Blog based on research conducted with women academics in Greece

04/03/2016  -  3.01

Dr Maria Tsouroufli, Reader in Education

‘Playing it right? Gendered Inclusion and women’s embodied performances of gender, respectability and legitimacy in Greek higher education’‌

Feminist scholarship has exposed how men use respectability to ‘other’ women and exclude them from the public realm (Skeggs, 1997; Haram, 2004).  There is however, limited literature on the respectability and inclusion projects of academic women, particularly in non-British contexts.

Here, I examine the discourses and embodied practices associated with gendered respectability in Greek medical schools and I argue that Greek academic women’s efforts to generate respectable professional femininities is a strategy to assert their legitimate belonging in a high masculinised profession-academic medicine (Tsouroufli, 2012; Tsouroufli at al. 2011).

I conducted 15 semi-structured interviews to explore the gendered positioning of Greek academic women that relate to the contingencies of participation and recognition in specific domains and settings (Noble, 2009). 

Greek women’s accounts oscillated from constructions of academic medicine as a de-gendered profession to compelling notions of lack of entitlement of their participation and advancement in it.

To resist exclusion in academic medicine, women employed a number of embodied strategies, such as managing the aesthetics of dress in line with the gendered culture of different clinical specialities; desexualised demeanour; ‘acceptable’ ways of speaking in meetings; avoiding conflict particularly with male colleagues; working harder than men; and performing emotional work with medical students.

Although these highly gendered performative acts were scripted along the lines of heteronormative and patriarchal (Bulter, 1990; Guano, 2007) norms, and the class capital of academic women, they did after all enable them to resist their marginalised position. I argue that ‘playing it right’ in gendered academic contexts is a complex and sophisticated process for Greek women that requires both resistance and consent. This research contributes to knowledge about the performative politics of gender, competency, and legitimacy in academic spaces. 

Biographical note

Dr Maria Tsouroufli is a Reader at the Faculty of Education, Health and Wellbeing. Previously she held positions at Norwich Medical School, Dundee Medical School, the University of York, Cardiff, Warwick and London Metropolitan University. Dr Tsouroufli holds a PhD in Gender and Education from the University of Southampton. Her research interests are diverse, cross-disciplinary and include gender and intersecting inequalities in higher and professional education; gender, citizenship and citizenship education; information-giving in clinical consultations; and midlife women’s health. Dr Tsouroufli has published on gendered notions of academic and medical professionalism; medical educational policy; feminist identities in the neo-liberal university; exclusion and ‘othering’ of international students. Her current work is concerned with the leadership identities of migrant academics; Greek academic women performances of motherhood; and gender, embodiment and physical exercise.