There are a number of consequences which result from the gender diversity within a particular workplace. Given that the structure of work under capitalism is hierarchical, incentivizing competition and obedience, each individual’s perception and categorization of gender is affected by this dynamic. For example, men, who accept the bourgeois conditions of production, work for the opportunity to become recognized by management and possibly become rewarded as “proper” labourers. This meager reward appears in the capitalist labor market in the form of raises or authoritative hierarchical power (becoming a manager). The disbursement of such rewards simultaneously masks and obscures the expropriation of labor that allows the owner of any workplace to accumulate a profit. Profit in this sense represents the capital (money) the bosses have after paying wages and the costs of maintaining the workplace. For The male laborer, located within bourgeois ideology, he sees himself as valuable only on the terms of his paycheck and his ability to acquire commodities in addition to objects (or subjects) of his desire. The central orientation this promulgates is one of competitive violence.
When men heavily outnumber women in the workplace this apparently invites casual chauvinism and the acute development of pecking orders where men look to each other in an effort to establish rank by degradation, marginalization, gender policing and the like. Self identifying men see the attributes of their coworkers, not just in the same lens as their managers, but also within binary gender relationships. Men, in this way, adjust their behavior based on the apparent expectations of their gender in a heteronormative society. This enables them to acquire social privilege to be later exchanged with both men and women–men mask their emotions and compete around men, while they shape themselves in the image of a “gentleman” around women where they are not explicitly soliciting heterosexual activity.
Each coworker becomes a collection of characteristics which are readily categorized within a masculine/feminine grid. What does this mean in everyday life and how does this happen? Well, from birth, humans are socialized within a culture that precedes their existence. Parents, having also come from a lifetime of socialization within a patriarchal culture come to receive the gender roles their parents prescribed to them. By prescription, I mean that parents have an idea of what the physical body of their child “means” and they keep this preconceived notion within them as they observe the behaviors of their child who truly knows nothing about what will be expected of them in the future. Through both the use of positive and negative encouragement and affirmation, a human learns what behaviors cause them the least amount of stress or social resistance from other people. Within this dynamic relationship of social forces, gender identity becomes solidified.
For people who are unaware of this aspect of power, they come to accept the public image of gender as the universal standard and, subsequently, assimilate. In this way, people protecting their personal interests and well-being within a society–a society that is inherently hostile and damaging to the body– submit to an authority that is so widespread it becomes functionally invisible.
This is admittedly a very abstract way of looking at this dynamic. In everyday life, these dynamics reveal themselves in real-time interactions as emotional appraisals of social stimuli. People behave a certain way and that causes other people to react and feel a certain way; this process repeats for the duration of a social encounter. As social creatures, we naturally look for information or feedback from other human beings: we look for facial cues, notice body language, respond to language and tone. Taking in this information, we respond in a way that is communicable and appropriate within a given context. Yet, “appropriate” is not an attribute that exists outside of the culture which judges a behavior as such. “Appropriate” behavior is an amalgamation of a predetermined set of attributes that are attached to a conception of gender and a particular context.
For example, if a man in a hyper-masculinized workplace expressed behavior other men consider to be a feminine behavior, that man man would then become identified and alienated for this. Rather than this spontaneous reaction resulting from some inherent foul temperament in men, what is happening here is a reflection of how patriarchy constructs a male gender narrative that is so universally compulsory that men under Imperialist White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy internalize and reproduce it. The problem here being that this narrative is in direct contradistinction with femininity, requiring that women are identified as an “other” containing an entirely different set of attributes for which men should be ashamed if they should catch themselves with attributes which overlap into this category. In addition to this, the construction of masculinity being somewhat arbitrary, the male identity exists as something very fragile and easily threatened, given that there is no humanizing affirmation of a healthy masculinity as such.
The idea of “narratives” which come prepackaged with a particular gender contain pieces of ideology that implicitly and explicitly police people’s identities and the hierarchical capitalist work environment serves as a petri dish for negative, apathetic, and individualist behaviors. This is especially alarming because it effectively masks the fact that people of all genders are being simultaneously exploited by the same people, despite the fact that they share the same physical space together and are potentially able to reach out to each other and build a community of solidarity.
