On Our Own Terms

Redefining Competence and Femininity

By Maggie Mulqueen

Subjects: Psychology Of Women
Paperback : 9780791409527, 221 pages, July 1992
Hardcover : 9780791409510, 221 pages, July 1992

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Table of contents


Chapter 1. The Dilemma

Chapter 2. Four Women

Chapter 3. Tracing the Roots of the Dilemma:
The Developmental Antecedents to Balancing

Chapter 4. Pivotal Decisions

Chapter 5. Renegotiating Priorities

Chapter 6. Balancing: A Model for Resolving the Dilemma

Epilogue The Value of Listening





By redefining current theories of competence motivation and sex-role identity, this work offers a powerful reconceptualiztion of what it means to be a competent woman in today's society. Analyses of case studies of competent women lead to a new theory that enables women to attain positive self-esteem based on internally desired and determined criteria. This new theory challenges prevailing theories of competence motivation and sex-role identity development that assume competence and femininity to be mutually exclusive.

Maggie Mulqueen, a psychologist in private practice, is also on the faculty of Lesley College's Counseling and Psychology Program, the Norman E. Zinberg Center for Addiction Studies at Harvard Medical School, and the Cambridge Hospital.


"The text blends traditional psychological theory with feminist theory and qualitative research methods. Mulqueen advances White's thinking on competence with both psychological insights that take gender seriously, and structural insights that make psychology responsive to social structural conditions. The book is significant theoretically, methodologically, and as a feminist critique of traditional psychology. " — Michelle Fine, University of Pennsylvania

"On Our Own Terms offers a new view of work, presenting a perspective that interweaves notions of competence, sex role identity, social norms and self esteem. We come to understand how these factors influence women's development and to consider what this might mean if we took women's dilemmas in the workplace seriously. Thus, the book offers an important set of ideas for teachers, therapists, and any woman who is considering how to shape a life full of good work and love. " — Jill Mattuck Tarule, co-author, Women's Ways of Knowing: The Development of Self, Voice, and Mind

"It is well organized, clearly written, and thoughtful. It provides a research background and a theoretical context. Mulqueen advances theory in a most interesting and convincing manner by her in-depth case studies. Her concept of balancing is conceptually mature and needed; she transcends either/or categorical thinking and demonstrates how to focus on process.

"It is refreshing, and welcome, to read such clear, convincing, and compelling writing. The topic is of vital significance, not just for women's career development, but for their psychological development and well being. " — Mary Lou Randour, Washington Society for Psychoanalytic Psychology