Professional Discourses, Gender and Identity in Women's Media [1st ed.] 9783030555436, 9783030555443

This book examines the professional discourses produced in women’s media in Malaysia and the subject positions that they

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Professional Discourses, Gender and Identity in Women's Media [1st ed.]
 9783030555436, 9783030555443

Table of contents :
Front Matter ....Pages i-xi
Gender Inequalities in the Malaysian Workplace (Melissa Yoong)....Pages 1-26
Neoliberal Feminism, Postfeminism and Professional Identities in the Media (Melissa Yoong)....Pages 27-41
Data and Analytical Approaches (Melissa Yoong)....Pages 43-62
Neoliberal Feminism and Media Discourses of Employed Motherhood (Melissa Yoong)....Pages 63-91
Postfeminist Discourses and Work Femininities in Women’s Media (Melissa Yoong)....Pages 93-121
Synthetic Sisterhood in Malaysian Women’s Media (Melissa Yoong)....Pages 123-132
Gender Workplace Equality: From Research to Policy and Practice (Melissa Yoong)....Pages 133-144
Back Matter ....Pages 145-149

Citation preview

Professional Discourses, Gender and Identity in Women’s Media Melissa Yoong

Professional Discourses, Gender and Identity in Women’s Media

Melissa Yoong

Professional Discourses, Gender and Identity in Women’s Media

Melissa Yoong School of English University of Nottingham Malaysia Selangor, Malaysia

ISBN 978-3-030-55543-6 ISBN 978-3-030-55544-3 (eBook) https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-55544-3 © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. Cover illustration: © Melisa Hassan This Palgrave Pivot imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland

In memory of my wonderful grandparents, Wang Siew Seng and Francis Leong

Acknowledgements

I am indebted to Louise Mullany and Lucy Jones, who supervised my doctoral thesis which has formed the basis of this book. They were an invaluable source of guidance, support and motivation during my Ph.D., and I continue to be inspired by their work. Without Louise’s encouragement, I would have never contemplated the idea of turning my thesis into a monograph. I am deeply grateful to Sara Mills, Daniel Hunt, Robert Lawson, Kian Ong, Salomy Krishna and the two anonymous reviewers for their generous and perceptive feedback on various iterations of this study; the editorial and production team at Palgrave, especially Cathy Scott, Abarna Antonyraj, Alice Green and Petra Treiber, who made the transition from proposal to book such a smooth one; and the University of Nottingham Malaysia’s School of English for the research support for this project. I want to thank all the researchers and feminist organisations whose work I have cited across the chapters—I was indeed standing on the shoulders of giants as I wrote this book. Thanks also to The Star, Malaysia, and Blu Inc Media for giving permission to use extracts from their publications. Finally, I am immensely grateful to my mother—the best in the world—and my closest family and friends, who have been unwavering in their care, patience and optimism. And of course, Mike, for sharing the journey and understanding why I needed to do this.

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Contents

1

1

Gender Inequalities in the Malaysian Workplace

2

Neoliberal Feminism, Postfeminism and Professional Identities in the Media

27

3

Data and Analytical Approaches

43

4

Neoliberal Feminism and Media Discourses of Employed Motherhood

63

Postfeminist Discourses and Work Femininities in Women’s Media

93

5

6

Synthetic Sisterhood in Malaysian Women’s Media

123

7

Gender Workplace Equality: From Research to Policy and Practice

133

Index

145

ix

Transcription Conventions

(.) (-) [ ] = :: (#) (()) bold

Pause of up to a second Pause of more than a second Point of overlap onset Point at which overlap stops Latching or no discernible gap between utterances A halting or abrupt cut-off Lengthened syllable; multiple colons represent prolonged syllable Inaudible speech Non-verbal activity, such as laughing Stressed word

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CHAPTER 1

Gender Inequalities in the Malaysian Workplace

Abstract This chapter provides the context of this book by critically examining the gender inequalities surrounding women and work in Malaysia. It begins by looking back at the socio-economic transformations that led to the large-scale entry of women into the paid workforce, and the discrimination that waged women faced then and continue to face today. Next, it explores the current barriers that constrain women’s further access to the labour market and decision-making positions, and the policy responses to these. The subsequent section discusses the legislative frameworks around pregnancy discrimination and sexual harassment to further illustrate the prevailing inequalities in the workplace and society at large. Finally, the chapter sets out the aims and scope of the study. Keywords Women’s labour force participation · Workplace gender equality · Work–family conflict · Women in leadership · Pregnancy discrimination · Sexual harassment

In recent years leading to the publication of this book, Malaysia saw its first woman deputy prime minister,1 first woman chief justice and second woman governor of the National Bank. Women are now present in almost all professions and at all levels of decision-making and governance. For many, this may seem like a period of promise for the future of gender © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 M. Yoong, Professional Discourses, Gender and Identity in Women’s Media, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-55544-3_1

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equality in the country and, indeed, the gains achieved should not be underestimated. But, as this volume shows, there is still much to be done to provide women with a fair opportunity to participate meaningfully in paid work and advance in their careers. Gender equality is still far from achieved in the Malaysian workplace. This book shares the broad feminist goal of many language and gender studies, which is to redress the gender inequalities in society that are reflected in, and perpetuated by, language use. More specifically, it examines how professional discourses in women’s media (re)construct, legitimise and contest unequal gender arrangements and relations in Malaysian workplaces. Professional discourses are, in the Foucauldian sense, systems of statements and practices that say something about employed women and their identities, behaviours, dispositions, aspirations, opportunities and choices. As practices that ‘form the objects of which they speak’ (Foucault 1972, 49), they create possibilities and constraints for who women can be and what is regarded as desirable, normal and acceptable, which may privilege the status quo. Given the interpenetration of public and domestic life, professional discourses include those on family roles that facilitate or limit women’s participation and advancement in the workplace. This study focuses on professional discourses in women’s media—that is, media whose target audience is women—as research has shown that they are important sites for the (re)production of hegemonic gender norms and the regulation of feminine subjectivities, including work subjectivities. In this book, I interrogate the regulatory ideals established by Malaysian women’s media against which employed women are exhorted to measure themselves and contextualise their work-related experiences, relationships and conflicts. These media serve as a useful gateway for identifying the powerful professional discourses circulating within the wider society. As discourses in the media are shaped, in part, by prevailing gender ideologies and broader societal discourses, analysing them can shed light on cultural understandings of women and work that need to be addressed to achieve gender balance in the professional domain. Given that discourses emerge from particular socio-economic climates and historical conditions, it is necessary to first understand the national context from which the media discourses arise. In this chapter, I explore the gains and gaps in women’s engagement in Malaysia’s formal workforce in the past sixty years. The first section traces the developments leading to women’s large-scale entry into the formal labour market following the years after independence in 1957. It highlights the sexism

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that they endured, which, though lessening, still exists today. The second section looks at the reasons behind why despite rapid initial growth, women’s labour force participation rate (LFPR) remains far behind that of men. The chapter then moves on to discuss three important gender inequality issues in Malaysian economic spaces, namely the gender leadership gap, sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination. Through this, I show how the approaches taken to integrate women into formal economic development have not effectively addressed women’s rights and challenges in the workplace. Lastly, I outline the study’s aims and scope as well as the structure of this book. It is important to note that the account in this chapter is not a linear narrative of progress since progress cannot be solely measured by women’s entry into the labour market or the rise of an elite cadre of women. Many of the gender- and class-based issues that developed in twentieth-century workplaces still persist today, and I highlight these below. In addition, although women were not always such visible participants in the nation’s labour force and decision-making structures, this does not mean that they did not work. In pre-independence Malaya, many women bridged the public and private spheres at the same time as unpaid family workers who laboured on the family farm, cared for livestock or helped out the family business. However, because paid employment was perceived as a male domain, women wage workers were small in number and largely confined to low-paying occupations (Kaur 2000). Finally, I must stress that while this study strongly focuses on women’s access to and progress within the formal economy, it does not devalue reproductive labour or those who perform it. In this book, I have consciously shunned terms such as ‘non-working mothers’ to avoid constructing domestic labour as ‘non-work’. What I hope is that this research will contribute towards a more equitable future in which women have actual freedom to pursue real choices in terms of how they wish to live their lives and achieve their full potential.

Women’s Mobilisation into the Labour Force When the country gained independence in 1957, merely a quarter of the wage-earning workforce were women. Since then, women’s LFPR has expanded from 30.8 to 55.8% in early 2020 (Department of Statistics Malaysia 2020; Ministry of Women and Family Development 2003). The mobilisation of women into the Malaysian workforce was strongly driven

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by the nation’s pursuit of export-oriented industrialisation. From the 1970s, the government began establishing industrial estates and free-trade zones for the manufacturing subsidiaries of multinational companies that wanted to flee escalating labour costs at home and relocate their labourintensive production systems in cheaper developing countries (Kaur 2000; Ong 2010). These foreign-controlled plants were keen to recruit young women, though this was not a purely positive turn of events for women. The global expansion of labour-intensive manufacturing has relied on the exploitation and control of low-waged female labour and it was no different in Malaysia. The firms’ preference for women workers partly stemmed from the idealised caricature of the docile, diligent and nimblefingered ‘factory girl’ with a natural propensity for monotonous work. This global stereotype was reproduced in Malaysian plants through corporate and state-level practices of control, including restrictive anti-union policies and gender hierarchies2 that confined many women to lowwage assembly line work and subjected them to intense forms of factory discipline (Elias 2005, 2020). Another motivating factor for hiring women in the factories was economic. The working class were poorly paid, but the female proletariat, who were doubly oppressed because of their gender and class, represented the lowest cost, with wage levels between 75 to 80% of those of men in comparable occupations (Kaur 2000). Young rural women, in particular, were not only cheap to employ, but also easy to recruit due to ‘their relative oversupply and the eagerness of peasants, village elders, and local institutions to send otherwise non-cash-earning village women to the [free-trade zones]’ (Ong 2010, 153). Falling commodity prices and the progressive loss of farmland owing to agricultural and industrial policies was increasing dispossession of peasants and poverty in rural society. In response, the government rapidly expanded manufacturing industries across the Malaysian Peninsular (Ong 2010). The growth of manufacturing job opportunities induced thousands of young rural women to obtain jobs in the industrial estates (Ng and Chee 1996). Industrialisation in the country, thus, became as much women-led as export-led. In fact, as Ng et al. (2006) point out, Malaysia’s economic success came on the backs of lowly paid women. However, as unskilled workers, these women were the least likely to benefit from the country’s economic growth. Wages in female-dominated industries like clothing and textile were not only lower than those in male-dominated ones, but also suppressed as firms sought out new supplies of cheap labour (Elias 2009; Ministry

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of Women and Family Development 2003). In the twenty-first century, Malaysian women in industrial work have been almost fully replaced by migrant women who are in an even weaker position, both socially and economically (Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development and UNDP 2014; Ng et al. 2006). The issues emphasised above are certainly not unique to the manufacturing sector or to the past. Women in Malaysia ‘as a whole still occupy the bottom of the employment hierarchy’ and even highly qualified women are taking on clerical jobs (UNDP 2014, 187). The World Economic Forum’s (2012, 2020) Global Gender Gap Reports indicate that not only are men still out-earning women for doing similar work, but the gender pay gap is growing, with Malaysia recording a wage equality score of 0.74 in 2020 compared to 0.82 in 2012 (parity is 1.00). Furthermore, call centre employment has appeared to become the ‘new “hi-tech” form of low-wage feminised employment’, thus challenging the assumption that women’s shift into the knowledge economy in recent decades has led to higher status and higher-paid forms of work (Elias 2011, 540). Women’s movement into the wage sector was also facilitated by new education policies that provided equal access to education to both sexes, resulting in the higher educational attainment of women, which encouraged more of them to take on paid work (Hing 1984; Kaur 2000). However, the opportunities of women on a whole were constrained by occupational stratification and segmentation by gender, reflected, for instance, in the large numbers of women in stereotypically feminine professions such as teaching and nursing (Ministry of Women and Family Development 2003). Working class women faced additional challenges as a result of their intersecting gender and class membership. Unlike their female counterparts from the higher classes who had more educational opportunities and were better connected, poor women were trapped in limited roles that did not commensurate with their qualifications or aspirations (Hing 1984). The nascent female Malay proletariat in the industrial field, for example, were fairly well-educated and often overqualified for the repetitive semi-skilled manual jobs that offered little opportunity for upward mobility. Patterns of gender segregation and stratification in the occupational structure persist today. In 2017, 45% of women in the labour force had at least higher secondary education and 35.4% had tertiary qualification (in contrast to 47 and 24.6% of men respectively). However, women are still crowded into traditional ‘feminine’ jobs, and their ‘representation at senior-level positions remains low throughout the years.

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This is especially evident when even within the field of hospitality and other services—the supposedly “feminine” sector—male managers still outnumbered female substantially’ (Khazanah Research Institute 2018, 112). The feminist movement was not directly instrumental in promoting women’s entry into the formal workforce. Nevertheless, politically engaged women had been working towards better working conditions for female employees even before independence, for example, by taking leading roles in strikes to end sexual harassment in the rubber estates and for fair pay in rubber-packing firms (Lai 2003). In the decades following independence, women’s organisations and unions continued to organise for the rights of women workers, such as through a national campaign for equal pay for teachers and nurses in the 1960s. In the 1980s, women who were students in the 1970s both in Malaysia and abroad, and who were influenced by the international feminist movements joined existing women’s organisations or formed new ones (Ng and Chee 1996). These groups have been the main driving force in lobbying for legislative changes in Malaysia to enhance women’s economic and social rights in workplaces. Despite the immense contribution of women to economic growth, women-specific development policies in the 1970s and 1980s were largely concerned with their domestic roles. This changed in the 1990s when Malaysia’s development policies signalled a transition from a traditional male breadwinner ideal to what Fraser (1994) terms a ‘universal breadwinner model’, where both women and men are engaged in full-time paid work, while care work is redistributed to the state and/or the market (Khazanah Research Institute 2019, 93). Economic growth in the 1980s had boosted female employment not only in the manufacturing sector, but also in service sub-sectors such as wholesale, retail, hotels and restaurants (Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development and UNDP 2007). As these sectors propelled Malaysia’s economic rise, the state began to take proactive measures to promote women’s continued contribution to these industries, including increasing state and market childcare services (Khazanah Research Institute 2019; Ng and Chee 1996). Following the Asian financial crisis of 1997, there has been an increased policy emphasis on transforming the country from a labour-intensive economy to a capital-intensive one to sustain the nation’s competitiveness. This new competitiveness agenda has strived

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to enhance (especially middle-class educated) women’s engagement in knowledge-related sectors (Elias 2020). Despite state attempts at promoting women’s labour market roles, the growth in women’s participation stalled. The rise in the proportion of women in the workforce in the 1980s had been one of the largest in the region (Kaur 2000). However, after peaking at 47.8% in 1990, women’s LFPR stagnated for two decades. In sharp contrast, the male rate was above 80% for most of this period (Department of Statistics Malaysia 2019). By 2010, the female percentage was below the level of women’s workforce participation in most countries at or above Malaysia’s income level and the lowest in East Asia. The gender participation gap was more than twice the estimated average for East Asian and Pacific countries (World Bank 2012). Women’s LFPR in Malaysia has since increased by ten percentage points, perhaps due to cohort effect and the rising cost of living (Khazanah Research Institute 2018, 2019). As of March 2020, 55.8% of working-age women are employed or seeking employment. Yet, while this figure is comparable with, if not higher than, most advanced economies, it is low when contrasted against the proportion of men in the workforce at 80.8% (Department of Statistics Malaysia 2020). Additionally, women’s participation appears to be losing momentum again, and their LFPR is projected to increase to just 59.4% in 2023.3 Despite being more highly educated than men, on average, working-age women form almost 90% of the prime-age population outside the sphere of paid work (Khazanah Research Institute 2018, 2019). It is widely assumed that most of these women have no desire to work, but a nationwide study by the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development (MWFCD) and UNDP (2014) shows that a majority of women want to pursue a career. What, then, causes women’s low LFPR in Malaysia?

Why Do so Many Women Stay Outside of the Workforce? Drawing on data from the 2010 Malaysia labour force survey, the World Bank (2012) analysed the socio-economic characteristics associated with different levels of participation. They found that low women’s LFPR correlated strongly with low levels of education. Less than half of women with secondary education or below were in the waged sector compared

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to 69.5% of women with post-secondary degrees and 86.9% of university graduates. Women with lower education levels often leave their jobs after marriage and many never join the workforce in the first place. This is possibly due to underemployment and low-wage work, which were discussed earlier. MWFCD and UNDP (2014) found that many women with lower education levels are forced to take up informal work because they cannot afford childcare in their lower end occupations. The informal economy allows them to reconcile their domestic responsibilities and their need for income. At the same time, for these women, ‘employment is unstable and of low quality, wages are suppressed, working hours long and irregular, and no long-term social safety net in place’ (UNDP 2014, 198). What this means is that while women with higher qualifications reap the benefits of economic growth, those less qualified are getting left behind. Given that in Malaysia, the gender wage gap is most biased against women at the lower end of earnings where women typically have lower education levels (Khazanah Research Institute 2018; World Bank 2012), tackling the stubborn gender pay gap could increase women’s LFPR, as would making secondary education compulsory. However, as the World Bank report stresses, education alone is insufficient to close the gender participation gap, which remains even at tertiary level. To understand why women’s integration into the labour market remains low, we need to go beyond education. The World Bank study found that women who were married had the lowest levels of participation. Half of married women aged twenty to fifty-five were in the workforce compared with more than 70% of their single, divorced or separated counterparts. Married women were even less likely to engage in the labour market if they had children. Studies such as those cited below invariably show that care issues are a major contributor for women leaving the workforce. Given that women in Malaysia shoulder a disproportionate amount of care work, this is hardly surprising. According to the 2010 labour force survey, 67.1% of non-wage-earning women stayed out of the workforce because of ‘housework’.4 In examining this further, MWFCD and UNDP (2014) found that 70.9% of mothers who were previously employed had exited the workforce to care for their children. Even married women without children were affected by the traditional male breadwinner model. Most of them had withdrawn from the labour market because of marriage (54%) or because their husband had asked them to do so (38.8%).

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Although women’s economic role has expanded since the World Bank report, gender roles in the family have not evolved as substantially. A 2019 time use study suggests that while men are stepping in to assist in caregiving, family care is still not spread equally between couples. Women continue to carry a greater share of housework and unpaid care despite spending almost the same number of hours as men in paid employment (Khazanah Research Institute 2019). To cope with what Hochschild (1989) calls the ‘double burden’, many women mix various care options,5 decrease paid working hours6 and/or join the informal sector,7 while others leave the workforce. In 2018, 60.2% of women outside the labour force cited family responsibilities as the reason for not participating in wage work, compared to 3.6% of men. Crucially, if the total number of women and men affected by housework were distributed equally between both sexes, we would see gender parity in LFPR (Khazanah Research Institute 2018, 2019). Yet, there has been little systematic effort to promote a fairer distribution of family care work between men and women. One example that illuminates this is paternity leave. Even as other countries are pursuing various approaches to support parents’ coresponsibility, fathers in the Malaysian public sector are entitled to only seven days paternal leave. Worse still, men in private sector jobs do not have a legally mandated paternity leave benefit.8 Because women shoulder the major share of caregiving work, their meaningful participation in the workforce is also hindered by a shortage of affordable and accessible quality childcare for babies and young children9 in Malaysia. Childcare centre charges are too high for many households. Some families in Kuala Lumpur, for instance, spend 15% of their income on childcare alone (Khazanah Research Institute 2019). Further, the centres’ operation hours may not align with parents’ paid working hours. As a result, the majority of households rely on family-based care.10 In the Fifth Malaysian Population and Family Survey 2014 (MPFS-5), 59.2% of respondents cited relatives as their main source of childcare followed by babysitters at 24% (Choong et al. 2018). The World Bank (2012) reports that grandmothers often take up childcare duties. This means that the labour market participation of younger women has come at the expense of older women staying out of the workforce, as reflected by the lower LFPR of women between the ages of forty-six and sixty-five living in Malaysian households with young children. When asked to identify the forms of support they would like from their employers, 34.2% of women respondents in MPFS-5 wanted more

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childcare centres at their workplaces (Khazanah Research Institute 2019). This is one area where the public sector appears to have taken the lead. As of January 2020, 241 childcare centres have been set up in government offices, and MYR30 million (approximately e6.2 million) was allocated in the 2020 National Budget to establish 150 more (Bernama 2020). However, the private sector has not responded as enthusiastically to their employees’ childcare needs, citing health and safety and cost issues (Bunyan 2018). In 2015, only 11% of Malaysian public listed companies provided childcare facilities, while almost half had no plans to implement or improve their family-friendly facilities (TalentCorp and PwC 2015). Cognizant that earlier state measures to increase employerbased childcare have been unsuccessful, the previous government began looking into introducing a ten-year tax break for companies that establish workplace crèches (Bunyan 2018). While such steps are important, we should be mindful that workplace-based childcare is often only available to middle-class women with access to certain jobs. As noted earlier, less formally-educated women are more likely to be in the informal economy without maternity benefits or annual leave while working long and irregular hours for wages that are too low to afford childcare (UNDP 2014). Poorer women often rely on informal sources of childcare. As such, the availability of state-provided childcare is important. As of January 2019, 705 government-based childcare centres have been established across Malaysia to cater to the needs of low-income parents (Khazanah Research Institute 2019). The state, in recent Malaysia Plans,11 has committed to setting up more. While recent national policies appear to promote a shift from the male breadwinner model to a universal breadwinner ideal, redistributing childcare to the state and market in itself is insufficient. Without encouraging men to take their fair share of unpaid care or addressing ‘corporate (over)work culture’ (Orgad 2017, 180), women will continue to confront the double burden of spending long hours in paid work on top of being responsible for greater reproductive labour at home. Orgad’s (2017) US study with successful professional women who became stay-at-home mothers illustrates how long-hours intensive work conditions are important factors affecting women’s decision to leave paid employment. The interviewees spoke of how difficult it was to ‘perform[] to high standards in extremely demanding jobs following sleepless nights attending to young children’, especially when ‘[t]he burden of getting up at night to attend to children was rarely shared by their husbands and partners’

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(ibid., 175). A highly competitive work culture also often causes husbands to be absent from the home. Orgad (2019, 63) found that this ‘produces, sustains, and reproduces deep gender inequalities in daily married life, particularly (though not only) in relation to childcare and housework’. While her interviewees had satisfactory childcare arrangements, ‘[t]aking time off to nurse sick children, take them to medical appointments, attend their nursery and school activities, and ferry them to social activities were almost always the woman’s job’. Unfortunately, Malaysian state discourses and policies tend to ignore the realities of home life. Instead, they strongly encourage women to be both an involved parent and productive worker. Such messages and policies, as McRobbie (2009, 80–81) argues, allow the husband ‘to pursue his working life without female complaint, without the requirement that he curbs his working hours so that he can play an equal role in the household’. If we want to see more women in the workforce, we need more holistic approaches that challenge not only deep-rooted notions of ‘normal’ division of family labour but also a work culture that ‘expects and rewards an “ideal worker” who works full-time and overtime, takes little or no time off for childbearing or child rearing’ (Kendall 2007, 128–29).

