In The Ethics of Hypocrisy I argued that being an advocate of the ideology of radical feminism was incompatible with claiming expert status in discipline of ethics. How can man hating radical feminist (Dr Betty McLellan) who involves herself with a group promoting male eugenics and gendercide as solutions to their perceived problem of maleness, also hold a university appointment as an authority on “feminist ethics.” What sort of ethical framework could she teach young and impressionable students in the social sciences? In this article I explore further details of McLellan’s deluded perspective and academic shortcomings.
In the introduction to her 1995 treatise of on “Feminist Therapy” titled Beyond Psycopression, McLellan states of her years of study in the USA that a “31-year-old deaconess from the Methodist Church in Australia turned into a feisty, furious feminist!”
McLellan’s staff page at the James Cook University lists one of her qualifications as “Dip RE, Melbourne, 1965.” That is a Diploma of Religious Education. If the ethics of male hatred is difficult to reconcile with secular standards of morality, it is even more difficult within a theological framework. Nonetheless McLellan’s radical feminist ideas were nurtured at the Claremont School of Theology, where she undertook her doctoral studies in the field of pastoral counseling.
Pastoral counseling is an integration of traditional religious beliefs and teaching with contemporary counseling and psychological skills, used by ordained persons or others authorized by a faith group to offer help to those in emotional distress. Dr Betty’s Doctoral dissertation in this field was titled Lesbian Identity: A Theological and Psychological Inquiry into the Developmental Stages of Identity in a Lesbian.
While the requirements for conferral of the degree of PhD vary considerably between countries and institutions, a doctorate generally requires undertaking research that is original and makes a significant contribution to the body of knowledge in the field of study of sufficient standard for publication in the peer reviewed literature. McLellan’s dissertation however is devoid of any academically or statistically legitimate research and is quite frankly an embarrassment to the institution and assessors who accepted it.
The stages in the development of a lesbian identity proposed by McLellan are a simple adaptation and blend of Kubler Ross and Erichsons’ well known schemas. The research methodology used is said to be descriptive and analytical, which one should interpret in this case as meaning her thesis is based upon opinion and conjecture. To test her “model” McLellan held brief preliminary interviews with a grand total of seven lesbians selecting 4 for a “more detailed” interview and then choosing only one of these as a “representative case” against which to “test” her hypothesis. So we have a sample size of 1 selected as the most likely of 7 to fit the hypothesized model!
She then proceeds to state her “conclusions,” several of which commence with the phrase “in at least one instance …” and finally declaring “ there is a strong possibility that what was found to be true in the representative case will be found to be true in other cases when further research is done”(read when some actual research is done). How’s that for feminist twisted logic and double speak! I recommend that in order to grasp the intellectual emptiness of her thesis that you read the abstract for yourself here.
McLellan was either uninformed regarding basic research, statistical methods and selection bias, or more likely she simply chose to disregard these cornerstones of empirical analysis. It’s difficult to imagine a post graduate research student in any other discipline ignoring these basics. Still, such undesirable traits do seem to afflict a good many so called “academic” feminists.
As a general rule University Academics at Professor level are involved in ongoing research within their departments, with the expectation of publication of research findings in the peer-reviewed literature. McLellan’s James Cook University webpage lists her “research interests” as Women’s Studies, Feminist Ethics, and Mental Health. A comprehensive database search of McLellan as an author however, revealed a grand total of zero peer reviewed research publications. Rather than research, McLellan has continued the precedent set in her doctoral thesis of writings based on “feminist analysis,” that is, Betty Boo’s own bigoted radicalized and politicized opinions.
McLellan has authored several books, three of which expand on her views of “Feminist Psychotherapy.” She practices “psychotherapy” in Townsville and appears not to belong to any professional association; unsurprisingly there is no professional association of feminist psychotherapists in Australia.
While there is a small amount of peer reviewed literature on Feminist Psychotherapy, these papers appear to mostly be theoretical discussions and critiques. Searching the Medline and PsyhARTICLES databases I was unable to locate any clinical trials or empirical research regarding the effectiveness or outcomes from this type of “therapy.”
