chapter  8
Traditions and transitions: perceptions of ‘good womanhood’ among 20 Bosnian focus group participants
Pages 17

What does it mean to be a good woman and girl, and what does this mean in a coun try which has been ravaged by war and extreme viol ence? Which norms and values are embedded in conceptualizations of ‘good womanhood’, and how are these values constructed within different sociopolit ical contexts? This chapter attempts to examine perceptions of ‘good womanhood’ from the per spect ive of six different focus groups in Bosnia. The focus group inter views took place in 2002 and the focus group parti cip ants were asked to discuss how gender relations might have changed since before the war of 1992-1995, during the war and after the war. The term ‘womanhood’ commonly denotes mature female sexuality, in other words the time after girlhood and puberty. While this chapter is by no means a psychoana lyt ical study of sexuality or anxi eties, it is use ful to con sider woman­ hood along the lines suggested by psychoanalyst Karen Horney as early as 1926. An ardent critic of Freud’s theories, Horney argued that women’s anxi eties did not stem from a castration complex but from a complicated pro cess of coming to terms with a female body in a social, cultural and ideo logical power structure which favoured men’s bodies. What Horney does is place the female body in a sociopolit ical con text in which the meaning and value of the body is in ternalized and inscribed within a pat ri archal social order. The body, whether male or female, echoes Balsamo (1996: 3) many years later, ‘is not simply an outcome, it is not simply written upon, but mater ializes the opera tions of power in social life’. ‘Good womanhood’, then, becomes a norm ative term which suggests inscriptions of apt social, cultural and ideo logical power structures on the mature female body at a given point in time. It is from this starting point that this ana lysis emerges.