Presentation on theme: "Fitting –in (with masculinity) This discussion will look at how pro-feminist auto- critique in combination with grounded theory paved the way for a thesis."— Presentation transcript:
Fitting –in (with masculinity) This discussion will look at how pro-feminist auto- critique in combination with grounded theory paved the way for a thesis about how firefighters develop and perpetuate their identity through their work and in so doing may help to maintain a male hegemony.
Feminist Methods Feminist research started out with a political intention to raise consciousness about how men subordinate women. Feminists make no secret of their politics Feminists undertake action research to critique masculinity and consciously favour women. And to do this by –Critiquing positivist malestream methodologies –present narrative as data; –place the researchers subjectivity within the findings; –raise the profile of women subjects and researchers; (see Jackson 1987; OBrien 1981; Reinharz 1992; Hammersley 1993; Mies 1993; Wolf 1996; Cockburn 1989, 2002).
Critique of objective research methods Feminists suggest that malestream claims to objectivity and scientific accreditation can involve a subjective prejudice in favour of men. Male Objectivity, the claim to be impartial, is simply a code that underpins the commonsense understandings that support the hegemonic gender order (suggesting mens natural superiority). In simple terms much of the feminist critique is aimed at men, in particular a critique of masculinity.
Pro-feminist auto-critique follows feminism in the critique of masculinity Following feminism does not mean helping out a subordinate in a patriarchal manner by arriving like the cavalry to save women. Pro-feminist auto-critique is not so much about elevating women, its intention is to enlighten men by raising male consciousness; In particular to suggest that mens behaviour can often be self-harming. Particularly the way some men set out to prove their masculinity.
What are men trying to prove? Mass culture generally assumes there is a fixed, true masculinity … inherent in a mans body (Connell 1995: 45) see also Pateman and Gross 1986; Cockburn 1991, 2002; Hearn 1994, 1997, 2002; Seidler 1997; Kimmel 1998). To a large extent this assumption about the natural skills that men have has led to a division of labour, which in many parts of todays society continues to operate and underpin the notion of patriarchy (Walby 1990). This assumption is very visible around the notion of proletarian labour/masculinity associated with aggression domination and physical strength (Grint 1998) Less visible but equally compelling is the way that such a swashbuckling identity can also travel to commerce, where the captains of industry compete in the cut and thrust of leadership (Collinson and Hearn 1996). A situation that is kept alive by (some) men setting out to prove that they are masculine (in a similar way to the Weberian analysis that Calvinists set out to prove their pre-destiny by the good work that they did) In so doing these men perpetuate a hegemony that continues to suggest that there are things that men do best (see Seidler 1997; Whitehead 2002) and this is something that all men can gain from whether they seek to prove themselves or not. One, if not the most, negative feature attributed to masculinity is that it creates a hierarchy that subordinates women (and weaker males) and valorises attributes that perpetuate violence (Brownmiller 1975; Dworkin 1981; Hearn 1996, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2002; Connell 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002).
Masculine violence covers a wide-ranging spectrum. Which includes: legal mass murder through warfare terrorism. violence on the street and in the home. sexist remarks that subordinate women bullying other men may also be the reason for why men have difficulty in keeping relationships and die earlier than women In fact, it may be mens desire to achieve masculinity that actually kills them, both emotionally and physically.
Reflexive study of men at work As a result of my understanding of both the theory on masculinity and pro-feminist auto-critique has led to me carrying out a reflexive critical study of firefighters A methodology that has been tuned to allow me to search for and make visible some of the invisible myths of male power. Feminism already has a project to do this in their search to expose patriarchy. However, this is often a case of the have-nots studying the haves (see Hearn 1994: 3). I hoped to use my experiential knowledge of the organisation of masculinity in the fire service to challenge some history by making visible some invisible understandings between firefighters in how they perpetuate their identity.
Some data about firefighters Many would argue that masculinity is so ubiquitous as to almost fit-in with anything that men wish to make it (Connell Hearn Cockburn) Nonetheless there would be few who would argue against the image of firefighters as overtly masculine To an extent this is proven – amongst the 33,499 wholetime firefighters in the UK are only 2.5% are women, and interestingly only 3.5% are black and Asian (HMCIFS 2006). As a consequence firefighting has become an extremely high profile male job which helps to support the self fulfilling hegemony that in turn supports common sense understandings about masculinity.