Women’s Labyrinthine Paths to Leadership There have been concerns that many educated women are leaving the workforce due to inadequate opportunities to progress to senior positions. Thus, to improve women’s access to leadership and drive more women into the knowledge economy, the Ninth Malaysia Plan (for the period 2006–2010) announced a target of 30% women decision-makers in the public sector, which was achieved by 2011 (Elias 2020). In 2010, the government introduced an additional goal for 30% women on corporate boards by the end of 2016 (TalentCorp 2017). Several measures have been put in place to attain this. An important one is the release of the Malaysian Code on Corporate Governance 2012 which requires public listed companies to disclose their gender diversity policies and figures in their annual reports (International Labour Organisation 2016). MWFCD also introduced the Women Directors and Advanced Women Directors Programmes, which respectively ‘equips women with technical and soft skills required in the boardroom’ and ‘focuses on leadership, principles, ethics, new risks and strategy’ (The Star 2016). Despite these—and the oft-cited ‘business case’ linking higher female board representation with

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improved profitability and corporate governance (Elias 2020)—women held only 11.5% of seats on boards of directors in public listed companies in 2016, which led the government to extend the 30% goal to end 2020 (The Star 2016). As of end 2018, this figure stands at 15.9% (Securities Commission Malaysia 2019). Women are also underrepresented in the C-suite and senior leadership positions in Malaysia, constituting only 17% of CEOs in 2019, and 28% and 29% of COOs and CFOs respectively in 2020. Female representation in senior management declined from 31 to 23% between 2011 and 2019, before rising to 33% in 202012 (Benjamin 2018; Grant Thornton Malaysia 2019, 2020). This two percentage point nett increase over the past decade is not what we would expect given the (albeit gradual) rise in women’s LFPR. As the pool of women candidates available for consideration grows, shouldn’t women’s visibility in senior positions see a corresponding improvement? Why are women still rare in decision-making roles in Malaysia? While the notion of the ‘glass ceiling’ is often used to explain the poor representation of women in top positions, I draw on Eagly and Carli’s metaphor of the labyrinth, which was invoked in their seminal book Through the Labyrinth, to discuss women’s circuitous paths to leadership in Malaysia. As Eagly and Carli (2007, 1) observe, the glass ceiling metaphor ‘conveys a rigid, impenetrable barrier, but barriers to women’s advancement are now more permeable’. We all know some women who have successfully found routes to the top, but these paths can be difficult to discover and contain both subtle and obvious obstacles. The labyrinth metaphor, thus, captures ‘the varied challenges confronting women as they travel, often on indirect paths, sometimes through alien territory, on their way to leadership’. Although Eagly and Carli’s work is based on US data, there is convergence in the discriminatory impediments that women in the United States and Malaysia encounter in their labyrinthine paths to positions of authority, suggesting global trends. One significant obstacle that reduces women’s prospects for advancement through the labyrinth is the unequal division of family labour which creates time pressures for women seeking to advance in their careers (Eagly and Carli 2007). In Malaysia, not only are women still regarded as the principal carer, but such traditional conceptions of women ‘have long been central to state strategies of nation building’ (Elias 2009, 471). Government policies have emphasised the responsibility of mothers in raising productive and morally upstanding citizens. Thus, the

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policy shift to integrate educated women more fully into the knowledge economy has generated tensions, fears and resistances within the state and local society around women’s ‘appropriate’ socio-economic roles. Moral panics around issues such as juvenile delinquency, the rise of ‘commuter families’ (in which both parents travel long distances to work) and the reliance on migrant domestic workers as a source of childcare13 continually re-emerge (Elias 2020). This has fostered and fuelled the scrutiny and policing of mothers and their parenting practices. The Malaysian state, for example, has sought to address the tensions between women’s productive and socially reproductive roles via ‘family strengthening’ policies and programmes. While these communicate a veneer of equality by drawing on the gender-neutral language of shared and equitable parenting, in practice, they reinforce ‘“traditionalist” understandings of gender roles within the family (albeit a traditionalism that is mediated by the realities of women’s increased economic roles outside of the home)’ (Elias 2015, 348). As women’s roles continue to be constructed around conflicting discourses that emphasise her productive capacities on one hand and frame her as principally responsible for family care on the other, the burden to balance the demands of both, which is crucial for career advancement, falls unduly on the shoulders of individual women. Surrounded by powerful and consistent messages about their role and duty to be a good mother, women will likely continue to be the ones who interrupt their careers or work part-time, which will slow their career progress (Eagly and Carli 2007). Women’s greater family care responsibilities are only part of the reason for the gender leadership gap. Eagly and Carli (2007) draws attention to another important factor, sex discrimination. Prejudices against women in Malaysian workplaces can be subtle, but meaningful. They are reflected, for example, in the 19.8% pay gap between female and male managers in Malaysia (Khazanah Research Institute 2018). More broadly in society, they are also apparent in the ‘solution’ offered to the problem of women’s underrepresentation in decision-making positions, namely leadership programmes that patronise and devalue women by assuming that they are not being promoted because of a lack of skills— skills that these programmes will provide. Devoid of gender politics, such programmes ignore the fact that women are not always assessed in the same way as men in the workplace due to gender stereotypes and cultural expectations. Global research has shown that women leaders often face a ‘double bind’, where they are assessed as incompetent if they behave

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in a stereotypically feminine manner, or overly aggressive if they interact in a stereotypically masculine way (e.g. Baxter 2010; Baxter and Al A’ali 2016). Such discriminatory stereotypes and gender bias in the workplace can lead to ‘quite a few turns and dead ends in the labyrinth’ (Eagly and Carli 2007, 80). Answering the questions why women’s labour force participation and representation in senior positions have remained consistently low is a complex undertaking. So far, this chapter has focused on the main barriers to women working and advancing as well as some key institutional and policy responses to them, but it is worth highlighting that there are other policies and initiatives that were not discussed (e.g. flexible working policies and ‘return to work’ programmes). Overall, much of the planning and policy-making appear to emanate from an economic perspective rather than a sense of social justice. Women are largely included in Malaysia’s development plans for their potential economic contributions. This highly instrumentalist approach towards gender and development has not been sufficiently sensitive to ‘the unequal terms upon which many women enter the market economy or the possibility that markets themselves are sites for the perpetuation of gender inequalities’. Rather, it ‘assumes a straightforward link between integrating women into the market economy and women’s empowerment’ (Elias 2011, 530). Government measures are skewed towards facilitating women’s participation by extending financial assistance and improving women’s skills and abilities through what is deemed as relevant training (UNDP 2014). As yet, they have shown little interest in providing robust legislative frameworks that ensure women’s ‘equal access to labour market participation and protection from all forms of direct and indirect discrimination and harassment’ (International Labour Organisation 2016, 59). I illustrate this in the next section by focusing on two specific issues, pregnancy discrimination and sexual harassment at work.

Pregnancy Discrimination and Sexual Harassment in the Workplace While gender discrimination in Malaysia has different causes, they are quite often located in women’s childbearing abilities. A workplace discrimination survey by the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) (2016) reveals that 40% of respondents had experienced workplace discrimination because of their pregnancy, the main forms of which include

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‘making their positions redundant, denying them promotions, placing them on prolonged probation, demoting them, and terminating their jobs’. A similar proportion of the participants had been asked about their pregnancy status or plans during their interviews, and 20% ‘had their job applications rejected or job offers revoked’ after disclosing their pregnancy. Yet, there are no existing laws against such discriminatory questions. To improve women’s working conditions, the Malaysian Federal Constitution was finally amended in 2001 to prohibit gender discrimination, but the definition of ‘discrimination’ has been left to courts and legislative bodies. At present, there are no gender-specific legislations on discrimination.14 In WAO’s survey, only one in eight women who had lost their jobs or promotions due to pregnancy had made formal complaints. As of 2020, a woman whose job is terminated because she is pregnant could lodge an unfair dismissal complaint (WAO 2016). However, the legal protections provided by the Employment Act are minimal as it does not actually prohibit employers from using pregnancy as a reason for termination. Rather, it prohibits employers from terminating employees during the period in which they are entitled to maternity leave [and] after her maternity leave if the employee is unable to return to work “as a result of illness certified by a registered medical practitioner to arise out of her pregnancy and confinement”, unless her absence exceeds 90 days after the end of her maternity leave. (Lim 2016)

Employers who violate the law face a fine of MYR10,000 (approximately e2110) (The Star 2017), which is a mere slap on the wrist. In a 2012 landmark case, the High Court, with reference to Malaysia’s obligation under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), held that the government’s revocation of Noorfadilla binti Ahmad Saikin’s teaching post upon learning that she was pregnant was ‘a form of gender discrimination because [it is a] basic biological fact that only women have the capacity to become pregnant’ (Lim 2016). This decision was challenged by the government, who eventually withdrew their appeal. The Federal Court, on the other hand, narrowly interprets the equality provision in the Constitution as only applicable to employees in the public sector (WAO and the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality [JAG] 2019). In sum,

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existing labour laws are not adequate to protect women against pregnancy discrimination,15 and this constitutes a significant barrier to women obtaining and maintaining employment. Like pregnancy discrimination, sexual harassment has an exclusionary impact on women by denying them their right to a safe and healthy workplace. Women’s rights groups have been calling for a Sexual Harassment Act for decades, even submitting a proposed bill to the government in 2001. Yet, no stand-alone law has been enacted to address this issue (WAO 2019). The Ministry of Human Affairs issued the nonlegally binding 1999 Code of Practice on the Prevention and Eradication of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, but only a small fraction of employers have adopted this (WAO and JAG 2019). In 2012, the Employment Act was amended to provide for sexual harassment, entitling the victim to lodge a complaint and require the employer to conduct an investigation. However, among other critical shortcomings, employers are still not required to adopt the Code of Practice and can therefore define what constitutes harassment, while the survivor cannot claim damages or even an apology from the perpetrator (World Bank 2012). Further, there are no measures to protect the complainant during the inquiry, and it is not uncommon for them to lose their jobs after lodging the complaint (Ong 2015). Finding the Employment (Amendment) Act 2012 to be insufficient, the Federal Court introduced the tort of sexual harassment into the Malaysian judicial system in 2016, allowing survivors of sexual harassment to seek legal redress. However, the tort requires the complainant to provide evidence of, and quantify monetarily, the harm that they experienced from the harassment. Such quantification of harm, as WAO and JAG (2019) point out, is not possible in all cases. Going to court also compromises the survivor’s confidentiality. Recognising these problems, the CEDAW Committee recently called for a comprehensive law that would enable complainants to seek redress without going through public, costly, and timely court processes16 (Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women 2018). This chapter has so far explored the myriad issues that women in Malaysia face in their occupational lives. Women’s LFPR remains low because they are bound to family obligations, while government measures to improve workplace-based childcare have had limited impact. Policymaking also does not adequately address class-related obstacles and structural inequalities in the home. Further, women continue to encounter

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discrimination and harassment that restricts their access to growth opportunities and a healthy work environment. It is against this landscape that the study is conducted.

The Study Working towards gender equality in the workplace requires a concerted effort to disrupt powerful discourses that legitimise unequal arrangements in the labour market and home. We especially need to denaturalise those that are passed off as ‘common sense’ or as ‘good sense’ by influential institutions like the mainstream media. This book contributes to this effort by interrogating the professional discourses that circulate through women’s media, which is a ubiquitous presence in Malaysia. As yet, only a handful of empirical studies have analysed discursive constructions of working women in Malaysian media or investigated the role of media language in reifying gender disparities in Malaysian professional contexts (e.g. Mullany and Yoong 2016; Suppiah et al. 2019; Yoong 2019). Although women’s media routinely present stories on professional women and offer guidance for career advancement, very little research in Malaysia has examined these (e.g. Che Nooryohana 2015; Yang and Nyathi 2019). The present study fills this gap. It examines linguistic representations of women and their occupational lives in Malaysian women’s media, and how these can perpetuate the systemic disadvantages that waged women face. It asks two main questions. First, what are the professional discourses articulated and what subject positions do they make available for employed women? Second, what ideologies do these discourses enact and legitimise? This book is strongly informed by Rottenberg’s (2018) work on neoliberal feminism, a new strand of feminism that acknowledges continued gender inequalities but transmutes emancipation as individual women’s ability to balance a successful career with a satisfying family life. It also draws on Gill’s (2007) conceptualisation of a postfeminist sensibility that is characterised by the entanglement of feminist and antifeminist ideas and an emphasis on choice, individualism, empowerment, discipline and self-transformation. In this study, I contend that neoliberal feminist and postfeminist logics profoundly structure media representations of career women and their experiences in the labour market. Chapter 2 discusses the core features of both concepts and how they hinder progress towards gender equality and inclusion in the realm of

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work. Drawing on research from a variety of disciplines, the chapter explores neoliberal feminism and postfeminism’s influence on how the media (re)defines ‘desirable’ and ‘undesirable’ ways of being professional women. For the purposes of this study, I have chosen three media outlets, which are Her World, a women’s lifestyle magazine; Clove, the women’s pages in a mainstream newspaper; and Capital FM 88.9, a commercial radio station targeted at women listeners. Chapter 3 introduces them in more detail. These media genres were selected for a number of reasons. Firstly, as Favaro and Gill (2018, 40) observe, women’s magazines ‘are still an inescapable feature of the cultural landscape of normative femininity’. Despite industry challenges and ongoing critique, they have ‘maintained high levels of popularity across time and space’ and continue to be ‘a key cultural site for the re/production of normative, limited and limiting gender and sexual identities and relations’. Likewise, women’s pages in newspapers play an important role in constructing women, politically, socially and economically. Randhawa (2019), for example, demonstrates how women journalists in Malaysia used their authority over the women’s pages to shape the discourse around domestic violence and provide supportive coverage of the feminist-led campaign for the enactment of the controversial Domestic Violence Act. Lastly, I have included women’s radio, which has received relatively little attention in language and gender research, for its potential as a medium by which women can call attention to patriarchal hegemony (Engstrom 2010). While alternative feminist media are generally not profit-motivated, Capital FM is a profit-driven radio station with an explicit feminist agenda. Thus, it presents a rich site for interrogating the professional discourses and work subjectivities produced within a ‘feminist’ media space constrained by ratings and advertisers. This research focuses on a specific subset of media texts—those that are produced not only for women, but also by women. This is to address the study’s secondary aim, which is to explore the linguistic means through which Malaysian women’s media present themselves as female allies. Because ‘ideological communication may be most effective when recipients do not or hardly expect ideological implications’ (van Dijk 1998, 265), it is important to interrogate language practices that could help the media appear trustworthy, reliable, and even benign. Building upon Talbot’s (1995) work on ‘synthetic sisterhood’, I examine how the

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media offers their readers and listeners ‘a close-knit, intimate community of women with shared interests and concerns’ (Frith et al. 2010, 477). In Talbot’s (1995) analysis of a teen magazine, she shows how synthesised friendly relationships are established between women writers and readers through the simulation of friendship and reciprocal discourse. Since Talbot’s study, other researchers have explored the strategies used for engaging women audiences in TV shows, lifestyle magazines and webpages (Frith et al. 2010; Lulu and Sharifah 2019; Swan 2017). This study extends this body of knowledge by identifying further linguistic techniques deployed to simulate intimacy with the reader and listener and potentially make the discourses articulated more palatable. Of course, we cannot assume that media representations and practices have a direct impact on how the audience thinks and behaves. To gain a better understanding of the ideological effects of the media, we would need to examine the audience’s response and interpretation of the texts. However, this is beyond the scope of this study. To answer the core research questions put forward in this book, I adopt a framework integrating feminist critical discourse analysis, critical stylistics and feminist conversation analysis to examine the articles and radio shows. These analytical approaches are discussed in Chapter 3. Although they have theoretical and methodological differences, and there has been some disagreement between critical discourse analysis and conversation analysis in particular, I argue that they can and should be brought together in this study. Through these approaches, the linguistic analysis in Chapters 4 and 5 identifies an array of professional discourses that contribute to ongoing gender inequalities in Malaysia’s economic domain. Chapter 4 reveals the influence of neoliberal feminism on cultural representations of employed mothers in the media, while Chapter 5 shows how individualistic postfeminist discourses act to downplay sexism towards women and disavow the need for structural transformation. Chapter 6 then moves from examining the ideological functions of media texts to considering their persuasive aspects. It discusses the linguistic strategies used by Her World, Clove and Capital FM to establish a ‘synthetic sisterhood’ with the audience and present themselves as a friend or female confidante even as they promote femininities within patriarchal and neoliberal systems. Chapter 7 presents a summary of this study’s key findings, before closing the book with overarching recommendations on how women’s media and institutional policies can transform discourses surrounding gender, employment and care in order to advance

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equality in the workplace. Although I focus on Malaysia, these proposals are relevant to other sociocultural contexts as well.

Notes 1. This is the highest political position ever attained by a woman in Malaysia. Dr. Wan Azizah Wan Ismail held this post for 21 months. 2. Women occupied merely 10.1% of managerial, supervisory and professional positions in the manufacturing sector in 1978 and only 22.5% in 1998 (Ministry of Women and Family Development 2003). 3. This prediction was made prior to the Covid-19 outbreak and may be revised. 4. The options provided in the survey were ‘schooling’, ‘housework’, ‘going for further studies’, ‘disabled’, ‘not interested’, ‘retired’ and ‘other’. Hence, ‘housework’ covers a spectrum of domestic activities. These options are problematic as they frame women who are outside the workforce as non-workers, concealing their economic contributions through informal and reproductive labour. 5. The three care options available for Malaysians are care migration (i.e. hiring foreign domestic workers), formal institutional care (e.g. registered public, private and community-based care services) and family-based care (e.g. care provided by relatives and nannies) (Choong et al. 2018). 6. Data from 2010 to 2018 shows that women aged thirty to thirty-nine work fewer hours than men (Khazanah Research Institute 2019). 7. One-third of the increase in women’s LPFR between 2010 and 2016 ‘is explained by the rise in own account workers, compared to only 2.6% for men’ (ibid., 14). 8. In 2019, the Ministry of Human Resources proposed to amend the Employment Act to provide for three days of paternity leave in the private sector. Following a petition pushing for seven days of paternity leave, the then Human Resources Minister committed to propose this to Cabinet for deliberation. Provisions on paternity leave were expected to be tabled in Parliament in 2020 (Women’s Aid Organisation 2020). This is now uncertain with the change in government in February 2020. 9. Elderly care and care for persons with disabilities are also crucial issues, but this chapter focuses on childcare challenges as this is an important topic in the media data examined in Chapters 4 and 5. 10. As of January 2019, there are 4887 registered childcare centres which can accommodate 5.2% of the 2.6 million children aged four years and below, but only 1.2% of children are enrolled in these centres. More data is needed to fully understand the reasons for parents’ childcare decisions (Khazanah Research Institute 2019).

