Gender, Power, and Organisation: A Psychological Perspective

By Paula Nicolson | Go to book overview

Chapter 3

Femininity, masculinity and organisation

INTRODUCTION

What are 'masculinity' and 'femininity'? Every society has ways of distinguishing the sexes-socially, culturally, psychologically. Historically, however, the way this division has been drawn has varied enormously. What counts as maleness or femaleness in one period or cultural setting can look radically unlike its equivalents in other times or places. And similarly, how an individual comes to identify him or herself as belonging to a gender also varies greatly.

(Maguire, 1995:1)

You cannot give the concepts of 'masculine' and 'feminine' any new connotation. The distinction is not a psychological one; when you say 'masculine', you usually mean 'active', and when you say 'feminine' you usually mean 'passive'.

(Freud, 1973:147-148)

From birth, we are compelled to seek confirmation of our gendered identity. From the time we recognise whether we are female or male, before we are sure we know how those in each category are meant to behave, all human individuals actively pursue the project of 'becoming gendered' (see Chapter 2). At the same time, we are aware of the contradictions that separate experience and desire from social constraints (Coward, 1993).

In this chapter I examine the multiple levels of meaning given to masculinity and femininity and the significance for women and men in their professional life. First, femininity and masculinity operate on the level of the biological/anatomical body-hormones, genitals, secondary sexual characteristics (Archer and Lloyd, 1982).

Second, at the level of the gendered body-what the shape, size and appearance of the body means, particularly in terms of sexuality (including desire and attraction/attractiveness), reproductive role-related behaviours, the meaning attributed to hormonal/menstrual cycles through the life span, and the way women and men use their bodies to

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Gender, Power, and Organisation: A Psychological Perspective
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements viii
  • Introduction ix
  • Part I - Biography, Biology and Career 1
  • Introduction to Part I 3
  • Chapter 1 - Gender, Subjectivity and Feminism 8
  • Chapter 2 - Gender, Knowledge and Career 32
  • Chapter 3 - Femininity, Masculinity and Organisation 51
  • Part II - Professional Socialisation and Patriarchal Culture 69
  • Introduction to Part II 71
  • Chapter 4 - Gender at Work 75
  • Chapter 5 - In the Shadow of the Glass Ceiling 101
  • Chapter 6 - Sexuality, Power and Organisation 117
  • Introduction to Part III 137
  • Chapter 7 - Barriers, Boundaries and Emotion 139
  • Chapter 8 - Conclusions 154
  • References 157
  • Index 170
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