Feminine Rivalry, Partner Violence, and Inauthenticity Work

Assistant Professor in the UCF Department of Sociology Amanda Anthony, Ph.D., had her diverse research published in three articles throughout 2016.

In March, 2016, her paper titled ‘When Beauty Brings Out the Beast: Female Comparisons and the Feminine Rivalry’ was published in the journal Gender Issues.

Anthony worked with UCF sociology doctoral student Sarah Okorie and Lauren Norman, ’15, assistant professor, Delta State University, to explore how college-aged women understand the origins of comparisons and competition amongst women. Anthony and her students, with the help of UCF sociology Associate Professor Shannon Carter, Ph.D., completed interviews with 30 college-aged women. From this, Anthony, Okorie, and Norman analyzed how the participants constructed comparisons between women as seemingly inherent.

“The competition amongst women was never-ending and seemingly natural, although the participants pointed to restricted societal expectations of femininity as its origin,” Anthony said.

The team found that women drew from the interrelated topics of perfection-seeking, media portrayals, relationships, and consumerism to explain how they and other women negotiated feminine ideals. The paper explains that even if participants understood these actions as ultimately undermining their self-image, they still perceived achieving goals of femininity as connected with perfection and happiness.

The team defined these ongoing comparisons and competition as a feminine rivalry, as women perceived other women as direct competitors.

The team concluded that college-aged women use feminine ideals to bolster or secure their social positioning in a hierarchy of femininity. This is done at times in contradictory ways, which offers additional insight into connections between interpersonal dynamics, expectations, and stereotypes of women.

Anthony explained this research is important because it helps shed light on the challenges and resources that college women, including those at UCF and across the U.S., are confronting in their everyday lives.

“We take for granted stereotypes that women are both ‘nurturing’ and ‘catty,’ perpetuating ideologies that women will ‘naturally’ want to take care of others and yet will want to one-up each other,” Anthony said. “However, these seemingly abstract ideologies have an everyday effect on women, which they then face and have to exert additional energy to negotiate in their relationships across contexts.”

Anthony hopes her research exposes these important, and very real, challenges women face and help break down larger issues that can either be taken for granted or seemingly too large for women to tackle.

“We can help to support women through their college years and early adult identity development,” she continued.

In June 2016 Anthony and Xavier L. Guadalupe-Diaz, ’13(assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at Framingham State University in Framingham, Massachusetts), their paper was published in the journal Deviant Behavior.

The paper entitled ‘Discrediting Identity Work: Understandings of Intimate Partner Violence by Transgender Survivors’ explores how individuals can actively work to discredit identity work.

Anthony and Guadalupe-Diaz examined eighteen transgender victims’ accounts of intimate partner violence (IPV), based in Guadalupe-Diaz’s dissertation research, providing insight into how abusers undermine victims’ constructions of self-concepts.

The authors found two primary strategies of discrediting identity work: altercasting and targeting sign-vehicles, including controlling through props.

“By empirically examining the accounts of transgender IPV victims’ experiences, we can contribute to addressing a serious gap in research on transgender IPV victims,” Anthony explained. “We worked to expand theoretical understandings of processes of discrediting identity work within the context of abusive intimate relationships.”

While contributing theoretically, this article is also critical in addressing otherwise understudied dynamics. IPV amongst the transgender population lacks research, so that abusive power dynamics may remain unaddressed not only in the literature, but in victim services.

The article helps to begin to address other questions regarding “why people stay” in relationships and other power dynamics, such as those related to bullying, by changing the perspective and analyzing what abusers are preventing, which can be a hidden dynamic and consequence of manipulation.

Anthony’s third published paper, ‘(In)Authenticity Work: Constructing the Realm of Inauthenticity through Thomas Kinkade’ was published in the Journal of Consumer Culture in January 2016.  

Anthony worked with Amit Joshi, Ph.D., associate professor of marketing at UCF, on this time-intensive content analysis examining why critics hated Thomas Kinkade, introducing the concept of inauthenticity work, to build on prior research predominately examining how critics define works as authentic.

The researchers sought to answer the question, “How does the critical reception of a popular culture phenomenon employ a form of authenticity work to determine the cultural products eligible – or ineligible – for the status of authentic?” The team analyzed 328 documents from 1998 to 2012 related to the late artist Thomas Kinkade.

The team used the term inauthenticity work to explain how individuals, from journalists to art critics, constructedcultural work as far from authentic. They found that although Kinkade’s work was commercially successful, these critiques defined his work as mass produced, insincere, escapist, and oppositional to high art.

Anthony and Joshi concluded that such inauthenticity work reveals that even if there is greater variance in cultural products eligible for authentication, intermediaries uphold culture boundaries through critically maintaining a cultural realm of inauthenticity

Anthony explained the article’s importance in helping to address processes by which cultural products are assigned high or low status, and therefore what has greater value in society.

“By examining what is legitimated—or not legitimated—within the boundaries of art worlds, we gain greater understanding of how these high art world designations have a ripple effect into popular culture,” Anthony said. “The traits by which intermediaries designate products as inauthentic also sheds light on larger cultural values in the U.S., such as sincerity, realness, being true to oneself and others, and originality.”

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