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11. The government releases a Malaysia Plan every five years outlining the main policy directions for the next five years. 12. The 33% figure is above the global average of 29%. Reasons for the sharp increase within a year were not reported. However, according Grant Thornton Malaysia (2020), ‘60% of Malaysian businesses are actively working on removing barriers to gender parity at senior levels’. Actions being taken include ensuring equal access to developmental work opportunities, providing mentoring and flexible working as well as setting targets/quotas for gender balance at leadership levels. 13. Some middle-income families in Malaysia hire female domestic workers from neighbouring countries to take on household and childcare responsibilities. It is estimated that 2% of households hired foreign domestic workers in 2016, so ‘the care migration sector remains small and accessible only to a small segment of the Malaysian households’. In fact, the number of foreign domestic workers has declined at the same time that women’s LFPR has been increasing, partly due to the high costs (Choong et al. 2018, 7). Nonetheless, the care migration model has compounded fears that wage-earning women will neglect their socially reproductive roles (Elias 2014). 14. The Gender Equality Act was in the process of being drafted by the previous government together with civil society. It would comprehensively protect women from discrimination in the workplace and other sectors (WAO 2020). With the change in government, it is unclear if or when the act will be tabled in Parliament. 15. Anti-discrimination provisions in the Employment Act were slated to be tabled in Parliament in 2020. These would protect job seekers and employees from discrimination on the basis of gender, pregnancy, marital status, et cetera. It is uncertain if this will proceed given the change in government. 16. These issues would have been addressed by the Sexual Harassment Act that was scheduled to be tabled in Parliament in March 2020 (WAO 2020). It is yet unclear if this Act, which was led by the previous MWFCD, will still be tabled.

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Lai, Suat Yan. 2003. “The Women’s Movement in Peninsular Malaysia, 1900– 1999: A Historical Analysis.” In Social Movements in Malaysia: From Moral Communities to NGOs, edited by Meredith L. Weiss and Saliha Hassan, 45– 74. London: Routledge Curzon. Lim, Adryenne. 2016. Pregnancy Discrimination: The Need for Law Reform in Malaysia. Donovan & Ho: Advocates & Solicitors. http://dnh.com.my/ pregnancy-discrimination-the-need-for-law-reform-in-malaysia. Accessed on September 1, 2019. Lulu, Reem A., and Sharifah Nurul Huda Alkaff. 2019. “Cross-Cultural Study of Persuasive Strategies in Relationship Advice Articles in Women’s Magazines.” GEMA Online Journal of Language Studies 19 (2): 15–32. McRobbie, Angela. 2009. The Aftermath of Feminism: Gender, Culture and Social Change. London: Sage. Ministry of Women and Family Development. 2003. The Progress of Malaysian Women Since Independence 1957–2000. Kuala Lumpur: Ministry of Women and Family Development. Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development and UNDP. 2007. Measuring and Monitoring Gender Equality: Malaysia’s Gender Gap Index Report. Kuala Lumpur: Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development. ———. 2014. Study to Support the Development of National Policies and Programmes to Increase and Retain the Participation of Women in the Malaysian Labour Force: Key Findings and Recommendations. Putrajaya: Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development. Mullany, Louise, and Melissa Yoong. 2016. “Language, Gender and Identities in Political Life: A Case Study from Malaysia.” In The Routledge Handbook of Language and Identity, edited by Sian Preece, 428–42. Oxon: Routledge. Ng, Cecilia, and Chee Heng Leng. 1996. “Women in Malaysia: Present Struggles and Future Directions.” Asian Journal of Women’s Studies 2: 192–210. Ng, Cecilia, Maznah Mohamad, and Tan Beng Hui. 2006. Feminism and the Women’s Movement in Malaysia: An Unsung (R)evolution. Abingdon: Routledge. Ong, Aihwa. 2010. Spirits of Resistance and Capitalist Discipline: Factory Women in Malaysia, 2nd ed. Albany: State University of New York Press. Ong, Joanne. 2015. Sexual Harassment in the Workplace. Donovan & Ho: Advocates & Solicitors. http://www.dnh.com.my/sexual-harassment-in-theworkplace. Accessed on September 1, 2019. Orgad, Shani. 2017. “The Cruel Optimism of the Good Wife: The Fantastic Working Mother on the Fantastical Treadmill.” Television and New Media 18 (2): 165–83. ———. 2019. Heading Home: Motherhood, Work, and the Failed Promise of Equality. New York: Columbia Press.

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Randhawa, Sonia. 2019. “Just Don’t Say Feminism: Covering the Domestic Violence Act in the Women’s Pages of the Malaysian Malay-language Press.” Feminist Media Studies. https://doi.org/10.1080/14680777.2019. 1578248. Rottenberg, Catherine. 2018. The Rise of Neoliberal Feminism. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Securities Commission Malaysia. 2019. Corporate Governance Monitor 2019. Kuala Lumpur: Securities Commission Malaysia. Suppiah, Puspalata C., Surinderpal Kaur, Nalini Arumugam, and Alice Shanthi. 2019. “News Coverage of Foreign Sex Workers in Malaysia: A Critical Analysis.” GEMA Online Journal of Language Studies 19 (1): 136–52. Swan, Elaine. 2017. “Postfeminist Stylistics, Work Femininities and Coaching: A Multimodal Study of a Website.” Gender, Work and Organization 24 (3): 274–96. Talbot, Mary. 1995. “A Synthetic Sisterhood: False Friends in a Teenage Magazine.” In Gender Articulated: Language and the Socially Constructed Self , edited by Kira Hall and Mary Bucholtz, 143–65. New York: Routledge. TalentCorp. 2017. Talent Diversity: The Way Forward. Petaling Jaya, Selangor: Talent Corporation Malaysia. TalentCorp and PwC. 2015. Diversity in the Workplace 2015: A Survey of Malaysian Public Listed Companies. TalentCorp. https://s3-ap-southeast1.amazonaws.com/talentcorpbucket/assets/multimediams/media/Talent corp_2015_v9B.pdf. Accessed on August 29, 2019. The Star. 2016. We’re on Track. The Star Online. http://www.thestar.com.my/ news/nation/2016/11/20/were-on-track. Accessed on September 1, 2019. ———. 2017. Labour Law Review to Protect Pregnant Women. The Star Online. http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2017/03/28/lab our-law-review-to-protect-pregnant-women. Accessed on September 1, 2019. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). 2014. Malaysia Human Development Report 2013: Redesigning an Inclusive Future. Kuala Lumpur: United Nations Development Programme. van Dijk, Teun A. 1998. Ideology: A Multidisciplinary Approach. London: Sage. Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO). 2016. Discrimination Towards Women Remains Prevalent in the Malaysian Workplace. Women’s Aid Organisation. https://wao.org.my/discrimination-towards-women-remains-prevalantin-the-malaysian-workplace. Accessed on September 1, 2019. ———. 2019. We Need a Sexual Harassment Act. Women’s Aid Organisation. https://wao.org.my/we-need-a-sexual-harassment-act-2. Accessed on September 1, 2019. ———. 2020. 5 Reforms to Improve Women’s Rights that Must Persist. Women’s Aid Organisation. https://wao.org.my/5-reforms-to-improve-wom ens-rights-that-must-persist. Accessed on March 10, 2020.

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Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) and the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG). 2019. The Status of Women’s Human Rights: 24 Years of CEDAW in Malaysia. Petaling Jaya, Selangor: Women’s Aid Organisation. World Bank. 2012. Malaysia Economic Monitor: Unlocking Women’s Talent. Washington DC: World Bank. World Economic Forum. 2012. Global Gender Gap Report 2012. Geneva: World Economic Forum. ———. 2020. Global Gender Gap Report 2020. Geneva. World Economic Forum. Yang, Lai Fong, and Shammah Esther Chiriseri Nyathi. 2019. “Gender Representation and Framing of Malaysian Women: A Study of Feature Articles in Female Magazine.” Journal of Content, Community & Communication 10: 29–38. Yoong, Melissa. 2019. “‘Where’s our #30peratus’: A Feminist Critical Discourse Analysis of Twitter Debates on Women’s Political Representation.” In Minorities Matter: Malaysian Politics and People Vol. 3, edited by Sophie Lemiere, 21–35. Singapore: ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute.

CHAPTER 2

Neoliberal Feminism, Postfeminism and Professional Identities in the Media

Abstract This chapter mobilises neoliberal feminism and postfeminism as critical concepts for examining professional discourses and identities in women’s media. First, it provides a critical overview of neoliberal feminism and its happy work–family balance ideal. It then goes on to outline the core features of postfeminism and, through existing research, illustrates the usefulness of this concept as a lens for uncovering and troubling discourses on women in the workplace. The final section explores the subject positions that neoliberal feminism and postfeminism offer to career women in a diverse range of media domains. Keywords Neoliberal feminism · Postfeminism · Work–life balance · Media and gender · Professional subjectivities

This study is profoundly influenced by Rottenberg and Gill’s work on neoliberal feminism and postfeminism respectively. Both concepts form important analytical lenses for examining the discourses that construct common sense notions about women, employment and care in Malaysian women’s media. This does not mean that the study takes neoliberal feminism and postfeminism as its theoretical stances. Rather, it critically interrogates neoliberal feminist and postfeminist ideas in the media.

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 M. Yoong, Professional Discourses, Gender and Identity in Women’s Media, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-55544-3_2

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By examining neoliberal feminist and postfeminist culture, I am not abandoning the critique of patriarchal structures in Malaysia. It is evident from the previous chapter that patriarchal attitudes regarding gender roles in the family and society continue to be a significant root cause of women’s disadvantaged position in the labour market. I contend that sexism is manifested in the media, but it co-exists and interacts in sophisticated ways with other systems to maintain the status quo. As we will see in this book, neoliberal feminist and postfeminist frameworks are valuable as they enable us to theorise the co-occurrence of contradictory ideas and interpellations of women which render patriarchal ideologies less visible in Malaysian media. In this chapter, I map out the contours of neoliberal feminism and postfeminism, and discuss their implications for feminine ideals and gender equality struggles in economic and family domains.

Neoliberal Feminism Neoliberalism traditionally refers to an economic rationality that promotes the ideas of privatisation, the withdrawal of state support, deregulation, elimination of tariffs and maximisation of competition and competitiveness. Neoliberal market values have now extended into non-economic policy realms and social domains. In Malaysia, the deepening and widening of the neoliberal competitiveness agenda is reflected, for example, in state policy emphasis on women’s reproductive responsibilities to raise economically productive citizens (Elias 2020). But even more than a set of socio-economic policies, neoliberalism has permeated everyday life with ‘pervasive effects on ways of thought to the point where it has become incorporated into the common-sense way many of us interpret, live in, and understand the world’ (Harvey 2005, 3). Following Brown (2005, 37), this study views neoliberalism as a modality of governance ‘that produces subjects, forms of citizenship and behaviour, and a new organization of the social’. Within neoliberal ideologies, individuals are conceptualised ‘as entrepreneurial actors in every sphere of life … as rational, calculating creatures whose moral autonomy is measured by their capacity for “self-care”—the ability to provide for their own needs and service their own ambitions’ (ibid., 42). The self-responsible neoliberal subject is assumed to be free, but the meaning of freedom has changed. Universal freedom from power has been replaced with what Chen (2013, 443) terms ‘positive freedom’, that is ‘the active ability to respond to power and the autonomous ability to realise one’s potential

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through one’s own efforts and active choice’. Choice and agency have also been resignified to refer to the ability ‘to choose maximum material gain and profit in order to construct one’s own self [and] to be active in this materialistic, profitable self-actualising project’ (ibid.). It is unsurprising, then, that feminist researchers are increasingly identifying neoliberalism as a crucial dimension of gender equality struggles. In contrast to feminist movements, which place emphasis on collective action and third-party intervention, the incorporation of the political into ‘the all-absorbing domain of marketised self-governance’ (ibid., 446) has reversed the second wave rallying cry ‘the personal is political’ and reduced the political to personal and individual (Dow 1996). Rottenberg (2018) has identified the emergence of a mode of feminism that is deeply informed by market rationality, which she calls ‘neoliberal feminism’. She argues that through the use of key liberal terms such as free choice, opportunity and equality, neoliberalism forges an individuated feminist subject who is paradoxically aware of continued gender inequality and yet disavows the sociocultural and economic forces that produce this inequality. This new feminist subject is simultaneously neoliberal ‘because she accepts full responsibility for her own well-being and self-care, which is increasingly predicated on crafting a felicitous work–family balance based on a cost-benefit calculus’ (ibid., 55). Balance, within neoliberal feminism, is presented as one of the highest feminist priorities and the ultimate ideal. Like liberal feminist discourses, the balance discourse ‘encourages women to invest in and cultivate a career as well as to develop one’s sense of self’. However, at the same time, it reinforces not only the normative idea ‘that women should have - and should want to have children’, but also the expectation of hands-on or intensive mothering1 (ibid., 82). While ideas of work–family balance have been around for a long time, Rottenberg’s work shows that they have evolved in recent years. The earlier image of the superwoman of the 1980s and 1990s was premised on ‘having it all’, but not a happy equilibrium. What is new with neoliberal feminism is it posits ‘a happy work-family balance as a feminist ideal and as the signifier for emancipation for “progressive womanhood”’ (BanetWeiser et al. 2020, 14). In this new feminism, the ability to calibrate a perfect equilibrium between work and family is the pivot on which happiness and emancipation hinge. As Rottenberg (2018, 73) observes, ‘progressive’ ambitious women are told that the pursuit of happiness is ‘through constructing a self-tailored work–family balance’. Because the

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goal of creating and sustaining a satisfying equilibrium is elusive and difficult to gauge, incessant self-surveillance is needed. As such, crafting a felicitous equilibrium inscribes an entrepreneurial subject who optimises her personal resources through constant calculation, initiative and innovation as she works towards achieving the right balance between family and career. Crucially, creative individual solutions and smart self-investments, rather than collective solutions, are cast as feminist and progressive. Change is conceptualised not as the dismantling of structural discrimination, but as ‘an internal, solipsistic and affective matter’ (ibid., 68). Rottenberg argues that it is this turn inward, divested of any orientation towards the public good, that makes neoliberal feminism distinct from other forms of feminism. For Rottenberg (2018, 16), the convergence between neoliberalism and feminism serves a particular cultural purpose—it resolves the dilemma of reproduction for neoliberalism’s rationality. As an economic order, neoliberalism ‘relies on reproduction and care work in order to reproduce and maintain so-called human capital’. On the other hand, as a political rationality that reduces all areas of life to market metrics and considerations of profitability and productivity, it ‘has no lexicon that can recognize let alone value reproduction and care work’. Thus, by constructing balance as a normative frame and progressive ideal, neoliberal feminism helps to retain reproduction as part of ‘aspirational’ women’s life trajectory. It encourages them to pursue motherhood as enthusiastically as career success, while leaving all responsibility for care on their individual shoulders. Neoliberal feminist messages have been well documented in Western contexts, including in the media (Scharff 2020) and professional settings (Mickey 2019). There is also a small but growing body of scholarship exploring the cultural work carried out by neoliberal feminism in East Asia which points to the individualisation and marketisation of feminist concerns in this region (Kim 2019; Peng 2019; Yu 2018). While I identified no published studies on neoliberal feminism in Malaysia, traces of this discourse are visible in Ng et al.’s (2006, 160–61) research on the country’s women’s movement. In this work, they raise concerns about the emergence of a form of feminism that is devoid of collective political responsibility. To illustrate, they give the example of Mothers for Mothers, a women’s empowerment network that advocates the use of digital communication ‘to sustain women’s empowerment not just as gainfully waged workers but as effective mothers and homemakers’. The researchers contend that such ‘individualized, depoliticized and

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market-driven’ feminism often glorifies women’s ability to combine their professional and family commitments but does nothing to challenge the patriarchal order. This strongly evokes neoliberal feminism and its balance ideal. At a national policy level, Elias (2020, 68) argues that gender equality goals are pursued within a neoliberal ethos. Initiatives to bring more women into the Malaysian workforce are underpinned by ‘highly individualised notions of ... self-care’ and assumptions that women must take individual responsibility for their household’s social reproduction in order to improve their productive capacity. These observations, and the paucity of literature concerning neoliberal feminism in East and Southeast Asia, suggest the need to examine this phenomenon further in this part of the world.

Postfeminism This study conceptualises postfeminism as a cultural sensibility that both invokes and disavows feminism.2 It is warmly enthusiastic about gender equality and women’s empowerment and success but, at the same time, rejects the need to mobilise a feminist movement for social transformation, suggesting instead that feminism’s goals have been achieved (Banet-Weiser et al. 2020). I adopt the term ‘sensibility’ used by Gill to capture its ‘fluidity and flexibility, as well as a sense of postfeminism as a cultural and political but also an affective and psychological phenomenon’ (Litosseliti et al. 2019, 10). To speak of postfeminism as a sensibility is to speak of ‘a constellation of beliefs, ideas and practices that are dynamic, that travel, and that change’ (Gill et al. 2017, 230). And, certainly, my own research in Malaysia (Yoong 2017, 2019), alongside those in Singapore (Lazar 2014), China (Thornham and Feng 2010), Bangladesh (Chowdhury 2010), South Africa (Glapka 2018) and Nigeria (Dosekun 2015), show that while the concept of postfeminism is most often invoked in Western scholarly literature, it is a transnational phenomenon that is spreading out across cultures and, in the process of appropriation, is being reshaped. As postfeminist sensibility travels, it is rearticulated with locally situated discourses and, thus, must be interpreted through contextually specific meanings. While postfeminism may mutate as it traverses geopolitical and cultural spaces, there are relatively stable features and empirical regularities that constitute this sensibility. In its various formulations, postfeminism can be broadly characterised by a strong emphasis on individualism

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that exculpates the institutions of patriarchal capitalism and blames women for their disadvantaged positions, that renders the intense surveillance of women’s bodies normal or even desirable, that calls forth endless work on the self, that centres notions of empowerment and choice whilst enrolling women in ever more intense regimes of ‘the perfect’. (Banet-Weiser et al. 2020, 16)

As Chapter 5 will show, these features are central to discussions about women and their careers in the media analysed. Postfeminism’s intense focus on individual enterprise demonstrates not only its apolitical character, but also its powerful resonance with neoliberal ideologies. Both postfeminism and neoliberalism privilege individualism and regard individuals as architects of their own destinies, unencumbered by any social or material constraints outside themselves. Indeed, the ‘active, freely choosing, self-reinventing’ postfeminist subject is almost indistinguishable from the ‘autonomous, calculating, selfregulating subject of neoliberalism’ (Gill 2008, 443). Postfeminism and neoliberal feminism are similar in that they both ‘disarticulate’ systemic gender imbalances by promoting self-responsibilisation, but the latter’s embrace of a feminist identity marks it as different from the former which repudiates feminism. Within postfeminism, any remaining power differentials between women and men, including in employment, are attributed not to sexism or unjust sociopolitical systems, but to sexual differences and women’s personal preferences (Litosseliti et al. 2019). In the domain of work, women are often urged to ‘transform their selves’ and ‘remodel their interiority, their subjectivity’ to achieve success (Gill et al. 2017, 231). For example, in an analysis of interviews with employees in the United Kingdom, Germany and Switzerland, Gill et al. (2017, 227) observed a postfeminist repudiation of sexism. The participants often represented the status quo ‘as “just how it is”, in a way that does not require social transformation, but simply (harder) work and entrepreneurialism on the part of each individual woman’. Looking beyond the interviews, they identified a new postfeminist discourse emerging in discussions about women and work, one that places strong emphasis on ‘female self-confidence’. This turn to confidence, they argue, incites individual women ‘to work on their self-esteem and to “fake it till they make it”, whether this is through embodied “power poses”, software applications that censor unassertive (read feminine) writing styles, or leadership programmes that

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exhort women to “lean in”’ (ibid., 241). While this differs from postfeminism’s original stance in that the existence of gender disparities is not denied, the discourse retains a distinctively postfeminist patina as the need for a structural makeover is disavowed through an emphasis on self-transformation. Despite postfeminism’s prominence in gender, media and culture studies and its increasing importance in gender and organisation studies (e.g. Sørensen 2017; Lewis 2014), it has received little attention within language, gender and sexuality scholarship. As yet, only a handful of investigations have utilised it empirically to analyse linguistic representations of career women and gender equality in professional contexts. While small in number, these studies have clearly demonstrated the value of this critical concept to expose the problematic visions of gender workplace equality that foster a culture of post-critique. For example, in Kauppinen’s (2013, 146–47) critical discourse analysis of the German edition of Cosmopolitan magazine, she detected a ‘discourse of postfeminist self-management’ that invokes ‘an image of a power femininity (Lazar, 2006; Wolf, 1993), a woman who competently manages her life against all odds, maintains full power despite stress; a femininity which the reader is invited to adopt herself’. She argues that the feelings of empowerment, control, competence and agency that the discourse evokes do not incite feminist action. Rather, the discourse guides readers ‘to participate enthusiastically in the neoliberalized order of the world of work without leaving them any room for doubt or criticism’. More recently, Litosseliti et al. (2019, 13) combined critical work on postfeminism with fine-grained linguistic analysis to show how the sensibility has permeated so-called solutions to improve workplace diversity, with depoliticising effects. Analysing an article about agile working3 posted on the online community Women in Business, they argue that the prevalence of the language of choice and self-determination is distinctive of postfeminism and neoliberalism. They also critique how agile working is framed through discursive resources that reflect a postfeminist sensibility centred on ‘survival strategies for individuals rather than structural transformation for all’. For instance, integrating professional and family responsibilities is presented as a personal or exclusively women’s issue rather than a social or institutional one. The structural reasons for the challenges that women face ‘are placed firmly outside the organisation and must be anticipated and managed by the female employees themselves’.

