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Women's History Month: 3 Ways to Incorporate Feminism into Your Practice

March is Women's history month and we wanted to share a bit about how Feminism applies to music therapy! In this blog post, we will explore 3 ways you can intentionally incorporate feminism into your practice all year round from my perspective (Ava Marvin, MT-BC) as a music therapist practicing with a feminist philosophy in music therapy.


This is what I mean by "feminism"...

Feminism is not just about women's rights, but it is a philosophy that aims to support all people's liberation from oppression.

When most people hear the term "feminism" their mind goes to previous "waves" of feminism:

  • The first wave (mid-1800s-1920) suffrage and slavery, 

  • The second wave (1960s and 1970s) of modern feminism-primarily focused on white women’s work, and sexual liberation(birth control)

  • The third wave of modern feminism (1990s) focused on equal pay, women in leadership roles, sexual liberation, workplace harassment

As you can see these "waves" were very focused on "women's" issues and, more specifically, predominantly white women.


In 1989, Kimberlé Crenshaw wrote “Demarginalizing The Intersection Of Race And Sex: A Black Feminist Critique Of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory And Antiracist Politics.” And this is regarded as the first time we heard the term Intersectional Feminism.


Intersectional feminism is all about how a person's many different identities affect how one moves through the world. Some examples of these intersecting identities in addition to gender, can be disability status, sexuality, nationality, race, and economic status, just to name a few.


Today, progressive feminists believe that our feminism must be intersectional to support all people not just white, cis-gendered, people with other intersecting privileges.

 

So how can we incorporate a feminist philosophy into our music therapy practice? 


1. Understanding clients’ oppression to provide the most helpful and healing therapy

We must view clients holistically and view their whole person. This includes how their intersecting identities might affect the types of oppression they face. To truly understand a client’s daily stressors, you must understand micro-aggressions and the larger issues being faced by their community or identity group. 

We must apply intersectional considerations for all clients, populations, and needs.

How might you see your client, without realizing it, based on identity? 


2. Feminism can help our clients develop social skills and positive interpersonal relationships with all people

At this time, more than ever, appropriate social skills include being aware of (to name just a few)…

  • Black Lives Matter discussions

  • Usage of slurs

  • The Me Too movement

  • Increased awareness of gender/sexuality diversity

As music therapists, we must be comfortable navigating these conversations because it's a reality in our clients' lives. We must be confident in how we facilitate this in therapy. Having a space in therapy where we can explore these topics can help our clients' relationships with the world.


3. Feminism can make better and more sustainable careers in Music Therapy

As a female-dominated field, we face gendered oppression! From college admissions to making it through training to access to sustaining a career in our field... we are not immune from these gendered issues.

By being mindful of intersectional feminist issues, we can build more intentional practices to make a better future for the field. We can create more accessible educational, training, and employment opportunities.


At the end of the day, these are huge societal problems and not just something we can completely fix. By focusing on changing the things within our control, we can make purposeful steps towards this future. This will then benefit our clients by giving them more music therapists around the world!


Just scratching the surface…

There are MANY other ways I incorporate my feminist philosophy in music therapy into my daily work. My colleague April Hickey, MT-BC, and I have presented more in-depth on this topic a few times. We plan to continue presenting and writing on this topic in the future!


Happy Women’s History Month and here's to incorporating feminism year round!

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