Publisher: Northumbria University
Types: Doctoral thesis
Subjects: L300, X200, X300
This study explores the processes involved in the construction of female aspirations and expectations. Early research has a male centrality that excludes female experience which is seen as deviant. More recent research makes aspirational predictions based on single variables such as education or class, or works with single cohorts of participants. My interest lies not in what a woman's aspirations and expectations are, nor with making predictions, rather, I am concerned with the processes involved in how aspirations and expectations develop, in how these processes remain stable or change over time. By processes I am referring to knowledge constructions. Taken-for-granted knowledge has asserted that women naturally aspire to wife and motherhood. Regardless of the seeming inviolability of such knowledge, it does not represent absolute truth; it is constructed from discourses imbued with vested interest, power and control. Thus, from a social constructionist perspective, I explore the discourses instrumental in the construction of women's aspirations and expectations and the associated power structures that limit or expand women's options. I show that discourses are not static, that constructions change and are socio-politically historically relative. Survey data provide broad views that inform in-depth interviews. Voices from the literature form an integral part of the account and are not presented separately. A narrative analytic strategy synthesises all the voices to form a multi-layered socio¬political, historically situated oral history of two generational cohorts' aspirationallexpectational development, cohorts I have designated mature women and teenage women. In conclusion I show that legislative changes alone are insufficient to change women's aspirations and expectations. The mature women in the study illustrate how traditional discourses impacted on their lives and how, although individual agency is difficult, it is possible to bring about change which influences the options available to future generations of women. The teenage women in the study, whilst cognizant of increased opportunity and equality discourses, illustrate the persistence of traditional discourses and the conflicts they face in navigating their own lives.
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