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Gender, Desire and Linguistic Capital in International Tourism

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Presentation on theme: "Gender, Desire and Linguistic Capital in International Tourism"— Presentation transcript:

1 Gender, Desire and Linguistic Capital in International Tourism
Kimie Takahashi Macquarie University, Australia

2 “Stewardess Story” 1980s TV series, TBS, sponsored by JAL (1983)
Average rating – 20% Chiaki Trainee stewardess Romance with her instructor Teamwork and friendship Episode 10 Chiaki’s limited English proficiency as a barrier to become a flight attendant

3 Flight attendants Gendered occupation
Language/bilingualism as a commodity (Heller, 2003) The discourse of English as a tool of emancipation for Japanese women (Kelsky, 2001; Piller & Takahashi, 2006) I’m not sure if we want drunk flight attendants on our flight, but the point that I’d like to make here is, for those interested in bilingualism and gender, it’s interesting to look at this occupation because it is a highly gendered work where not only femininity is put on sale in exchange for wages, but also language is commodified, here I draw on the work of Monica Heller, in that are crucial part of getting the job, getting their job done and also In my on-going work with Ingrid PIller on Japanese women’s desire for learning English, we’ve found that English has long been promoted as a tool of emancipation for Japanese women, as linguistic capital that will take them far beyond Japan and into an international, glamorous career including being a flight attendant. In this sense, what I want to do in the present study is to see what happens once Japanese women have obtained their ‘dream’ job overseas.

4 Aims To understand the role of language proficiency and identities in employment, job satisfaction and career mobility? To identify linguistic and workplace practices and discourses that underlie their experience of social inclusion/exclusion

5 “The role of multilingual practices and language learning in the Australian tourism industry”
Multisite ethnography Funded by a MQRDG Grant ( ) Directed by Ingrid Piller The present study is part of a larger ethnography project, funded by Macquarie University and directed by Ingrid Piller. The overall aim of the project is to look at the role of language in the tourism industry between Australia and Japan, and for the present study, we conducted semi-structured interviews with fur Japanese flight attendants in Sydney, who are employed by an Australian airline. In addition to the micro data, we also looked at their company’s website so that we can learn about their business and corporate identity.

6 Data Macro data Micro data Websites
Semi-structured interviews & field notes Dec Jan 2009 Japanese flight attendants working for an Australian airline Macro data Websites Advertisements

7 Corporate Identity An “Australian”, “low cost” airline that provides the best of Australian and “Asian hospitality”

8 “Our People” “We believe in fostering a culture that is focused on our customers - ensuring we deliver the lowest fares and provide a travel experience that is refreshing and enjoyable, alongside our commitment to all day every day low fares both to our passengers and our staff. [Company name] staffs are recruited with an attitude and ability to deliver excellent customer service with an understanding that to deliver on our promise - All day, every day, low fares - we must always focus on keeping our costs to a minimum. That means working smarter and always looking for ways to improve [company name] systems and processes. We have a great team of trained professionals. Our pilots are first class. We have experienced ground crew. And our flight attendants are warm, friendly and extremely attentive. Together they bring the best of Australian and Asian hospitality, ensuring that every flight is enjoyable from start to finish. Ultimately, if [company name] customers are to have a satisfying travel experience, our people must enjoy their work. [Company name] is committed to sustaining a workplace where our people are proud to be recognised as being a member of the team” (From the company website) Identity as a low cost airline Flight attendants: Aus & Asian hospitality Company responsibility It’s a long text, but what I wanted to do was, as marked in red, I wanted to show how there is a lot of strong emphasis on identifying itself as ‘low fares’. However, despite their low cost identity, they stress on the high quality of their customer service - it’s not only Australian hospitality, but also Asian hospitality that are on offer. Finally, marked in green is the company claim that they are committed to social inclusion of their workers so that their workers will be proud to be part of the team. Later on, we will see that there is a gap between their claim and our participants’ experiences. But now let me move on to the three national groups of flight attendants at this airline.

9 Three National Groups of Flight Attendants
Nationality Base Salary (Monthly) English proficiency Language allowance Overnight allowance Total Australian $3,200 Not required $100 Japanese (local hire) $700 – 800 *proof required $4,000 Japanese (hired in JP, based in Sydney) $4,100 TOIEC 680 None Thai (hired and based in Thailand) $500 TOIEC 780 (up to 15 nights) $2,000 New base in Asia 09 Locals $1,200 Attained at least 3 ‘N’ Levels NA (hired in Japan) TOIEC 700 Based on what the participants told me. Not official, but this very understanding of their salary and others underlie their perception of and attitudes towards work and their co-workers.

10 Participants: Four Japanese FAs
Juri Eri Ryoko Fumie Age 34 32 26 36 Gender Female Visa status Business visa (3yrs) Business visa (3 yrs) Permanent resident Arrival in AUS 1995 WH March 2007 2001 WH 1997 WH Defacto visa 2006 Starting date June 2007

11 “It’s the easiest job ever!”
Juri:…it’s the easiest job ever is absolutely nothing you have to think about after you finish your flight!... The company’s ‘slack’ service practices Comparison to Japanese airlines Egalitarian workplace

12 But, not so stress-free…..
Australian customers’ response to ‘Asian hospitality’ The ‘English Only’ Policy at work

13 1. Australian customers’ response to ‘Asian hospitality’
Eri: …if there are too many Thai and Japanese flight attendants on a flight to Bali, they aren’t happy like, “why so many foreigners on an Australian airline?” …I know some flight attendants are asked “why are you working on an Australian airline if you can’t speak English!?” …

14 1. Australian customers’ response to ‘Asian hospitality’
Flight assignments Less Asian flight attendants assigned to some international flights (i.e. Hawaii & Bali) Seen as a corporate strategy to maintain a white, English speaking identity of the airline Strong sense of unfairness and exclusion

15 2. The ‘English Only’ Policy at work
Required to speak only English at work unless servicing Japanese customers Reporting of the ‘violation’ by Australian co-workers Ryuko: Some Japanese girls speak to me in Japanese, so I speak back in Japanese….but then, I’m being watched by Aussies… and they tell me later that I shouldn’t be speaking Japanese…the managers always say, “Speak English when you are wearing the uniform because our customers think you are representing our company”… Emotional stress being reported affects reputation as a team worker, performance review and promotion prospect

16 Summary “Dream job” and “easiest job ever”, yet: Bilingual Japanese as ‘disposable’ Low job satisfaction and sense of belonging Mistrust and tension at work

17 Kimie Takahashi Macquarie University, Australia
Thank you Kimie Takahashi Macquarie University, Australia

18 Linguistic & racial identity as constraints
3. Promotional prospect Linguistic & racial identity as constraints Fumie:…I’m not a native speaker of English…so, for example, if customers complain to an Australian staff and ask to speak to her manager and if I show up as a manager, then, they would definitely react negatively and question my authority, like, how can we trust her ability to handle things? She is a non-native speaker of English…

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