Posts Tagged ‘feminism’

I’m back into PhD mode, currently working on the all important research proposal for my confirmation seminar. These confirmation seminars happen about a year in to the degree study and one can present (in theory) an indepth research proposal and get approval to do the PhD proper. It’s weird because you know I’m doing the PhD now, and I’ll be doing it after confirmation. It’s a formal part of the process to ensure I have something worthwhile to research now I have had a year looking into the research material. I get assessed and I get a drilling on my presentation and the topic. All good.

I’m at present beavering away at writing up the proposal and pulling together my literature review. It’s not quite structured properly yet but I’m getting there. I have really enjoyed the research part of this degree. Romance fiction, feminism, incomprehensible French philosophers are all so enthralling. I haven’t really been able to pull myself away from it to work on the creative work. But after the confirmation seminar in March, I will.

Part of my research, a very important part of my unique contribution, is the two surveys I am conducting at the moment (and when I do them this year, the selected in-depth interviews). I am surveying writers of popular romance fiction and readers of popular romance fiction. When I was putting the proposal forward for clearance the biggest concern from the bureaucracy here was how was I going to reach readers of romance fiction. These days that is easier than people think. I’ve read articles where the researcher couldn’t get sufficient readers to participate in their research. This was years ago before the big websites dedicated to romance, social media and even here the Australian Romance Readers Association (ARRA). I’ve had a really good response thanks to all those means, Smart Bitches Trashy Books, Dear Author, Twitter, Facebook, WordPress and ARRA (who have been awesome!). Authors have also been spreading the word to their readers. The response is so good that we could go for statistically significant for reader response so yes I’m still looking for readers of romance fiction. Please spread the word. Do the survey if you are a reader of romance!

The irony is that I’m sadly lacking in romance fiction authors responding to the survey, particularly in comparison to the reader response. I know there are thousands of romance authors out there. I am having trouble reaching them. Romance Writers of Australia has nearly a 1000 members, Romance Writers of America has over 10,000 members. You think it would be easy. But it’s not. I’m not a member of the Romance Writers of America for example and it’s not easy for me to wave the flag and say lookie here.

Not easy to reach popular romance authors, not easy to convince them to complete me lovely survey. Come on darlings, look over here. Look at my nice survey!

However, I’m not giving up. The survey continues.

See my previous post for details and links. HERE

me with glasses

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I’m just over two months into this PhD and I’m gaining a few perspectives into the world, as you do, and myself too.

Yesterday I read an article by Angela McRobbie and it made me think in new ways about the world and what we do to each other. This is the title of the article:

Notes on ‘What Not To Wear’ and post-feminist symbolic violence, Angela McRobbie, The Editorial Board of the Sociological Review, 2004, Vol 52, supplementary issue. (McRobbie, 2004)

It’s not the first article that got me thinking either or feeing emotional or just mind blown. Yet it was the first time I felt that I could do the methodological analysis required. Something slipped into place. McRobbie uses Bourdieu’s cultural capital to assess the changes in TV and the way females exist in this day and age. I need to understand Bourdieu and apply his framework to my own work. Now I think that’s possible. This article only came up when I googled Bourdieu and Popular Culture. It hadn’t stumbled upon it elsewhere.

The other realization I had this week was about pacing myself. I’m an intensely focused over achiever, well I tend in that direction. I can’t do that every day. I just can’t. Not for the next three years. I realized that I had to try and moderate myself. PhDs are self-directed and unstructured. You have a supervisor to provide advice and some direction, but basically it’s up to you to get the work done. For me that means trying to get it all done in a month, maybe two with constant reminders that I have three years. Three years doesn’t seem long enough sometimes. I’m enjoying it. But I don’t want to over do it and end up not enjoying it.

So the hardest lesson will be striking a balance of too much and too little and let myself breathe a bit.

Going to uni most of the week is really helpful. I thought it wouldn’t be but I find I come here and work and I’m not tempted to do housework. It will surprise you to know that I haven’t cleaned the house since I started this. My partner, Matthew, thought I’d go on a cleaning frenzy but I’m just too exhausted when I get home to do that. I’m even cooking less. Some chronic pain issues aren’t helping there either.

Guilt about attending the Jane Austen Festival over the weekend and Thursday and Friday, has lessened now that I come to this realization. I must pace myself. A little bit crammed in each day, is better than shoving heaps of info into my head and then having a brain explosion.

Balancing out the technical with reading retro Mills & Boon is helping too. That doesn’t feel like work at all. Filling out my spreadsheet is work though!


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I’m now two months into the PhD. It’s been a steep learning curve for me in many ways but others not. My day job skills come in handy and the fact that I’m researching and analysing topics that I love, means that I’m working harder than ever. I’m taking pain killers to do it too.

The first thing I needed to do was up my reading mojo. I started this well before I actually hit the uni scene. I’m still not where I should be. I need to read faster, harder and analyse more. But I’m getting there.

The next challenge is that I have a lot of topic areas to get across. I have to research a methodology. There’s no tick box here. I have to read the philosophy behind the methodology. Next, I have to research feminism (not in-depth because I’m not doing feminist research per se) but sufficient to understand it, the origins, the different schools of thought and past and current trends. Linked to this is Gender so I’m reading up on that and Queer theory. This links directly I think to my creative work, which will be spec fic with romance.

Then I need to read journal articles and books that deal with Harlequin Mills & Boon novels, with or without feminist analysis for my literature review which outlines what research has been done so I can point out where my research will add value. Absolutely fascinating stuff! OMG!

