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3 words: I love you. [part 2]

Hollway argues, see first part of 3 words: I love you , that gender-differentiated subjectivities are built upon subject positions which are made available for the category ‘man’ or ‘woman’ – but they remain unequally available. This strikes me as quite ‘mid-1980s’, and as a particularly ‘British Feminist’ perspective. I want to find out how much things have changed, and how a less UK-centric view and experiences look like in 2010.

In the late 1960s England had about 2,000 single-sex schools, at the end of the 20th century there were still 400 of them. The first single-sex school was founded in 1440, that was famous Eaton. In stark contrast, in today’s Finland there is not one single single-sex school in the entire country. Iceland introduced (!) single-sex kindergarten in the late 1980s, France and Germany think co-education the most successful way towards socialisation based on equality between sexes.

No doubt, understanding differences in sex and gender requires a thorough look into cultural differences. Living in a place, London, where every second person is foreign-born has made me even more of that. Language itself tells us a lot about a population’s notions of sex and gender. In Finnish, for instance, only one first person singular pronoun exists: han [hän, hAn]. It is sex-neutral, gender does not play that large a role in this linguistic sense. Nevertheless, Finland is a pioneer in gender equality – in 1906 its National Assembly was the first in the world that adopted full gender equality. Finnish women were the first who gained the right to vote.

The German language does not have a direct translation for the English term ‘gender’. The concept that denotes the socially constructed and learned traits of what it means to be male or female in contrast to the biologically determined characteristics (i.e. the English term ‘sex’)was only introduced by help of European policies (gender mainstreaming). On an everyday basis, however, the German language is obsessed with gender: every noun requires categorisation: neutral, female and male grammatical genders specify things: a tomato is female, a chair is male, your breakfast remains neutral. Problematic are [new] terms such as ‘Email’ which have been adopted from the English. Some people obsess over the question whether ‘Email’ (all nouns are capitalised in German) is female or neutral.

In 1984, when Hollway constructed her argument, sex education in mixed classes was standard in German secondary schools which even then included lessons on contraception (N.B. home schooling is illegal in Germany, so there was and is no opt-out). This makes me wonder to what extent a discursive analysis that does not take into account any cultural or national differences can be convincing.

I recall a Californian friend of mine, about twice my age, stating a few years back in Berlin that ‘Americans do love their family but they like their friends’. I argued the opposite to be holding true for Germans. I remembered my experience as a holiday language student in the late 1990s in Malta where we had English conversation classes and were asked to debate controversial topics to ensure we would practice our language skills. Hot buttons were abortion, HIV/AIDS and love. One male student in his early 20s from catholic Munich, Bavaria, vehemently refused to state he would ‘love’ his sister – but he confirmed he’d like her, very much so. Love in this cultural context has a distinct sexual undertone, which is why ‘like’ is the preferred and socially accepted norm.

A purely linguistic focus seems to miss the subtleties that are embedded in language: social practices, taboos, age-related awkwardness etc. They cannot be captured in the concept of power – which certainly holds true for some cases (parent-child for instance) but not necessarily in all peer-to-peer cases. Hollway did not seem to perceive women and men as genuine peers or agents who hold potential to negotiate the terms of being or becoming peers.

One of the interview excerpts she quotes is quite thought-provoking. Sam is a man who was in hope of living with Jane. He tried to live with three other women before and he does not want to live on his own.

He says that “[t]here’s too many things all wrapped up in coupling […] too many needs it potentially meets, and there are too many things it frustrates. I do want to have a close, a central-person relationship, but in the past, the negative aspect outweighed the positive dramatically. Or my inability to work through them has led me to run.”

“I’m frightened of getting in deep […] a lot of these things aren’t really to do with sexuality. They’re to do with responsibility.”

“When I say to somebody, who I’m making love to – I’m close to, when I say, ‘I love you, I love you’ it’s a word that symbolises letting go. […] What frightens me is that word, it’s an act of commitment. Somebody suddenly, expects something of me. They’ve said something, that’s the first word in a long rotten line towards marriage. That’s when you fall in love, you’re caught up in the institution.”

