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Title: Exploring discourses of femininity with female patients in a medium secure unit
Author: Cooper, Kathryn Isabel
ISNI:       0000 0004 2718 3214
Awarding Body: University of East London
Current Institution: University of East London
Date of Award: 2011
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Background: It is thought that women are responsible for a small minority of recorded crime, especially violent offences. Popular explanations of female crime reify social constructions of gender, and draw on discourses of femininity. These powerful discourses dictate female behaviour, and imply that 'proper' women cannot be violent as it is not in accordance with their gender role. Little is known about the effect of these discourses on how women who have committed a violent offence see themselves. Aim: To explore how women in a medium secure unit talk about femininity. Particular attention was paid to the consequences of their talk, such as how they position themselves and other women, and the possibilities for action and resistance from these positions. Methods: Seven one-to-one semi-structured interviews were conducted with women detained under the Mental Health Act (1983) in a medium secure unit. Foucauldian Discourse Analysis was utilised to analyse the data. Results: Four discourses were generated from the data; difficulties in existing as women in a "man's world", motherhood as a natural role for women, the importance of appearance in defining femininity, and crime as a challenge to female identity. Participants talked about difficulties in achieving the feminine ideal due to both being in the unit, and others' attitudes to their violent actions, which included explanations of illness or masculinity. Consequently, they were positioned as different to other women, and their actions pathologised. They discussed possible implications of this such as hostility from others and uncertainty about future opportunities in society after discharge from the unit. Implications: Clinical psychologists are in a position to offer less pathologising understandings of violent women's actions that do not rely on dominant discourses of femininity, and to challenge these discourses which maintain social inequalities.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Clin.Psych.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available