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Wanting a “Feminist Abortion Experience”: Emotion Work, Collective Identity, and Pro‐Choice Discourse1

Sociological Forum

Published online on

Abstract

["Sociological Forum, EarlyView. ", "\nWhen pro‐choice individuals expect to feel relieved after their abortions, they often express discomfort with ambivalence and try to minimize “negative feelings.” By conducting interviews (n = 27) with feminists about their recent abortions, I examine what produces this tension and find multiple explanations. In terms of their own interests, respondents fear being (perceived as) “bad feminists” for harboring ambivalence over their abortions, and regarding others, worry that anti‐abortion activists will misrepresent their experiences to further attack abortion rights. Ultimately, I use the feeling rules framework and the concepts of personal and collective identity to explain how—in this and other social movement contexts—political affiliation shapes the way someone manages their private emotions. I also examine how the processes of emotion management and identity formation are intertwined. On the one hand, their political identities compel the feminists in my sample to express certain emotions, and on the other hand, by expressing dominant emotions, they reinforce the strength of their pro‐choice identities and what it means to have a feminist abortion. This explains why activists are more likely than non‐activists to self‐police their abortion‐related emotions.\n"]