*Note* This scheduling program was not designed by folks who do a lot with APA Style and unfortunately it defaults to listing authors in alphabetical order. We cannot fix this for this online schedule, but the author orders are posted in the order submitted in the printed program available via pdf here.
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Saturday, March 7 • 3:45pm - 5:00pm
Empowerment, Sexiness and Violence Against Women in the Age of Postfeminism

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Young women in the United States receive many messages about the appropriate way to be an empowered woman. Since the 1980s, or what has been deemed the "postfeminist" society, the popular media has linked women’s empowerment with highly sexualized displays and behaviors. The ways in which the pressures to exemplify this “sexy” empowerment influence women’s actions and choices have been explored in a number of contexts. One understudied context is that of violence prevention. While young women receive pressure to enact “sexy” displays of femininity, messages around violence prevention (particularly sexual assault) encourage women to actively avoid any bodily displays that might be read as "sexy." This in-depth qualitative study of 25 women aged 18-35 explores the extent to which women recognize this tension and the ways it emerges as they discuss personal experiences related to safety concerns, risk and violence. In semi-structured interviews, women were asked about their thoughts and practices surrounding femininity, sexuality as well as the safety practices in which they regularly engage. Thematic analysis was conducted to extract major patterns and differences in women’s reasoning about femininity and sexiness and the ways they related to empowerment and/or vulnerability for violence. A major tension in women’s femininity narratives emerged as women positioned themselves as invulnerable and agentive actors in attenuating risk, yet simultaneously constructed their feminine bodies as inherently and unavoidably at risk for violence. Interviewees actively worked to distance themselves from the “other women” who may become victims, by disaggregating the category of “woman” from femininity, delegitimizing “woman” as a category of relevance for them, and reconstructing femininity in terms of strength and individuality. Women of color were less likely to reproduce the tension between femininity and empowerment suggesting that messages equating femininity with sexiness and/or vulnerability for violence are most pervasive for white women, while women of color rely on alternative narratives of womanhood and strength. The endorsement of feminist ideology at times worked to also provide an alternative narrative of womanhood that was not opposed to strength. Implications and future directions will be discussed.

Saturday March 7, 2015 3:45pm - 5:00pm