Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Does Size Matter in the Field?: Female Police Bodies in Online Television

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Does Size Matter in the Field?: Female Police Bodies in Online Television

Article excerpt

Introduction

The central question in this research is whether a television show about female officers depicts body size as an issue for the officers. Viewers may or may not realize that female officers may be differentiated from male officers by their peers and the public. Much of this differentiation relates to power. Inevitably, people correlate power with body size and composition. Depictions of real officers on a television show about female officers may include such perceptions. Viewers, scholars, and members of the field may be interested in how television depicts expressions of differentiation, possible stigmatization, and coping methods. The purpose of this study is to discover how, whether, and why body composition may influence female officers depicted on television. Broward County Sheriffs' professional experience as depicted by the show "Police Women of Broward County" is the basis for this research, yet studies tend to show commonality between female officers throughout the U.S. that may sufficiently support the generalizability of this study. Furthermore, sociological, psychological, and gender research theorize that traditional genders roles are partially based on size, physical dominance, and power. Traditional gender roles and female officers' work within a traditionally masculine profession suggests that the findings in this research may be generalizable to female officers and possibly to other women working in traditionally masculine occupations.

Females are usually smaller than most males, and are typically not as strong (Bonneau & Shephard, 2002). This could limit some of the raw physical power that female officers can exercise in the field. However, females may share equal agility, quickness, forcefulness, and other qualities that are relevant to policing but perhaps are irrelevant to size (Bonneau & Shephard, 2002). This research identifies whether body size is relevant to policing in this show and how it is depicted by editors, society, and officers to the public. One benefit of this study is that by demonstrating that smaller size does not inhibit effective policing, smaller officers may be given equal respect; on the other hand, officers and editors may pose challenges to notions of equality when some female officers are not physically equal to some male officers, or when people mock female officers because of their size and gender.

Literature Review

It has been well established that women in policing may experience less respect and power over subordinates (Brown, 1998; Martin, 1996; McNulty, 2012; Rabe-Hemp, 2008; U.S. v. Virginia, 1996; Vojdik, 2005). Though they can excel in police work, they are often discouraged internally from pursuing positions of authority (Brown, 1998; Martin, 1996; McNulty, 2012; U.S. v. Virginia, 1996; Vojdik, 2005). Personal and professional goals of the department may prompt colleagues to discourage women from attempting to guide male police officers, who internalize and uphold a male-driven agenda (Archbold & Schulz, 2008; Brown, 1998; Martin, 1996; McNulty, 2012; U.S. v. Virginia, 1996; Vojdik, 2005). Some officers argue that women are not discouraged from important desk work, undercover positions, investigation, or other passive positions, but that physically demanding police work is better handled by male officers (Baker, 2007; Brown, 1998; Dodge, Starr-Gimeno, & Williams, 2005; Martin, 1996; McNulty, 2012; U.S. v. Virginia, 1996; Vojdik, 2005). Size can intimidate, command respect, and can generate more physical power, often times (Brown, 1998; Martin, 1996; McNulty, 2012; U.S. v. Virginia, 1996; Vojdik, 2005). Male officers and the public may perceive female officers as being emotionally weak because of their smaller physical sizes (Brown, 1998; Martin, 1996; McNulty, 2012; U.S. v. Virginia, 1996; Vojdik, 2005). Small stature along with perceived weakness and fragility may be believed to affect females' job performance in the field (Brown, 1998; Martin, 1996; McNulty, 2012; U. …

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