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So far, there are few studies on postfeminism in Malaysia, but my previous work (Yoong 2019) indicates that this sensibility has established influence within Malaysian society. Following the general election in 2018, I conducted a feminist critical discourse analysis of Twitter debates on gender equality in the professional domain of politics. The study shows Malaysian Twitter users taking up the postfeminist myth of egalitarianism to silence demands for a gender quota to enhance women’s political representation. Assuming a level playing field, they often incited women to work harder on themselves, thereby mystifying structural constraints to women’s advancement in public life. Clearly, more research is needed to interrogate the discourses that constitute a postfeminist ‘common sense’ in Malaysia and unsettle the ways in which they neutralise gender work inequalities.

Neoliberal Feminist and Postfeminist Work Subjectivities The influence of neoliberal feminism and postfeminism on the formation of work subject positions has been explored in a variety of media contexts. Rottenberg (2018) traces the advent of a neoliberal feminist subject, the happily balanced woman who is both a professional and hands-on ‘present’ mother. One crucial moment that contributed to the emergence of this ideal is the publication of Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article ‘Why Women Still Can’t Have It All’ in the July/August 2012 issue of The Atlantic. In her essay, Slaughter calls for the transformation of social and workplace norms so that women can ‘combine professional success and satisfaction with a real commitment to family’. For Slaughter, having ‘healthy, happy, productive lives’ entails ‘valuing the people they love as much as the success they seek’, thus conceptualising progressive contemporary womanhood as a felicitous balancing act. The essay went viral and was accessed online by more than a million people in the first week of its publication. It is currently the most widely read essay in the history of The Atlantic, with more than three million readers (Rottenberg 2018). However, for Rottenberg, it is in Sheryl Sandberg’s internationally bestselling ‘feminist manifesto’ Lean In that we can ‘very clearly discern the processes by and through which … the neoliberal feminist subject [was] born’ (ibid., 59). Published in 2013, the book exhorts women to change their attitudes about work and self and to ‘lean in’ to their careers. Rottenberg argues that the rhetoric mobilised by Slaughter (2012) and Sandberg

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(2013) helped to inscribe a satisfying balance as a feminist ideal, even though they differ on the best way to attain this happy balance. The profound cultural shift that Slaughter’s essay and Sandberg’s book helped to bring about in the United States can also be detected in Malaysia, indicating a wider cultural phenomenon. Following the success of the book, Sandberg established LeanIn.Org, a non-profit organisation dedicated to helping women to achieve their ambitions. The Malaysian chapter, Lean In Malaysia, was launched in 2015 and has a membership of more than 4000 women and men (The Peak 2018). Rottenberg observes that the ‘balanced woman’ ideal is circulated widely, for instance in television shows like The Good Wife and Borgen where the female protagonists are career-oriented women whose primary concerns revolve around finding happiness through a work–family balance. She also encounters this ideal in two Internet blogs written by Lindsey Mead and Aidan Rowley, Ivy League-educated professional women with children. In these ‘mommy blogs’, Mead and Rowley position themselves as ‘women who have managed successfully to negotiate the delicate balance between raising their children and pursuing a meaningful profession’ (ibid., 129). This positioning, Rottenberg tells us, is premised on the disavowal of their class and financial privilege and the possible outsourcing of care work. A growing number of studies have explored the work subjectivities that are offered to women by postfeminist discourses in contemporary media. One subjectivity that has gained scholarly attention is the happy, confident, uncomplaining professional woman. Postfeminism interpellates a feminine subject who is confident, positive, resilient and relentlessly upbeat, while repudiating certain affective states and ways of being, particularly resentment, anger and a sense of victimhood. This accords with neoliberal capitalism’s need for ‘subjects who embrace risk, take responsibility for themselves, and have the all-important quality of “bouncebackability” for when things go badly’ (Litosseliti et al. 2019, 9). Gill and Orgad examine how Marie Claire, a women’s magazine, calls a confident, resilient, ‘bounce-backable’ subject into being in their @Work section. In one article, the magazine encourages their readers to be confident—but not too confident—women in the workplace by advising them ‘to “have a voice” but not to be strident’, to ‘keep it clear and don’t overstep the mark’ and adopt ‘key phrases such as “in my opinion” and “I think”’ (Gill and Orgad 2017, 22). In another, they tell their readers to ‘“have self-belief”, “give up on being perfect”, “be adaptable to change”, “don’t

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be afraid of re-invention”, “focus on the good stuff” and so on’ (Gill and Orgad 2018, 482). Adamson and Kelan (2019, 981–82) identify a similar idealised femininity in business celebrity autobiographies. To understand ‘the behaviours, characteristics and values that are constructed as culturally and socially desirable for a particular (work) role’, they examine the autobiographical narratives of well-known businesswomen. These books, they argue, present female readers with a postfeminist ‘female hero’, a role model that displays the ‘confidence to jump over gendered barriers; control in managing these barriers; and courage to push through them’. In a slightly earlier work, Adamson (2017) explores the construction of a ‘successfully’ balanced organisational femininity in the autobiographies of four women celebrity CEOs. She argues that this media genre constructs a particular type of femininity ‘as more successfully balanced and more desirable than others in an organizational context’ (ibid., 319). Specifically, doing balance successfully requires women to reclaim feminine behaviours, characteristics, attitudes and roles, while being very careful to not ‘overdo’ each of these. Thus, to strive for the cultural ideal of balanced organisational femininity is to be ‘a good postfeminist subject underpinned by discourses of natural sex differences, female empowerment and choice, yet, at the same time, with relentless self-discipline and personal responsibility’ (ibid., 323). Crucially, the work subject positions engendered by postfeminist media culture include not only idealised femininities, but also ‘failed’ ones, which serve as cautionary tales, so to speak. The hierarchical subject positions do ideological work in that they encourage women to incessantly self-monitor and discipline themselves in order to fulfil the cultural ideal of successful femininity or risk being perceived as failures. For example, in Swan’s (2017, 291) study on work femininities constituted in coaching webpages, she found postfeminist depictions of a warm and relational entrepreneurial femininity constructed partly through representations of synthetic sisterhood, and a ‘bold, confident, energetic and striving’ individualised entrepreneurial femininity that is founded on the erasure of the social, political and economic constraints that women face. At the same time, she detected the ‘shadow’ of the individualised entrepreneurial femininity, that is, a ‘constantly failing’ subject who is ‘precarious, harried, relentless self-promoting and “fatally insecure”’. In a similar vein, Sørensen’s (2017) analysis of the Norwegian press shows how the desirable subject position of the ‘exceptional career mother’ who

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is professionally successful, enjoys her job and is in control of her own life can be easily disrupted and transformed into the ‘failing (career) mother’ through an emphasis on intensive mothering. The stereotypical career woman who fails at motherhood is not completely new as it reinforces traditional gender roles. However, it is worth noting the resonances between Sørensen’s ‘exceptional career mother’ and the neoliberal feminist ideal of the balanced woman. This section has illustrated how neoliberal feminism and postfeminism have shaped the types of feminine work subjectivities constituted in the media. Before I bring it to a close, I will now briefly discuss the theoretical perspectives that inform my analysis of the professional identities produced by neoliberal feminist and postfeminist discourses. This study adopts a social constructionist perspective, where identities are not fixed and coherent, but fluid, socially constructed and multidimensional, with gender being one dimension of identity alongside other categories such as social class and sexuality. Our sense of selves as women and men are dependent on the range of ‘subject positions’ or ‘ways of being’ that are made available to us by the gendered discourses operating in a given social context. As agentive language users, we produce our diverse and potentially conflicting gendered selves by taking up particular subject positions in and across various discourses. In this sense, we have unique yet reasonably predictable ways of being women and men (Baxter 2016; Litosseliti 2013). What this also means is that discourses can be both gendered as well as gendering (see Sunderland 2004). Hence, it is imperative to interrogate institutionalised discourses, such as those produced by the media, and the subjectivities that they produce as these have regulatory effects upon gender identity construction. Conversely, as Litosseliti (2013) reminds us, our gendered identities also give rise to particular discourses. For example, the identities of professional women in the data analysed are constructed through how they are written or spoken about as well as through their talk, which in turn shape the discourses surrounding these positionings. What this study is interested in are the particular subjectivities that are engendered as a result of various positionings of career women though the array of discourses in the media, the boundaries for feminine professional behaviour that are (re)set by these discourses, and the opportunities as well as gender inequalities that are created and reinforced as a result. The analysis of work subjectivities constituted in discourse will include examining the construction of both

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self (by women writers, interviewers and interviewees) and other women, such as the audience. The gendered professional identities examined are not only represented in discourse, but also performed. This study draws on Judith Butler’s (1990) theory of performativity, which emphasises that gender identity is neither completely determined nor completely arbitrary. As an unstable social category that varies by context, gender needs to be constantly reaffirmed through repeated gendered acts. However, individuals are not completely free to choose from a range of gendered linguistic practices, but are impinged upon by a ‘rigid regulatory frame’ (ibid., 33) that governs how we assess each other and constrains how gender can be accomplished. This perspective is productive for exploring how neoliberal feminism and postfeminism, as rationalities of governance, regulate the way women in media conduct themselves and produce their professional identities. Butler’s notion of the rigid regulatory frame is also useful for interrogating how the neoliberal feminist and postfeminist discourses produced in the media reconfigure the boundaries of ideal womanhood. Further, Butler (2004, 1) argues that ‘one does not “do” one’s gender alone. One is always “doing” with or for another’. Therefore, when examining the performance of gender in the media, this study takes into consideration the women’s social and institutional roles and who they are ‘doing’ gender with and for. To sum up this chapter, we have discussed how neoliberal feminist and postfeminist ideas about individualism, balance, entrepreneurialism, agency and choice can depoliticise gender work inequalities and neutralise potential critique. Through an array of studies, we have also explored the influence of neoliberal feminism and postfeminism on how the media (re)defines ‘desirable’ and ‘undesirable’ ways of being professional women. Importantly, we have seen the media’s implication in constructing neoliberal feminism and postfeminism as common sense ways to understand career women. In the next chapter, I take a closer look at the media analysed in this study.

Notes 1. Hays (1996) coined the term ‘intensive mothering’ to describe the beliefs that (1) mothers should be the primary caregivers; (2) parenting should be emotionally absorbing and labour-intensive; and (3) the child’s wishes and well-being should be placed ahead of their mother’s.

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2. The term ‘postfeminism’ has also been used to signify (1) an epistemological break within feminist thought; (2) a temporal or historical shift after the height of second wave feminism; and (3) a regressive backlash against feminism (Litosseliti et al. 2019). See Gill et al. (2017) for compelling arguments against these theoretical, historical and backlash perspectives. 3. Agile working allows employees to work at any place and time that best suits them as long as their work targets and objectives are met (Litosseliti et al. 2019).

References Adamson, Maria. 2017. “Postfeminism, Neoliberalism and A ‘Successfully’ Balanced Femininity in Celebrity CEO Autobiographies.” Gender, Work and Organization 24 (3): 314–27. Adamson, Maria, and Elisabeth K. Kelan. 2019. “‘Female Heroes’: Celebrity Executives as Postfeminist Role Models.” British Journal of Management 30: 981–96. Banet-Weiser, Sarah, Rosalind Gill, and Catherine Rottenberg. 2020. “Postfeminism, Popular Feminism and Neoliberal Feminism? Sarah Banet-Weiser, Rosalind Gill and Catherine Rottenberg in Conversation.” Feminist Theory 21 (1): 3–24. Baxter, Judith. 2016. “Positioning Language and Identity: Poststructuralist Perspectives.” In The Routledge Handbook of Language and Identity, edited by Sian Preece, 34–49. Oxon: Routledge. Brown, Wendy. 2005. Edgework: Critical Essays on Knowledge and Politics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Butler, Judith. 1990. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. London: Routledge. ———. 2004. Undoing Gender. New York: Routledge. Chen, Eva. 2013. “Neoliberalism and Popular Women’s Culture: Rethinking Choice, Freedom and Agency.” European Journal of Cultural Studies 16 (4): 440–52. Chowdhury, Elora Halim. 2010. Feminism and Its ‘Other’: Representing the ‘New Woman’ of Bangladesh. Gender, Place and Culture 17 (3), 301–18. Dosekun, Simidele. 2015. “For Western Girls Only? Post-feminism as Transnational Culture.” Feminist Media Studies 15 (6): 960–75. Dow, Bonnie J. 1996. Prime-time Feminism: Television, Media Culture, and the Women’s Movement Since the 1970s. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press. Elias, Juanita. 2020. Gender Politics and the Pursuit of Competitiveness in Malaysia. Oxon: Routledge.

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Glapka, Ewa. 2018. “Postfeminism—For Whom or By Whom? Applying Discourse Analysis in Research on the Body and Beauty (The Case of Black Hair).” Gender and Language 12 (2): 242–68. Gill, Rosalind. 2008. “Culture and Subjectivity in Neoliberal and Postfeminist Times.” Subjectivity 25: 432–45. Gill, Rosalind, and Shani Orgad. 2017. “Confidence Culture and the Remaking of Feminism.” New Formations 19: 16–34. ———. 2018. “The Amazing Bounce-Backable Woman: Resilience and the Psychological Turn in Neoliberalism”. Sociological Research Online 23 (2): 477–95. Gill, Rosalind, Elisabeth K. Kelan, and Christina M. Scharff. 2017. A Postfeminist Sensibility at Work. Gender, Work & Organization 24 (3): 226–44. Harvey, David. 2005. A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Hays, Sharon. 1996. The Cultural Contradictions of Motherhood. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Kauppinen, Kati. 2013. “‘Full Power Despite Stress’: A Discourse Analytical Examination of the Interconnectedness of Postfeminism and Neoliberalism in the Domain of Work in an International Women’s Magazine.” Discourse & Communication 7 (2): 133–51. Kim, Gooyong. 2019. “Neoliberal Feminism in Contemporary South Korean Popular Music: Discourse of Resilience, Politics of Positive Psychology, and Female Subjectivity.” Journal of Language and Politics 18 (4): 560–78. Lazar, Michelle M. 2006. “‘Discover the Power of Femininity!’ Analyzing Global ‘Power Femininity’ in Local Advertising.” Feminist Media Studies 6 (4): 505– 17. ———. “Recuperating Feminism, Reclaiming Femininity: Hybrid Postfeminist I-dentity in Consumer Advertisements.” Gender and Language 8 (2): 205–24. Lewis, Patricia. 2014. “Postfeminism, Femininities and Organization Studies: Exploring a New Agenda.” Organization Studies 35 (12): 1845–66. Litosseliti, Lia. 2013. Gender and Language: Theory and Practice. Oxon: Routledge. Litosseliti, Lia, Rosalind Gill and Laura Garcia Favaro. 2019. “Postfeminism as a Critical Tool for Gender and Language Study.” Gender and Language 13 (1): 1–22. Mickey, Ethel L. 2019. ““‘Eat, Pray, Love’ Bullshit”: Women’s Empowerment through Wellness at an Elite Professional Conference.” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 48 (1): 103–27. Ng, Cecilia, Maznah Mohamad, and Tan Beng Hui. 2006. Feminism and the Women’s Movement in Malaysia: An Unsung (R)evolution. Abingdon: Routledge.

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Peng, Altman Yuzhu. 2019. “Neoliberal Feminism, Gender Relations, and a Feminized Male Ideal in China: A Critical Discourse Analysis of Mimeng’s WeChat Posts.” Feminist Media Studies. https://doi.org/10.1080/146 80777.2019.1653350. Rottenberg, Catherine. 2018. The Rise of Neoliberal Feminism. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Sandberg, Sheryl. 2013. Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. Scharff, Christina. 2020. “Editorial: Prepare Her for Sexism.” European Journal of Women’s Studies 27 (1): 3–8. Slaughter, Anne-Marie. 2012. Why Women Still Can’t Have It All. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/07/ why-women-still-cant-have-it-all/309020/. Accessed on October 5, 2019. Sørensen, Siri Øyslebø. 2017. “The Performativity of Choice: Postfeminist Perspectives on Work–Life Balance.” Gender, Work and Organization 24 (3): 297–313. Sunderland, Jane. 2004. Gendered Discourses. Basingstoke: Palgrave. Swan, Elaine. 2017. “Postfeminist Stylistics, Work Femininities and Coaching: A Multimodal Study of a Website.” Gender, Work and Organization 24 (3): 274–96. The Peak. 2018. The Malaysian Chapter of Lean In Aims to Empower Women to Achieve their Personal and Professional Ambitions. The Peak. http:// thepeak.com.my/people/the-malaysian-chapter-of-lean-in-aims-to-empowerwomen-to-achieve-their-personal-and-professional-ambitions/. Accessed on October 5, 2019. Thornham, Sue, and Feng Pengpeng. 2010. “‘Just a Slogan’: Individualism, Postfeminism and Female Subjectivity in Consumerist China.” Feminist Media Studies 10 (2): 195–211. Wolf, Naomi. 1993. Fire with Fire: The New Female Power and How It Will Change the 21st Century. London: Vintage. Yoong, Melissa. 2017. “Men and Women on Air: Gender Stereotypes in Humour Sequences in a Malaysian Radio Phone-in Programme.” Gender and Language 11 (1): 30–50. ———. 2019. “‘Where’s our #30peratus’: A Feminist Critical Discourse Analysis of Twitter Debates on Women’s Political Representation.” In Minorities Matter: Malaysian Politics and People Vol. 3, edited by Sophie Lemiere, 21–35. Singapore: ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute. Yu, Su-lin. 2018. “The Rise of the Neoliberal Chinese Female Subject in Go Lala Go.” CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture 20 (6). https:// doi.org/10.7771/1481-4374.3322.

CHAPTER 3

Data and Analytical Approaches

Abstract This chapter presents the data and integrated approach to discourse analysis used in this study. It begins with an account of the women’s media examined. It then explains how the key principles of feminist critical discourse analysis, critical stylistics and feminist conversation analysis inform the present work and are put to action in the analysis. It also outlines the theoretical and methodological differences between critical discourse analysis and conversation analysis that have traditionally caused the two to be regarded as incompatible, and argues that it is precisely these differences that make combining the approaches productive. Lastly, the chapter describes the main linguistic features that are examined in the data and how these can help to uncover ideological representations of professional women and their occupational lives. Keywords Feminist critical discourse analysis · Critical stylistics · Feminist conversation analysis · Professional discourses · Media discourse

The majority of this chapter focuses on the analytical approaches adopted in this study, but first, I describe each of the media examined, namely Clove, a newspaper pullout for women; Her World, a women’s lifestyle magazine; and Capital FM 88.9, a radio station aimed at urban women.

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 M. Yoong, Professional Discourses, Gender and Identity in Women’s Media, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-55544-3_3

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I also explain my decisions for the media and data selection, before discussing how the articles and radio shows are analysed.

