Young Women’s Feminist Identity Development: Understanding, Embodying and Enacting

Poll, A. (Swinburne University of Technology), Critchley, C. (Swinburne University of Technology), Wyatt, S. (Swinburne University of Technology)

Feminist identity (FI) plays an important role in womens’ quality of life, including their mental health (Saunders & Kashubeck-West, 2006). The aim of this study was to develop an innovative model of FI development for young Australian women, given the commonly used Downing and Roush (1985) model is arguably outdated. Nine women aged between 22 and 29 who scored highly on a measure of FI, participated in semi-structured interviews exploring topics including key experiences, self-labelling,  and enacting their feminist identity. Using a thematic analysis approach, three phases of FI development were identified: Internalisation, Exploration, and Externalisation. Overall, participants initially held neutral-negative views on feminism in their formative years, but had come to understand feminism through actively seeking information and through exposure to pro-feminist environments including university and the workplace. Having gained an understanding of feminism, these young women then confidently self-labelled as feminist and endeavoured to pass their new understandings to others. The findings of this study has highlighted the important and varying ways in which young women embody their feminist identities and incorporate their feminist identities into their everyday lives.


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Gender and Inequality