Exploring women’s experiences of policing and the police: a thematic analysis using autobiographical narrative.
Waltham, Dawn Marie
This research aims to explore: women’s experiences; similarities and differences between the narratives; the construct of the narrative and the performative function; the extent to which the women recognise any oppressive forces and their responses; and the impact of feminist thinking upon the women and their experiences of policing and the police. Four autobiographies of women who were currently serving or who had served in the police were used to explore the issues. Particular consideration was given to how the women constructed their stories and what this said about their experiences and attempted portrayal of them and the themes that existed across all women’s accounts in relation to the police service and their experiences of it and the associated culture. A thematic methodology using narrative data was adopted which combines elements of grounded theory and a structural approach and by considering the stories of individual women it analysed what can be learned about their experiences and about policing and the police culture. Individual accounts were explored and then commonalities and themes were identified across the narratives. The common themes across the narratives and these themes tended to support the existing knowledge from the literature on the police organisation, the police culture and the women’s experience of it. There were two key themes each having three subthemes: Experiences including interactions with male colleagues, participation and feminist thought; and the police organisation including identity, police culture and power and vulnerability. There are new considerations in respect of feelings of vulnerability of which are not overly represented in the current literature. The ideas of McRobbie (2009) and Millet (1970, 2000) suggests that there is a lack of collectivity amongst women and there is evidence of everyday sexism in line with the fourth wave of feminism. The women’s experiences within this analysis are characterised by a lack of collectivism amongst the women officers; a sense of the anti-sisterhood characterised by competition and individual gains; and feelings of marginalisation.
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