Centre for Gender Studies

Student Research Projects

Our taught and research postgraduates engage in a variety of fascinating projects under supportive expert supervision. Below you can find summaries of research projects carried out by students in Gender Studies.

Crisis pregnancy care and the not-so-hidden agenda

When a woman has an unplanned pregnancy and seeks advice from a Church-run centre, how likely is she to receive impartial advice on her choices? This was the question that Gender Studies postgraduate Zillah Holford set out to answer in her dissertation.

Zillah focused her project on CareConfidential, an organisation which provides information on behalf of over 150 church-run crisis pregnancy centres around the UK. As well as distributing leaflets, CareConfidential also promotes itself online, and it was these sources that became the primary research materials for the dissertation.

In analysing the various materials, the project looked at the range of rhetoric and discourses in order to determine the extent of any anti-abortion stance. Having used qualitative content analysis and thematic coding to study the text, a number of discursive themes emerged that would enable Zillah to gauge what agenda, if any, was shaping the information being given to pregnant women.

The work identified ten themes. These were: taking time to think; emphasis on continuing the pregnancy; medical misinformation; emphasis on choice; claims to impartiality; conscience/instinct/’deeper feelings’; fulfillment of motherhood; normative gender discourses; positive consequences; and negative consequences.

Her findings were unequivocal and identified a serious problem for women seeking impartial advice. She concluded that CareConfidential operate from an anti-abortion political stance, and that their information materials are informed by this ideology.

Race and the 'lactivist' movement

The pro-breastfeeding lobby – so-called  ‘lactivists’ – is a movement that is rooted in neoliberal thinking and economics. But what part does race play in the movement, and how does its ideology translate across social and cultural structures? Trish, a Gender Studies postgraduate, examined these territories in her recent research project.

Her source material was geographically diverse, including e-interviews with seven black mothers from the United Kingdom, the United States and South Africa. She also studied international blogs and parenting groups to gain a clearer picture of the different sides of the breastfeeding debate and understand how it differs in various countries and cultures.

This research involved deconstructing the symbolic role played by breastfeeding in the promotion of ‘good’ motherhood as the preserve of white, middle-class women. Trish also looked at how black women’s experiences are simultaneously included and excluded, celebrated and appropriated.

These finding formed the basis of a report that shines a new light on a subject that has been around as long as womankind, yet still has the power to excite passionate debate.

Gender and crime on TV

Gender Studies postgraduate Emily set out to explore the differing ways that men and women are portrayed in true crime stories on television. Specifically, she studied the relationship between gender and crime in the language of the scriptwriter.

Her source material was two series that examined the work of often notorious criminals from both sexes. Emily compared the six-episode series Martina Cole’s Lady Killers (2008), which focused purely on female murderers, to the six episodes of ITV’s on-going series Real Crime, which re-tells a number of crimes involving men.

The methods Emily employed in studying the language from both series included discourse analysis and aspects of semiotic analysis.

She found that the language used quite convincingly upheld the traditional assumptions about gender and crime. This was particularly true in terms of attributing crime to innate badness and it clearly shaped the way male and female offenders were described and depicted.

'Lad culture' on social media

Recent media coverage has highlighted the seamless migration of ‘lad culture’ – typified by misogyny and sexual banter – into online communities. Izzie Young, a Gender Studies postgraduate, has completed a thesis examining this phenomenon and focused particularly on the construction of sexual violence found on Facebook banter pages, Uni Lad and The Lad Bible.

Izzie started by considering second-wave feminist approaches to pornography and theorisations of 1990s lad culture in the context of the burgeoning new media communities. She found that these debates still had a great deal of relevance with reference to today’s online environment – even though the context of the behaviour has changed, the behaviour itself has not.

Using focus groups and visual data analysis, her primary piece of research found that seeing banter sites as ‘communities of representation’ is a useful tool for understanding how sexual violence is conceptualised both online through ‘humour’ and in real life. It also reveals that lad culture has embraced digital technology and is thriving online.

Izzie was able to conclude that moving beyond deterministic second-wave discussions of the spheres of representation and action is crucial for successfully engaging with this topic.