Emory Report

February 21, 2000

 Volume 52, No. 22

Symposium to examine women and power

By Lillian Kim

What makes a woman successful? Does she have to be a perfect wife, mother and career professional? How does the way society treats a successful woman affect the way she presents or conceals--or even destroys--her own power?

Leading experts in psychiatry, psychology, psychoanalysis, sociology, anthropology and the humanities will discuss these questions and other intriguing elements of gender dynamics at an international symposium, Feb. 25­27 in the Emory Conference Center.

The symposium, titled "Women & Power: Psycho-analytic Perspectives on Women in Relationships, Groups and Hierarchies," will focus on topics ranging from the "glass ceiling" women are said to encounter in academia and business, to gender dyn-amics among nonhuman primates.

Differences in how men and women define and express power have long fascinated Emory psychiatrist Beth Seelig, one of the symposium's co-chairs. She noted that, for many women, these differences can pose subtle yet formidable challenges that go beyond the more overt battles for equal opportunity and recognition. For instance, some women tend to have almost guilty feelings about achieving success.

"A lot of [women] are afraid of having more than our share of success because we think there isn't enough to go around," said Seelig, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and director of the Emory Psychoanalytic Institute. "We think there's a scarcity of good things. But that's not true--if you marry someone wonderful, that doesn't necessarily mean you've taken him away from your sister."

Among the psychoanalysts who will speak at the symposium are Otto Kernberg, president of the International Psychoanalytical Association, and Nancy Chodorow, a famous feminist psychoanalytic scholar at the University of California-Berkeley. Kernberg, an expert on personality disorders, and his fellow panelists will discuss men's views of women in power and power in women; Chodorow will appear on a panel titled "The Glass Ceiling--Is It Internal or External?"

"Men unconsciously endow women with power because they fear women in power, and so they sometimes need to subjugate them," Seelig explained. "As a result, women tend to hide their own power and sometimes do not permit themselves to have power at all."

Other symposium topics will include differences in power dynamics between young boys and girls; maternal power and its various shades, from altruistic to narcissistic to masochistic; and women in male-dominated Arabic society.

The symposium is sponsored by the International Psychoanalytical Association and the American Psycho-analytic Association, in conjunction with the Emory Psychoanalytic Institute, the psychoanalytic studies program and the Atlanta Foundation for Psychoanalysis. The co-chairs are Seelig and Robert Paul, Candler Profes-sor of Anthropology and director of psychoanalytic studies.

For more information about the conference, call 404-727-5695.

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