An exploration of the gendered discourse in the talk of female facilitators of a wilderness programme

Anthonissen, Lise (2011-03)

Thesis (MA)--University of Stellenbosch, 2011.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study focuses on discourses in the talk of female facilitators of a wilderness programme. The specific interest is whether and how beliefs and assumptions regarding gender permeate their conceptions of wilderness. This study explored how gender may influence the ways in which wilderness excursions are implemented, and sought to identify discourses that may reinforce male stereotyping of the realm of wilderness. It also aimed at assessing if and how wilderness experiences challenge or perpetuate gender stereotypes. The research design comprised an ethnographic approach and took the form of a case study. The particular group - or case - being studied was the female wilderness facilitators at Usiko, a non-governmental organisation in the Western Cape that offers programmes for youth-at-risk. Wilderness excursions form a crucial component of these programmes, which draw on the natural environment as a means of promoting healing and personal growth. The epistemological base on which the study rests is social constructionist feminism. There was thus a specific focus on the ways in which participants used language to construct meaning in relation to their lives. Data was gathered through six individual interviews and a focus group discussion. It was then analysed and interpreted using a discourse analytic approach. Findings indicated that participants have ambivalent views on gender and gender roles, and associate it with both disadvantages and benefits. This ambivalence was reflected in the ways in which participants both resisted – and seemed to perpetuate a discourse of male privilege. Beliefs and assumptions about gender were furthermore reflected in the implementation and facilitation of wilderness camps, and in the ways in which women conceptualise wilderness. One the one hand, wilderness was constructed as a place where pressure to conform to gender roles is significantly less than in an everyday urban environment. This view of wilderness opens up opportunities for utilising wilderness as a place where gender stereotyping might be challenged. However, a second view of wilderness constructed it as a masculine domain. This view was influenced by the assumption that masculine characteristics, such as autonomy, leadership, risk-taking and physical strength, are needed to participate in outdoor-based activities. In this view, wilderness becomes a place where gender stereotypes are perpetuated. This also reflected in the ways in which separate camps for adolescent boys and girls are structured. This view of wilderness, as well as the accompanying practices on wilderness camps which reinforce this view, could close down possibilities for utilising wilderness experiences as a means of challenging gender stereotyping.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie studie is gerig op diskoerse in die taalgebruik van vroulike fasiliteerders van „n wildernis program. Daar word spesifiek gekyk na of - en hoe oortuigings en aannames betreffende geslag, opvattings oor wildernis deurdring. Hierdie studie het die maniere waarop geslag die uitvoer van wildernis uitstappies mag beïnvloed ondersoek, en het beoog om diskoerse wat die stereotipering van wildernis as ‟n manlike gebied versterk, te identifiseer. Dit het ook beoog om vas te stel of – en hoe wildernis ervaringe geslagstereotipes uitdaag of voortsit. Die navorsingsontwerp behels „n etnografiese benadering en maak gebruik van ‟n gevallestudie. Die spesifieke geval wat bestudeer is, is die vroulike wildernis fasiliteerders by Usiko, ‟n organisasie in die Wes-Kaap wat programme vir hoe-risiko jeugdiges bied. Wildernis uitstappies vorm ‟n kritieke deel van hierdie programme wat gebruik maak van die natuurlike omgewing as ‟n manier om genesing en persoonlike ontwikkeling aan te moedig. Die epistemologiese basis van hierdie studie behels ‟n feministiese, diskoers analitiese benadering. Daar was dus ‟n spesifieke fokus op die maniere waarop deelnemers taal gebruik het om betekenis in verband met hul lewenservaringe te konstrueer. Data is ingesamel deur ses individuele onderhoude en „n fokus groep bespreking. Daarna is dit analiseer en interpreteer deur middel van diskoers analise. Die bevindinge dui daarop dat deelnemers ambivalente oortuigings betreffende geslag en geslagsrolle koester. Dit bevat vir hulle beide voordele en nadele. Hierdie ambivalensie kon opgetel word in die maniere waarop deelnemers ‟n diskoers van manlike voorreg beide ondersteun en uitgedaag het. Oortuiginge en aannames betreffende geslag is ook weerspiëel in die ontwerp en fasilitering van wildernis kampe, en in die maniere waarop die vroue wildernis konseptualiseer. Aan die een kant is wildernis gekonstrueer as ‟n plek waar daar aansienlik minder druk is om in te val by geslagsrolle, as wat daar in ‟n alledaagse, stedelike omgewing is. Hierdie indruk van wildernis skep die geleentheid om die wildernis te benut as ‟n plek waar geslagstereotipering uitgedaag kan word. ‟n Tweede opvatting van wildernis konstrueer dit egter as „n manlike gebied. Hierdie opvatting word beïnvloed deur die aanname dat tipies manlike eienskappe, soos die van onafhanklikheid, leierskap, risiko-onderneming en fisiese krag, benodig word om deel te neem aan buitelug aktiwiteite. Met hierdie opvatting word die wildernis ‟n plek waar geslagstereotipes versterk word. Hierdie opvatting word verder weerspieël in die maniere waarin aparte kampe vir meisies en seuns ontwerp is. Hierdie idee van wildernis, sowel as die bykomende gebruike wat dit versterk, beperk die moontlikhede wat die wildernis kan bied om geslagstereotipes uit te daag.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/6462
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