Discourses of 'femininity': studies in the social psychology of gender
The intention of this thesis is to examine representations of gender and gender roles in a variety of discursive situations, using the methodology of discourse analysis (a systematic method of investigating natural language data). Within this brief, the aims of the research are twofold. Firstly, I wish to provide a criti9ue, informed by discourse analysis, of several of the major approaches which have been used in the study of gender in the social sciences. To this end, the text contains critical reviews of the sex — stereotypes literature (as epitomised in the work of Sandra Bern), the study of female moral development (as envisaged by Carol Gilligan) and the psychoanalytic perspective (represented by Nancy Chodorow and Karen Homey). In addition to the above, I shall also look at some recent trends in gender research, considering developments deriving from psychoanalytic theory, deconstructionism, poststructuralism and social identity theory. The theoretical aspect of the thesis will be concluded with a section on issues of language, methodology and ideology. The second aim of the research is to conduct a study of the practical application of discourse analysis. A number of pilot interviews and the review essays delineated three areas as important: women's conceptions of social change; images of gender in everyday discourse; the female self — concept. Each of the three empirical chapters will consider one of these topics, comparing the expectations of existing social psychological work to the findings generated through the discourse analysis of the data. The conclusion of the thesis is that discourse analysis is a particularly useful methodology for considering data of the type presented in this project, as it circumvents many of the problems encountered by more traditional social psychological research methods.