According to Asian Islam
The culmination of a very popular, albeit somewhat outdated, series, Ugly Bete, is Betty ‘s makeover – in her various generations around the world, Betty tends to lose braces, straighten worn – out hair, replace larger glasses with contact lenses and take advantage of changing make – up powers. Usually, a radical change in appearance helps her achieve romantic success. From Ugly Bete and Princess Blogs For barbecues and online games, change is for women, a place of appearance, insecurity and untapped personal power.
Some recent attempts to retell the feminist Ugly Betty frame her transformation into professional rather than romantic success and confidence. In a sense, this reflects the modern changes in the world of work – on a global scale, with the advent of service work (think cafes, salons, hotels) and the introduction of traditional male occupations by women, women’s participation in the labor force has increased. The appearance of women is important in services, and especially in important positions such as receptionists, sales assistants, flight attendants, etc. Service staff are expected to reassure customers not only about pleasant greetings, friendly conversation and helpful behavior, but also make-up. and clothing.
Young women working in the service sector in Delhi agree that a transformation is needed to become a professional. I do long-term ethnographic research with such women. In a discussion about emerging job opportunities, a young girl, referring to her friend’s older sister who worked in the supermarket, remarked in admiration, “She’s wearing pants and a shirt to work, right ?!” Another woman, Chandni, shared how she personality changed because of her work – she was no longer a “village-type girl” with “greasy braided hair”, but became a modern urban woman who knew how to make “light” and elegant make-up. Many have actually enrolled in ‘personality development’ classes at skill centers to adapt their body language – posture, smile, handshake – to suit the sensitivity of the middle and upper classes in their workplace.
Is it something that is done for you, or does it require active participation get organized? How do employees assess the emerging requirements for such service restructuring? In my study Gender and Society, I show that while young women like aspects of the changes in their appearance, they are far from accepting and endorsing these transformations. Indeed, by strategically accepting some of the changes in the body, women are also reflecting on and criticizing the jobs where they are needed first and foremost.
When I first met Prachi, she greeted me with a smile.good morning lady when I entered the cafe where she worked. A few months later, as our relationship expanded more than between an employee and a client, Prachi shared his frustration with the job. As she left, she grumbled that she had to “leave a plastic smile all day ”, given the artificial and forced nature of her smile. Chandni shared Prachi’s frustration, both of whom agreed that while wearing formal clothing – a shirt, pants, belt, black shoes and socks – it did not match the quality of the work. Prachi continued:It seemed to me what you were trying to do. It is only Rs 7,000 [USD 95] salary anyway. Chandni also said yes professional inside the consortium trainingneighbors think we go to a good job, then go back to ours openings [status] … “Women who wore smart looks during training felt that they were demoted to working / lower middle class status – low pay, long working hours and limited career advancement at work.
So their transformations are really attempts to show off as a strong middle class and change their personalities to match their new look. Sometimes they feel pleasure about these changes, but they also experience them as a problem due to non-compliance with low-class, low-paid service work. They are also worried that people will be able to review their newly adopted appearance and personality, making them unauthentic and shameful. I think that these different dynamics of women’s body change in the emerging service work in Indian cities are ‘plastic’. This metaphor refers to the ways in which women use their bodies to seek and retain employment in the service sector. My research shows how “plastic bodies” are a place for both self-expression and affirmation of will, as well as the way in which work forces women to change. My findings point to the complex ways in which female workers, unlike kindly accepted fictional characters such as Betty and Princess Mia, welcome and criticize the changes they have to make in their bodies to participate in service work.
Asiya Islam is a lecturer in labor and labor relations at the University of Leeds. Her research examines emerging gender and class relations in Indian cities through the life stories of young lower middle-class women, with a particular focus on emerging forms of work and the future, as well as social inequality.
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