Data and Method The written data for this study consists of 288 and 395 articles published between October 2012 and September 2013 in forty-eight issues of Clove and twelve issues of Her World respectively. As stated in Chapter 1, this study’s secondary aim is to gain a better understanding of how media text producers establish a synthesised sisterhood with their readers. Hence, the dataset only includes articles written by women listed as editors, writers or contributors by the publications. By choosing to analyse texts produced across these twelve months, I am examining discourses at ‘a particular historical moment’ (Hall 1992, 291). More specifically, these articles were published around the same time as Slaughter and Sandberg’s manifestos (see Chapter 2) as well as several studies and reports linking Malaysia’s low women’s LFPR with unequal family care responsibilities. At that point of time, women’s LFPR in the country had stagnated at around 47% for two decades. The longitudinal data collection also provides a representative sample of the types of articles and professional discourses that the audience would encounter over a full year. I selected Clove and Her World for their relatively high popularity and reach and, therefore, their possible influence in sustaining the status quo and perpetuating gender ideologies. Clove was a Sunday pullout in The Star, the most widely read English-language newspaper in the country. During the data collection period, the readership for its Sunday edition, Sunday Star, was 1.175 million (The Star Online 2012), and a 2014 newspaper readership survey estimated that 42% of its readers were women (Sukumaran 2015). The demographic of Clove readers was not available, but The Star mainly circulates in English-speaking urban areas and among higher income households (The Star Online 2014). Clove was published in the format of the typical women’s lifestyle magazine. Each issue had a cover page featuring a female celebrity as well as cover lines indicating the main articles. Its initial pages contained the editor’s note, a contents page, letters to the editor as well as the names of the editor and writers, which may function to position them as experts on women’s interests and issues. Articles discussing highly accomplished women, beauty and fashion, celebrities, home products, travel and cars were interspersed with advertisements. The final issue of the Clove pullout was published on

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13 October 2013, after which Clove became a section within the paper’s lifestyle pullout, Star2. From January 2014, The Star ceased publishing this section, and the various topics that had been previously covered in Clove were subsumed into other sections of Star2. Although Clove no longer exists as a pullout, its articles are still worth examining as the professional discourses that it produced may continue to be propagated within Star2. Her World, with a readership of 148,000 in 2012, was the third most widely read English-language women’s magazine in the country after Cleo and Female Malaysia (adQrate 2012). It was chosen over Cleo and Female for its higher number of articles by local women writers on a wider range of topics beyond fashion and beauty. In Malaysia, the three shared the same publisher, BluInc. In 2014, 76% of Her World readers were married and 64% were PMEBs (Professionals, Managers, Executives and Businesspersons). Its readers were relatively affluent, where 62% had a monthly household income of above MYR6,000 (approximately e1270) (BluInc 2014). The national monthly household income in 2012 was MYR5,000 (approximately e1060) (Siah and Lee 2015). Hence, like Clove, Her World had a middle-class audience, and it was likely that the two publications targeted their articles at middle-class women. On 30 April 2020, BluInc announced that it was ceasing operations of its print and digital publications due to the uncertainties following the Covid-19 pandemic (New Straits Times 2020). In addition to written articles, this study also examines radio broadcasts. With the tagline ‘Women—The New Capital’, the radio station Capital FM 88.9 had an explicitly feminist agenda, which was to be ‘a platform for women’s issues’ and to empower women. It was launched in 2011 by the radio arm of Star Media Group, which publishes The Star. Capital FM was originally targeted at urban women aged 25–35 in the Kuala Lumpur Metropolitan Area (Chan 2011) and expanded to other states in the country. It had an estimated 121,000 listeners per week in 2012, with a weekly Time Spent Listening of 7 h (Marketing Magazine 2012). It grew to become the third most popular English-language radio station website in 2013, with a 1341% annual increase in terms of online listenership (The Star Online 2013). Eighty-six per cent of its listeners belonged to the PMEBs or OWC (Other White Collar) categories (Marketing Magazine 2012) and 72% had a personal income of at least MYR3,000 (approximately e630) (The Star Online 2013). Capital FM ceased broadcasting in January 2016, and was acquired by Astro Malaysia in December 2016 (The Malaysian Reserve 2017). It has not returned to the airwaves.

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The radio dataset consists of recordings from sixty-one shows aired on Capital FM , amounting to 14 h and 6 min of talk time, excluding commercials. These recordings were obtained in two ways. Firstly, using a voice recorder, I recorded thirty-seven programmes randomly on weekday mornings and evenings from October 2012 to September 2013. Since this study examines how media producers and listeners are synthesised in a sisterly relationship, only radio shows with at least one woman presenter or regular guest were recorded for analysis. From June 2013, the station began uploading podcasts of some of their programmes on the station’s website. Twenty-four shows with women radio announcers or regular guests that were posted online between June and September 2013 were randomly downloaded, providing a balanced total talk time for the audiorecordings and podcasts at 6 h 55 min and 7 h 11 min respectively. The shows covered a range of topics including work, health, beauty and fashion, violence against women, celebrities and relationships. The audiorecordings and podcasts were transcribed according to the conventions provided in this book. The articles and transcripts were examined for linguistic traces of professional discourses. A guiding principle in my approach to identifying the discourses was the view that a discourse does not exist in and of itself, but ‘produces something else (an utterance, a concept, and effect)’ (Mills 2004, 15). Discourses have effects on the ways we behave or think about ourselves and others, and can be detected due to ‘the systematicity of the ideas, opinions, concepts, ways of thinking and behaving’ (ibid.), which may be manifested in language (Sunderland 2004). I focused on systems of statements and practices that structure our sense of who women are or should be. In doing so, I looked at a wide range of linguistic features that suggest the presence of particular discourses. These features are described in the final section of this chapter. However, we cannot assume that the discourses identified in this study is the finite set produced in the texts since discourses ‘are not simply “out there” waiting for identification’ (ibid., 45). The way in which I have interpretively identified these discourses is both enabled and constrained by how the society that I live in thinks about women, work and care as well as my feminist perspective. Other researchers, readers and listeners may detect a different array of discourses from the same linguistic features. Since the discourses uncovered are interpretive, they will be verified through their linguistic traces in Chapters 4 and 5 so as to make the identification process explicit.

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The data are examined using a combination of feminist critical discourse analysis, critical stylistics and feminist conversation analysis to reveal the positionings of professional women and the discourses that produce them. This chapter will now discuss each analytical approach in turn.

Feminist Critical Discourse Analysis Critical discourse analysis (CDA) is an approach to language study that aims to expose ideological bias within texts and call into question commonsensical ideas that sustain unequal power relations. Feminist critical discourse analysis (FCDA), a paradigm that can be attributed to Michelle Lazar (2005), brings CDA and feminist studies together ‘to show up the complex, subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, ways in which frequently taken-for-granted gendered assumptions and hegemonic power relations are discursively produced, sustained, negotiated, and challenged in different contexts and communities’ (Lazar 2007, 142). While CDA is concerned with showing how ideology and power are manifested in discourse, Lazar argues that we need to draw on feminist principles and insights when conducting CDA research on gender given that gender operates in more pervasive and complex ways from other systems of oppression. As we have seen in Chapter 1, power relations between women and men play out across multiple arenas, including in intimate family settings. FCDA is founded on five key principles, all of which have greatly informed the present work. Firstly, it regards discourse as key in the (de)construction of gender. As socially constitutive signifying practices (i.e. practices that are both constituted by and constitutive of social situations, institutions and structures), discourse contributes to the reproduction and transformation of the gender order (Lazar 2005). The socially constitutive role of discourse gives great impetus to this study to interrogate professional discourses in the media as they have the potential to regulate workplace norms, identities, relationships and behaviour as well as perceptions of career women, which could reinforce or reduce barriers to gender equality. The second tenet of FCDA relates to feminist analytical activism. FCDA is primarily concerned with analysing and critiquing discourses that uphold patriarchal social relations, with the ultimate goal of bringing social emancipation and transformation (ibid.). Evidently, FCDA is not a

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neutral approach and, therefore, requires the transparency of the position and research interests of the analyst. As such, I have made my feminist position and the emancipatory aim of this study explicit at the beginning of this book. However, the political commitment of researchers in CDA, and by extension FCDA, is problematic for some scholars such as Widdowson (1995), who charges that it produces analyses that are ideologically biased. Widdowson asserts that, because of their political motivations, critical discourse analysts often select features of texts that confirm their hypotheses. Thus, it is worth stating here that this study began as an inductive project to examine the role of media discourse in the (re)production of gender imbalances in the Malaysian labour market. The possible discourses invoked in the texts and the ideologies they carry remained open to question. To avoid the issue of circularity, I examined articles that were collected over a year through a representative sampling method, taking all prevalent discourses into account, including those that could be perceived as promoting gender equality. It was in the course of the data analysis that it became clear that the discursive repertoires identified are indicative of neoliberal feminism and postfeminism. The third principle conceptualises gender as an ideological structure that categorises people as ‘women’ and ‘men’ within a hierarchical relation that privileges the latter. However, rather than appearing as domination, gender ideology often appears as consensual and acceptable to most in a society. The winning of consent, or hegemony (Gramsci 1971), is largely achieved through discursive means, particularly ‘in the ways ideological assumptions are constantly re-enacted and circulated through discourse as commonsensical and natural’. Through the hegemonically complicit practices of both women and men, patriarchal gender ideology is ‘enacted and renewed in a society’s institutions’ (Lazar 2005, 7–8). In this study, I examine the various femininities that are discursively constructed by women participating in media institutions and the ways in which these subjectivities participate within, or resist, gender hierarchies that affect career women. Since hegemony is based on consent, every status quo is temporary and open to being challenged and transformed, though within the constraints of particular social structures (ibid.). This view that the exercise of power is contestable is significant for feminist discourse analysis research aiming to bring about social change, such as the present work. The fourth principle stresses the importance of critical reflexivity in the practice of FCDA, both in terms of the reflexivity of institutions as well

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as the need for feminist scholars to be self-reflexive of their theoretical positions and practices. This study explores ‘institutional reflexive practices that recuperate feminist values of egalitarianism and empowerment for non-feminist ends’. In doing so, it adopts the position that women’s empowerment cannot be measured using ‘the yardstick that is already set by men’ (Lazar 2005, 15–16). Instead, it attempts to throw open to question the prevailing androcentric social structures that underlie the issues faced by career women. The final tenet of FCDA acknowledges the complexity of gender and power relations. In many modern societies, power operates in subtle and seemingly innocuous ways and substantively through discourse. The task of FCDA, then, is to examine how invisible power is discursively produced ‘through textual representations of gendered social practices, and through interactional strategies of talk’ (Lazar 2005, 10), which is precisely the objective of this book. Lazar also emphasises the possibility of resistance. This study recognises that consumers are not passive dupes of the media industry. There is no doubt that they can resist the ideological force of the texts and talk. As Fairclough (2003) tells us, the effects of discursive practices depend on the prevalence of the representations in the particular text genre and how successfully alternatives have been excluded. This should not, however, prevent us from being able to make some conclusions about social attitudes and issues based on what is encoded in discourses. Part of the goal of this study is to gain a better understanding of the contemporary attitudes towards women and work in Malaysia that are, to some extent, reflected in the professional discourses manifested in women’s media. Not only do mechanisms of power operate in complex ways, but relations of asymmetry are ‘produced and experienced in complexly different ways for and by different groups of women’. While women do continue to experience systematic discrimination, the intersection of gender with other axes of inequality, such as sexual orientation and social class, means that this discrimination is neither experienced nor discursively enacted in the same way by and for all women (Lazar 2005, 10). Women with economic, racial or national privilege hold power not only over other groups of women, but also over some groups of men. Hence, in exploring the particular set of challenges and discrimination that Malaysian women face in the professional domain, this study will illustrate how the combined politics of gender and class play out in women’s lives. It does not assume that the partial experiences of middle-class women

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is universally shared by all women in Malaysia, and will attend to the material conditions and needs of poorer and less educated women in the country. As CDA interrogates complex social phenomena, it requires a multidisciplinary and multi-methodical approach (Wodak and Meyer 2009), and CDA scholars have utilised a wide range of analytical techniques. To identify the discourses manifested within the media texts and talk, this study takes a micro-level approach informed by Lesley Jeffries’s (2010) critical stylistics model and feminist conversation analysis.

Critical Stylistics Critical stylistics contributes to the theoretical and methodological development of CDA. Jeffries (2015, 4) argues that the methods used in CDA studies ‘are often lacking in the kind of detail that would enable [other researchers] to see how … conclusions are reached’. To build rigour and replicability into the qualitative textual analysis process in CDA research, Jeffries developed a systematic model of analysis that integrates tools from critical linguistics and stylistics, which she termed ‘critical stylistics’. Central to the framework is the notion that ‘there is a level of meaning which sits somewhere between the systematic (coded) meaning of what Saussure called the “langue” and the contextual and relatively variable meaning of language in use, which Saussure called “parole”’. At this level, the text uses the resources of language to present a particular worldview, and the task of the analyst is to work out ‘what the text is doing - how it is presenting the text world’ (Jeffries 2014, 409). The main tools of analysis within this framework are known as ‘textualconceptual functions’, a combination of textual triggers and ideational functions that attempt ‘to capture what a text is doing conceptually in presenting the world … in a particular way [and] explain how the resources of the linguistic system are being used to produce this conceptual meaning’. Examples of textual-conceptual functions include naming and describing, representing actions/events/states, equating and contrasting, and implying and assuming. Many of the functions have prototypical linguistic forms that always carry the conceptual effect as well as peripheral forms that also carry the conceptual effect, though less consistently. For example, the prototypical forms of the function of negating are ‘no’ and ‘not’, whereas lexical items with incidental semantic negativity such as ‘lack’ are more peripheral (ibid.). This, however, does

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not suggest that we can straightforwardly map meaning onto form. As Jeffries (2007) reminds us, formal categories are multifunctional and do not have clear boundaries in relation to meaning. Likewise, certain meanings can be delivered through an open-ended range of language forms. Therefore, a careful consideration of context is needed before meaning can attributed to the linguistic form. This requires relying on the inferential resources of the researcher, which is impossible to completely remove from textual analysis. This study draws on Jeffries’s work on the conceptual effects carried by particular language features in order to relate linguistic form and ideological meaning. While much of CDA research includes fine-grained analyses of texts, applying Jeffries’s linguistically grounded analytical tools can counteract overconfident conclusions from the data investigation. Nevertheless, this work does not make critical stylistics its central approach. In line with Jeffries (2014, 411), it is used here to add to, not replace, ‘the insights into contextual features of ideological meaning arising from critical discourse analysis’.

Feminist Conversation Analysis This study adopts feminist conversation analysis (FCA) as an additional approach for analysing the radio interactions. Conversation analysis (CA) is one of the most systematic approaches to the study of talkin-interaction. Viewing talk as a form of action, CA studies attempt to uncover what people do with talk. It examines the sequential unfolding of conversations using the key empirical discoveries of CA such as turntaking and turn design, sequence organisation and preference structure (Wilkinson and Kitzinger 2011). These tools, Wilkinson and Kitzinger (2008, 555) argue, are helpful for analysing the ‘micro-inequalities’ of everyday social life, ‘offering a powerful and rigorous method for examining how mundane, routine, forms of oppression (e.g. sexism, heterosexism, racism, ageism) are woven into the fabric of social interaction’. As such, they have been used by many feminists and other critical researchers in gender and sexuality scholarship (e.g. Kitzinger 2007; Weatherall 2015), leading to the emergence of FCA. Like CA, FCA examines the organising principles and structures of conversation and the practices that accomplish action, but further interrogates these structures and practices for how they may be implicated in gender inequalities (Weatherall et al. 2010).

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In contrast to CDA, which focuses on discourses in the Foucauldian sense and moves back and forth between the macro and the micro, CA takes a ‘bottom-up’ approach, using microanalytic techniques to analyse discourse in the traditional linguistic sense, that is, as a stretch of spoken text (Weatherall et al. 2010). This study draws on elements of both in the examination of the spoken data, as other linguists have fruitfully done in their research (e.g. Thornborrow 2014). Through FCDA, this analysis identifies the linguistic traces of wider societal discourses produced in the radio talk and the identities that these discourses form. It also closely examines the interactional structures and sequences using FCA’s empirical framework ‘to provide directly observable evidence of how members orient to and construct certain … identities’. Within this dual approach, FCDA ‘shines the spotlight on the workings of power’ whereas FCA ‘enhances our understanding of [the participants’] agency’ (Weatherall et al. 2010, 235–36). One key difference between the approaches is that CA is epistemologically opposed to the countable notion of discourse that is characteristic of CDA since such discourses are provisionally analyst-derived, rather than speaker-derived (Weatherall et al. 2010). For CA, because ‘any utterance can be interpreted in numerous ways by analysts … it is important to find evidence in the interaction of which of these possible interpretations have been taken by the participants’ (Stubbe et al. 2003, 354). Given that discourses tend to be detected through ‘a combination of socially informed intuition, critical judgement and supporting textual analysis’, for some conversation analysts, CDA can seem to identify discourses to suit the researcher’s ideological purposes (Baxter 2008). However, I contend that the radio talk cannot be fully understood without an appreciation of the underlying professional discourses that supply the taken-for-granted discursive backcloth organising the participants’ orientations and sensemaking. I have, nonetheless, attempted to make the process of discourse identification more rigorous through a closer attention to the microstructures in the talk. Using detailed transcripts that capture features of speech delivery such as hesitations, overlaps, pauses and repairs, the interactions are examined turn-by-turn to uncover how professional discourses are reinforced or subverted at a very local level in the unfolding talk. In other words, this study employs FCA to ‘strengthen empirical work by pointing to micro-structures in the talk … that dovetail with a macro analysis’ (Weatherall et al. 2010, 221).

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Examining how patterns of dominance pervade our talk does not imply that we are victims of an all-powerful social order. This study shares CA’s view that people are ‘agents actively engaged in methodical and sanctioned procedures for producing or resisting, colluding with or transgressing, the taken-for-granted social world’ (Kitzinger 2000, 168). However, it is important to recognise that wider social-structural forces are at work in conversations, alongside the context invoked by the participants, constraining and shaping behaviour. For example, as the analysis will show, a deeper discussion of gender discrimination is almost absent in the radio talk, leaving ideological beliefs unchallenged. Glossing over gender issues after they surface in talk codes the text producers’ ideological position, but in order to make any claims about the political relevance of such instances, I need to move beyond the interactants’ displayed concerns. Kitzinger (2000, 171) makes a similar argument: Feminists … have been quite concerned about the relationship between their (feminist) analysis of their participants’ actions and the (generally non-feminist) way in which participants themselves interpret the same behaviours… it would be unbearably limiting to use CA if it meant that I could only describe as ‘sexist’ or ‘heterosexist’ or ‘racist’ those forms of talk to which actors orient as such. Indeed, it is precisely the fact that sexist, heterosexist and racist assumptions are routinely incorporated into everyday conversations without anyone noticing or responding to them that way which is of interest to me.

Therefore, in order to ensure covert mechanisms of power are not precluded from the interpretation of the data, this study adopts Stokoe and Smithson (2001) and ten Have’s (1999) recommendation that analysts, with their own interpretative resources, should also be regarded as ‘participants’ in the interactions. By expanding the notion of ‘participant’ to include the researcher, this study is consistent with FCA’s more flexible position, which ‘enables a focus on interactional practices that, from a researcher’s perspective, may be implicated in the accomplishment of a gendered social order’ (Weatherall 2015, 423). Despite the risk of misinterpretation, the inferential resources of analysts must be taken into account to produce an analytic study rather than a descriptive one (Stokoe and Smithson 2001). FCDA can aid analysts to go beyond ‘the obviousness of everyday experience, the naturalness of … ways of representing people’ (Talbot 2010, 135) since its

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emancipatory aim requires the researcher to present other possible interpretations of the interaction and expose the power relations that may have been previously unnoticed (Bucholtz 2003). What is crucial here is for researchers to think reflexively about whether their interpretations of the talk could be biased by their experiences, attitudes and beliefs, and to make their assumptions explicit. Overall, FCA and FCDA may seem in conflict with one another, but as Wetherell (1998) argues, analysts should not have to choose between micro- and macro-analysis since each inform and lend meaning to the other. A complete linguistic investigation should involve a combination of technical and critical analysis. Hence, this study draws on the analytical tools of FCA to understand how women on the radio jointly construct their interactions ‘and at the same time constitute the context, including participants’ identities, utterance by utterance’ (Stubbe et al. 2003, 358). The value of FCDA, on the other hand, lies in the fact that it provides an analytic frame to go beyond the talk-based context and investigate the impact of larger covert systems of institutionalised power on the interactants’ micro-linguistic practices. In short, FCDA provides the sociohistorical and institutional framing in examining the emergent character of the gender order in interactions.

