This paper examines the gendering of labour performed in service sector employment through a review of the theoretical and empirical sociological debates emerging from this field of study. The concept of ‘emotional labour’, which involves the self-management of a worker’s feelings and emotions, together with the more recent notions of appearance management undertaken through ‘aesthetic labour’, and the labour enacted upon the bodies of customers through ‘body work’ are analysed for the implications they have on reproducing or challenging the conventional gender order. Interactive service sector labour is found to be gendered in the sense that it is often gender-segregated, with men and women performing different types of labour. This paper explores further the way in which women are required to sustain a specifically gendered and (hetero)sexualised performance, which is arguably not always required of men. It is argued that even where such labour is not gender-segregated, and men take on the same labouring roles as women, such tasks are not experienced and enacted in a gender-neutral fashion. However, the possibility of gendered labour in the service sector being experienced as pleasurable, rather than as a wholly negative phenomenon, is also discussed. Taking Butler’s (1990) concept of performativity, it is argued that it is the performance of gender that actively brings it into being. Thus, gendered scripts enacted through service sector labour reinforce traditional social hierarchies to ensure that the prominence of heterosexuality and hierarchal gender, class and ‘race’ relations remain intact.
|Publication status||Published - 2007|