In her review of Women Voicing Resistance: Discursive and Narrative Explorations, Janice Yoder explores how well the counternarratives offered in the book function in contrast to accepted master narratives of women’s lives. Yoder notes that master narratives, which reflect dominant understandings and descriptions of behavior and social phenomena, are frequently implicitly understood and invisible. Counternarratives are important, in part, because of their ability to make these master narratives more visible so that they are examined and challenged. Women Voicing Resistance highlights several master narratives and the emergence of counternarratives to explain women’s functioning and response to oppressive conditions and expectations.
The social context affects the value of constructions that give rise to counternarratives. Some constructions useful during transitions in social attitudes do not hold beyond the specified period of change; lesbian coming-out narratives in postapartheid South Africa are offered as an example in the book. Yoder is also careful to note that counternarratives are not perfect, and like master narratives, they can fall short in efforts to foster social justice and empowerment at individual and collective levels. Yoder calls for more analysis of master and counternarratives alike, and I concur.
It seems fundamental to discuss women’s internalization of oppression and their role in their own oppression. For example, it seems that men’s oppression of women is an accepted master narrative. Is it time to counter the traditional narrative of male oppression to examine women’s engagement in victim blaming in response to rape and intimate partner violence and their role in efforts to limit women’s reproductive rights, to name a few?
By Janice D. Yoder
PsycCRITIQUES, 2014 Vol 59(37)