My independent research is the textual analysis of Harlequin Mills & Boon books from 1970 ish till now and also some interviews/questionnaires with romance authors and readers.

I tried develop a schedule so I could get across everything quickly. My approach of shoving all this stuff into my head led to me not reading Mills & Boon books because I was busy reading everything else. Pulls hair!

I haven’t quite got the schedule developed yet. I am being more balanced.

What I wasn’t prepared for is the change in me. Already I think I’m changed by what I’ve read. I believe I should be objective, unemotional and distanced, but I find I’m passionate, sometimes angry, sometimes so excited and happy. Maybe I need a chill pill or something. I don’t know if other Phders went through the same. It would be good to know. I’m not too upset by this. I like being enthusiastic and I know possibly in future I will have the t-shirt that says ‘don’t ask me about the Phd!’ on it. I feel like I’m surfing a wave of exploration and enjoyment. I wonder why I didn’ t do this years ago. (mostly couldn’t afford to)

I was saying to Matthew last night that this PhD might make me more of a feminist than I am now. I am a feminist but I am my kind of feminist. I’m not affiliated to any particular school. Life made me a feminist. I was subject to child abuse, I was raped at 14 (my first sexual experience) and was a victim of domestic violence and I was discriminated against in the workplace in the 1980s for being a woman. Life made me a feminist.

Feminist are known to rubbish popular romance. I can take that. I don’t  believe in that criticism because I can see feminism at work in the texts I’m reading. Not all texts but its there. However, yesterday, when I read an article about right wing Christian romances being anti-feminist (Darbyshire, P, 2002) I was enraged I think. I knew there were Christian romances out there. I thought they had no sex and took place in Sunday school. (not read one!) and then I read Darbyshire’s analysis and I was appalled by it. His analysis was great but I was appalled at the let’s blame feminism for the world’s problems he identified in the texts and put women back in their place, out of the work place and being subservient to men. OMG! This touched a deep nerve in me. I did the religious thing in my early years. No offense to my ex but I soon learned that I was lot smarter and more capable than he was. The thought that he was going to govern me in the afterlife sent me running and I haven’t looked back. I think people should be free to believe what they like, but I also believe in equality of the sexes and of race.

So that’s me. Two months in. I have a great supervisor. An excellent partner and very supportive friends.

Highland Gathering 1983

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I checked out Smart Bitches Trashy Books podcast because I’m in between ebooks. I’ve been catching up with a lot of blog casts lately! I caught up on a whole year of Champagne and Socks-easy because they are short (about ten minutes) and Alisa missed a number due to health issues (not nice but it did make catching up easy).

So I listened to a pod cast with Amanda (also from Smart Bitches) and it was about Amanda’s sex life. You know that thing people have and her being younger and using Tinder was really very interesting. Sarah’s contrast with what is actually happening with young women (admittedly not all, but some) and what is in a romance novel was a case in point. The majority of romance readers don’t like female leads that sleep around and definitely not while dating the hero. It is also frowned upon for a man to sleep around once romancing the female hero.

This got me thinking-why is this so? My own reaction is similar to those ‘readers of romance’ and why do I feel that way?  I guess for me I’m a result of my culture and upbringing. I am formed by early religious teachings-I was brought up a catholic with Presbyterian and Baptist influences. Although I’m not religious at all now not for many, many years, the influence remains.  I was also growing up in a time when woman’s role was very traditional- man and home focussed. The girls older than me got birthday and Christmas gifts for their glory box. I remember someone explaining that a glory box was the Manchester you took with you when you got married. So girls at 15 and older would get sheets, crockery, towels and household stuff to put away for when they got married.  Then women’s lib and Bob’s your uncle. World changed.

There was also a very strong focus on virginity, and if you lost that well you lost something of value and that was be shared with the ‘one’. I know it’s an old story right. I know that stuffed me up mentally for many years. That’s another story.

What this amounts to is that I’m conditioned to feel a particular way. I recognise that. Separating the conditioning from how I actually feel is hard. If young girls are equal to men then they should be able to initiate sex, have sex without commitment just like men have always done. Here, here…that’s just right. Why does it make me quake at the thought?

Sarah raised a question in the podcast—what then becomes special about the person you are with in a romantic sense? What makes them special if you have slept with so many partners? This raises questions for me too, like is sex now transactional if removed from emotion, connection and commitment? Are these questions pre- programmed into me? It’s scary. You really should listen to the podcast (link below).

Generally, I have no problem how people want to conduct their sex lives. I am happy for people to be free as long as they don’t hurt others. They have a freedom I don’t. I’m a serial monogamist. That’s the way I am. Basically, I’m too old to change that . However, this podcast certainly gave me insight into my daughters and the world they are living in, what they face day to day.

So I thoroughly recommend this podcast for romance readers and those of you who are mothers and want some insight into their reality.

The second podcast I listened to was from Nerdette and it was an interview with Caitlin Moran, whom I have never heard of previously but who is absolutely fascinating. Her interview looks at feminism and popular culture and how strong pop culture is in getting the message out there. I liked Moran’s Feminist self-assessment test.

Put your hand in your pants. Do you have a vagina? Yes, do you want to control it? Then you’re a feminist.

She also has a tea towel with the five rules of feminism. 1. Women are equal to men. 2. Don’t be a dick. 3. That’s all.

Moran mentions a fifth wave of feminism and I’m like what happened to the fourth wave? And I’m trying to get to grips with the third wave. Yet, I like her simplistic attitude. No dictating what people should wear, what their opinions must be, just cool. I’m with that.

Podcast links. N. 172  Smart Bitches


Caitlin Moran link

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