chapter  12
12 Pages

‘Let’s get personal’: disrupting gender norms in educational organisations

WithJANICE WALLACE

Dominant organisational theories that are premised on masculinist metanarratives (Blackmore 1989) shape practices within the neo-liberal state (Coulter 1998). These theories have shunned affect, which is considered subjective, and therefore suspect, forbidden, emotional, and irrational – all associated with normative femininity – in favour of the instrumental, rational, and measurable – all associated with normative masculinity. However, feminist poststructuralists (e.g. Kenway et al. 1994) have argued that such bifurcations – that is, male/female, rational/emotional – obfuscate the complex nuances of human interaction in organisational settings. Indeed, as I will argue in this chapter, it is in the discursive terrain of the emotional in organisations where the fraudulence of this dichotomy is exposed. Further, although organisational technologies, such as bureaucracy, attempt to eliminate the effects of affect, their efficacy is incomplete given the stubborn strength of idiographic influences in organisations. Weber observed that ‘the more [bureaucracy] is dehumanised, the more completely it succeeds in eliminating from official business, love, hatred, and all personal, irrational and emotional elements which escape calculation’ (1968: 216, italics added). Weber’s statement infers that the imposition of bureaucratic rationality is always incomplete because, as anyone who has worked in bureaucratic organisations knows, the non-rational is not easily contained. As Hearn and Parkin point out, attempts to eliminate, control, or harness the energy of the non-rational are ultimately futile because ‘the reality is that organisations are places of emotion, ranging from anger to joy to sorrow, from love to hate, with characteristic emotional climates and cultures’, including sexual feelings, which are not so easily ‘managed’ (1995: 136, italics added).