I yet highly refined outlook of what it is

have chosen to look at the readings by Jane K Cowan (1991) and Patricia Hill Collins
(1999) because of my deep-rooted interest in discourses surrounding gender identity
and feminism, I especially like to read on research which gives a peculiar scope
of feminism and I believe the reading I chose do just that.


In this extract, anthropologist
Jane K. Cowan (1991) provides an extensive yet highly refined outlook of what
it is like to be a Greek woman or man, married or unmarried, living in a
convoluted society which is heavily family orientated. Cowan (1991) examines
the ways in which identity is formed, as she discusses, how going out for
coffee encompasses predominant notions about autonomy, morality and female sexuality.
The author questions why men in the Greek village of Sohos perpetuate elaborate
friendships with neighbours and people of the village while the women do not. This
chapter explains the way in which gender identities in Greece are not unitary
and fixed but are continually being redefined by contexts and social change.

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This text has had a significant contribution to how we grasp
gender identity in the field of anthropology in the 90s, as Cowan (1991) explores
the ways in which gender is a social and cultural construction and how
individuals experience it. This text delineates, with great detail how the “mundane”
(Cowan,1991, p180) activity of coffee drinking, which is a leisure activity for
the people of Sohos, is both gender segregated and encoded with notions around
gender differences. With the influence to renounced sociologists and
ethnographers such P. Bourdieu (1978), Foucault (1978, 1979) and Gramsci (1971),
Cowen carried out a longitudinal study which delves into the numerous ways in
which perceptions about women’s sexuality and autonomy are encapsulated in manner of sociability.
Cowan then explains how the emergence of an unfamiliar sort of leisure
establishment, described by the locals as “an attempt to create
an ambience of urban, Eu- ropean sophistication” (Cowan, 1991,
p190), the Kafeteria, has redefined the traditional separation of leisure space
between men and women and generated a new space where predominant definitions
of female personhood is contested by attracting a new demographic of young
people who no longer conform to the long-established segregated gendered

A noticeable quality to this text is that Cowan
avoided the use of complex scholarly language found in many anthropological
textbooks but still communicates a complex discourse adequately. However,
we cannot ignore a noticeable shortcoming which is that the fieldwork she
carried out is a micro level piece of research and is only representative of a small
fraction of women’s experience with gender identity, therefore, we cannot
generalise her study to give us a wider picture of how women experience
everyday sociability around the world. Moreover, Cowan’s research excludes narratives
of women from different cultures and backgrounds. I believe that intersectionality
is a crucial component when discussing identity as the variety of axis
contributing to women’s identity could added a great wealth of information about
how women experience the world. A Further weakness of this text is that it is
now dated (1991) and is only useful to as hindsight to map progress made in braking
down the segregation in in everyday sociability based on gender.


In addition, the chosen research methods may have caused some limitations
on the findings as Cowan used overt observation to gather information. Although,
overt observation is an ethical way of conducting research, it results in the Hawthorne
(Landsberger H A. 1943) effect, which is when people alter their behaviour since
they know they are being observed and attempt to impress the observer through
acting how they think the observer wants them to act, therefore we don’t
know if the girls’ opinions which the writer used to conclude the chapter are
authentic. This is because the author’s daily presence with the group of girls
she observed might have influenced their opinions on feminism and made them
feel more empower– they might feel they must hold feminist views.


exploring the theme of women’s gender identity, however, now talking it from the
theoretical perspective of sociology, I believe, unlike Cowan (1991), Patricia Hill
Collins (1999) provides a more diverse discourse which explains women’s identity
more broadly. With reference to and consolidation on texts previously written
by black feminists such as Angela
Davis, Bell Hooks (1981), Alice Walker (1982), and Audre Lorde (1984), Collins
analyses the intersections of race, gender, sexuality and
class which gives a more graspable and relatable idea of how identity is sculpted
and influenced by various axis other than gender. One quote which I think encompasses
this idea effectively is when she says, “Race and gender may be
analytically distinct, but in Black women’s everyday lives, they work
together.” – Collins (1999,
p 257) this demonstrates that female identity is a build-up of different
factors which cannot be overlooked or disregarded as the combination of them all
makes us who we are and as a result it influences the way we experience our day
to day lives.  In one of the chapters titled “Sexual Politics” I’ve noticed
that while Collins correctly identifies the history of black woman’s
relationship with “sex work and pornography” (p 387), it is disappointing that
she breaks the pattern of constantly backing up her argument with case studies,
as she chooses to ignore the experiences of any actual sex workers, but instead
privileging the voices of non-sex worker academics. While reading this chapter I
felt a sense of anti-sex work attitude as Collins’ arguments in this chapters
take an overly homogenous, outsiders view of sex workers’ lives I believe this
to be unnecessary as she is a feminist who’s discourse is mainly constructed
for female empowerment. Further, her analysis fails to acknowledge the experience
of Black trans women and hardly engages with the experiences of all queer Black
women, when comparing this reading to other feminist texts speaking of female identity,
it is barely notable that Collin fails to thoroughly investigate the experience
of LBTQ+ women, however, the main aim of this text is to shed light on how every
single aspect of intersectionality no matter how small influences our identity.


To conclude, both pieces of text have
elaborated on my knowledge of feminism and gender identity as I am now more
informed on the array of axis that can either enhance or deteriorate our experience
of our own identity. Further, I have learned