Dellinger, K (2004) 'Masculinities in "Safe" and "Embattled" Organizations. Accounting for Pornographic and Feminist Magazines', in Gender and Society, 18 (5): 545-- 566.
[A wacky but clever idea here. We know that gender is 'done' on a day-to-day basis in organizations, but how do even accountants do it? Further, what difference does it make if the work itself is strongly gendered?]
Accountancy is often seen as a masculine profession, but 60 per cent of American accountants are women. Accountants are seen as neutral instrumental rational types, often suspected as being male qualities. In particular, accountants are supposed to take a technical disinterested stance in the actual work that is done. At the same time, we know that gender politics are 'built into organizations' (546). So do accountants cope differently, and does the actual production of feminist or pornographic magazines affects the every day accomplishment of gender -- in other words, does organisational culture play a part? Connell on hegemonic masculinity seems an obvious starting point [summarised briefly page 547 -- men have to struggle to maintain their claims to privilege, and this struggle is carried in culture, affected by particular forms of relations. There is a long and useful list of studies of work practices based on this approach 547 -- 8, but these tend to leave aside organisational culture as a variable in its own right].
The accountants studied worked in different magazines, but were also mixed gender themselves. They were part of a larger sample of people working at a pornographic magazine and at a feminist magazine. Details of the sample are given on 548. 22 of them were accountants, 10 at the feminist magazine and 12 at the [soft? ] pornographic one. Six of the 10 were heterosexual men. Five of the 12 are heterosexual men. Men tend to be more senior than women. The organisational culture seems strong in both work places, with images from the magazines widely distributed around the offices, and an attempt to build solidarity. Semi structured interviews were recorded and then coded. This particular article looks at personal motivations, responsibilities and reactions, and the workplace culture. There was also participant observation at both organizations. Findings may not be generalisable from this'extended case method approach' (550).
Male accountants tend to separate work from the personal world as part of their '"business professional attitude"' (550). Masculinities are not simply reproduced in their classic form, but are constructed in both work places. However, some work places see conventional dominant masculinity as 'safe' (supported by workplace culture), while in others it is 'embattled'or challenged.
In the feminist magazine, accountancy is seen as 'the last bastion of masculinity in the women dominated company' (550). In response, 'the men in accounting use three main strategies to construct a discourse of difference and separation that takes the form of us versus them' (550). These, first in the feminist magazine:
'Strategy No. 1: I Am Not a Feminist'. Men mostly do not discuss feminist issues at work, and keep quiet about their views. More long-term workers show how people are simply unable to avoid controversial issues. This can mean avoiding talking to women very much, or talking differently to them -- not including them in 'informal "guy" talk... [or]... use of informal nicknames that emphasise their power as men' (551). They can openly disapproved of the magazine itself, as excessive, as forcing women to take a stance, and contrasted their own family lives [as more realistic?]. The magazine is seen as boring, readers are stereotyped. The women accountants also distanced themselves from any feminist commitment, on the grounds that they did not wish to be forced into choice.
'Strategy Number 2: [the feminist magazine] Is Not a "Real" Business''. The men contrast their understanding of the 'business professional attitude' with how the magazine is actually run, especially in terms of the ruthless pursuit of profit. Here, apparently neutral business terms are cloaking ideology (553), since notions of bureaucracy and capitalism are compatible with masculinity. Feminist business practices do not seek to maximise profit [because they focus on a niche readership, possibly a lesbian readership]. In this way, criticism of content can be smuggled in as a '"pure business decision" that any "businessman" would make, not as a personal, political perspective' (553). [Any academic will be able to pick up strong echoes of recent policy making in universities here]. In a proper business, men are in charge, and there is some cynicism about women being in charge -- for example, one describes the morale boosting meetings as a 'fluff job' [as in those who cheer up male porn actors]. Women accountants expressed disappointment at their lack of opportunity, and saw this as particularly hypocritical with a feminist magazine.
