DILEMMATIC NEGOTIATIONS: THE (UN)TENABILITY OF FEMINIST IDENTITY

Authors


  • Julie E.A. Quinn and H. Lorraine Radtke, Department of Psychology, University of Calgary.

  • We wish to thank all of the women who participated in the study. We would also like to acknowledge Alison Wiigs and Melody Wolfe for their transcription work and the anonymous reviewers' very helpful comments. This study was supported in part by a doctoral fellowship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Lorraine Radtke, Department of Psychology, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, AB, Canada T2N 1N4. E-mail: radtke@ucalgary.ca

Abstract

We explored how women talk about feminism and feminists and position themselves in relation to a feminist identity within a conversational setting. Nine pairs of female graduate and senior undergraduate students talked about feminism in sessions lasting 60 minutes. Sessions were analyzed using discourse analysis. Participants positioned themselves in multiple ways in relation to feminism. Notably, a feminist subject position was both difficult to take up and difficult to reject. In resolving the dilemma, to be or not to be feminist, participants drew on three interpretative repertoires: a liberal version emphasizing equality and rights, an extremist version emphasizing undesirable extremism, and a lifestyle feminist version entailing being feminist by virtue of how one lives. We discuss the implications of this multiplicity for conceptualizing feminist identity and for feminism as a political project.

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