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Title: Negotiating power, resistance and control : young women's safety in bars, pubs and clubs
Author: Brooks, Oona
ISNI:       0000 0004 2736 1279
Awarding Body: University of Stirling
Current Institution: University of Stirling
Date of Award: 2009
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Contemporary young women would appear to enjoy greater freedoms to consume alcohol and socialise in bars, pubs and clubs than their predecessors. However, concern about women’s level of alcohol consumption, drink spiking and drug-assisted sexual assault have contributed to a renewed focus on safety advice for young women in these social settings. This thesis examines the views, experiences and behaviours of 35 young women in relation to their safety in bars, pubs and clubs using qualitative data from interviews and focus groups with young women (18-25 years) in Scotland. Exploring the divergent claims made within feminist structural and poststructural perspectives, this thesis develops a nuanced understanding of young women’s safety in bars, pubs and clubs by drawing upon the theoretical concepts of power, resistance and social control. Constraints on women’s leisure imposed by patriarchal structures, safety concerns and notions of ‘appropriate femininity’, formed a significant focus of early feminist theorising in this area. More recently, however, poststuctural feminist theorists have highlighted the opportunities that leisure experiences may offer women for liberation by providing a means to resist conventional cultural discourses around feminine identities. To a certain extent, the findings from this study challenge the conventional construction of consuming alcohol and socialising in bars, pubs and clubs as a masculine leisure pursuit, by identifying this leisure activity as a central aspect of young women’s social lives. However, young women’s experiences and behaviours within bars, pubs and clubs remain significantly structured by gender and young women perceive the risks that they experience in these settings to have increased over time. The continuing salience of gender is evident in the way that women access bars, pubs and clubs, their safety concerns and experiences, and ultimately their behaviour within these venues. Young women’s safety concerns in this context are overwhelmingly related to the fear and reality of sexual violence, lending credence to social control theories espoused by radical feminists. These concerns and the individualising discourse embodied within safety literature results in women normalising and taking individual responsibility for preventing sexual assault. This reflects the positioning of sexual violence as an inevitable fixed reality, thus evading the need to question the behaviour of men who choose to sexually assault and harass women in bars, pubs and clubs. Safety behaviours adopted by young women in bars, pubs and clubs are complex and contradictory in that they simultaneously adopt, resist and transgress those advocated within safety literature. Since these safety behaviours are inextricably linked to normative femininity and gendered expectations of women’s behaviour in bars, pubs and clubs, they are more adequately theorised as ‘accommodating techniques’ than ‘resistant practices’. These findings pose significant difficulties for locating women’s experiences of consuming alcohol in bars, pubs and clubs within a poststructuralist framework of liberation and freedom; in some respects, it would appear that women’s behaviour within these social spaces is subject to heightened regulation and control. While poststructural theorising about power and resistance is of some assistance in illuminating the process of how safety concerns regulate women’s behaviour, alongside the possibility of resistance, understanding young women’s safety is best served by an appreciation of feminist structural perspectives which highlight the salience of gender, and in particular the power of gendered norms and taboos which continue to operate with regard to women’s sexuality. Ultimately, bars, pubs and clubs remain a social space infused with gendered expectations and risks.
Supervisor: Malloch, Margaret; McIvor, Gill Sponsor: Scottish Centre for Social Research (ScotCen)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Gender ; Safety ; Feminist Theory ; Power ; Social Control ; Resistance ; Leisure ; Alcohol ; Women ; Risk assessment ; Women Scotland Alcohol use ; Women Scotland Social conditions ; Women Crimes against Scotland ; Social norms