Presentation on theme: "Gender, Desire and Linguistic Capital in International Tourism"— Presentation transcript:
1 Gender, Desire and Linguistic Capital in International Tourism Kimie TakahashiMacquarie University, Australia
2 “Stewardess Story” 1980s TV series, TBS, sponsored by JAL (1983) Average rating – 20%ChiakiTrainee stewardessRomance with her instructorTeamwork and friendshipEpisode 10Chiaki’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 alsoIn 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 AimsTo 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 ethnographyFunded by a MQRDG Grant ( )Directed by Ingrid PillerThe 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 notesDec Jan 2009Japanese flight attendants working for an Australian airlineMacro dataWebsitesAdvertisements
7 Corporate IdentityAn “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 responsibilityIt’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 NationalityBaseSalary (Monthly)English proficiencyLanguage allowanceOvernight allowanceTotalAustralian$3,200Not required$100Japanese (local hire)$700 – 800*proof required$4,000Japanese(hired in JP, based in Sydney)$4,100TOIEC 680NoneThai(hired and based in Thailand)$500TOIEC 780(up to 15 nights)$2,000New base in Asia 09Locals$1,200Attained at least 3 ‘N’ LevelsNA(hired in Japan)TOIEC700Based 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 JuriEriRyokoFumieAge34322636GenderFemaleVisa statusBusiness visa (3yrs)Business visa (3 yrs)Permanent residentArrival in AUS1995 WHMarch 20072001 WH1997 WHDefacto visa 2006Starting dateJune 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 practicesComparison to Japanese airlinesEgalitarian 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 assignmentsLess 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 airlineStrong sense of unfairness and exclusion
15 2. The ‘English Only’ Policy at work Required to speak only English at work unless servicing Japanese customersReporting of the ‘violation’ by Australian co-workersRyuko: 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 stressbeing 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 belongingMistrust and tension at work
17 Kimie Takahashi Macquarie University, Australia Thank youKimie TakahashiMacquarie University, Australia
18 Linguistic & racial identity as constraints 3. Promotional prospectLinguistic & racial identity as constraintsFumie:…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…