Becky Ross

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Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

For Better or Worse? Decriminalisation, Work Conditions, and Indoor Sex Work in Aukland, New Zealand/Aotearoa (2016)

Internationally, sex workers and other people who participate in the sex industry remain subjected to social, economic, and political inequalities on a daily basis. While decriminalisation has been championed by sex workers and advocates in Canada and elsewhere, New Zealand remains the only country to have implemented this model, which is arguably the most conducive to improving the work conditions for sex workers. More than a decade post-decriminalisation, we have scant knowledge on what criteria sex workers use to choose what sectors to work from and the labour conditions existing in those locations. In this case study, I built upon anti-colonial and feminist literature by conducting in-depth interviews with 30 indoor sex workers and 10 managers to discover the advantages and pitfalls to working in the sex industry in Auckland. Placing sex workers’ voices centre stage, I explore what motivates their involvement in sex work and the meanings they attach to their work. Second, I describe the work conditions experienced within the managed sector of the sex industry, with a focus on the relations between sex workers and managers. Lastly, I further the understanding of working conditions experienced in the private sector, and private workers’ ability to create their ideal work environment within a decriminalised context, specifically worker-run cooperatives. I found that sex workers seek greater autonomy over their work processes but that constraining dynamics prevent them from doing so. These dynamics include the whore stigma, discrimination outside of the sex work community, and the presence of restrictive by-laws. Overall, my participants described a disjuncture between the rights granted by the 2003 change in law and their lived experiences that jeopardized their occupational well-being. I provide social and policy recommendations for areas related to stigma and working environments.

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Muddling through together: Educators navigating cisnormativity while working with trans and gender-nonconforming students (2016)

There has been increased attention on transgender and gender-nonconforming youth and the obstacles that they face in schools, especially in terms of peer harassment and access to washrooms. Yet little is known about those who can potentially help create more hospitable school cultures for these students, including teachers, administrators, and counsellors. This dissertation fills this gap by exploring the meanings that educators produce about their experiences working with trans and gender-nonconforming students. I draw on 62 interviews conducted with school staff who have worked with trans and gender-nonconforming students in four school districts in British Columbia. By focusing on discursive practices, this dissertation illuminates the role that cisnormativity, or the belief that the fixed and binary nature of gender is an unchangeable fact, plays in shaping the way that educators respond to the presence of trans and gender-nonconforming students and make sense of their experiences.Although the educators in this study endeavor to be supportive of these students, their efforts are constrained by cisnormative modes of thinking and by dominant discourses of diversity, safety, bullying, heteronormativity as well as what it means to be a good teacher or a young person. An analysis of educators’ talk also makes clear that they have to contend with institutional patterns and practices that can limit their capacity to imagine and enact change. In particular, dominant discursive frameworks and institutional constraints often work to enable understandings of change that focus on accommodating individual students without disrupting the normative status quo of schools. Given that this normative status quo creates inequities and exclusions in educational spaces, it is crucial to think about possibilities for intervening into dominant discourses in order to address the norms and institutional practices they help constitute. To this effect, I highlight moments in the stories of educators that offer some potential for disruption and resistance of discourses and their material effects. These moments are an invitation to consider what it could look like to move beyond accommodating individuals to consider instead how to shift school cultures to make them more hospitable to students in all of the complexities of their gendered embodiments.

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Place of promise? Queer students' negotiation of risk, danger, and safety at the University of British Columbia (2013)

