Gender, Christianities, and Neo/Liberal Hegemony: an Ethnographic Exploration of Gender Discourse in a United Church Women’s Group
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This thesis explores the potential for ethico-politically committed cultural critique in investigating lived experiences of gender in the hegemonic global north, where the neo/liberal rhetoric of sexual equality tends to portray issues of gender as already sufficiently addressed. It argues that the ideological roots of dominant gender discourses can be productively explored through the interrelated histories of Christianities and neo/liberalisms that have powerfully shaped mainstream Canadian society. Supported by an extensive body of literature bringing religious studies, feminist, and queer theory to bear on sociological and political questions, this rhetoric is investigated by applying critical discourse analysis to transcripts of interviews conducted over a year of participant observation with the members of a local United Church women’s discussion group. Findings suggest a complex set of attachments, rejections, and ambivalent attitudes toward those elements of feminism that have entered into the social, cultural, political and economic discourses that have become dominant in Canada. The discussion of results considers the forces which produced respondents’ general complacency with the status quo of gender equality along with their hesitancy to make judgments about the validity of competing claims regarding gender ethics. Analysis concludes by examining the implication of these attitudes for the prospects of gender justice movements, especially those conceived in terms of allyship and coalition-building at the intersection of different axes of identity and practice.