Cultivating rather than suppressing reflexive experience (see Glaser and Strauss 1967: 252; Davis 1959: ; Strauss 1987: 16; Narayan 1989). Discovering my patriarchal identity by searching my pre-academic experiences. Insight /experience as a late to arrive academic provides a potential rich source of understanding. When, as a retired firefighter, I relate to firefighters today, I seem able to reactivate some of my pre-academic understandings: to almost return home. Simple example, firefighters have a distinctive way of climbing a ladder and this is something I learnt and cannot consciously or unconsciously forget. Its like swimming it becomes automatic. Whilst climbing a ladder will be of little use in my work, the example may be. I have learnt many ways natural to firefighters from my 31 years socialisation with them. This knowledge increases my sensitivity whilst researching, and helps to explain firefighters conversations, their symbolism and behaviour.
I hold no illusion that I am objective and I admit I am using the eye/I of Kondo (1990: 8). I acknowledge that my view is subjective (and partial), just as term masculinity is subjective and partial. There can be no doubt that I know a lot about being a firefighter and contextually I argue that the fire service is my world and that academia still remains somewhat difficult to me. Not withstanding this confession, my subjectivity does not act as excuse to produce a journalistic account of the fire service and my research is as rigorous as possible (see Morgan 1987). I collect most of my data using qualitative methods of interview, observation and auto-critique, and some data through quantitative/qualitative questionnaires and statistics. This data I collate and analyse by using my own special mix of grounded theory (Glaser and Strauss 1967) and pro-feminist auto- critique. As much as any man can be, I have am a feminist in my research: the bulk of my data relies on narrative and personal reflections and I have a political agenda, which is unashamedly to challenge sexism and help the fire service with its difficulties over equal opportunities. I hope firefighters find my work accessible; that they recognise their words and my conclusions and do not see them as some far off theoretical blueprint.
Self-interrogation: a critique Considerable criticism can be made of auto-critique/self-interrogation. For example the issue of memory failure, or more specifically that insight can be contaminated by new knowledge (see Jackson 1990: 4-9; Young 1991: 392). Morgan (1987) argues, when carrying out a similar process that his was a disciplined attempt to gain knowledge. Morgan was not claiming pure objectivity, but an objective use of his subjective knowledge. This situation can put researchers on the edge of what is acceptable from qualitative evidence. The result could then be that both academics and subjects disown them. Yet, in my case I am not able to ignore the opportunities that my experience could provide to get close to firefighters. Whatever my methodological stance the flashbacks would still occur. In these circumstances, it is more likely that a disciplined subjectivity is better than a false attempt at objectivity. As with all qualitative research, my data is subjective, but I expect to sceptically analyse my experiential views in the same way I would any respondents answers (see Glaser and Strauss 1967: 253; Swanson 1986: 66, 73).
INTERVIEWING FIREFIGHTERS Firefighters are capable, quick thinkers and skilled in providing politically motivated, or right answers/images: a skill they develop in the cut and thrust of station life. What this section begins to establish is that whilst firefighters may innocently reveal delicate matters, and generally lack academic skills, they do not lack intelligence. To think otherwise is intellectual snobbery, which before writing this chapter could have led to me viewing from above (see Mies 1993: 68). Viewing from above might then have led to me not recognising the skills firefighters develop to defend themselves from: first, senior officers, whom firefighters influence by reflecting back an image officers want to see (see Chapters 4 and 5; Goffman 1959, 1961, 1997c); second, the gaze of other firefighters policing their masculinity (see Chapters 3-5). Firefighters use these skills to bring their own agendas to interviews and build images for a researcher (as well as their senior officers, other firefighters and the public). I consider that whilst some of the data that follows could equally be introduced later in the report, it is appropriate in the methodology chapter because it gives a good insight into how firefighters might try to avoid scrutiny and control what they reveal. It also contextualises my arguments in a hands-on way for firefighters and I am sure they will recognise their behaviour.
Fitting-in (the making of a masculinity)
Firefighter training Initial training of a firefighter can take between 12 and 16 weeks This takes place in a purpose built training centre where individuals are (re)socialised: –Putting on a uniform –Wrote learning –Accepting traditions
TED, aged 23, 1 years service. The first few weeks were pretty hectic coming from the building trade. I suppose the discipline really. Cos if you didnt want to do something in the building trade, you said I am not doing that. But this was all like, yes sir, no sir.
