Project Title: Perceiving Gender Through Frameworks of Power
Student: Jamie Chornoby ’16
Mentor: Dr. Ted Cohen
In this research, two main questions are explored: Do people see gender through lens of power in the contemporary American context, and, if so, which theory—or theories—about power best depict how people describe gender? To this aim, I conducted ten semi-structured interviews each being about an hour long. The sample was self-selected from Ohio Wesleyan University students and represents an array of genders including men, women, and individuals whose gender identities exist outside of the binary (e.g. those who are gender fluid, androgynous, transgender, etc.). This research is unique in that it encompasses a diversity of gender perspectives. Also, it recognizes that people do not base their behavior and cognition solely on objective realities about how the world works. Instead, the frameworks through which people the see their world—in this case, ideologies about power—informs how people think. Thus far, this research project has generated some valuable insights about when and how power appears in gendered thought. Broadly, interviewees connected power to multiple levels of analysis: individual, relational (between two or more people or groups), and contextual (cultural or social). Interestingly, even when discussing gender and power at the most micro levels, many participants recognized that power always exists in a social capacity. Specific topics that generated the most explicit discussion about power include economics, decision making, and the notion of personal choice. Another manifestation of power in the interviews is that when asked to justify viewpoints that conflict with their own beliefs about gender, some participants relied on terminology related to power to explain why others think and behave in certain ways.