Alex Poll Investigation of the definition, measurement, and development, of feminist identity

  1. Thesis title: Investigation of the definition, measurement, and development, of feminist identity
  • Author: Alex Poll
  • Year awarded: 2020
  • Abstract:

Using a mixed methods approach, this research aimed to explore the development of feminist identity in order to gain a greater understanding of the role it plays in the lives of young Australian women today. The specific aims of this research were to develop and validate a multidimensional measure of feminist identity, and to develop a new theory of feminist identity development derived from the qualitative responses of nine young female feminists.

Through a rigorous scale development process and the responses of 1493 (women = 81.8%, men= 16.6%, other genders= 1.5%) respondents aged between 18 and 75 years (M= 31.55, SD=11.37), a new measure, the Feminist Social Identity Scale (FSIS), was created. This 36-item scale measures feminist identity components across 12 different subscales and was found to have high validity and reliability. A latent class analysis, expert evaluation, and test-retest reliability analyses further supported the psychometric properties of the scale.

Using this newly developed measure, nine young Australian feminists were selected to participate in one-on-one semi-structured qualitative interviews exploring topics including key experiences, self-labelling, and enacting their feminist identity. Using a thematic analysis approach, three phases of feminist identity development were identified: Internalisation, Exploration, and Externalisation. Overall, it was found that the women had internalised messages around gender and feminism throughout their formative years, and through developing a curiosity and affinity towards feminism had come to learn about feminism through engagement within pro-feminist environments including university (i.e., Exploration). Once the women had gained confidence in their own understanding, they began to embody their feminist identities, enacting their feminist identities in their everyday lives, and striving to pass on their understandings to others (i.e. Externalisation). The proposed theory of feminist identity development argues that it is not a linear process, but an ever-evolving cycle.

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Image credit: Alex Poll, Women’s March Melbourne, 2017

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