quick to say she’s supported by everyone from the administration on down.

“They’ve been very outspoken in response to criticism,” Gilligan says. “I like to work in a place where I feel that sort of support. I like now being back on the edge.”

As she takes on less conventional, more interdisciplinary projects, Gilligan says NYU is a place where she can keep her three main interests—art, psychology and literature—alive and intertwined.

She calls the triumvirate the three “feet” of her scholarship.

“I’ll always look for a place where I can keep those three feet alive,” she says.

Back in Boston

Last fall, on a brief return trip to Boston, a conference on “Women, Health and the Environment” that Gilligan was headlining got off to a rough start.

As keynote speaker, she was slotted to kick off the day with remarks at 9:15 a.m.

But from just after 9 until nearly 10 o’clock, the well-known philanthropist who sponsored the conference hijacked the podium. She attempted to speak on women and gender, but instead rambled on about chicken farming and Africa and estrogen and the Chinese language.

The crowd, mostly middle-aged women, exchanged glances and stared into their coffee cups in disbelief.

When the philanthropist at last relinquished the podium, the day ahead looked unbelievably long.

Before she went on, Gilligan looked nervous, flipping through her notes and rubbing her teeth with her fingers.

But on stage, she made quick work of cleaning up the mess. First, she rescheduled the badly off-track symposium from the podium.

Then she launched into what she lovingly calls her “schtick” and won the crowd over: they visibly, and audibly, perked up, sitting up straight, nodding their heads and asking questions.

She’s political, she’s funny, she’s personal, and the crowd responded. This was Carol Gilligan, Harvard made and Harvard free, a woman who carries the dignity of a scholar and makes wide-ranging allusions like an intellectual of the 1950s.

She told about a group of sixth-graders she once took to the Museum of Fine Arts, asking them to investigate how women are shown in the museum, and she recalled young Emma’s one-word answer to the question: “naked.”

When Gilligan asked the girls to construct a dialogue with a piece of art, Emma picked a statue and asked: “Are you cold? Would you like some clothes?”

Gilligan used Emma’s innocent, honest voice to illustrate what she said many girls lose in adolescence, when they are indoctrinated into a patriarchal system—the ability to “know what they know.”

This idea gets at Gilligan’s definition of patriarchy. She said the word’s roots are linked to the ancient word for priests who were trusted to be the ministers of knowledge, and she uses the term as shorthand for people not trusting what they know from their own experience.

“How is it that an honest voice comes to seem or to sound stupid?” she asked.

Then she nearly turned into a self-help guru, telling the women in her audience that they too can speak with an honest voice, without fear of what the rest of the world will think.

“If that voice is in 11-year-old girls, it’s in every woman in the room,” she said.

She told the crowd about The Birth of Pleasure and about her conclusion that pleasure is mixed with pain in Western culture.

“I’ve just written a book about pleasure, partially because it was the hardest thing to talk about,” she said softly. “Patriarchal societies over history go after women’s desires, women’s knowledge.”

Near the end of her speech, she talked about the relationship between mothers and children, and the shame of showing one’s children the concessions one has made to patriarchy.

“Don’t relinquish control over the future,” the tired-looking but vibrant psychologist told her audience, winning nods and applause.

Gilligan paused for a moment before stepping down from the podium and moving on to her next Starbucks, her next speech, her next reporter, her next theory and her next book.

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.

Tags