Friday, 14 January 2005 - 12:00 PM
This presentation is part of: Poster Session I
Locating Power!: The Gender Identity Characteristics of Working-Class Young WomenChu-Li Julie Liu, PhD, Dept. of Social Work, Tunghai University.
Purpose: When the millennium came, the world entered into a post-modern era. It is an era full of information, possibilities and changes. Unfortunately, disadvantage, sexism and classism still exist in human social context, in both the east and the west. A number of studies indicated that traditional gender identity is challenged by young women in post-modern era (Barns, 2003; Hall, 200). How do young women growing up with disadvantage and poverty construct their gender identity? How do they picture themselves in this post-modern era? This study aims to explore the characteristics of young poor/working-class/disadvantaged women in Taiwan. The results of gender identity characteristics of Taiwanese young women are compared to the literature of western working-class young women.
Research methods: A grounded theory approach was adopted. In-depth interviews were employed with 10 Taiwanese young women, aged 19 to 21. Open sampling, variational sampling, discriminate sampling along with open coding, axial coding, and selective coding were employed to collect and analyze data. Peer-debriefing and member checking served the purpose of validating research findings.
Results: The findings reveal that working-class young women sensed that they grew up in poverty and disadvantage which restricted them from many opportunities and from social up-mobility. Within this social framework, some young working-class women also experienced the abuse, including verbal abuse and sexual harassment in their neighborhood. Therefore, these young working-class women see "money" "financial independence" is the most powerful tool for them to survive in the future. They believe money will give them the power to fight disadvantage, to move away from their poor family, to free themselves from the control of upper and middle classes, and to gain equal power with men. They feel hope and do not feel as powerlessness that they believe their mothers experienced. Given the changing nature of post-modern era, they highly value independence (choices, living arrangements, and finance) and do not believe in commitment. Therefore, marriage is only an alternative and is not the ultimate choice for women. This study suggests that money, financial independence are the core values of young Taiwanese working-class women. Money is viewed by these young working-class women as a means for locating their personal power and place. Western literature (Barns, 2003; Hall, 2000) indicated that seeking self-sufficiency, voicing opinions and redefining femininity are viewed by young western working-class women as means for locating their place and survival in post-modern era. The comparison between these two groups of young working-class women suggests that working-class young women in post-modern era are consciously and eagerly finding ways to gain power.
Implications: A new perspective of gender identity construction is added to women's development knowledge. Implications for working with working-class, disadvantaged young women are discussed.
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