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Dancing on the Edge

A Feminist Speaks Candidly About Women and Liberation
by Simeon Alev


Best known as one of the coauthors of Mother Daughter Revolution: From Good Girls to Great Women, Elizabeth Debold is a psychologist, a consultant to the Ms. Foundation, and a member of the Harvard Project on Women's Psychology and Girls' Development, a groundbreaking research project inspired and supervised by Harvard psychologist Carol Gilligan (recently cited by Time magazine as one of America's twenty-five most influential people). Published in 1993, Mother Daughter Revolution was cowritten with Marie Wilson and Idelisse Malave, respectively the President and the former Vice President of the Ms. Foundation, and was announced to the world by both Gloria Steinem and Carol Gilligan as "the book women have been waiting for." Steinem wrote that it describes "the potential for a powerful new relationship between mothers and daughters which could change the relationship between all women and girls." Mother Daughter Revolution quickly became a best-seller and inspired mothers and daughters all over North America to come together in groups in order to explore its implications both for themselves and for women in general as female citizens of a male-dominated culture. Translations and special editions have since been published in Holland, Germany, Italy, Spain and Australia.

But Elizabeth Debold is not only a psychologist, a feminist and an author; she is also a spiritual practitioner. I first met her several years ago at the end of a silent ten-day Vipassana meditation retreat, and since that time we've engaged in many interesting discussions pertaining both to women's issues and to spiritual matters. When it was decided that this issue of What Is Enlightenment? would be devoted to exploring the nature and significance of spiritual liberation for women, I was naturally curious to know how she felt her two primary fields of study—women's psychology and spiritual life—corresponded or diverged, and what her research had revealed about the promises and perils of the spiritual path for female seekers. Elizabeth graciously agreed to an interview, and soon after we began our conversation it became apparent that we had embarked on a fascinating and far-reaching investigation, raising and delving into questions that spiritually interested individuals of both sexes would find compelling and provocative. Elizabeth's refreshing honesty and vulnerability, as well as her breadth of experience and discerning intellect, are evident throughout.

Our conversation was conducted by telephone from her home in New York City, where she is hard at work on her next book.


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This article is from
Our Women's Liberation Issue