Linguistic Features for Identifying Discourses CDA has been accused of being ‘short on detailed, systematic analysis of text or talk, as carried out in CA’ (van Dijk 1999, 459). However, as Stubbe et al. (2003) argue, ‘this is not a necessary consequence of adopting a CDA approach … The description of the text can be just as detailed as the analyst judges appropriate and necessary to expose the underlying ideological assumptions and power relationships of the participants’. Given that the discourses detected in this study are provisional and perspectival, I have made my identification process as transparent as possible in my microanalytic investigation of the data in Chapters 4 and 5. This section introduces the main textual features examined and the ways in which they are helpful in showing up the representations of professional women that evidence the operation of certain discourses. These linguistic features are discussed according to four textual-conceptual functions in Jeffries’s critical stylistics model.

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Naming and Describing Firstly, this study investigates what professional discourses are realised through the ways in which career women, the various entities in their occupational and domestic lives (people, organisations and so forth), and their relations with these entities are named and described. Jeffries (2007, 63) argues that ‘one of the potentially most influential choices any writer makes is the names s/he uses to make reference’. Naming an entity can shape worldviews. Examining how professional women are named and described can reveal how they are seen to be and what forms of ‘in vogue’ femaleness and femininity they are encouraged to adopt. The depictions of women’s ‘old’ self, which they are urged to leave behind, as well as the ‘new woman’ that they required to be (Genz 2010) have the potential to perpetuate or challenge negative feminine stereotypes and the androcentric view of professionalism that contribute to gender gaps and discrimination in the labour market. The part of a sentence that typically ‘names’ an entity is the noun phrase or nominal group (Jeffries 2007). Thus, the analysis pays close attention to the choice of noun, or head noun in a phrase, as well as the connotative features of these labels that may construct the referent positively or negatively. While not all noun choices have ideological potential, different nouns can draw upon and evoke different ways of structuring our sense of working women and their experiences in the professional domain, which are associated with particular discourses. A text can represent social actors by name or in terms of category (Fairclough 2003), and where social actors are classified, the categories that are referenced are taken into consideration. In addition to the choice of noun, the adjective is one of the most typical linguistic means for characterising a referent (Jeffries 2007). Therefore, it makes sense to examine patterns of adjectival modification of nouns, both as the premodifier within a noun phrase as well as the complement of an intensive verb. Following Fairclough (2003), the analysis also takes into account the semantic relationships between the adjectives used, including new presupposed semantic relations that represent working women and their experiences in a way that is specific to a particular discourse. Metaphors are another resource for creating distinct representations of the world, so discourses are also distinguished by the lexical metaphors used.

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Representing Actions and Events This study also interrogates how actions and events are represented. To do this, it examines the verbs or verb phrases selected to describe processes. It also analyses the use of nominalisation and transitivity to address the question of agency. This is an important aspect to examine within neoliberal and postfeminist culture which ‘exculpates social, political, economic, cultural and corporate institutions for their role in maintaining and reproducing inequality and injustice’ while apportioning blame to women (Gill and Orgad 2015, 340). For example, according significant autonomy and agency to women with regards to their career progression could mask the structural barriers that they continue to face, and reinforce the postfeminist myth that gender equality has been achieved. Conversely, the exclusion of an agentive participant could invite a reading in which the status quo is given the force of a natural phenomenon that has to be accepted. Thus, the analysis interrogates processes without an intentional actor or an agent, such as ‘passive structures with no specified agent, supervention processes, where the subject of the verb is … not in control of the process, and event processes, where the Actor is an inanimate object or force’ (Jeffries 2007, 180). Nevertheless, Jeffries (2007) warns us that in CDA, there tends to be an underlying assumption that the text producer selects a verb with a particular transitivity in order to naturalise an ideology or because that ideology is already naturalised and has become common sense. However, certain processes may be so commonly presented in metaphorical or other ways that the reader may ‘read’ the meaning as literal, which undermines any sense of an ideological purpose at work. Similarly, we cannot automatically assume that all instances of nominalisation are ideologically manipulative. In certain cases, the identities of participants may be left unmentioned because they are unknown. Nominalisations are also used as a way to be more economical with our language. Equating and Contrasting Another aspect that is analysed is the construction of equivalents and differences as this can help to distinguish professional discourses that reify or undermine dualisms. This is particularly interesting to examine as the new ‘postfeminist woman’ is often represented in contemporary media as wanting to ‘have it all’ and refusing to ‘dichotomize and choose

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between her public and private’ (Genz 2010, 98). Likewise, the ‘balanced woman’ ideal of neoliberal feminism encourages women to be both hands-on mothers and professionals (Rottenberg 2018). Furthermore, earlier studies in Western settings have found that female sexuality has been conflated with professional empowerment within postfeminist rhetoric (see Hammers 2005). Therefore, by examining what notions are subsumed as markers of success in the Malaysian context, we can uncover what new demands employed women are now expected to meet in order to occupy the subject position of successful femininity, and what discourses are operationalised in this process. Equivalence can be achieved between two or more theoretically different phenomena through various means such as apposition, combining noun phrases with a conjunction, or positioning them on either side of an intensive verb. Fairclough (2003, 125) demonstrates how lists can work together ‘into a relation of equivalence expressions which emanate from and evoke different discourses’, effectively combining these discourses to constitute a new one. Entities can also be placed in opposition to each other, such as through parallel structures as well as antithetical relational structures and expressions that are formally marked by coordinating conjunctions like ‘yet’ and sentence adverbials such as ‘however’. This study is especially interested in the creation of new contrasts that ‘have no prior existence in our conceptual apparatus’ (Jeffries 2007, 103), which could reinforce distinctions that reflect prevailing ideologies. This can be achieved through the positioning of words and phrases that are not conventional opposites within the types of syntactic frame mentioned above. The data analysis also explores how differences are set up through evaluations. In Jeffries’s (2007, 109) critical analysis of advice in women’s magazines, she notes that the constructed oppositions identified ‘can be categorized under the superordinate heading of good versus bad’, with the advice given being ‘very clear about what is or is not desirable, to the extent of indicating that some actions or approaches are right, where others are wrong’. Following Fairclough (2003), the analysis examines four categories of evaluations: statements with deontic modalities, statements with affective mental process verbs, evaluative statements and value assumptions. This present study also examines evaluative statements where something is implied to be desirable or undesirable relative to a particular discourse that is being drawn on, and those where the evaluations are embedded as presuppositions within phrases.

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Implying and Assuming Lastly, professional discourses can emerge from the implicit meanings that are conveyed through the texts’ implications and assumptions. The implications and assumptions that the analysis investigates include those about the ideal or supposed professional woman as well as the types of challenges that she faces in relation to having a career and why. These underlying meanings are important matters of ideological interest as they may communicate themselves to the reader at a relatively subconscious level, and if reading texts of a similar nature repeatedly delivers the same ideological assumptions, the reader is vulnerable to the conceptual influences that such repetition could have on world view or perceptions. (Jeffries 2007, 129)

The typical way in which texts assume meanings is via the mechanism of presupposition (Jeffries 2007). The analysis interrogates the professional discourses that are reinforced by existential presuppositions (i.e. ‘assumptions about what exists’) and propositional presuppositions (i.e. ‘assumptions about what is or can be or will be the case’) (Fairclough 2003, 55). These can be triggered by various linguistic features, such as markers of definite reference, factive verbs and cleft constructions. Presuppositions can also be embedded in imperatives and questions, both of which are commonly used in women’s print media to simulate two-way interaction between the text producers and the audience (Talbot 1995). Implied meanings can also be achieved via the linguistic process of implicature. The analysis examines the discourses that are drawn upon by conventional and conversational implicatures. According to Grice (1975), the former are implied meanings that are textually triggered by particular lexical items or features of language. The latter, on the other hand, cannot be logically inferred from linguistic features; these implicit meanings arise as the consequence of the flouting of Grice’s conversational maxims. Like Jeffries’s (2007, 131) critical analysis of women’s magazines, the context of this study’s data differs from the original conversational context that Grice envisaged, given the physical distance between the producers and audience as well as a lack of genuine exchange between them that is ‘analogous to the interaction that takes place in face-to-face conversation’. However, in current scholarship, implicature is viewed as a potential carrier of indirect meaning not only in speech, but also in written

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language. In her work, Jeffries demonstrates how the notion of implicature can be fruitfully applied to expose how magazines attempt to regulate women’s behaviour. For example, in certain imperatives that reference the imagined reader’s emotional state of mind, the implicatures that arise contribute to the negative stereotyping of women. Therefore, investigating the implicatures in the media data can provide insights into the reproduction as well as subversion of ideological norms. In summary, this chapter has discussed the integrated analytical approach taken in this study as well as the main linguistic features that are examined to identify professional discourses in the media texts and talk. As Weatherall et al. (2010, 238) have argued, ‘because of the complexity of the relationship between language and the ways in which gender is represented and constructed, there is much to be gained from taking multiple perspectives, and from viewing the different approaches to language and gender … as complementary rather than as competing perspectives’. We shall see in the next two chapters how each of the microand macro-analytic approaches generates useful insights into the media discourse.

References adQrate. 2012. Her World. http://www.adqrate.com/magazine/details?id=52& type=2. Accessed on 16 September 2019. Baxter, Judith. 2008. Feminist Post-structuralist Discourse Analysis: A New Theoretical and Methodological Approach? In Gender and Language Research Methodology, ed. Kate Harrington, Lia Litosseliti, Helen Sauntson, and Jane Sunderland, 243–55. Basingstoke: Palgrave. BluInc. 2014. Her World. http://www.bluinc.com.my/wp-content/uploads/rat ecards/herworld-Ratecard.pdf. Accessed on 23 August 2019. Bucholtz, Mary. 2003. Theories of Discourse as Theories of Gender: Discourse Analysis in Language and Gender Studies. In The Handbook of Language and Gender, ed. Janet Holmes and Miriam Meyerhoff, 43–68. Oxford: Blackwell. Chan, Jade. 2011. Capital FM 88.9—Malaysia’s First Women’s Radio Station to Go on Air Thursday. The Star Online. https://www.thestar.com.my/news/ nation/2011/11/30/capital-fm-889–malaysias-first-womens-radio-stationto-go-on-air-thursday. Accessed on 8 September 2019. Fairclough, Norman. 2003. Analysing Discourse: Textual Analysis for Social Research. London: Routledge. Genz, Stephanie. 2010. Singled Out: Postfeminism’s ‘New Woman’ and the Dilemma of Having It All. The Journal of Popular Culture 43 (1): 97–119.

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Gill, Rosalind, and Shani Orgad. 2015. The Confidence Cult(ure). Australian Feminist Studies 30 (86): 324–44. Gramsci, Antonio. 1971. Selections from the Prison Notebooks. London: Lawrence & Wishart. Grice, H.Paul. 1975. Logic and Conversation. In Syntax and Semantics Vol 3: Speech Acts, ed. Peter Cole and Jerry L. Morgan, 41–58. New York: Academic Press. Hall, Stuart. 1992. The West and the Rest. In Formations of Modernity, ed. Stuart Hall and Bram Gieben, 275–320. Cambridge: Polity Press. Hammers, Michele. 2005. Cautionary Tales of Liberation and Female Professionalism: The Case Against Ally McBeal. Western Journal of Communication 69 (2): 167–82. Jeffries, Lesley. 2007. Textual Construction of the Female Body. Basingstoke: Palgrave. ———. 2010. Critical Stylistics: The Power of English. Basingstoke: Palgrave. ———. 2014. Critical Stylistics. In The Routledge Handbook of Stylistics, edited by Michael Burke, 408–420. London: Routledge. ———. 2015. Textual Meaning and Its Place in a Theory of Language. Topics in Linguistics 15 (1): 1–10. Kitzinger, Celia. 2000. Doing Feminist Conversation Analysis. Feminism & Psychology 10 (2): 163–93. ———. 2007. The Promise of Conversation Analysis for Feminist Research. Feminism & Psychology 17: 133–48. Lazar, Michelle M. (ed.). 2005. Feminist Critical Discourse Analysis: Gender, Power and Ideology in Discourse. Basingstoke: Palgrave. ———. 2007. Feminist Critical Discourse Analysis: Articulating a Feminist Discourse Praxis. Critical Discourse Studies 4 (2): 141–64. Marketing Magazine. 2012. Media Watch 2012: Malaysians Spend More Time Listening to Star Radio Group Brands. http://www.marketingmagazine. com.my/index.php/categories/media/163-media-watch-2012/8517-malays ians-spend-more-time-listening-to-star-radio-group-brands. Accessed on 23 August 2014. Mills, Sara. 2004. Discourse, 2nd ed. Oxon: Routledge. New Straits Times. 2020. BluInc Media Ceases Operations. https://www.nst. com.my/news/nation/2020/04/588742/blu-inc-media-ceases-operations. Accessed on 29 August 2020. Rottenberg, Catherine. 2018. The Rise of Neoliberal Feminism. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Siah, Audrey K.L., and Grace H.Y. Lee. 2015. Female Labour Force Participation, Infant Mortality and Fertility in Malaysia. Journal of the Asia Pacific Economy 20 (4): 613–29.

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Stokoe, Elizabeth H., and Janet Smithson. 2001. Making Gender Relevant: Conversation Analysis and Gender Categories in Interaction. Discourse & Society 12 (2): 217–44. Stubbe, Maria, Chris Lane, Jo Hilder, Elaine Vine, Bernadette Vine, Meredith Marra, Janet Holmes, and Ann Weatherall. 2003. Multiple Discourse Analyses of a Workplace Interaction. Discourse Studies 5 (3): 351–88. Sukumaran, Tashny. 2015. The Star Still M’sia’s Preferred. The Star Online. http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2015/03/28/the-star-still-msiaspreferred-english-daily-readership-increased-by-74-says-survey. Accessed on 8 September 2019. Sunderland, Jane. 2004. Gendered Discourses. Basingstoke: Palgrave. Talbot, Mary. 1995. A Synthetic Sisterhood: False Friends in a Teenage Magazine. In Gender Articulated: Language and the Socially Constructed Self , ed. Kira Hall and Mary Bucholtz, 143–65. New York: Routledge. ———. 2010. Language and Gender. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Polity Press. ten Have, Paul. 1999. Doing Conversation Analysis. London: Sage. The Malaysian Reserve. 2017. Measat Completes Purchase of Capital FM for RM40m. https://themalaysianreserve.com/2017/04/03/measat-completespurchase-of-capital-fm-for-rm40m. Accessed on 8 September 2019. The Star Online. 2012. The Star Extends Readership Reach. https://www.the star.com.my/news/nation/2012/08/31/the-star-extends-readership-reach. Accessed on 8 September 2019. The Star Online. 2013. Star Radio Group Draws Four Million. http://www. thestar.com.my/news/nation/2013/10/30/star-radio-group-draws-fourmillion-stations-score-high-marks-in-nielsen-audience-measurement-repor. Accessed on 23 August 2014. The Star Online. 2014. Why Readership and Circulation trends are Out of Sync. http://www.thestar.com.my/business/business-news/2014/ 03/01/why-readership-and-circulation-trends-are-out-of-sync. Accessed on 8 September 2019. Thornborrow, Joanna. 2014. Power Talk: Language and Interaction in Institutional Discourse. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. van Dijk, Teun A. 1999. Editorial: Critical Discourse Analysis and Conversation Analysis. Discourse & Society 10 (4): 459–60. Weatherall, Ann. 2015. Sexism in Language and Talk in Interaction. Journal of Language and Social Psychology 34 (4): 410–26. Weatherall, Ann, Maria Stubbe, Jane Sunderland, and Judith Baxter. 2010. Conversation Analysis and Critical Discourse Analysis in Language and Gender Research: Approaches in Dialogue. In Femininity, Feminism and Gendered Discourse: A Selected and Edited Collection of Papers from the Fifth International Language and Gender Association Conference (IGALA 5), ed. Janet Holmes and Meredith Marra, 213–43. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars.

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Wetherell, Margaret. 1998. Positioning and Interpretative Repertoires: Conversation Analysis and Post-structuralism in Dialogue. Discourse & Society 9 (3): 387–412. Widdowson, H.G. 1995. Discourse Analysis: A Critical View. Language and Literature 4 (3): 157–72. Wilkinson, Sue, and Celia Kitzinger. 2008. Using Conversation Analysis in Feminist and Critical Research. Social and Personality Psychology Compass 2 (2): 555–73. ———. 2011. Conversation Analysis. In Companion to Discourse Analysis, edited by Ken Hyland and Brian Paltridge, 22–37. London: Continuum. Wodak, Ruth, and Michael Meyer. 2009. Critical Discourse Analysis: History, Agenda, Theory, and Methodology. In Methods for Critical Discourse Analysis, 2nd ed, ed. Ruth Wodak and Michael Meyer, 1–33. London: Sage.

CHAPTER 4

Neoliberal Feminism and Media Discourses of Employed Motherhood

Abstract This chapter examines the discourses of gender, work and family invoked within women’s media in Malaysia. The discourses identified are ‘happy work–family balance’, ‘extensive mothering’, ‘mother as main parent’ and ‘mother as worker’. I argue that the discursive portrayals of employed motherhood are strongly influenced by neoliberal feminism, in that women are encouraged to craft a ‘happy balance’ between pursuing career success and being the primary parent. The tension within the balance equation is eased through an ‘extensive mothering’ discourse that promotes an ideal of ‘good mothering’ that is more delegatory than hands-on. However, the discourses ultimately entrench a neoliberal gender order that expects women to balance their professional and parental roles through private means, while commodifying themselves as human capital. Keywords Neoliberal feminism · Motherhood discourses · Work–family balance · Extensive mothering · Mother as main parent · Gender and breadwinning

In Malaysia, as in many countries, women’s disproportionate amount of reproductive labour continues to be one of the biggest barriers keeping them from participating equally with men in the professional domain © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 M. Yoong, Professional Discourses, Gender and Identity in Women’s Media, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-55544-3_4

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(see Chapter 1). To address this, it is crucial to build up better knowledge of the cultural common sense, values and ideologies that shape expectations for and the lived experiences of women who combine waged work and motherhood. Ideals for employed mothers and perceptions of their needs, desires and responsibilities deserve attention as they have important implications for policy practices and gender equality in the home and workplace. As such, this study’s analysis begins by interrogating the taken-for-granted understandings that underlie portrayals of contemporary working motherhood in women’s media. These media representations are partly shaped by societal notions of motherhood, paid work and caregiving which text producers draw on in order to make sense and be of interest to their audience (Wall 2013). Thus, by examining what common sense knowledge is conveyed through discourses in the media, this chapter sheds light on broader cultural ideologies that shape mothers’ economic opportunities and place in society. Given that discourses upheld by institutions can potentially influence social norms and values, we also gain a better understanding of the ideologies that women’s media in Malaysia inevitably reinforce by privileging them. Drawing on FCDA, critical stylistics and FCA, the analysis examines the professional discourses in Her World, Clove and Capital FM . It reveals that representations of employed motherhood are strongly influenced by neoliberal feminism (Rottenberg 2018). I explore this through two sections. The first demonstrates that the happy work–family balance ideal (see Chapter 2) has been enfolded into the common sense produced in the media. Women are expected to play an equally active role in the promotion of their careers as well as in the raising of children. The tension between their productive and reproductive responsibilities is eased through a discourse of ‘extensive mothering’, a construction of ‘good mothering’ that is delegatory (Christopher 2012). I argue that, on the one hand, this opens space for some women to enact ‘good motherhood’ while devoting themselves to their careers. On the other hand, the primary responsibility for caregiving remains with women, whether mothers, relatives, or childcare and domestic workers. This entrenches not only patriarchy and gender inequality, but also class inequalities among women. At the same time, husbands are implicitly positioned, through a ‘mother as worker’ discourse, as the main income provider in families. The unquestioned position of men in the labour market, coupled with women’s double burden of paid and care work, can affect mothers’ decision as to whether or not to remain employed. The second section

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focuses on how neoliberal feminism conceives ‘aspirational’ women as human capital. Employed mothers are urged to work harder and cultivate a responsibilised and positive disposition in order to be an ideal worker for a capitalist system. Overall, I contend that the media examined reinforces a cultural understanding of motherhood and women empowerment that strongly adheres to neoliberal principles.

