I read pretty widely, and, unless I'm honed in on investigating a research project, my tastes are free range. Like the best chickens, my reading brain will at least peck at whatever looks tasty. So a PBS special on "The Gifts of Imperfection" led me to Brene Brown's work (her blog is called Ordinary Courage), interesting in part because she has a Ph.D. in social work. And, since I'm teaching a new class called Youth Services Community Engagement this fall and drawing on some social work research, it seemed right to pursue the threads a little further. So I found the textbook, Contemporary Human Behavior Theory (2nd ed) that holds a summary of Brown's research work. Which is based on interview after interview with women (though recently men have factored in as well) and is formalized as Shame Resilience Theory.
The theory goes a little something like this: depending on your place in life, your social support, and a host of other internal and external factors, you are more or less resilient to an episode of shame. This might be an internal overreaction or it might be a public humiliation, characterized by the burning sense of personal unworthiness, rejection, or lack of belonging. Same things apply in any case to come out of it: 1) "ability to recognize and accept personal vulnerability," 2) "level of critical awareness regarding social-cultural expectations," 3) "ability to develop mutually empathic connections with others, and 4) "ability to 'speak shame'" by which Brown means the emotional vocabulary to name what's happening to us (emphasis added). As another researcher notes, "women's sense of self and of worth is most often grounded in the ability to make and maintain relationships." (p. 230-232) There are exceptions to the rule, of course, and some women thrive on work or on one deep relationship. But many women--I'd guess many people, certainly many of the children we serve in libraries and other institutions--thrive when they can celebrate the network of long and short, deep and shallow, casual and serious relationships and their place in it as someone who, as Brown says, belongs.
This is a social work textbook, and I'd ultimately recommend skimming Brown's blog over the few pages in this text, but there are a few books and articles cited and recommended in the back that I list here for future perusal. Friere's Pedagogy of the Oppressed is a familiar title to me, but I'd like to re-read it in light of thinking about shame and the role it plays in adults and child lives. Articles of interest by L. M. Guitierrez include: "Empowerment and the Latino community: Does consciousness make a difference:" and "Working with women of color: An empowerment perspective" and finally "Understanding the empowerment process: Does consciousness make a difference?" I'm guessing these might explore the difference/relationship between thinking and acting, and I'm curious. I'm also curious about bell hooks' article in the Chronicle of Higher Education about "Learning in the shadow of race and class." And the book by J. B. Miller and I. P. Stiver from 1997, The healing connection: How women form relationships in therapy and life.