Like a natural woman: Negotiating collective gender identity in an alternative world

Amy Chasteen Miller, University of Southern Mississippi


This article examines how women visiting an alternative, politicized community interact with the construction of womanhood presented in that context. The concept of collective gender identity is suggested as a tool for considering how ideas about what it means to be a woman (or a man) can be communicated and negotiated in microlevel interactions within social movements. The case examined here, immersion courses on midwifery in an alternative community, illustrates the use of environmental, instrumental, and social technologies to transmit a particular construction of womanhood. Findings point to ways women enrolled in these intensive courses respond to the particular meaning of gender embraced by the community. This research raises questions about the place of shared gender identity in a group context and the possible ties between that identity and larger movement dynamics.