“And it’s been an act of principle for me, that I can love somebody, and feel loved, without feeling any responsibility. That I can be free to say that I love somebody if I love them. Be free to feel.”

I have no idea how old Sam was when he gave this interview and talked about the power of the meaning of ‘I love you’. Would a man beyond retirement age who had all his life spent with one woman hold a similar view? Is the utterance ‘I love you’ itself related to social markers such as age, gender – or social class? Has ‘I love you’ become so value-laden or invested with connotations that fear is a near ‘natural’ response?

Hollway argues that ‘I love you’ (as the signifier ‘letting go’) is “suppressed by its capture in the discourse which positions women as requiring commitment. Which means men need less commitment? The implication strikes me as simplified. Hollway quotes from an anti-sexist men’s magazine (Achilles Heel, 1979):

“For men (heterosexual) sex works out as a trap because it’s the only place where men can really get tenderness and warmth.”

“But they have no skills to evoke these things because there is nothing in the rest of our lives that trains us to do this.”

This would suggest men have been brought up and continue to live lives as islands. Does that ring true? Of course, as I mentioned above, single-sex education may have contributed significantly to some of these notions but on the other hand, men who were brought up by women must have had some exposure to their ‘skills’ in terms of tenderness and warmth (i.e. outside sexual encounter). Supposed, all women are tender and warm, all the time – a stereotype we need to question.

What Hollway seems to ignore altogether is the probability that men (and women) may be able to learn (by reflexivity, be encounter, by formal education) what it means to be tender, committed and warm – without ‘paying the price’ of a sexual relationship when what is desired is actually ‘only’ tenderness and warmth. What she seems to suggest is a biological reductionism somewhere embedded in the discourses that construct gender subjectivities. These subjectivities (or gender identities) seem to be static and fix over the life course – and, they seem to be focused on the heterosexual other. Trapped in the web of power and ‘unspeakable deeper needs’, that is also what Martin suggests:

“People’s needs for others are systematically denied in ordinary relationships. And in a love relationship you make the most fundamental admission about yourself – that you want somebody else. It seems to me that that is the greatest need, and the need which, in relationship to its power, is most strongly hidden and suppressed.”

This is about vulnerability, trust and feeling accepted – or rejected. The strong sense of insecurity Martin conveys makes we think about fear of rejection as a learned response. After all, most people share these feeling and a sense of insecurity when they open up to others and when they commit themselves to others.

Part of this is rooted in a sense of risk – but risk considerations become more dominant when we commit to people who make us feel insecure about being accepted. If we express our love (in an utterances or otherwise) and override the sense that the person may feel under pressure to commit too or that our partner holds high expectations as to what has to follow upon that 3-word utterance, we actually do not trust our own instincts. On the other hand, challenging the idea that there is a universal notion as to what ‘I love you’ implies and entails, is a healthy way to free oneself from the burden of literature, films and lyrics we grew up with, internalise and forget to review.

We may live in relationships that have never heard the ‘I love you’ and still, they are marked by deep commitment and love. On the other hand, there are numerous relationships that have established rituals, that resulted in obligatory phrases for both partners. For instance ending every phone call with ‘luv you, hon’. A routine that may make many Germans cringe, it’s not exactly a socially accepted practice outside the couple’s private space. There are also the film moments which make us cringe: Bette Midler’s CC Bloom in ‘Beaches’ (1988) offers her lover an ‘opt-in’ version similar to Stevie Wonder’s “Did I Hear You Say You Love Me”. Although, Midler’s character adds an interesting question: “or was that part of your routine”? Finally, there is also Patrick Swayze’s ‘ditto’ (German: ‘dito’) in Ghost. Does it make you cringe or smile with pleasure – or does it appear to be so remote and constructed to you, it does not trigger any emotion?

