Women in protest and beyond : Greenham common and mining support groups
The main purpose of the thesis is to locate the study of women's protest within broader feminist debates. A critical analysis of feminist theory, methodology and practice uncovers complex problems entailed in taking account of commonality and difference in women's experience. On the basis of the study, I argue for a politically engaged feminism which includes diversity of women's interests and is committed to examining the tensions between commonality and difference. The data strongly support structural analysis underpinning experience rather than disembodied post-modernist constructions of women's fragmented identities. Principles of grounded theory and feminist methods are employed to explore women’s experiences of the Greenham protest and the 1984-5 miners' strike. The data is synthesised through themes of class and gender which emerge from it and which inform our understanding of the processes of engagement and disengagement with protest. The separate contexts of women's struggles and the links which they endeavoured to make across protest are explored through the voices of women activists. The solidaristic ideals of the miners' strike are found to be tempered by the extent of women’s support and by the contradictions which emerged for women confronted by the patriarchal power of the NUM. Orientations to Greenham suggest a fragile unity around ideals of a common womanhood which would overcome all other differences between women. Links across protest are shown to be affected by class difference, which if not an insuperable barrier to collective action, indicate significant problems in achieving a common voice for women. The study suggests that romantic ideals of sisterhood and a common womanhood, far from supporting the struggle of affiliation and co-operation between women, obscure the power differences between them. Recognition of these differences and others which potentially divide women is seen to be essential to the development of an effective feminist theory and practice.