An Exploration of the Identities and Gender Discourses of a Taiwanese Woman: A Case Study of a Working Mother

Yen-Chun Liu

Research output: ThesisMaster's Thesis

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This exploratory study sets out to examine the identities of a Taiwanese woman in the 21st century. Adopting the case study as a research strategy, I probe into a working mother’s life story to understand firstly a Taiwanese working mother’s perspectives on her family roles as a wife, mother and daughter-in-law. Secondly, I investigate how social institutions, which transmit different and often-conflicting Confucian and non-Confucian “gender discourses” influence her identities.

This thesis adopts narrative interviews as the major method to probe into the life story of a Taiwanese working mother. The dimensions of domestic work and childcare, verbal communication, marital sex and looking after parents-in-law are examined in order to understand how she has taken on gender discourses and developed identities through her contact with different social institutions. Informed by post-structuralism and feminist theories, I consider the Taiwanese working mother as an individual who has “agency”, meaning she recognizes and values her ability to use and integrate gender discourses into her sense of self through the process of self-attribution.

My research results found that “differentiation” “reflection” and “reflexivity” are themes that play important roles in affecting how a Taiwanese working
mother perceives herself as an individual and defines her social and family roles. The findings also show that a working mother is able to negotiate different gender discourses. Despite the influence of the Taiwanese Confucian gendered binary, her interactions with different social institutions, especially her native family, counselling services and women’s self-help groups, enable her to develop a sense of “who I am”. She is able to reflect on her life experiences and perceive gender discourses in a critical manner and thus take on gender discourses that she identifies with to develop her own identities.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Harman, Vicki, Supervisor
Award date1 Feb 2013
Publication statusUnpublished - 2013


  • gender, identity, Taiwanese women, working mother

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