Women as perpetrators of violence: Meanings of gender and violence in the tabloid press and in the narratives of women imprisoned for violent crimes

Tutkimustuotos: OpinnäyteVäitöskirjaArtikkelikokoelma


Public discourse tends to position women who have committed crimes of violence as deviant ‘others’ who transgress gendered expectations about proper womanhood. This othering is commonly linked with tendencies to make sense of violence committed by women in stereotypical and reductionist terms. This dissertation analyses the construction of women as perpetrators of violence in both crime news in the tabloid press and the narratives of women imprisoned for violent crimes. By approaching the topic through different sets of research materials, and by integrating a variety of perspectives and analytical approaches, the dissertation opens up new ways of conceiving gendered dynamics of violence and, in particular, the relations between women and violence. Theoretically and methodologically the dissertation draws primarily upon feminist poststructural theorizations and critical discursive psychology, and is focused on ways in which meanings attached to gender and violence entwine with processes of being identified and identifying oneself within socio-cultural intelligibility. The dissertation comprises four sub-studies, two of which focus on analyses of tabloid news reports and the other two on the narratives of women serving a prison sentence. Sub-study I investigates how relations between gender categories and violence are constructed, and how notions about gender are drawn upon in making sense of lethal intimate partner violence in tabloid news reports. Sub-study II explores the ways in which women’s violent action is made sense of in terms of agency and the constitution of identities in the reports. Sub-study III focuses on the ways in which imprisoned women negotiate their positionings and identities in relation to culturally circulating conceptions about womanhood and violence. Finally, sub-study IV focuses on meanings attached to violence in the imprisoned women’s narratives, and on the discursive and affective processes through which those meanings entwine with the enactments of selves. Overall, the analyses illustrate different, context-specific ways in which femininity is referred to and drawn upon in positioning women in relation to violence in both tabloid news and in imprisoned women’s narratives, and shed light on the gendered ambivalences and paradoxical socio-cultural valuations and expectations that femininity entwines with. The analyses also show multiplicity in the meanings attached to violence perpetrated by women, while pointing to the specific prevalence of individualistic modes of meaning-making that emphasize individual agency. While such an emphasis tends to tie violence to the character of women suspected of violence and deepen their deviance in the tabloid news, in the imprisoned women’s narratives it frequently appears as a means for defending against otherness and gendered vulnerability. The dissertation contributes to the development of approaches to exploring relations between gender, womanhood and violence that accommodate complexity and thus work against dichotomies and reductionism. Furthermore, it charts theoretical and methodological experimentation that combines an interest in discourse and affects, and facilitates the viewing of social-psychological practices of gendered identification as both adaptive and patterned.
Myöntävä instituutio
  • Helsingin yliopisto
  • Berg, Päivi, Valvoja
  • Ronkainen, Suvi, Valvoja, Ulkoinen henkilö
Myöntöpäivämäärä10 marraskuuta 2017
Painoksen ISBN978-951-51-3279-6
Sähköinen ISBN978-951-51-3280-2
TilaJulkaistu - 10 marraskuuta 2017
OKM-julkaisutyyppiG5 Tohtorinväitöskirja (artikkeli)


  • 5144 Sosiaalipsykologia
  • sukupuoli, väkivalta, naiseus, identiteetti, toimijuus, affektit, iltapäivälehdet, sosiaalinen konstruktionismi

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