‘I went to debutante school’
using Southern femininity as a resource to negotiate authority in a Texan workplace interaction
Keywords:institutional talk, double bind, authority, southern femininity, gender referencing
This paper analyses how one United States Southern female professional, Suellen, navigates the ‘double bind’ of being a culturally appropriate woman and culturally appropriate leader. Data analysed include a two-hour audiorecorded meeting from eight months of fieldwork with a Texas organisation. Analysis illustrates how Suellen enacts a Southern feminine identity when implicitly claiming authority on business matters and overtly claims her identity as a woman when explicitly claiming authority on women-related matters. These findings address debates among language and gender scholars about determining the relevance of gender to interaction. We show how gender is a culturally specific identity that participants simultaneously implicitly perform and explicitly construct in ways that meet institutional goals. Multiple approaches to language and gender are not in contention but rather complement one another to highlight the variety of resources participants can use when making gender relevant in interaction to meet institutional goals.
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