Subject positions in women's talk about female genitals
Ellis, Shannon Ruth
A critical feminist discursive approach was used to explore how and to what ends women organized their talk about female genitals. Exploration and interpretation of how the eight women in this research used talk to orient their constructed positions for female genitals, within the dyad conversational sessions, was informed by the analytic concepts of interpretative repertoires, subject positioning and ideological dilemmas. Findings indicated that these women repeatedly drew on socially available information (e.g., fictional and non-fictional literature, media, family and friend, empirical research) regarding female genitals during their dyad discussions. Shared components in the women’s accounts were organized into two opposing interpretative repertoires consistent with those identified in a selection of reviewed textual resources: powerful female genital repertoire and powerless female genital repertoire. The participants drew on both these repertoires when arguing and defending multiple, and often contradictory, subject positions on this topic. Although the women discursively demonstrated a strong pull toward a position that aligned with the powerful repertoire, their powerful subject positions were tenuous. This tenuousness may have been due to the sensitive nature of this topic, the rhetorical demands of the research conversations, and/or the untenability of an extremist position in either of the powerful or powerless female genital repertoires. Further, these women did not construct any new information in their talk regarding female genitals, thus suggesting that the female genital repertoires are discursively pervasive and constraining. This research contributes to our knowledge of talk regarding female genitals by illustrating how and to what ends women choose to organize, interpret and exclusively use existing discourses on this topic.
DegreeMaster of Arts (M.A.)
CommitteeNicol, Jennifer A. J.
Copyright DateAugust 2006