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Open Access Thesis

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Degree Type

Master of Arts (M.A.)

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During interviews with self-identified feminists (n=27), respondents express discomfort when their abortion experiences fail to match perceived expectations from the pro-choice movement. They describe a “feminist abortion experience” as eliciting a sense of relief, empowerment, and detachment. An “anti-feminist abortion,” on the other hand, involves sadness, ambivalence, and a high attachment to the pregnancy. Respondents not only self-police this boundary but also perform emotion work to change an undesirable emotional state. First, I ask how pro-choice norms and constructed and perpetuated? I find that people learn what is expected of them from the contents of pro-choice discourse and learn about undesirable emotions from their absence in pro-choice discourse. Second, I ask how feminists manage discrepancies between these perceived expectations (how they believe they “should” feel) and their actual experiences. In particular, what motivates them to change their feeling states in the event of such a discrepancy? Extending Arlie Hochschild’s feeling rules framework (1979), I argue that because of respondents’ personal and collective identities as feminists, they feel obligated to other people in the movement to have the “right kind of abortion.” Whereas the feeling rules framework suggests that people perform emotion work to achieve an ideal feeling state, I argue that they also work to avoid stigmatized emotions. Lastly, I hypothesize that personal and collective identities might also explain emotion work in other social movement contexts. When a movement politicizes and promotes certain emotions, members will feel obligated to match these norms.


First Advisor

Amy Schalet

Second Advisor

Janice Irvine

Third Advisor

Fareen Parvez