On the other hand we have women in the workplace who are navigating an environment that is thoroughly molded and controlled by patriarchy. This is readily recognized in the income disparity between men and women in addition to sexual harassment lawsuits. More so than men, women are expected to be “professional” justifying their pay alongside men and in the eyes of management in the workplace. This “professionalism” for women results in the expectation that women be subjected to the male gaze of coworkers (and customers for the public sphere). This is most apparent in the business practices in retail where bosses expect sales to increase because of the distribution of women in the most public positions within the company.
Here we see a very explicit transformation of female gender constructions that are intended to create a behavioral context in which the female-assigned body is consumed as a social commodity that enables gender narratives to become circulated in bourgeois culture. While people of all genders are selling their labor power which becomes expropriated by the bourgeoisie, women in particular are exploited in such away that their labor and identity are directly appropriated in the workplace. Men who reproduce their patriarchal privileges participate in and enable this duality of oppression. Thus, success for men in this thoroughly hostile environment is essentially a cleanly paved road for men to achieve. This is in contradistinction to women who must traverse a highly abusive gauntlet of social expectations.
What then of the people who possess attributes that challenge or are incongruous with dominant gender narratives? Again, women here suffer the most consequences. The social hierarchy within capitalism, being dominated by men who are consistently reproducing patriarchal hostility, deliberately frames the public discourse on gender equity as an entitlement to the existing structures of capitalism. This is instead of the exploration of women’s liberation as a potentiality that exists outside of the realm and capacity of Imperialist White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy. Women, most times working alongside men out of necessity, then navigate this atmosphere of alienation, and otherness imposed upon them as they become gendered and then restrained by a normalized limitation on personality and behavior.
The significance of the discrepancy of gender discrimination is important because it uncovers several functions of oppressive power. By positioning the topic of Women’s equity in relation to the successes of men, we see, from the inception of this discourse, that power has framed women’s equality in direct relation to the status of men in a male-dominated society. This itself is contradictory and negates the possibility of affirming different social categories of communal productivity outside of those roles prescribed by and rewarded with currency under Capitalism. The accomplishment of power here is both repressive and suggestive. It is repressive in the way that it disenfranchizes women from accessing social necessities and bourgeois luxuries. It is also suggestive where it encourages women to assimilate to the valued and privileged roles that enable men to enjoy privilege and power that is inflicted upon human identity. In this way, patriarchal power makes itself entitled to women as a specific category denoted by a predetermined social role and capacity; a serving object of desire and a positive proof of the male subject.
To the extent that women succeed in a male-dominated work environment, they are also attacked, ridiculed, and marginalized despite their competency and demonstration of skill. In direct competition with men, chauvinist scrutiny is evoked in an attempt to justify disrespect that may negate the deference women deserve from other authoritative positions of management or status so that men might protect the complete totality of social privileges they enjoy in society. We see an abundance of this phenomenon in the media spectacle. This expression of oppressive power is especially dangerous because it becomes an expression of gender, insofar as there are alleged expectations of reward for assimilation to problematic social roles.
The interplay of these dynamics necessitates that the discourse on gender equity be positioned outside of the context of bourgeois success and aspiration, rather, it should be located within intenationalized spaces where women can openly speak about their conditions and reformulate the capacities in which we can dismantle patriarchal power and begin cultivating humanizing identities that can affirm and encourage our existence, our talents, and our dreams of self-actualization. The critical step in this direction is taking the time to reflect and deconstruct the extent to which our daily motivations under Imperialist White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy are subverted and affected by oppressive power. We must learn how to reclaim our agency in the world from a thoroughly commodified heteronormative culture that intends to keep us in an eternally deprived state so that we feel compelled to consume and aspire to become a fetishized form of ourselves. This task demands that we assign primacy to radical self-love and begin the work of building ourselves, rather than working to make ourselves “worthy” of capital in the eyes of an unforgiving and apathetic ruling class.