Seriously stylish: academic femininities and the politics of fashion and feminism in academia
Donaghue, N, Seriously stylish: academic femininities and the politics of fashion and feminism in academia, Aesthetic Labour, Palgrave Macmillan, AS Elias, R Gill and C Scharff (ed), London, pp. 410. ISBN 9781137477644 (2017) [Research Book Chapter]
What does one wear to work in the life of the mind? The establishment of ‘seriousness’ as a cardinal academic virtue is reinforced via a series of distinctions between the high-minded concerns worthy of scholarly pursuit, and the materialistic, venal and/or frivolous concerns of secular life. The historical marginalisation of women in academia is also reinforced by these distinctions—despite the mass entry of women into academia over the past 40 years, a masculine hegemony continues to set the terms on which women can be accepted into and succeed within academia, and ‘feminine’ interests and concerns are treated with suspicion and/or contempt (Bagilhole 2002). Yet although the force of male hegemony in the academy is considerable, it is by no means uncontested; for many decades, women have fought against the assumption that academic recognition is contingent on eschewing femininity and have sought to find modes of embodiment that acknowledge the presence of women in academia as women (Showalter 1997). Women in academia thus face a dilemma in crafting and communicating what we might think of as (borrowing from Gill and Scharff 2011) ‘academic femininities’—modes of self-presentation that allow them to simultaneously address the requirement to demonstrate intellectual seriousness, while also refusing to accept the traditional exclusion of markers of femininity from the academy.
Research Book Chapter
aesthetic labour, femininities, fashion, postfeminism, academia