Balance, Career and Motherhood In this section, I analyse four dominant discourses at play: ‘happy work– family balance’, ‘extensive mothering’, ‘mother as main parent’ and ‘mother as worker’. I offer extracts from Clove and Her World articles as well as radio shows aired on Capital FM to illustrate how I interpretively identify these discourses. Before this, however, I shall describe the four discourses and the subjectivities they constitute. The ‘happy work–family balance’ discourse encourages women to craft a felicitous equilibrium between cultivating a meaningful career and being a present mother. In line with Rottenberg’s (2018) work, the media holds out the happily balanced employed mother as the normative model for women. The exemplary waged mother is often the high-powered or upwardly mobile middle-class woman who ‘manages to balance a spectacularly successful career with a satisfying home life’ (ibid., 72). Differing from the image of the ‘superwoman’ of the previous decades, she desires not just to ‘have it all’ and be a professional working mother, but to be both successful and content (Banet-Weiser et al. 2020). The pursuit of personal happiness through a well-rounded life, and not structural change, is her main goal. The ‘happy work–family balance’ discourse is often entangled with ‘extensive mothering’ in the data. In Christopher’s (2012) study on how employed mothers in Canada define ‘good mothering’, she identifies an alternative to the intensive mothering ideal (Hays 1996) which she names ‘extensive mothering’. She reports that most of her respondents construct the good employed mother as ‘more “extensive” than “intensive” – delegating caregiving tasks while remaining ultimately responsible for children’ (Christopher 2012, 91). Building on these findings, this study views ‘extensive mothering’ as a socially constructed discourse, that is, a system of statements, thoughts and practices that reframes good mothering as ‘being “in charge” of and ultimately responsible for their children’s wellbeing’ (ibid., 73). It not only reflects what some women

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do, but is imbued with the power to shape and discipline caregiving practices. The ‘extensive mothering’ discourse ‘feeds off’ (Sunderland 2004) another discourse circulating within the data—the culturally dominant ‘mother as main parent’. Separately and together, these discourses reinforce traditional gender ideologies positing that women are the best, primary caregivers of children. ‘Mother as main parent’ has been identified in various media genres across the decades and across cultural contexts. Sunderland (2000, 2006), for example, examines the ‘parttime father/mother as main parent’ combination discourse, which positions mothers as primary caregivers and fathers in a supporting role, in British and American parentcraft literature and childcare magazines. More recently, MacKenzie (2018, 2019) demonstrates that ‘mother as main parent’ is very much in evidence in the British parenting website, Mumsnet Talk. Similar to MacKenzie’s findings, the present analysis reveals that fathers are often excluded from parental subject positions in the articles and radio talk. Consistent with cultural assumptions that mothers are the ‘natural’ and biologically superior caregiver, there are few references to fathers as carers. Given that the texts are produced by media ‘for women’, it is not surprising that mothers are quoted and represented more frequently. What is important for this study is that when fathers are mentioned or described, they are rarely portrayed as the primary, or even secondary, parent. Thus, ‘mother as main parent’ remains the dominant discourse. This is a notable absence given that redefining men as caregivers is necessary for a more equal division of family labour (Kendall 2007). Circulating with the discourses above is ‘mother as worker’. In Kendall’s (2007) case study examining American women’s talk about work–family conflicts, she identifies a discourse that she calls ‘father as breadwinner/mother as worker’. She argues that this contemporary discourse evolved from traditional discourses that position women as intensive mothers and men as breadwinners and feminist discourses that position men and women jointly as primary caregivers and breadwinners. Within ‘father as breadwinner/mother as worker’, both women and men engage in the labour market, but are represented asymmetrically as workers (women) and family breadwinners (men). Breadwinning differs from being a worker as it ‘involves not only paid employment, but also the day-to-day obligation to earn money for the financial support of a family. The breadwinner has a duty to work, and leaving the labor force

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(even temporarily) is not an option’ (Potuchek 1997, 4). In Malaysian families, the male breadwinner model is declining in favour of a dualearner model. State policies also ‘appear to promote a gradual shift in the approach to care provision from the traditional male breadwinner ideal to the universal breadwinner family’, as reflected in the evolution of care policies in recent decades (Khazanah Research Institute 2019, 95; see Chapter 1). However, my analysis indicates that, culturally, male breadwinner norms persist. Employed mothers are positioned as professionals, but not breadwinners; their careers are often framed as contingent upon childcare support and family responsibilities. Through the positioning of mothers as workers, fathers are positioned, by implication, as breadwinners, thus maintaining a conservative gender order within the family. Such a perspective endangers mothers’ paid employment since if it ‘is viewed as contingent and supplemental, it is more likely to be reconsidered’ (Kendall 2007, 154). ‘Mother as worker’ and ‘father as breadwinner’ often form a complementary pair, with the former implying the latter. However, I have named these separately rather than as a combination discourse to focus on the subject positioning of waged mothers. I now move on to show how I identify the discourses above through extracts from Clove and Her World articles and radio shows aired on Capital FM . Many of the extracts from the print publications include direct and indirect quotations from highly accomplished women. This study recognises that these quotations and reformulations may not be their actual utterances, but put together by writers and various categories of editorial staff who select, paraphrase and organise quotes from the interviews to fit in with the periodicals’ genre. Nonetheless, by analysing the quotes and the discourses embedded in them, we are able to gain a better understanding of the discourses that circulate within Malaysian society and are available as resources for the text producers and interviewees. The Happy Work–Family Balance Ideal According to Rottenberg (2018), the ‘happy work–family balance’ discourse is partly characterised by the emergence of a new feminist vocabulary, with words such as balance, happiness, responsibility and lean in appearing with stubborn consistency in place of the more traditional feminist language of equal rights and social justice. Consistent with Rottenberg’s observation, characteristic linguistic traces of the discourse

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in Her World and Clove include various lexical forms of ‘balance’ and language of affect. In the examples below, ‘balance’ is lexicalised within the articles’ titles and lead paragraphs: From national gymnast to law degree holder to Group General Manager, Lam Swee Kim has many accolades to her name. Julie Yim finds out her secret to balancing it all. (‘Balancing Act’, Her World, June 2013) Meet Kartika Wati Mohamed, a superwoman who effortlessly balances a health and beauty company, three law firms and, believe it or not, eight children. (‘A Fine Balance’, Her World, February 2013)

Both texts constitute work–family balance as an objective for professional working mothers. In the first extract, the verb phrase in bold implies that balancing it all is a desirable goal. We can assume that the pronoun it all refers to career and family since the reader is told in the subsequent paragraph (not included above) that the interview explores how Lam manages a team and her family. Notably, there is an additional implication that women will be able to attain balance once they know Lam’s secret. This sends the message that there is a simple, universal solution to balancing the demands of career and family, which not only places unrealistic expectations on women, but also forecloses the need for systemic responses to their ‘double burden’ (Hochschild 1997). In the analysis, the media often constructs balance as an ideal by valorising women who are able to calibrate a perfect equilibrium between career and family. This can be seen in the second example above, which invites the reader to meet or, in other words, emulate Kartika Wati Mohamed. The role model is lauded a superwoman and her ability to run multiple businesses while raising a large family is assessed positively as Fine in the article’s title. This premodifier has two possible meanings, good or delicate. Considering that the interviewee has four businesses and eight children, the latter is likely true. However, given that women’s magazines as a genre often offer role models that readers can aspire to, the preferred meaning of the adjective is probably the former. As noted earlier, the neoliberal feminist quest is for ‘not just a sane equilibrium but a satisfying equilibrium’ (Rottenberg 2018, 73; italics added). The analysis shows that positive affect is often mobilised to encourage women to attach themselves to both the market and their role of mother. For example, in Lam’s career advice below, the promise of

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happiness is held out to women ‘who attempt to emulate the ideal of the Balanced Woman’ (ibid., 47): If you want something, go and get it. Being a woman doesn’t mean you should slow down when you get married and have kids. You shouldn’t hold back your life. In fact, you live a fuller and richer life. (‘Balancing Act’, Her World, June 2013)

Through the use of boulomaic modality in the conditional sentence, the text producer assumes access to the reader’s mental process and suggests that mothers—interpellated by the pronoun you—likely want to work outside the home. The imperative in the result clause urges them to go and get it. This imperative is delivered again in the subsequent sentences via deontic modality (in bold). This constructs combining career ambitions with motherhood as a normative ideal. Importantly, the reader is assured that this will bring them fulfilment. The discourse marker in fact expresses epistemic certainty and strong commitment to the truth of this. On the one hand, this advice provides legitimacy for women’s own needs and desires, unlike much government and organisational rhetoric around women’s LFPR and waged motherhood which often centres around economic arguments of growth. On the other hand, this sets individual happiness as the end goal and substitutes positive affect for structural change. The propositional assumption behind Lam’s advice is that women can choose to not slow down or hold back. This disregards the enduring barriers that are really holding women back, such as societal expectations that women should be primarily responsible for family care. Although balance is constituted as a promised source of personal satisfaction, the elusiveness of a felicitous equilibrium leaks into the media texts, as illustrated by the following extracts: How do you balance your family and career? … I have two kids – a three-year-old girl and a boy turning four. It’s tough; I can barely do it. My day starts at 5.45am and I try to make it home by 9.30 pm. During the weekends, I’m the mother, maid and wife. Firstly, you need to have a good support system at home. Mothers and your in-laws are there to help you. If you have kids, you need to find a place you can trust your kids with whether it’s day care or school. It’s important to have a family who is supportive and will help you to keep an eye on your kids. Once that part is sorted out you can focus on your work and make sure you get things done so that you can go home to your

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kids. … An understanding spouse is also very important. I work late quite often but my husband is understanding and supportive. (‘Balancing Act’, Her World, June 2013) Caunter admits that even with help, being a mother is a tough job and it’s a constant balancing act with work commitments. “As a mum you’re constantly juggling, you’re still the mum, you still have to decide what she eats, and I’m constantly checking on her when I’m out,” she says. “If you have more help the more you’re controlling an entire household. It’s managing everyone else as well.” (‘Baby Talk’, Clove, 4 August 2013)

In the first extract, balance is once again presented as desirable. By posing the question above, the magazine implies that striking a balance between family and career is an important goal that their readers aspire to. What I want to highlight here is that both interviewees underscore the difficulty of balancing family care and a profession (It’s tough, I can barely do it, being a mother a tough job). Yet, their needs are not included among the things that require balancing. There is no mention of needing time to themselves. Equally, despite the elusiveness of the happy balance ideal, it does not disappear as a goal. That mothers need to perform a constant balancing act is presented as a fact of life. And through the example set by these role models, women are indirectly incited to find individualised solutions to craft and maintain a satisfying work/life rhythm. This is explored further in the next section. Extensive Mothering From the extracts above, Lam and Caunter’s role as the primary parent contributes strongly to their experience of work–family conflict. Traces of ‘mother as main parent’ are evident in their quotes. In Lam and Caunter’s self-representations as the mother, maid and wife and the mum respectively, the use of the definite article implies that they are the primary caregiver within their families. In Sunderland’s (2000, 257) study, she suggests that ‘part-time father/mother as main parent’ is a single combination discourse ‘because the two parts are consistent and complementary’. However, in the present work, when mothers are positioned as primary caregivers, fathers’ position as the secondary parent is not necessarily reinforced. For example, Lam’s partner is interpellated as a spouse and husband, but never as a father. His role within

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the family is vague and limited to being understanding and supportive. Rather, it is mothers and in-laws who appear to play the role of secondary carers. Given that mothers is the first noun in the phrase, we could infer that in-laws refers to mothers-in-law. In other words, women remain ultimately responsible for caregiving and household management. As earlier studies have reported, industrialisation in Malaysia has produced ‘a modified and often female-centred extended family form to support the work and family trajectories of urban life’ (Stivens 1998, 106) with grandmothers frequently taking up childcare duties (World Bank 2012). Likewise, ‘father’ is never lexicalised in the interview with Caunter. This is symptomatic of the belief that childcare is women’s work and reinforces the ‘mother as main parent’ discourse. Both Lam and Caunter resolve the competing expectations associated with being the main parent and a committed professional to some extent by invoking the ‘extensive mothering’ discourse. Caunter has help, while Lam ostensibly delegates childcare to a place she can trust her kids with and/or relatives who will keep an eye on her children. As stated earlier in this chapter, ‘extensive mothering’ reinforces conventionally gendered parenting roles. In the cases of Lam and Caunter, although they may not physically be with their children, they remain ultimately responsible for them. This includes being ‘in charge’ of organising and managing their children’s care. In the bold clause in the interview with Lam, mothers, interpellated by you, are the Actors in the material process. This positions her and other employed mothers as the primary parent that decides who should take care of their children. In a similar vein, Caunter constructs herself as the primary caregiver as it is she who decides what her child eats and is constantly checking on her. She is portrayed as a delegatory mother who manages and controls an entire household, instead of the central hands-on caregiver of her children. Lam also enacts good mothering by calibrating the right balance between family and career, and ensuring her children’s needs for her attention are met. On weekdays, she gets things done so that she can go home to her kids, and during the weekends, she performs her role as the mother. In the next example, Teo Soo Hwang, who heads the Cancer Research Initiatives Foundation, also appears to have found a self-tailored work– family balance through extensive mothering: It seems there’s no stopping this mother of two, who after a 12-hour work day, loves going home to put on her ‘tiger mummy’ hat. But Soo Hwang

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is quick to credit her husband who makes the money (contrary to popular belief there’s not much money in research) and extended family (she says there’s an army at home), whose continued support allow her to work and raise two children. The last thing we discuss is not cancer, but Soo Hwang’s passion for food and cooking with her children. “I love watching Junior MasterChef and cooking with the kids …” (‘Caring Through Research’, Her World, December 2012)

Like Lam, Teo portrays extensive mothering positively as these practices allow them to construct themselves as committed professionals and mothers. Neither limit their work hours—Lam tries to make it home by 9.30 p.m., while Teo works twelve-hour days. But, the ‘extensive mothering’ discourse enables them to be positioned as good mothers who delegate caring tasks and are ‘capable of switching off after a stressful day and attending to [their] children with patience and affection’ (Orgad 2017, 175). By emphasising her enjoyment in spending time with her children at home through the affective mental processes and emotive vocabulary in bold, Teo is positioned not only as a devoted mother, but a happy balanced woman. Such alternative constructions of good motherhood can improve women’s experiences integrating their work and family lives, but only to a certain extent as they uphold the gendered division of family labour. Even when care work can be outsourced, ‘there is always a portion of time and a number of care activities that can only be provided by the family’ (Khazanah Research Institute 2019, 94). And as we saw earlier, within the ‘extensive mothering’ discourse, care responsibilities are still perceived as women’s work. Therefore, without promoting the redistribution of unequal care obligations from women to men, ‘extensive mothering’ can reinforce the ‘double burden’ for women, who are expected to combine the responsibilities of being the primary parent and a committed worker. The day-to-day management of the household can be onerous for women at the end of the working day (see Orgad 2017, 2019 for interview accounts of middle-class educated women who left successful careers despite being able to buy childcare and domestic labour). The double burden syndrome can also compromise women’s ability to progress in a competitive work environment that often expect ‘ideal workers’ who are free of reproductive responsibilities and ‘other imperatives of existence that impinge upon the job’ (Acker 1990, 149).

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Hence, as Christopher (2012) argues, what is needed is a more egalitarian conception of motherhood that emphasises the role of fathers in childcare. Further, the accounts of the outsourcing of care fail to take up a discussion of issues pertaining to social class. The representations of childcare in the articles above and others fall back on privatising rhetoric about family care, namely using private childcare services and seeking help from extended family. This may reflect the reality of many Malaysian women (see Chapter 1). However, without raising questions surrounding the lack of systemic solutions such as universal childcare, this legitimatises a private remedy that ignores the class element. As Rottenberg (2018, 164) points out, the happy balance equation ‘involves the outsourcing of care work by those few who can afford it’. In Malaysia, not all women are able to pay for the childcare and domestic assistance that would free up their time for wage work, while workplace-based childcare is rarely available to less formally educated women. Of course, some could, and do, delegate part of their household duties and child-rearing to the unpaid labour of (female) relatives and neighbours, but these are unstable sources of childcare. Further, reproductive labour is often outsourced by ‘a small class of aspirational subjects who self-invest wisely and augment their capital value’ to ‘a large class of women who are rendered expendable, exploitable, and disposable’. In this sense, neoliberal feminism is ‘shorn of all obligations to less privileged women while actually producing new classes of disempowered women’ (Rottenberg 2018, 103–104). Christopher (2012, 94) makes the crucial argument that ‘for the experience of extensive mothering to be empowering for more women, it would also require challenging entrenched racial/ethnic and class inequalities among women, including efforts to upgrade the pay and working conditions of child care and housecleaning jobs’. This study finds that while ‘extensive mothering’ is frequently articulated, it has not completely supplanted the discourse of ‘intensive mothering’. Traces of this discourse are detectable, but not pronounced. In the excerpt below, for instance, fashion entrepreneur Sentel Lee expresses feelings of guilt about pursuing her career and being away from her son: “Being a working mum is hard. Leaving my son with his nanny when I go to work is the worst feeling in the world and he is getting to the age now where he wants constant interaction and wants to be stimulated with books and music,” says Lee.

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She adds, “My husband and I are lucky that we can bring our son to work with us so we can spend every free moment we have with him. We have a nursery set up for him with all the things he needs. He thinks its home which is all that matters”. (‘Baby Talk’, Clove, 4 August 2013)

Similar to earlier texts, balancing motherhood and a career is described as hard. However, unlike Lam and Caunter, Lee’s challenge appears to stem from feeling guilty about working. To some extent, she is able to navigate the tension between her professional and parental responsibilities by adopting ‘external mothering’ practices, but remains accountable to the tenets of intensive mothering. For example, she delegates childcare to a nanny, but evaluates this negatively through the hyperbolic phrase the worst feeling in the world. In keeping with intensive mothering expectations, she sets up a nursery for her son in her workplace so that she can spend every free moment she has with him. Her self-reproach for not being able to provide her son with the constant interaction and stimulation that she believes he wants reveals the pressure that parents face to ensure their children’s future intelligence and success, which has grown from expectations associated with intensive motherhood (Wall 2013). As with Wall’s (2013, 168) findings of contemporary Canadian parenting magazines, ‘women’s time spent in paid employment is … presented as something which takes away from family time and thus detracts from children’s well-being’. Embedded within this example is the assumption that mothers should put their children’s needs ahead of their own. It is noteworthy that Lee is the only interviewee who makes references to both parents when discussing childcare (My husband and I , we), thereby articulating a ‘shared parenting’ discourse in which both parents are positioned symmetrically as caregivers. Thus far, this chapter has shown that through the discourse of ‘extensive mothering’, some women are made flexible to some degree to pursue a ‘happy balance’. Nonetheless, they are still constrained by greater family responsibilities. Crucially, despite the media’s rhetorical commitment to help mothers succeed in their careers, the texts normalise rather than challenge the unequal division of family labour. In fact, this systemic issue is reduced to an individualised concern. In the following exchange from Capital FM ’s ‘Talk of the Town’ segment, the blame for women’s double burden is placed squarely on women themselves. During this show, radio announcers, Xandria Ooi and Joanne Kam, and the station’s ‘resident life coach’, Zarina Zainal, contend that women’s

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financial independence has caused their husbands to become complacent towards family responsibilities: 1 XO: Now Zarina could our independence (.) deter men (.) from stepping up to 2 take responsibility for the family or even from wanting to do things for us 3 ZZ: I would believe so because as I mentioned (.) this (.) we’re talking about 4 the issue being local (.) but I’ve had (.) foreign women and Arab women 5 in particular who came up to me and actually said (.) you Malaysian 6 women are so stupid (.) why do you want to do everything when you can 7 get the men to do it for you= 8 XO: = Wah1 = 9 JK: = [Wah] 10 ZZ: [(#) ] and you know that was such an eye-opener it’s like oh my god 11 ((laugh)) (‘Talk of the Town’, Capital FM , 11 April 2013)

In Ooi’s first turn, take responsibility for the family or even from wanting to do things for us (line 2) can be interpreted as breadwinning as well as caregiving. Hence, through her non-naive question, she appears to hold women responsible for their double burden. Her question is ‘non-naive’, in that it is not a genuine request for information, but functions as an invitation to Zarina Zainal to offer advice to the audience, who are implicated by the pronouns our and us. Zarina Zainal supports Ooi’s implicit view (line 3) and justifies her stance by ‘animating’ (Goffman 1981) the sentiments of foreign women and Arab women (lines 4–7). The direct speech attributed to these non-Malaysian women may not be faithful to their original utterance, but plays an advisory function. Its task is to persuade the listener to take personal responsibility for their work–family conflict and change their behaviour, in line with the neoliberal rhetoric of choice. The rhetorical question (lines 6–7) presupposes that women want to do everything and expresses a strong epistemic certainty that women can get their husbands to do it for them. This not only reinforces the negative stereotype of the over-controlling wife, but also overlooks deeply entrenched gender expectations in many Malaysian homes. Neither radio announcer challenges the message being conveyed. On the contrary, Zarina Zainal appears to orient to Ooi and Kam’s expressions of surprise (lines 8–9) as agreement and goes on to produce a positive assessment of this viewpoint (an eye-opener, line 10).

