McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
Russell A. Walsh
feminist methodology, feminist post-structural, gender construction, gender studies, qualitative method, women's study
This study explored two women's gendered identities in an effort to elucidate oppressive aspects of patriarchal gender constructions. Gender was conceptualized in feminist post-structural terms, which meant that it was seen as an identity conferred upon women in the service of creating a hierarchical discourse. Since feminist post-structural theories are rarely explored empirically and women's experiences have often been overlooked, both of these issues were explored in the current study.
Participants' awareness of oppression and ability to dialogue with theory was addressed by soliciting women who had taken a gender-focused college course. The methodology was perspectival and co-participatory. The researcher's reflections were documented and shared with participants in addition to including participants in the analysis stage of the research. Participants and I met three times to address when their gender was an issue, and to discuss possible connections between their experiences and feminist post-structural insights.
Transcripts of the initial sessions were submitted to five analytic readings that addressed plot, voice of I, process level of interaction, links to cultural contexts, and power dynamics within the study. This five reading approach was then synthesized into individualized accounts that were presented to the participants for feedback on two separate occasions.
Gendered identity emerged as an identity that was intrinsically connected to race, sexual identification, and class. Even though oppressive gender dynamics initially seemed explicit, further discussion with participants showed that there were many dynamics, particularly those connected to privilege, that were not apparent in the absence of pedagogical interventions.
Participants valued the insights provided by feminist post-structural accounts even though they found it difficult to imagine others accepting the cultural changes prescribed by these theorists. While gender-focused coursework provided participants with some insight about women's issues, insight was constricted when instructors did not address feminist agendas and the power dynamics that maintained oppression. Exposing participants to new conceptualizations of gender helped them to engage in self-reflection, and as such, become more aware of the ways they were constricted by patriarchy. Most importantly, participants' (including this researcher's) reflections allowed us to propose ways that we could empower ourselves by subverting patriarchal prescriptions.
Danto, E. (2004). Connections between gendered constructions and women's lived experiences in light of feminist awareness: An empirical hermeneutic study (Doctoral dissertation, Duquesne University). Retrieved from https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/458