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Hegemonic heterosexuality, moral regulation and the rhetoric of choice: single motherhood in the Canadian west, 1900 - Mid 1970's Open Access


Other title
moral regulation
queer theory
single motherhood
reproductive choice
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Ritcey, Joanne Marie
Supervisor and department
Sydie, Rosalind (Sociology)
Kaler, Amy (Sociology)
Examining committee member and department
Golec, Judith (Sociology)
Smith, Susan (History and Classics)
Chunn, Dorothy (Sociology and Anthropology, Simon Fraser University)
Morrow, Raymond (Sociology)
Sydie, Rosalind (Sociology)
Kaler, Amy (Sociology)
Department of Sociology

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Single motherhood has been socially constructed as a deviant identity category. Up against the master societal framework of hegemonic heterosexuality, single mothers, as a social group, have been systematically discriminated against and subjected to moral regulation. The single mother has consistently been depicted as either criminal or victim, and she has almost always been cast as an individual actor whose lot is explained in individualized, apolitical terms. The current rhetoric of choice feeds the idea that single mothers in need deserve their hardships because they have freely and singularly chosen their sexual and reproductive behaviors and circumstances. In light of the historically constructed identity position of the single mother, it is evident that a more sociologically sensitive analysis of single motherhood has been culturally suppressed. Feminism has long been adamant about the significance of the role that reproduction plays in gender inequality. Queer Theory, with its critique of the sexualization of social life, is amenable to such a perspective and is employed here to illuminate how familial, sexual, and/or reproductive realities rigidify into overarching identity categories that shape and restrict rights and freedoms.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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