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"Daughters of the chaos" : an exploration of courses of women’s lawbreaking action Frizzell, Erin T.

Abstract

I began my inquiry into women's lawbreaking from a disquiet between what I "knew" from academic feminist accounts and what I "saw" as a worker. My understanding of women's lawbreaking came from a distorted representation of women lawbreakers as victims produced by academic feminist scholarship. This distorted representation came from a feminist practice of emphasizing women's victimhood as an explanatory framework. As a result, women have been rendered 'victims' - a representation that relies on women's object, rather than subject, status. Further, this distorted 'victim' representation fails to examine the way women can, and do, negotiate 'structures' to shape their own lives. As a result of my disquiet, I began to ask what is it about victimization that contributes to women's lawbreaking? I adapted Dorothy Smith's method of inquiry to develop a method which includes women's agency and yet retains feminist insights into economic and cultural gender inequities. This method allows one to understand agency in the context of victimization and its entanglement with lawbreaking by understanding the dialectic nature of social interaction. This dialectic understanding of action is important because we can examine not only what things come into view as structural or institutional processes, but also see more clearly the undercurrent of resistance and survival so relevant to feminism. Further, this method looks at women's lawbreaking differently - it captures women's agency as a counter-discourse to existing feminist discourses of victimization. A small research study was conducted for this thesis. Nine women were interviewed about their lives growing up and their experiences with lawbreaking. From this data, three areas were explored: "invalidation", "addiction" and "negotiation". The analysis of these themes explores, and then maps out, courses of women's lawbreaking action and how those courses are coordinated by the ruling relations. This project aims to contribute to feminist scholarship on women's courses of lawbreaking action by offering Smith's method of inquiry as a way to capture both women's agency and how that is coordinated by the organizational and social relations of ruling.

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