There are our friends who offer us a deeply felt ‘I love you’ (German: ‘ich liebe dich’) which we can take, without a hint of doubt, in all its beauty and commitment. There are sexual partners who commit and still don’t have to panic over marriage and the ‘institution marriage’, they offer us the equally deep and committed ‘I like you’. Whatever we say as expression of our love, a lot depends on how we feel about ourselves. How we feel about ourselves is not static and fixed, rather, it is fluid dependent on a range of factors. One of these factors is the degree of exposure to different cultures, ideas different to those taken for granted in our environment as well as our ability and willingness to review them. But then, there are also factors such as illness or a plain hangover, which may undermine our sense of self and increase our vulnerability.

The extent, to which we buy into certain discourses, valid at a certain point in time and in a certain spatial context, is vital to the sense of rejection or acceptance we may experience. What it means to be a woman or a man (I do not discuss queer, gay and lesbian at this point because the paper that triggered my post was based on heterosexual relationships, but of course, I don’t mean to exclude these identities and perspectives) is not only determined by dominant discourses around us – say, men and women’s magazines such as Playboy or Cosmopolitan: it’s all about looks, sex and reinforcing stereotypes – but it is also about how we establish trust and communication with the other person. The way we negotiate meaning within a relationship is what creates the meaning of ‘I love you’ in our relationships. If we forget (or fear) to talk about our genuine needs, we may never get beyond mediated clichés.

What actually prevents us from expressing our ideas about tenderness, warmth, commitment and all the fears and pain that seem to come along with it, is a whole different story. I wonder to what extent our activities on Twitter and Facebook, Flickr or Youtube help us to develop those skills. Do they offer us space to think about love and relationships?

Prior to these sites it used to be books, films and music that made us think or that shaped our wants and being wanted. Also, they shaped our silence and the way we found things to be ‘unspeakable’ – think about watching a steamy scene on TV – with your parents. In those decades between Hollway’s research and today’s social networking sites, what does not seem to have changed, though, is the many subtle shades those 3 words ‘I love you’ can acquire. I would love to your views on that.

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Discourse analysis: key concepts Wordle

Discourse Analysis – key concepts and aspects in a Wordle, see below.

BBC interview with Diana, Princess of Wales, 1995 (transcript)
Garfinkel, Harold
Goffman, Erving
Sheffield Hallam University, UK: list of resources
Wetherell, Margaret

My DA image presentation by Follow this link to print my DA Wordle or send it to a PDF maker. If you require a screenreader version please email me at bbohlinger [at] googlemail [dot] com and I will forward an RTF or text only in an email to you.

Discourse Analysis Wordle

discourse analysis: key concepts and aspects in a Wordle

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Research Methods – the useful material

Following on from my previous two posts, here is a list of very useful material I recommend for studying Social Research Methods including

  • research strategies and design,
  • literature review,
  • ethics and politics of research
  • sampling,
  • qualitative and quantitative methods,
  • as well as data analysis,
  • writing up social research and presentation of findings.

BRYMAN, A. (3rd ed.) (2008) Social Research Methods. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Resource centre including Flashcards, Multiple Choice Questions etc. as well as some hands-on Excel data analysis/tutorials. More useful links in relation to each chapter to external sites: weblinks by chapter. The book is also listed on Amazon, where you can search inside: Bryman’s Social Research Methods on Amazon.

DE VAUS, D. (5th ed.) (2002) Surveys in Social Research. Abingdon: Routledge.
de Vaus’s Surveys in Social Research on Amazon. This edition comes with a massive number of weblinks which de Vaus has listed on his site. Further de Vaus links, site set up by an OU student: who publishes under Ariadne and also some handy notes related to the OU’s DT840 study guide .

LEE, Carl et al. , Central Michigan University.
Tutorials and Movie Clips (based on SPSS 9.0 and 10.0) with transcripts

LEVESQUE, Raynald in Montreal, Canada SPSS tools

OpenLearn SPSS is a step-by-step online tutorial which covers adding variables, obtaining descriptive statistics, correlation, independent t-tests, and paired samples t-tests.

