Individuality and (dis)identification in young women's friendship at school
This thesis concerns itself with young women's (aged 14/15) discourses and practices of friendship at Hilltop, a large urban comprehensive school in the North of England. Young women's experiences of friendship are central to this thesis. This is reflected in the 'feminist research praxis' adopted, and the use of the following participatory research methods: multi-locational participant observation (curriculum classrooms, PSHE classroom, registration, corridors, dining hall, staff room, local 'hang out' areas), self-directed photography, and semi-structured group and individual interviews with young women. The use of participatory research methods when working with young women at school raises a number of ethical and moral dilemmas for the feminist researcher. These are discussed in-depth in chapter two, specifically in relation to a feminist 'politics of intervention'. Discourses of individuality and practices of (dis)identification (Skeggs, 1997) are central to understanding young women's complex and often contradictory constructions of friendship which serve to reproduce heterosexual and classed femininities. In all three empirical chapters relations of power are masked through practices of (dis )identification (Skeggs, 1997). Through the use of three case-studies chapter three focuses on young women's discourses of individuality and practices of (dis)identification. Young women's responses to 'heterosexual laddism' (Epstein and Johnson, 1998) in the 'sexuality education' classroom are discussed in chapter four. Finally, chapter five considers 'alternative' young women's discourses of 'distinctive individuality' (Muggleton, 2000) and spatial practices of (dis)identification. The material encountered in this thesis suggests that it is heterosexuality as masculinity and the 'male-in-the-head' (Holland et al, 1998) that benefits from the cultural suppression of young women's friendship through discourses of individuality and practices of (dis)identification.