Gender theorists over the past 30 years have criticised the ways that men and women are often portrayed by society (in books, newspapers, TV, etc.). In particular such theorists have pointed out that the roles, occupations and behaviours traditionally associated with men are often portrayed as the main norm for evaluating everybody’s conduct, leading to a hierarchy of value. Use the obituaries and codes developed in Exercises 1 and 2 to carefully compare the different ideas about men and women found in these data. Write a short theoretical memo exploring whether the hierarchy of value proposition does, or does not, hold true in your obituaries.
When all of the obituaries used in Exercise 1 have been coded, write a short (no more than 20 lines) paragraph on what the data as a whole says about (a) ‘what makes a life meaningful’ and (b) ‘the personal and social qualities of people as found in obituaries’. If writing these two paragraphs leads you to consider changing any of the original set of category labels note this on a memo card, with the reasons why.
Select a newspaper or magazine which regularly publishes detailed obituaries of famous people. Use theoretical sampling to select between 10 and 15 different obituaries of a similar length – with the objective of selecting a range of issues (i.e. what the people were or did to make them worthy of an obituary), occupations (e.g. scientist, politician, artist, businesspersons etc.) and equal numbers of men and women. Starting with the first obituary, begin to construct a set of category labels grounded in the text which describe (a) what was important in the person’s life and (b) the qualities by which the person is described (dedicated, inspirational, high social standing, etc.). Do this for successive obituaries, noting on coding cards both where a concept or idea used in an earlier obituary recurs as well as developing different cards whenever a completely new idea is presented
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