Academic journal article Resources for Feminist Research

Hearing and Writing Women's Voices

Academic journal article Resources for Feminist Research

Hearing and Writing Women's Voices

Article excerpt

This article explores questions about chronicling the experiences and hearing the voices of women financial workers, the subjects of the author's research. What is meant by documenting women's voices? What is the place of the feminist researcher's voice? Can a feminist researcher document women's voices other than her own? How do we "translate" women's voices into academic text? To paraphrase Sherry Gorelick (1996), is giving women voice, enough? How do we "hear" and "write" women's voices, and what happens when we try?

Introduction

An issue recognized early in the development of feminist methodology was that the voices of women must be heard in feminist research. A central tenet of feminist research is the documentation of women's voices faithfully and with respect for women's experiences. The purpose of this paper is to explore and analyze my struggles to chronicle the experiences, and hear the voices, of the women financial workers who have been the subjects of my research. In particular, I examine here the following questions: what in fact is meant by documenting women's voices? what is the place, or role, of the feminist researcher's voice? is it possible for a feminist researcher to document any woman's voice other than her own? how do we take into account, deal with, perform, the "translation" of women's voices into written academic text? and, to paraphrase Sherry Gorelick (1996), is giving women voice enough? In short, how do we "hear" and "write" women's voices, and what happens when we try?

I explore my concerns in the following manner. In the next section of this paper I briefly discuss selected feminist methodological literature which illustrates the importance of documenting women's voices, and the work of feminist researchers who analyze the inclusion of women's voices in written feminist research. I also specifically refer in this section to the work of feminist anthropologists from whom I have been able to gain some insights with respect to the textual representation of women's voices in academic research. This is followed by a section in which I explain why and how I have attempted to include women's voices in my own research, and in which I examine and analyze the problems which have surfaced in my efforts to write about women's lives. Finally, I synthesize the work discussed in earlier sections to suggest how my above-mentioned questions might be answered and my contributions to feminist research be furthered.

Writing this paper has allowed me to accomplish several things. In my attempt to hear and write women's voices, I have reflected upon how I have done my research and how and why I have written my research as I have. Through these reflections and by exploring feminist efforts to grapple with the complex issues involved in documenting and textually representing women's voices in academic research, I have discovered that giving women voice in written texts is not only insufficient, but by itself, impossible and undesirable. Those texts are constructions, a blend of experience, research and theory which include a multiplicity of complexly interwoven voices: those of the women who are subjects of the research as well as my own analytical but always subjective authorial voice. Consequently, documenting women's voices in written text is not easy nor straightforward, involving as it does a complex interplay among the voices, privilege and contributions of all those involved in the research. Uncovering this complex interplay has been difficult for me in that I have resisted acknowledging and hearing my own analytical, and privileged, voice in my work. However, coming to terms with this difficulty has been worthwhile. I now have a better understanding of how my personal, political and academic interests have affected, and have changed as a consequence of, my research. Moreover, this paper has given me the opportunity to challenge my limits and to more fully appreciate my research participants' experiences and voices in conjunction with my own. …

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