Boston Review: Just Wear Your Smile – The Gender Politics of Positive Psychology

AHP readers may be interested in a new piece in Boston Review. “Just Wear Your Smile” by Micki McElya explores the gender politics of Positive Psychology. As McElya writes,

Critics of Positive Psychology note how it embraces a neoliberal logic that shifts the onus of unhappiness and inequality away from larger systems onto individual behavior, making sadness a matter of “mindset,” personal responsibility, and choice. Positive Psychology lends the language and authority of “science”—“data,” “evidence-based,” “universal,” “fact”—to a highly subjective and ideologically driven version of what constitutes common values, individual strengths, and a good life. In the end, critics charge, its ultimate aim is to assimilate people at their deepest levels to the inequities, oppression, stress, and thwarted aspirations of neoliberal capitalism, privatization, austerity, and the gig economy.

Less well-explored have been the field’s insidious assumptions that happiness and well-being are fundamentally tied to normative gender roles, heterosexual monogamy, family values, Christian ethics, white supremacy, American exceptionalism, and militarism. With the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the legalization of same-sex marriage, this has been expanded to include homonormative marriage and some gays’ and lesbians’ military service.

The piece can be read in full here.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.