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Re-thinking masculinity : discourses of gender and power in two workplaces.

Shepherd, Matthew (1997) Re-thinking masculinity : discourses of gender and power in two workplaces. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

The proliferation of academic studies of men and 'masculinity' in the last twenty years has mirrored the growth of feminist studies of women and gender relations. This thesis reflects upon these theoretical developments and examines the expression of 'masculinity' amongst employees in two contrasting workplaces in Yorkshire. Adopting a Foucauldian approach, it is suggested that 'masculinity' should be analysed as a set of practices which create, maintain and reinforce inequalities between the sexes and that their achievement is situationally contingent. From this perspective, masculinity can only be understood within a framework of power, conceptualised as relational, productive and existent only in its exercise. Critical evaluation of the 'masculinity' literature demonstrates that conventional conceptualisations of 'masculinity' have produced methodological impasses, of which the most problematic is the conflation of 'masculinity' with the study of men. The thesis proposes an alternative framework which recognises that discourses of 'masculinity' relate to the words and actions of women as well as of men and that 'masculin~y' is most profitably understood as a series of discourses - transcending the scale of the individual - which set out the 'rules', expectations and conditions within which everyday gender relations take place. The empirical investigation of these ideas adopts a qualitative approach. In-depth, repeated interviews focusing upon participants' work experiences and home lives were carried out with men and women from the two workplaces - an academic department within a university and a manufacturer of metal products. Interview transcripts were interpreted using an "analysis of discourses" method. The analysis reveals that despite obvious differences in the labour processes of the workplaces, there is considerable continuity in dominant discourses of 'masculinity' regardless of participants' age, social class and, most significantly, sex. These discourses are identified as "reproduction", "breadwinning", "homemaking" and "sexual objectification". The research demonstrates how discourses of 'masculinity' structure gender relations within the workplace at an interpersonal scale - in everyday interactions - and at an organisational scale - as reflected by sexual divisions of labour. It is shown that these discourses can be space-specific, with the negotiation of power in gender relations often more difficult in the workplace than in the home. The thesis concludes by reflecting on the implications of the study for future research on men and 'masculinity' and for geographical studies of gender. It also discusses the potential for a more closely related research agenda between feminism and the study of 'masculinity'.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Feminist studies; Women; Gender relations
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield) > Geography (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.480670
Depositing User: EThOS Import Sheffield
Date Deposited: 13 Dec 2016 15:10
Last Modified: 13 Dec 2016 15:10
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/14914

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