The choreography of everyday sexism: reworking sexism in interaction

Journal: 
Issue: 
Autumn 2015
10.3898/NEWF.86.05.2015

Sexism thrives in the present because it appears to dwell in the past. Shielded by the claim that we have successfully dispatched it, contemporary sexism flourishes as ‘retro’, ‘hipster’ or ‘ironic’, or else passes unnoticed. Accusations of sexism sound amusingly out-dated and those speaking seriously of sexism may be dismissed as out-of-date themselves - or else as unreasonable and oversensitive. Under these conditions, the persistent presence of sexism has appeared virtually ‘unspeakable’. In this essay I examine this dynamic at close quarters, asking how sexism is performed and resisted in young people’s everyday interactions. Drawing from interviews with twenty secondary school students aged sixteen to eighteen, I develop an account of the ‘choreography’ of sexism: the organising patterns through which sexism is communicated in interaction. This choreography shapes what is said, but also what is felt: how bodies are hailed by sexist communication and recruited into particular patterns of feeling and response. I focus my attention on the moves those I interviewed made to challenge sexism, and the possibilities these manoeuvres hold for unravelling sexism in interaction.

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NF 86: Sexism