ABSTRACT

In her ground-breaking essay, The Phenomenology of Consciousness, Sandra Lee Bartky describes going Christmas shopping for her nephew and niece in a toy shop. She contemplates buying gender-disruptive gifts – a doll for her nephew and a building set for her niece. But then she reconsiders, imagining how the gifts will be received by the children, and the resulting confusion and frustration among family members. Settling on musical instruments instead, she writes:

The challenge of knowing when, and if, to speak out is an inescapable element of the complex social and familial relations of everyday life, and certainly not one confined to feminism, or critical research. To speak out, however politely, can lead to discord and confrontation; to not speak out allows the presumption of agreement, producing complicity through inaction. But this dilemma – ‘Must I seize every opportunity?’ – takes on a very particular flavour, in the context of critical, social and public health research, since talk or practices that might be experienced or understood as problematically discriminatory or offensive by the researcher are, in part, the object of study.