What one can quickly glean from reading the online samples of McLellan’s books is that Feminist Psychotherapy is informed by an intense anti-male bias. This discriminatory ethos against the male sex collectively is also fully apparent in Dr. McLellan’s public speeches and writings including her letters to the editor of our local newspaper the Townsville Bulletin, as previously detailed.
It appears that McLellan rejects all that is known about the complex and multifactorial nature of the etiology of mental health problems in favor of a simpler explanation, From “Beyond Psychopression”
In contrast to other therapies that see women as “sick” or as being “responsible for their own problems,” feminist therapy holds the view that every woman who comes for therapy has been and continues to be oppressed, and is in need of liberation. It is from that basic assumption that therapy proceeds.
The ideological view that women’s metal health problems stem predominantly if not exclusively from “patriarchal oppression” and that in any case of any conflict between the sexes it will always be the male who is responsible has no empirical basis and is likely to be highly destructive as a foundation for therapy. Ignoring any degree of personal accountability for one’s circumstances is likely to simply feed a harmful collusion between client and therapist especially in the areas of depression, borderline and narcissistic personality disorders.
McLellan considers blame a central issue for feminist therapy and not unexpectedly there should always be a man to blame.
Blame is crucial to the success of therapy in many instances. Feminists call it naming, finding the courage to name those who perpetrate injustices against us.
Naming and blaming our oppressors is essential if we want to rise above the effects of the wrong they have done to us. Consequently, naming and blaming are important issues for feminist therapy.
One of the characteristics of blame in therapy is that we have to work with a woman till she gets the blame right.
Not a skerrick of evidence is presented as to the therapeutic value of getting the blame right. The retrospective attribution of blame simply infantilizes the client, and denies them the agency to take control of their life.
A further tenet of feminist psychotherapy is the need for female clients to become politically active in the struggle to free women collectively from “patriarchal oppression.” Soliciting clients to become involved in the therapist’s own passion for a radical anti-male ideology could never be considered an ethical pursuit and is clearly an abuse of the therapist’s position of power in the client-therapist relationship.
Again from “Beyond Psychoppression”
This call for a radicalised feminist therapy to be located within the bounds of the feminist movement comes from my understanding of the implications for women of living in a war zone. We do live in a war zone and there are daily casualties. Our feminist analysis of society leads us to say often enough that the numbers of attacks, woundings, murders of women by men, the daily harassment, intimidation, exploitation of women by men, are all clear evidence that women live in “occupied territory.” Men are at war with women, and women and their offspring are the victims.
It is noteworthy that McLellan explicitly advises feminist therapists not to keep client records. This is an incomprehensible recommendation, as not only would it hinder the therapist from being able to recall the complex details and relationships of many clients over time, memory alone would be an inadequate basis on which to prepare reports or to transfer care to another therapist. Naturally, without records claims against the therapist for malpractice would be indefensible.
The foregoing examples are sufficient for any reasonable person to see that McLellan’s ideas are extreme and at the fringe of both empirical and popular understanding. Even McLellan acknowledges this:
Some women will choose not to seek help from a therapist who is known to be a feminist for fear that she has an “agenda,” or is “biased.” She is biased, of course. She is biased against the oppression of women and against the agents of that oppression. And she does have an agenda. Her agenda is to help women uncover the truth and to work to make changes in their lives, so that mental health will become a reality.
I can’t sum it up any better than Dr Tara Palmatier, who wrote:
What McClellan proposes is infantilizing, enabling, growth retarding, and dangerous. It encourages the recipient to stay in an arrested state of early child to adolescent stages of development. It’s perverse.
That such individuals remain protected from scrutiny and conformity with current professional standards, behind the cloistered walls of institutions of higher learning, is simply scandalous.
 McLellan, Betty (1992). Overcoming Anxiety: A positive approach to dealing with severe anxiety in your life. Allen & Unwin: Sydney
McLellan, Betty (1995). Beyond Psychoppression: A Feminist Alternative Therapy. Spinifex Press: North Melbourne. https://beyond-psychoppression-014741.booki.sh/
McLellan, Betty (1999, 2006). Help! I’m Living with a (Man) Boy. Spinifex Press: North Melbourne. https://help-i-m-2a9adf.booki.sh/