ROWNTREE, D (1981) Statistics without Tears: An Introduction for Non-Mathematicians. London: Penguin Books.
a classic on Amazon, search inside.

SEALE, C. (ed.) (2004) Social Research Methods – A Reader. London: Routledge.

SOPER, Daniel offers a free calculator for multiple regression as well as a great overview of numerous concepts on his Free Statistics Calculators site which is an excellent online support source for last minute revision, pop-up windows will save you time.

TROCHIM, William M.K. Social Research Methods is another incredibly helpful site. Well structured and illustrated.

SPSS Version 15.0 Learning Module includes T-tests, Chi-square tests, correlation, ANOVA (Analysis of Variance) as well as a detailed, well-structured discussion and explanation of Regression among their SPSS Webbooks.

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Research Methods – DT840 and beyond, review of course books

As announced in my earlier post on Research Methods and Skills
I am providing here a brief review of the books which present the set books in my current post-graduate course on research skills and statistics, i.e. the Open University post-graduate course DT840 (DTZY840). The assessment (5 assignments and an exam) is based on the following materials:

LE VOI, M., Sapsford, R., Potter, S., Green, A., Redman, P. and Yates S. (2008) DT840 Course and Study Guide. Milton Keynes: The Open University

POTTER, S (2nd ed.) (2006) Doing Postgraduate Research. London: Sage.
This set book by Stephen Potter – OU Professor, specialist in transport strategies, and course team members – is available on Amazon. There is also a companion which contains related links and chapter excerpts: Potter companion on Sage which, unfortunately, appears to be neglected: 3 listed links out of 4, supposed to connect to ethical frameworks, turn out to be broken. Some of the course assessment is based on the online sources which you will need to find elsewhere. I have listed ethical guidelines in a separate box on the right hand within this blog.

SAPSFORD, R. (2nd ed.) (2007) Survey Research. London: Sage.
Also this one is available on Amazon, interested readers can: search inside. The reviews on Amazon are throughout very negative and the reviewers have gone into great detail with their substantiated critique. It’s helpful to read them and keep in mind the following problems with the material:

  • Lack of a glossary
  • Minimalist link list and Index
  • Key concepts such as triangulation not mentioned
  • Discusses online research settings only very briefly, insufficient
  • References to chapters/figures/boxes/tables rather than to pages
  • 1st edition had attracted equally negative reviews
  • 16 pages contain substantial errors: in formulae, explanations of concepts, tables are wrongly labelled etc. Luckily the OU provides a list of corrections, but it’s not comprehensive and you will need to constantly check and correct.
  • Carelessly compiled bibliography: referencing appears to follow random systems and lacks consistency (the OU prefers Harvard referencing style also in this course).
  • Unclear structure with a wordy approach

[N.B. To make matters worse: NO previous exams available – as common for the majority of courses on OUSA site, yet 1 exam specimen paper is delivered by OU.]
Here is a site which lists Sapsford’s content without providing any evaluation: Sapsford content, overview by OU student.

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Andy Field’s Discovering Statistics using SPSS – a student review

As mentioned before in my post on Research Methods and Skills here is a review of the book by Andy Field that has proved to be most helpful in my current post-graduate statistics course:

FIELD, A (3rd ed.) (2009) Discovering Statistics using SPSS. London: Sage.

For this 820 pages oeuvre there is a companion available with a number of student resources such as multiple choice questions and a flash card gloassary. Field’s companion on Sage
I got the edition which includes a 13 months student licence for SPSS Version 17.0.

Here are a number of reviews on Amazon . It is the most user-friendly, smart-structured, and accessible as well as entertaining Statistics book I have come across. If you are a busy student with more than a commitment to studies, try this. Field is doing a fantastic job in providing an all-you-need volume which does not step into the trap so many other authors seem to be unable to avoid. All those who believe they can fragment statistics and provide either the maths only, or the SPSS only or some statistics chunk food that leaves you unsatisfied as you still don’t understand how to apply findings to a case other than the model discussed.

