Respectable Femininity and Intra-gender Regimes of Regulation: Experiences of Women Elite Leaders

Sharon Mavin, Gina Grandy

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

Abstract

This paper focuses upon how respectable femininity, an ideological construct reflecting a set of behavioural norms, plays out for women elite leaders in UK organizations within a context of competitive masculinity. Historically, respectable femininity reflects norms from the 19th/20th centuries with expectations of women dressed modestly, showing self-restraint,sober and well mannered (Fernando and Cohen, 2013) and is achieved by meeting prevailing rules of behaviour and appearance (Skeggs, 1997). We extend emerging research into modern day respectable femininity in Sri Lanka (Fernando and Cohen, 2013) and in India (Radhakrishnan, 2009). Analysis highlights how women elite leaders live within paradox; negotiating the inherent masculinity of elite leader and expected femininity of wider societal culture and surfaces the interplay between respectable femininity and gendered expectations of the elite leader role. We offer dynamic regimes of intra-gender regulation as women self regulate and regulate other women’s bodies against constructions of respectable femininity.

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