Drawing on sociological, geographical, and educational research, this dissertation explores how self-identified queer students understand and engage with the University of British Columbia (UBC) campus as a ‘queer space.’ In this case study, I interview 26 queer-identified UBC students and utilize a mapping exercise in order to capture their understanding and engagement with what university administrators argue in the visioning document Place and Promise: The UBC Plan (2010) is a safe learning, living, and working environment. I utilize Lefebvre’s (1991) spatial triad of conceived, perceived, and lived elements of space, along with feminist post-structural and queer theories of discourse, subjectivity, and power to expose the spatial dynamics of queer sexualities on the UBC campus. As queer students transition from high school to the university setting, they demonstrate that the task of identifying and exploring their queer desires involves a complex and ongoing process, one that challenges the standard ‘coming out’ narrative. I have termed this process ‘becoming queer’ to indicate how it recognizes the contextual, spatial, and continual identification of queer desires, even within the university setting. Further analyses reveal how queer students actively identify homophobic, transphobic, and heteronormative discourses and practices through what I call ‘queer spatial awareness’ in an effort to create and maintain their own sense of safety and comfort on campus through their deployment of ‘queer spatial practices’. Students discuss how specific social spaces, including on-campus residences, fraternities and sororities are perceived as risky, compared to student resources, administrative, and academic spaces on campus. However, this sense of safety for queer students, especially within the neoliberal context of the post-secondary education, has the potential to constrain the possibility of enacting queer politics on campus. The dissertation concludes by considering some of the implications of this research in providing new insights into queer students’ engagement with the campus, while also offering practical recommendations for improving campus culture at UBC and beyond.

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Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Catch My Drift (2015)

No abstract available.

Heterosexual Tensions within Canadian Neoliberalism: Young South Asian Women's Negotiations Toward Sexual Autonomy (2014)

With the proliferation of neoliberal discourse in the West, there has been a congruous emphasis on the sexual freedoms purportedly available to young women. While navigating gendered, racialized, and ethnically-grounded understandings of and expectations for their heterosexuality, young women are simultaneously compelled to understand themselves as sexually ‘empowered,’ able to freely dictate the terms of their heterosexual desire and behaviour. Exploring the experiences of young, heterosexually-active South Asian women in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland, my research builds upon a burgeoning area of scholarship considering these contradictions of contemporary femininity. Through a thematic analysis of data generated through focus group discussions, with a total of twelve participants, I consider how these young South Asian women experience and make meaning of their heterosexual desire and behaviour. Ultimately, I found participants’ heterosexual experiences to be characterized by their negotiation of a central tension: while their sexual freedoms remain conditional and constrained, these young South Asian women nonetheless constructed themselves as fully in control of their heterosexual experiences and, accordingly, as individually responsible for effectively navigating any restrictive understandings or expectations that may threaten their sexual autonomy. In the following analytic discussion, I trace this tension through participants’ navigation of the heterosexual expectations encompassed within an idealized notion of South Asian femininity, efforts to work through moralistic understandings of heterosexuality, and pursuit of wanted and pleasurable heterosexual encounters.

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"Being labeled as a bride, it makes you want to punch them in the face": an exploratory study of queer weddings in Vancouver, Canada (2011)

Although the theoretical literature debating the significance, implications, and consequences of queer participation marriage is vast, only a few empirical studies that focus specifically on queer weddings have been carried out. This research examines queer weddings in the distinct political, legal, and cultural context of Vancouver, Canada. Using in-depth qualitative interviews and participant observation, I investigate the decision-making and labor practices involved in planning and hosting a queer wedding. As well, I examine how couples negotiate feelings and relationships before, during, and after the wedding. I explore these practices to illuminate how queer weddings both support and challenge the institution of marriage. My findings suggest some significant distinctions between heterosexual and queer weddings, highlighting that producing a queer wedding presents unique challenges and rewards. Without exception, participants in this study felt they had tremendous freedom to shape their weddings according to their own beliefs, values, and desires. However, I argue that their personal freedom was mediated by the legal requirements of the state, as well as by a desire to attend to the needs and feelings of their families of origin. Further, I found that the wedding industry remains unshakably heteronormative and at times homophobic, often making queer couples feel less than welcome. I discovered that weddings did present my narrators with the chance to resist heteronormativity, traditional gender roles, and the wedding-industrial complex, yet their ability to resist was constrained by the need for intelligibility. I conclude that a queer wedding is a ritual performance of legitimacy and an opportunity to experience a profound sense of validation and belonging. However, the wedding holds a unique temporal and spatial position that does not necessarily reflect everyday realities. My findings suggest that queer couples’ access to legitimacy is inconsistent, causing them to experience dissonance as they move through time and space.

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