Field’s book provides a 16-pages glossary, 7-pages references, index plus an appendix which contains the following:

  1. Table of the standard normal distribution
  2. Critical values of the t-distribution
  3. Critical values of the F-distribution
  4. Critical values of the chi-square distribution

There is a separate chapter about SPSS, the environment, the viewer, the SmartViewer, the syntax and more. A list of mathematical operators, Greek symbols and English symbols comes in very handy, so does the brief maths revision
EasyMaths .

Each chapter highlights at the end the important terms which is very useful for revision. There are self-tests, references for further reading and interesting real research as well as areas which explain either ‘strange dialogue boxes’ (in SPSS and how to make sense of them) or concepts (such as degree of freedom).

The chapters are structured in a clear manner, the language is clear and terms are explained throughout so that you won’t have to flip nervously through several books at the same time and do the work a smart author and editing team would have done for you. Formulae and tables produced in SPSS are displayed in a logical manner, for instance the dialog box to be selected in SPSS is followed by a scatterplot which in turn is illustrated by SPSS outputs. The latter are also explained in detail so you know what they actually mean, how to write them up in a conventional way, how to analyse them and how to interpret the outcome. Key terms have been printed in red and the SPSS dialogue boxes also come in colour.

Recoding, for instance, is explained for those using the recode function in SPSS but also for those who do a lot of recoding, there is the syntax and a related file on the CD. There is a number of data sets available to play with, Field has chosen to provide areas such as the impact of Viagra on a person’s libido (getting those on board who are tired of jobs in postoffice.sav or the little inspiring government statistics on traffic) in order to explain ANOVA (analysis of variance).

Field’s Statistics Hell is also very useful and offers:

  • Lectures on frequency distributions
  • Handouts: SPSS: t-test, frequency distributions and correlation

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Statistics makes me cry – Andy Field makes statistics sexy

„Statistics makes me cry“ – how many times have I seen this over the past months? Too often, I decided Friday night, when I submitted the last piece of coursework for the Research Skills and Survey Methods Master’s course (DT840 / DTZY840 at the Open University which is a compulsory course for the MSc in Human Geography Research Methods, MSc in Management and Business Research Methods MSc in Psychological Research Methods, MSc in Research Methods for Educational Technology MSc in Social Research Methods, MSc in Technology Strategy Research).

With only the exam to go, in October, I felt it is time to write a brief review and summarise the sources I have been using in order to make this least of inspiring courses more useful. Good news first: the course contributed significantly to me growing up as an independent student who critically evaluates sources. I also learned to make hard choices: do I need to gain marks only or will I need to understand the concepts in depth? And hence, perhaps disagree with the course authors which may make me loose marks on the short term but gain on the long term, in future projects. Sadly, it seems, students still have to make such kind of choices, in my case that included discussing with the staff tutor a change of the allocated associate lecturer.

The bad news: at more than GBP1300 you expect a minimum of quality of teaching material – prepare yourself for disappointment, unless you spend a little more on secondary literature and some additional time on the internet. Make the most of it – and enjoy the inspiration that comes with leaving the tightly demarcated patch called „you won’t need to know this for the next paper, exam etc“. There is no rule that says you cannot grow more independent before having finished your PhD.

So, above, in a separate post I will publish a list of resources I have been using with comments and links, hoping you will find it useful or add whatever you think should be added.

And before I forget: my deepest thanks to Dr Andy Field who helped me see the usefulness of statistics, who made me laugh and who made me believe that also writing a statistics book can be real fun (according to all the photos he included and all the references to the 1970 and 1980s). No doubt, he’s heard that before. And he’s been officially rewarded for his teaching talent. I don’t take enthusiastic lecturers for granted, as you may have noticed…

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