1994 volume 12(6) pages 727 – 750

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McDowell L, Court G, 1994, "Performing work: bodily representations in merchant banks" Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 12(6) 727 – 750

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Performing work: bodily representations in merchant banks

Linda McDowell, Gill Court

Received 24 January 1994; in revised form 17 August 1994

Abstract. Not only is the workplace a significant site of the social construction of feminine and masculine identities but in an increasing range of service sector occupations, a gendered bodily performance is a significant part of selling a product. In this paper, we draw on Butler's notion of gender identity as a regulatory fiction to investigate the consequences of the specificity of embodiment and gendered performances. Drawing on three case studies in the City of London, we explore the differential fictions constructed by men and women engaged in interactive service work in a professional capacity in merchant banks. We examine the ways in which women are embodied and/or represented as 'woman' in the workplace, comparing women's sense of them selves and their everyday workplace experiences with those of men doing the same job. Our aim is to establish whether the necessity of selling oneself as part of the product in such service sector employment challenges the idealisation of male workers as disembodied rational subjects, while not necessarily disrupting the inferior position of embodied women.

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