7. Feminist interviews
The feminist interview method encourages and promotes a more reflexive and reciprocal approach and
seeks to neutralise the hierarchical, exploitative power relations that were claimed to be inherent in
the more traditional interview structure. This is a technique also adopted by other interview methods
such as oral history, which will be discussed later.
Through social research, feminist methods go beyond studying women as objects of investigation. Rather
they seek to challenge gender inequalities in social research and to motivate emancipatory, political
change of women's experiences in society. Moreover, feminist research is primarily concerned with gender
relations and this includes masculinities as well as femininities. Contemporary feminist approaches
acknowledge gender inequality and seek to incorporate an awareness of gender relations in the analysis
and through a reflexive understanding of interviews.
Historically, social scientific research methods have marginalised, inadequately represented, and even
excluded, women's experiences. In addition, the feminist researcher's primary motivations are to empower
women and to restructure the imbalance of equality in understanding women's experiences. In short,
feminist research challenges both the knowledge which is produced and the methods of producing knowledge.
Feminists have described the traditional interview as a site for the exploitation and subordination of
women, with the interviewers potentially creating outcomes against their interviewees' interests (Hollway
and Jefferson, 2000). One way in which feminist researchers have addressed this problem is through
treating the interview as co-constructive. For example, in traditional interview formats the interviewer
directs the questioning and takes ownership of the material; in the feminist interview method the woman
would recount her experiences in her own words with the interviewer serving only as a guide to the account.
This research method rejects the positivistic ideal of producing an impersonal, value-free and objective
account of experience. Instead, feminist researchers claim that developing a rapport with interviewees is
an essential part of establishing trust, respect and maintaining an empathetic position. Many feminist
researchers suggest that a closer relationship with interviewees can produce a more valid and meaningful
account of women's experiences. However, recent work on feminist methodology incorporates concepts
with 'difference' and shows how sometimes a shared gender is not sufficient as a means of establishing
rapport. See for example Riessman (1987), and Wilkinson and Kitzinger
(1996). This concern with difference is a central
tenet of contemporary feminist theory.
Study Title: Mental Health of Chinese Women in Britain, 1945-2000
Green, G., Bradby, H., Lee, M., Eldridge, K.,
Date of Fieldwork:
September 1999-February 2000
The aim of this exploratory study of the mental health of Chinese women in Britain
was to identify issues of cultural difference between the Chinese community and the health system in
contemporary Britain, which may have resulted in an under-estimation of their mental health problems.
Green, G. et al. , Mental Health of Chinese Women in Britain, 1945-2000 [computer file]. Colchester, Essex: UK Data Archive [distributor], July 2002. SN: 4523
Feminist interviews - interview schedule
Feminist interviews - interview extract one
Feminist interviews - interview extract two