‘Ask the woman with grey hair’: using visual approaches to raise questions about gender and ageing

Lorna Warren

This workshop will explore the intersection of gender and age through the lens of visual representations. Whether presented as real or fantasy, images transmit sets of representations and values that can influence our everyday sense of self and of our bodies and, in turn, the quality of our social and personal relations. While it has been suggested that women de-prioritise appearance in favour of health or internal characteristics as they age, physical attractiveness remains a key aspect of the feminine gender role. In a context where the media collude in centering normative femininity on women’s youthful appearance allowing (heterosexual) sex to signify power, physical signs of ageing may be increasingly harshly judged.

The workshop builds on a project – Representing Self – Representing Ageing – in which women aged from 43-94 were involved in exploring dominant representations of women in popular culture and in using creative arts to make their own alternative images of ageing. It will show examples of these images and offer critical reflection of the form and content of the images, touching on ideas about embodiment and disembodiment, denial of ageing, the anti-ageing industry and notions of transformation.

Participants in the workshop will themselves be invited to consider representations of gender and ageing and their influence on their own practices of gender and age. Thought will be given, in conclusion, to the impact of the collective use of bodies as a medium for representing everyday experiences of gender and ageing.

Lorna Warren is senior lecturer in social policy and director of learning and teaching in the Department of Sociological Studies at the University of Sheffield. Much of her research has centred on social care for older people and their carers, drawing from a wide variety of perspectives and considering age in relation to gender, ethnicity and sexuality. More recently, she has become increasingly interested by ‘user involvement’ in research, raising questions about how we come to know what we know about the lives of people who use services and the connection of this knowledge with social care policy and practice.


Considering positionality and intersectionality in the qualitative research process

Will Mason and Natalie Hammond

‘Reflexive practice’ has become a dominant theme within contemporary feminist methodology and this workshop aims to prompt productive discussion by asking delegates to consider their own experiences of researcher intersectionality and positionality through reflexive practice. Despite criticisms of self indulgent storytelling, recognising the contextual specificity of knowledge production calls attention towards how researchers’ experiences and behaviours are influenced by wider society, alongside the ways that researchers’ individual biographies and multiple identity positions can affect research findings (Stanley and Wise, 1993; Hammersley and Atkinson, 2007).

Grounded in the principles of reflexive practice, this workshop considers the intersection of multiple identities and the issues of positionality. To this end, we open by discussing our own experience of two different qualitative research projects; one exploring the lived experience of a predominantly Somali sample of male youths and the other drawing from the experiences of a female researcher conducting qualitative interviews with men who pay for sex.  Following this, we seek to generate productive discussion via reflexive insights by working in small groups to discuss and explore participating delegates’ experiences of their identity as a researcher, their position with the research field and beyond, and how their multiple identity positions intersect. Engaging in such methodological discussions presents an opportunity to produce new understandings of feminist research practice and offer further insights into the topics and environments in which we study.

N.B. This workshop will be most relevant to those who have current or past empirical research experience.

Will Mason is an ESRC funded PhD student and University Teaching Associate at the University of Sheffield.

Natalie Hammond’s research interests lie broadly in the field of gender, sexuality and online worlds. She is University Teaching Associate at the University of Sheffield and is also currently working on 2 separate research projects. First, The Phoenix Project seeks to explore the unmet sexuality, sexual health and relationship needs of those who have survived cancer. Second, in collaboration with the Physics department she is working to explore perceptions around the materials condoms are made from. She is deputy director of the University of Sheffield Centre for Gender Research and co-convenor of the British Sociological Association Violence against Women study group.


Motherhoods: Searching for Ourselves

Chanje Kunda and Phoebe Pallotti

Chanje and Pheobe will present and perform poetry and prose which describe and emote the ways in which constructions of motherhoods (and by extension, of childhoods) both limit and shape their own identities, including ethnic identities. Using academic texts on the postmodern understandings of the social construction of motherhoods, they will lead a discussion on these normative roles and their implications for our understanding of what it means to be, or have, a mother.

Chanje Kunda is a performer, published poet and creative talent, whose aim is to to use creativity, diversity and expression as tools for transforming lives.

Phoebe Pallotti is a midwife and a medical anthropologist, whose current PhD is on the health inequalities of injustice and women’s health.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s