'Strategy Number. 3: Joking about Feminism and Feminist Women at Work'. Men express a feeling of being outnumbered by women, and often tell jokes about the women who work at the magazine. They denied that these are discriminatory, even though some women have been upset. Women workers tend to ignore such jokes, and sometimes get their own back by describing men as emotionally lacking, or even that they were dominated by women.
In the pornographic magazine, men can resist their workplace culture without risking their own sense of masculinity. Here, the issue is defining sexuality 'in opposition to lower class and working class men's sexuality' (556). The same sort of strategies 'involving distancing and joking'are evident, but with a different content:
'Strategy Number 1: "I'm Not That Kind of Guy". Male accountants distance themselves from what they imagine to be the typical readership -- men who sexuality is out of control, and therefore approach 'the negative stereotype of the pervert or "slime ball"' (557). They sneer at the articles and other topics, and see the magazine 'as a tabloid or a joke, in contrast to the men who were rumoured to read it for the articles' (557). Men are keen to avoid any impression that they would harass women, and some even described the magazine's representations as degrading. This can be seen both as classic male protection of women but also 'as a genuine concern for their women colleagues' (557) A manager actually defines himself as a feminist, supporting women, but not accepting that they are systematically penalised. There is a line between '"doing masculinity"... [and]... "sexual harassment"' (558). Men who feel safe may be more able to make alliances with women!
'Strategy Number 2: Criticising the Magazine as "Cheesy"'. Accountants also criticised the magazine for catering to a narrow readership, which guards their own superior status: they all advocate a move up market. Here, the business attitude smuggles in white collar attitudes. The men separate their work from the magazine contents -- and both men and women can use this separation 'define themselves in opposition to the sexual nature of the magazine together' (559). Both genders normalise the work, and both attempt to develop a suitable professional attitude. Women accountants also see the contents as low quality -- 'women must distinguish themselves from the women who pose nude in the magazine' (560). Again, the lack of challenge to safe masculinity in this magazine helps everyone maintain a professional identity.
'Strategy Number 3: Locker - Room Joking'. Men joke with other men once they leave work, and gain status from being associated with a sexy magazine. There are fantasies that they gain sexual favours from the models. They engage in sexual banter and joking, even in the Office, at least among other men are. They joke about their female workers in this way as well. They'd to comment about the pictures in their magazine, even in front of other women, but would not wish to offend 'older women', or others unfamiliar with the contents: those familiar with the contents are assumed to be immune or jaded (561). Women even join in this joking, sometimes as part of an act -- one in particular deliberately makes her conversations explicitly sexual, which involves 'the boys generally', even if her women assistant is embarrassed (562). This person attempts to 'out guy the guys' (562). However, 'she can be used as an example that all women should be have to take this kind of joking and that women who are not able to do so are unreasonable' (562).
Overall, organisational culture does seem to be an important variable in the ways in which men do masculinity at work. There is an important distinction between safe and embattled masculinity and the strategies they evoke. Embattled work places seem to produce greater differences, where 'men define themselves in opposition to feminism' (563). In safer areas, men define themselves against other kinds of men, in [social class] terms. Thus strongly feminist organizations seem to risk a backlash against women and the creation of 'alternative subcultures at work'. Safer forms of masculine work culture enables men to achieved identities more easily, and to allow women to adopt masculinity in order to get along. In such work places, there are even 'small, unexpected spaces in which men and women can work together' (564). In embattled work cultures, men need different images of masculinity [instead of the inverted or oppositional sub cultural forms].
Finally, hegemonic masculinity may take different forms, at least in terms of 'configurations of practice' (564). It is not just historical variation that we need to examine, but how definitions vary from one place to another. Hegemonic masculinity tends to assume one dominant construction of masculinity, and one major role for it in legitimating patriarchy. This article argues that 'There are multiple "answers" to the problem of the legitimacy of patriarchy... actively constructed in different contexts' (564).