But Having been socialised into how the training school wanted firefighters to behave the new recruit then goes to the fire station. At the station there is some conflict between how the trainees was taught to obey orders in the training school and the way that the actual firefighters expect them to behave
Ken, aged 20, The training are saying you are learning the correct way and make sure you keep it going like this, but then from actual people in the job you find out you dont. …You just fit-in with them basically.
Watch Officer, aged 27, with 7 years service, looking back at when he joined. From training centre, all that really went out of the window completely. You had really to start all over again. And that was without trying to fit-in with the watch, yunnoo
All a bit confusing for the individual Joining a new team is always complicated But it can be very disorientating for the new person when there is a conflict between what the training centre teach and what the firefighters on the station expect So how do trainees fit-in with the watch?
Duke, firefighter, 25 years service, aged 51: You are not an individual; you are coming in straight away to be part of a team.
Christian, leading firefighter, aged 38, 20 years service: Well its the tradition. They need to be able to fit-in without being lairy and start telling you how to do it. If they have got a good idea, I listen, but I dont like people who come along and tell me. Yunnoo, very loud and trigger happy
Ian: aged 30, 8 years service, is a little more direct. Just keep your head down and keep your gob shut for a little while.. and see what happens.
Thats the view of the established firefighters So what do new trainees say when they get to the station?
Jack, aged 27, one years service: Keep your head down, and..and be quiet, and what have you. And then gradually.. yunnoo..like, yunnoo, you feel allowed to be yourself a bit more.
Richard age 26, one years service: I have been biting my tongue with a lot of it while I am on probation. I think it is a requirement. Em, you just take it and say nothing. There is a lot of stuff that is a bit unfair, but that is the way it is.
But then Richard goes on to say I would like to think I would like to treat someone slightly better than I would be treated myself. Not that I have been badly treated. So I asked him why did he put up with it?
Richard continues. One, I dont want to make it worse for myself. And two, I think it is a bit of respect for the blokes who have been in the job longer than I have.
Ken 20, seven months service: What they are saying is keep your head down, keep enthusiastic, ask questions and be busy and that, and that is what I am doing and I spoke to the leading firefighter - he says that, at the moment, I seem to have the right attitude; doing really well.
Roger aged 23, 1 years service: Kept me mouth shut, kept me head down sort of thing, tried to get on with my work and that and do what ever I was told.. the senior members and that. You have just got to fit-in with them haven't you?
Roger cont: Yeah, you have heard stories and that, of people who come in and mouth off and that. They never really shake that in The Job; once you get known as a tosser.
Ray aged 24, four years service. I think with a lot of people, they are expecting to be asked. It is a bit to do with your coming in as an outsider on to their sort of territory. And obviously they have got experience and knowledge they could just tell you. If you have got to go to them and ask them, it shows you respect them.
Colin age 26, six years service, There are sheep and there are shepherds, or a shepherd. And a lot of people only see that way and anything that this person says is always right. And they have got to have their own minds and you get appreciated for it at the end of the day. If people realise that you dont mind standing out from the crowd, at the end of the day you will gain respect. It will take time, but you do gain respect at the end of the day.
So I asked Colin how did the shepherds operate? Just overpowering..its hard to explain, come on lets do this and it just rolls. Starts, its like a snowball and it just gets bigger and bigger and you get caught up in it as it rolls and gets bigger. And thats the only way I can explain it in our watch.
Summary This paper has provided a brief glimpse of how pro-feminist auto- critique and grounded theory have helped me to provide an analysis of the pressures on firefighters tofit-in From this point I then continued my analysis of the data to identify that the norms and values that firefighters have to fit-in with are not always those that their managers would identify as the aims and objectives of the fire and rescue service. This led to my thesis that there exists an informal culture in the fire and rescue service that at times parallels the formal culture and at other times is more about the identity and image of firefighters What I then identified as firefighters masculinity
But do people know about this before they join?
I asked a potential recruit do you expect to change when you join the fire service?
Ken : aged 17 Probably the same way as I did coming to this college. I changed slightly, just a bit, yunnoo, to get in with people. Like you do here, you don't come and just, don't go in straight away. I suppose once you have been there you loosen up a bit more. You just become yourself.
Lee, another potential trainee to the fire service, explained his expectations about joining a watch. Not bullying as such, but piss taking and all that sort of thing at the station. I dont think it would be bullying, just a wind up like…like everyone does at college
If these two potential trainees gained entry to the fire service could it be because they understood they will need to fit in?
Fitting-in what happens if you dont? Dave Baigent