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Title: The discursive maintenance of gender inequality : analyses of student and Internet discussions
Author: Peace, Paul
ISNI:       0000 0001 3480 139X
Awarding Body: Sheffield Hallam University
Current Institution: Sheffield Hallam University
Date of Award: 2001
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This thesis contributes to a relatively small but burgeoning body of feminist and critical discourse analytic research into the social construction of gender and gender inequality conducted within critical social psychology. It begins by critically discussing the various theories of gender within the discipline. The thesis is an explicitly political endeavour. As is discussed, all work is political even if it fails to acknowledge this. This research aims to be openly reflexive about its ideological underpinnings and the historical and cultural climate in which the work emerges. Feminist theories of gender are also critically discussed. Having explored the various theories of gender and their relative de/merits, the adopted feminist social constructionist approach is explicated. Such an approach addresses the main failings of other approaches which are variously centred around, for example, inattention to power, language, multiplicity of identities and genders, essentialism, self-contained individualism and the historical, cultural and contextual relativity of meaning. These issues are explicitly attended to through the chosen methodology of critical discourse analysis. Three studies were carried out. All utilise the same analytical methodology but vary in terms of context, focus and data collection method. The first study analyses the interview talk of male psychology undergraduates at a northern English university. The men were found to present themselves, and men generally, as Victims'. The second study aims to address a wide-scale problem in social constructionist work on gender which also afflicts the first study presented here. Whilst theory has shifted away from essentialism, both theoretical and empirical work continues to promote an implicit essentialism by assuming that the biological sex of participants should correspond to the gender of interest (e.g. studying 'men and masculinity'). The second study includes both male and female volunteer interviewees from a similar sample population as the first study. Both sexes were found to be bolstering inequality by constructing a picture of equality between the sexes. This was achieved through three repertoires. One overtly constructed 'equality as imminent/achieved'. Another, the 'women as oppressors/men as victims' repertoire, presents instances of women's capability of inverting men's general power. The third, 'women as manipulators', was only utilised by the women and suggests women have a more covert power which counterbalances men's overt power. This greater focus on discourses and shift away from essentialism, evidenced in the diminished interest given to embodiment and identity, is more fully embraced in the third study which concentrates on an internet discussion board. In this context, embodiment and identity cannot be known with confidence. The discussion board contributors construct men and women as internally homogeneous and oppositional groups. Two repertoires are discussed: 'communication difficulties' and 'the spokesperson'. Men and women are said to find communication between them incredibly difficult. Contradictorily, men and women are solicited for, or take it upon themselves to offer, 'insider' views on their particular sex group. Taken together, the three studies therefore represent quite different contexts, samples, and methodological approaches to the problem of the net inequality between the sexes, and contribute to a growing body of research on how inequality is maintained through linguistic practice in particular contexts.
Supervisor: Gough, Brendan ; Mcfadden, Majella Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Feminist discourse; Social psychology; Women; Men; Equality