This article draws on solicited diary entries detailing the lives and loves of eight young undergraduate women at an elite institution of higher education in South Africa.
The research participants are occupants of a privileged place in society with access to education, and a middle-class lifestyle, have control over their reproductive functioning, are not wives, mothers or homemakers, and potentially have access to fulfilling, status-rich and materially rewarding occupations which make independence both of their parental families and of male partners a real possibility.
Theirs then, is a world of information, choice and opportunity and if of anyone at all in society we would predict the emergence of a critical gender consciousness, it might be of these women. One way of gauging the extent of the emergence of a critical consciousness among women is to examine the extent to which, in the stories they tell about their intimate relationships, they depart from, or conform to both the content and structure of the traditional romance genre and in particular, to the positioning of themselves in their stories as passive, submissive, dependent subjects while their partners are dominant and active.
The present article argues that far from the democratisation of intimacy, the young, seemingly privileged and empowered women in the study remain locked into romantic narratives of love with their concomitant passive construction of femininity.
In a social context characterised by putative sexual emancipation, these young women find themselves in the unenviable position of having to play a game of liberated sexual and gender politics while at the same time living a reality of feminine oppression.
The images become central points in defining femininity through entering everyday practices and discourses …. Young women immersed in popular culture are exposed, from an early age, to narratives of romantic love. In fairy tales the prince rescues the princess from fire-breathing dragons and wicked witches so that they may fall in love and live happily ever after.
The romantic novels that women read later in life remain faithful to the fairytale genre Sue Jackson, Romantic love stories often have in common both a number of core features of their content as well as having a typical narrative structure. Highly stereotypical versions of masculinity and femininity are central to how these stories work.
The princess is typically cast as passive, submissive and in need of rescuing while the prince is strong, brave, adventurous and capable of doing the rescuing. His kisses are literally life-giving while his sword dispatches evil. As for the classical romantic narrative structure this typically comprises the encounter or first meeting, Asian Women Vol.
Writing over a decade ago, Anthony Giddens, in The Transformation of Intimacy, suggested that notions of romantic love need not be interpreted as inevitably or only having oppressive consequences. Romantic love presumes that a durable emotional tie can be established with the other on the basis of qualities intrinsic to that tie itself. Yet, as Giddens also remarks, whether or not this radical potential can be realized is uncertain: The present article sets out critically to examine this claim for the positive potential of notions of romantic love in the intimate relationships of young heterosexual women.
The research draws on solicited diary entries detailing the lives and loves of eight young undergraduate women at an elite institution of higher education. Theirs then, is a world of information, choice and opportunity and if of anyone at all in society we would predict a relatively enlarged arena of possibilities for playfulness and choice with regard to gender and sexual identity and expression, it would be of these women.
Different modes of ordering our personal lives - as parents, lovers, husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, friends and relatives - involve contesting the hegemonic modes of masculinity and femininity. Conventional femininity is passivity, helplessness, victimisation.
These dominant constructions of masculinity and femininity remain powerful and unequal. They constitute the structural conditions under which young women enter into heterosexual encounters and they may or may not be resisted. These sites are, as Stewart puts it Critical consciousness in this context, then, is the ability to recognise the socially constructed nature of dominant discourses of femininity and masculinity, and it is only through critical consciousness that the possibility exists for a radical reorganisation of personal relations.
Asian Women Vol. In a social context characterised by putative sexual emancipation, these young women find themselves in the.