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Although this exchange is problematic, it can appear emancipatory on the surface as it draws on feminist discourses: 1 ZZ: The moral of what I’ve been trying to share this morning is that (.) it is 2 wonderful (.) that we are empowered it is wonderful that we are focused 3 (.) and we have all these opportunities to do things that we want to do (.) 4 but I think it’s also important for us to (.) share the responsibility and 5 share the workload [(#) ] 6 XO: [You] see I think part- oh sorry go a[head] 7 ZZ: [Yeah] no you 8 know we don’t need to be superwomen (‘Talk of the Town’, Capital FM , 11 April 2013)

Through the clause it is wonderful, repeated in lines 1 and 2, Zarina Zainal evaluates women’s empowerment and access to professional opportunities positively. The stress laid on the first instance of wonderful reinforces this point. Her advice to women to share domestic duties (lines 4–5) also draws on the feminist discourse of ‘shared parenting’. However, this again assumes that women refuse to share their family responsibilities with their partners and that all women have a real choice in the matter. Her imperative in line 8 potentially flouts the maxim of relevance. For the listener to accept this as relevant, she must infer that women resist their husbands’ help because they are trying to live up to the superwoman mystique, and that therefore, individual women are the problem and solution to their work–family role strain. Up to now, this chapter has focused on how women and men’s caregiving identities are constituted asymmetrically, but the same can be said about their professional identities. While women are encouraged to cultivate a career, their employment is constructed as necessary for happiness, not breadwinning, and dependent on the availability of care for their children. In contrast, men do not face the same expectations to be parents first and workers second. This chapter will now move on to examine the ‘mother as worker’ discourse and the gendered view of breadwinning within the media texts.

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Gendered Breadwinner Norms In the interview with Teo Soo Hwang analysed earlier, she is positioned as a worker, but not a co-breadwinner: But Soo Hwang is quick to credit her husband who makes the money (contrary to popular belief there’s not much money in research) and extended family (she says there’s an army at home), whose continued support allow her to work and raise two children. (‘Caring Through Research’, Her World, December 2012)

The use of the verb allow in bold casts Teo’s employment as optional and contingent rather than obligatory. It suggests that without childcare support from her relatives, Teo may have given up her career. This reinforces the taken-for-granted understanding that women’s primary role is as caregivers, not providers, thereby articulating both ‘mother as worker’ and ‘mother as main parent’. On the other hand, Teo’s husband is positioned explicitly as a breadwinner through the relative clause who makes the money. The use of the definite article in the money classifies his income not only as higher, but also as essential for household expenses. The ensuing interpolation in brackets emphasises the contrast between his salary and hers, which we are told is not much and, by implication, not the indispensable source of financial support required of breadwinners (Kendall 2007). The ‘mother as worker’ discourse can also be perceived in the following Clove interview with fashion entrepreneur Vivy Yusuf: “I absolutely love my job and there’s no way I can see myself quitting. I always thought it’d be easy to just jump back to work after, but now I’m seeing that it may not be so simple,” says Vivy. “I’m pretty lucky because both my mother and my mother-in-law are near and willing to help with his daycare. Gotta love our moms! “I honestly feel that if we can help it, women should not stop doing what we love to do once children come into the picture. Maybe at a slower pace or on a part-time basis especially when the children are very young, but we shouldn’t give up our careers.” (‘Baby Talk’, Clove, 4 August 2013)

This extract replicates the patterns that we have observed in previous articles. Firstly, it advocates the importance of a happy balance. Vivy Yusof

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commits herself strongly to combining motherhood with her career via the use of boulomaic and deontic modality (in bold). She also emphasises the enjoyment she receives from her job through the repeated use of the affective mental process verb love intensified by the modal adverbial absolutely. Secondly, women’s work–family struggle is briefly acknowledged (now I’m seeing that it may not be so simple), but then glossed over. Balance is again achieved by engaging in extensive mothering and delegating caregiving to others. In this excerpt, only female relatives are lexicalised (my mother, my mother-in-law, our moms ), thereby reinforcing the notion that family care is women’s work. I want to draw attention to how women’s careers are presented as conditional on the availability of childcare. While Vivy Yusof continuously claims a professional identity, she does not take up the position of a breadwinner who has the obligation and right to work beyond the home. The use of the singular self-reference in I’m pretty lucky implies that the childcare being delegated would have fallen on her. In other words, while her husband’s employment is left unquestioned, she is only able to pursue a full-time career because she has extended family who are near and willing to help with caregiving. Additionally, although mothers are encouraged to retain their careers, the condition if we can help it frames their workforce participation as optional and contingent on the right circumstances. Further, the pronoun we interpellates women, thus absolving men from any responsibility to ensure women have an equal opportunity to work outside the home, such as by sharing caregiving duties. This reproduces the ‘mother as main parent’ discourse alongside ‘mother as worker’. In this extract, it is clear that the supposed reader is partnered or married and at least middle-class. Choosing to work at a slower pace or on a part-time basis can have serious financial repercussions for lower income families, which includes an increasing number of female-headed households in Malaysia (Zarina and Kamil 2012). However, female breadwinning and women’s fiscal needs are not considered here. The suggestion that women pursue their careers at a slower pace or on a part-time basis also disregards the career penalties that part-time working mothers face (see Cram et al. 2016). Before concluding this section, I want to return to the Capital FM segment analysed earlier. Through the excerpts below, I shall shed more light on the local sociocultural context within which the neoliberal feminist discourse of balance is invoked, that is, one where women

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are encouraged to contribute to economic growth and their employers’ profits while retaining normative gender roles in the family: 1 JK: So I guess like before I mean the m- men usually were the breadwinners 2 and all but now we find them on (.) equal grounds as women as well (.) 3 [right] 4 ZZ: [Ye- ] yeah and (.) just to talk about you know not saying that (.) women 5 being strong is a problem no my mother was a very very strong character 6 (.) she was a very independent woman she lived in the States on her own 7 she worked at the World Bank (.) you know she actually supported the 8 family when we were there when my father was doing his Masters (.) but 9 (.) no matter what my father was the head of the family the role was very 10 clear (-) [yeah] 11 JK: [It ] was very defined= 12 ZZ: = It was very defined when it came to decision making when it came to uh 13 (.) upbringing (.) you know certain things it was very very defined (‘Talk of the Town’, Capital FM , 11 April 2013)

In her first turn, Kam topicalises female breadwinning as a way of inviting Zarina Zainal to produce her expert advice. Zarina Zainal begins to present the issue for discussion (just to talk about, line 4), but then makes a disclaimer (not saying that women being strong is a problem, lines 4–5). Her unprompted denial is emphasised through multiple uses of negation (not saying that, no). By doing so, she displays her reflexive awareness that her upcoming argument is potentially problematic and requires ‘some careful … accountability work’ (Stokoe and Smithson 2001, 235). In lines 5–8, she works to prevent accusations of sexism by aligning herself with the feminist ideal of women empowerment through her account of her mother (see Chapter 6 for further analysis). After attempting to inoculate herself from potential criticism, she demonstrates support for the male as head of household ideal. She positions her father as the head of the family (line 9), where both the preceding adverb phrase no matter what and the subsequent clause the role was very clear signal strong approval of this patriarchal role. Although Kam’s paraphrase (line 11) may indicate agreement, the noticeable pause at the transition relevance place can be interpreted as scepticism on Kam’s part. Zarina Zainal orients to Kam’s failure to provide a strong agreement by reinforcing her position. She recycles the last unit of Kam’s prior turn, before elaborating and emphasising it via multiple adverbs (lines 12–13). Ooi then immediately bolsters her stance by implictly linking women empowerment to male passivity in the home:

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1 XO: So the question is do Malaysian women spoil our men (.) so now if let’s 2 say this young generation of men are spoilt it’s because (.) we are making 3 them that way do you think 4 ZZ: That’s the discussion that I would like to have with you girls cos I’ve been 5 trying to figure this out (.) because what I see from around me is that how 6 (.) men they get married (.) and then they let go (.) so the women are the 7 ones who have to worry about you know putting food on the table (.) 8 feeding the kids (‘Talk of the Town’, Capital FM , 11 April 2013)

Ooi’s questions are ‘non-naive’ and a preliminary to more advice for the listening audience. Since the point of this programme is to offer solutions to women’s problems (whether real or invented), the idealised listener who is familiar with the genre can be relied on to construct the preferred meaning behind these questions, which is that women’s success has negative effects on their domestic life. Zarina Zainal goes on to expand on this issue. In lines 6–8, she represents women putting food on the table as a problem. To understand why this is a concern, the listener would need to draw on (but not necessarily accept) the value system that requires men to be breadwinners. By claiming to have personally observed this ‘problem’ (line 5), Zarina Zainal uses a ‘witnessing’ move (Hutchby 2006) to justify her support for male headship and breadwinning. To sum up this section, the analysis shows that neoliberal feminism has become part of the common sense in women’s mediascape in Malaysia. Women are incited to desire a happy work–family balance, but the structural barriers that make it difficult to procure this balance remain largely unexamined. Instead, the configuration of discourses conjures individualised and entrepreneurial subjects who are cast as fully responsible for balancing their professional and parental roles. This (re)naturalises the gendered division of family labour in complex ways. As Rottenberg (2018) argues in her own study, the link between upwardly mobile women and reproduction and care work is attenuating as these women are encouraged to outsource reproductive labour to their older or poorer peers, while good motherhood is reworked in managerial terms. Through this, we could be witnessing a neoliberal conversion of high-potential women ‘into generic (rather than gendered) human capital’ (ibid., 117). Nevertheless, the analysis shows that this process of conversion is partial not only because neoliberal feminism maintains reproduction ‘as part of “aspirational” women’s normative life trajectory’ (ibid., 17), but also

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because men are still perceived as economic heads while any care work that cannot be outsourced remains principally women’s responsibility. Asymmetrical gender roles continue to present a quandary for middleclass women. Importantly, even as neoliberalism gradually expunges gender differences among a certain stratum of women and men, it is ‘simultaneously producing new forms of racialized and class-stratified gender exploitation’ (ibid., 85). Rather than advancing all women, neoliberal feminism divides them into worthy capital-enhancing subjects and non-aspirational others who perform unpaid or underpaid and precarious care work. This chapter will now look further into how neoliberal feminism recasts professional mothers as capital-enhancing agents and how this serves patriarchal capitalism.

Employed Mothers as Human Capital In line with Rottenberg’s (2018) research, the present analysis finds that the neoliberal feminist discourse in the media interpellates upwardly mobile, professional mothers as ‘human capital’ and requires them to be ideal workers in service to capitalist growth. It can be argued that this is authorised by the country’s neoliberal politico-economic context where ‘notions of competitiveness are increasingly fused with ideas regarding the contribution of gender equity and women’s empowerment to national economic success’ (Elias 2011, 533), causing women workers to be regarded not as human beings with rights, but as ‘economic resources to fit into the dominant neoliberal growth theory’ (Chin Abdullah 2012, 104). In the interviews with Lam Swee Kim and Teo Soo Hwang examined earlier, we have seen how the neoliberal feminist ideal of female empowerment is narrowly articulated as ‘combining motherhood with professional success in the full-time long-hours workplace’ (Orgad 2017, 175). The analysis finds that the media examined reproduces a key neoliberal expectation that women should never cease to look inwards and ‘work on themselves in order to enhance their value as human capital’ (Rottenberg 2018, 136). Rather than contesting unequal structures, the balanced woman labours tirelessly both in the workplace and home, and transforms her behaviour to become more efficient, as illustrated below: Till today, it is still predominantly a woman’s role to manage her family and household. Our determination to have a better work-life balance is the

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reason why women are more than willing to accept a lower pay package. Melissa says that employers are willing to pay a premium and a higher salary package but they also expect performance and results on a ‘shorter runway’ in return, which is something that it not to [sic] easy to do when you’ve a family waiting at home for you to tend to them. The only way out is to work that runway as hard as the men. (‘Are You Still Underpaid?’, Her World, February 2013)

The first sentence could be read as challenging the ‘mother as main parent’ discourse. The prepositional phrase Till today and the adverb still suggest a negative attitude towards traditional household gender roles. However, rather than discuss how these impact the gender pay gap in Malaysia, the (implicit) critique is discarded in the second sentence which mobilises the neoliberal rhetoric of choice via Our determination and more than willing to accept. Women’s supposed willingness to be paid less in exchange for a better work-life balance is construed as universal through the inclusive pronoun Our. Thus, once again, striving for work–family balance, but not social justice, is constituted as a feminine goal. Through indirect speech, the article goes on to imply that the gender earnings gap is due to women’s alleged low performance, which is attributed to their double burden. However, the ‘mother as main parent’ discourse is left unchallenged. Instead, the reader is incited to work as hard as the men. The logical presupposition caused by this comparative structure is that men are industrious. The imperative expressed in the bold sentence flouts the maxim of quantity since it does not explain how working as hard as the men would help women. The implicature resulting from this is that men are better paid because they work harder, and women will enjoy the same benefits if they ‘lean in’ (Sandberg 2013). By calling on employed mothers to accept capitalist values and work that runway, the media encourages them to ‘appreciate themselves as human capital, albeit without forfeiting reproductive and care work responsibilities’ (Rottenberg 2018, 146). This reinforces the belief that employers deserve ‘ideal workers’ whose availability should not be impinged by family caregiving (Williams 2000). This also illustrates how within neoliberal feminist discourse, the notion of self as capital-enhancing subjects eclipses equal opportunity issues. The extract below provides another example of how neoliberal feminism demands women to produce their selves as human capital while maintaining reproduction as part of their trajectory. Using a Q&A format,

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the magazine poses a series of questions to high-achieving women, who outline individual (rather than collective) steps to combine motherhood with a high-powered career: Q: WOMEN FIND IT DIFFICULT TO RE-ENTER THE WORKFORCE AFTER A CAREER BREAK. WHAT CAN THEY DO? A: It helps if women take the initiative to kick start their career planning. Female employees should start having conversations early with their superiors before they even plan to start a family, to discuss their career aspirations and map out the areas where the company can help them achieve these goals. During their career break, women should also take a personal interest in staying updated on industry trends, catch-up on reading and maintain ties with their former colleagues. (‘Top of the World’, Her World, September 2013)

The advice offered above requires women to accept their precarious position within the capitalist system and take full responsibility for striving towards balance in their future. Rather than challenge prevailing gender norms in order to gain equal access to the paid economy, individual women are expected to learn ‘how to play the corporate game more deftly’ and find ‘better ways of adjusting to … business culture’ (McRobbie 2013, 134). Women are prescribed a series of tasks which can be understood as self-investments to ‘augment their market value’ (Rottenberg 2018, 136) and ‘to ensure enhanced returns in the future’ (ibid., 16). Notably, even while performing a reproductive role during their unpaid career break, women are obligated to cultivate their human capital potential, ‘ideally to facilitate its appreciation, but, most important, to prevent its depreciation’ (ibid., 146). By interpellating women as self-determined, entrepreneurial subjects, the advice preaches individualised female empowerment, but ultimately serves capitalist interests and facilitates the reprivatisation of sociopolitical issues. In another piece of advice from the same article, waged mothers are urged to remodel their interior life in order to balance their professional and parental roles and become ideal workers: Raising children and having a full time career is always a challenge, but think positively, and know that you can do it just like other successful women have. My motto in life is ‘if she can do it, so can I.’ (‘Top of the World’, Her World, September 2013)

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That women face challenges raising children and having a full time career is briefly acknowledged, but instead of proposing real measures to address this, women are urged to think positively and emulate successful women. This normalises the unjust system of family care and the long-hours work culture which is prevalent in many sectors. The catchphrases you can do it and if she can do it, so can I , while empowering on the surface, require women to work harder within the status quo, that is, to do more of the same. Hence, by reinforcing a fantasy of female empowerment, such media messages ultimately serve patriarchal capitalism (Orgad 2017). Voices critical of neoliberal and capitalist values are rare within the media examined. A discussion of capitalist work ethics is briefly taken up in a Her World interview with Mina Cheah-Foong, Managing Director of The Body Shop Malaysia and recipient of the Her World Woman of the Year 2012 award: Finding Balance “If there’s one thing I want to tell women, it’s not to fall into the trap of ambition. Ambition can be good but it can also be a dangerous thing. You must remember that with ambition comes a price. You have to be prepared to sacrifice certain things. To become the CEO of a company, you have to be prepared to sacrifice your time, your family and your personal interests in order to pursue the corporate interest.” If women are prepared to do that, then that’s fine, she stresses. Then again, she feels that women must forge their own paths towards achieving their dreams, and not that paved by men. “Men are now finding that they regret working so hard, not spending time with their children and seeing them grow up, not spending time with their wives and families, because they were single-mindedly focused on their ambition. Women, in improving our lot, must be careful not to fall into the same trap and 20 years later find themselves regretting not having been there for their children and such. (‘With Eyes Wide Open’, Her World, June 2013)

Through the heading Finding Balance, work–family balance is constituted once more as a feminine goal. Unlike the previous extracts, women are not incited to transform themselves or work harder to achieve this goal. Instead, they are cautioned against ambition which is conceptualised as harmful via the metaphor trap (repeated in both paragraphs) and the noun phrase a dangerous thing. This negative view of ambition is further emphasised in two ways. Firstly, the if-clause If there’s one thing I want to tell women implies that this is Cheah-Foong’s most important

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piece of advice for women. Secondly, Ambition can be good, but … also a dangerous thing is printed prominently in larger font at the bottom of the page in the magazine. As the text progresses, it becomes evident that ambition is seen as detrimental specifically to family life. In the first paragraph, the cost of pursuing a career is initially left ambiguous (a price, certain things ), but eventually lexicalised as your time, your family and your personal interests. However, the strong focus on family life in the second paragraph suggests that this is the main reason women are being discouraged from climbing the corporate ladder—not time or personal interests. Additionally, the apposition in bold equates career ambition with the neglect of the family. Likewise, there is a causal relationship between fall into the same trap and find themselves regretting not having been there for their children. Overall, the message being conveyed is that finding balance means putting family ahead of professional aspirations. On the one hand, this advice draws attention to unhealthy corporate workplace values and practices that have been taken for granted. On the other hand, the critique is restrained. The desired goal is to find balance, which leaves structural issues largely unexplored. And it is individual women, rather than companies or men, who are called to reflect, change and curb their ambitions. There are traces of the more progressive ‘shared parenting’ discourse. The clause Men are now finding that they regret … not spending time with their children and seeing them grow up implies that men want to participate in care work. Nonetheless, husbands are only mentioned to serve as a cautionary tale to women. Rottenberg (2018, 99) argues that while neoliberal feminism facilitates the ‘remakings of certain female subjects into human capital’, it also operates as a pushback to a complete conversion by ‘maintaining reproduction (alongside professional development) as part of the normative trajectory for upwardly mobile women’. But this does not mean that these women are incited to marry and have children immediately. Instead, they are ‘increasingly being encouraged to invest in themselves and their professions first and to postpone maternity until some later point’ (ibid., 83). This can be observed in this extract from a Clove interview with Michele Schofield, senior vice president with A+E Networks:

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Predictably, friends who have settled down have tried to set her up for marriage over the years, but Schofield says eventhough [sic] she would love to have it all, it would be hard to become the perfect woman with everything. “I get so much fulfilment from my career, I’m on to the next thing so fast, I’ve had great privileges in my life and I’m really lucky,” said Schofield. “I would love to have it all, but I think it’s hard, something’s gotta give. “I’ve reached a satisfying place in my career, hopefully before it’s too late I’ll figure out the rest of my life quite quickly. My work is a huge part of my life, my life is about my work,” she added. For now, Schofield will continue to do what she does best – watching TV shows and selecting the best programs for Asian audiences. (‘Life in TV’, Clove, 23 June 2013)

In the bold clauses, having it all is evaluated positively via the affective mental process verb love. In both instances, the ensuing clauses recognise that it would be hard to achieve this gendered ideal, but the challenges are not made explicit. Given the positive affective lexis that Schofield uses when discussing her career (so much fulfilment, really lucky, satisfying ), her assertion that something’s gotta give can be read as an unwillingness to sacrifice her professional life for marriage and motherhood. In the third paragraph, she displays a strong commitment to her job by metaphorically equating it with her life. However, although she will continue to cultivate her career and human capital potential, she is merely postponing, and not renouncing, reproduction. The phrase before it’s too late suggests concern about her ‘biological clock’, while the adverbs hopefully and For now imply that marriage and motherhood are in her future. This is in line with Rottenberg’s (2018, 94) argument that neoliberal feminism constantly reminds young upwardly mobile women ‘that they must worry about their “biological clock” if they want to “have it all”’. While it encourages women to invest in a career and develop one’s self, it also ‘reinscribes the normative expectation that women should have – and should want to have – children’ (ibid., 82). The idea that marriage and motherhood are compulsory is rarely subverted. One of the few examples of this is an interview with British stand-up comedian Shazia Mirza. The exchange below is part of Mirza’s account of how she came to enter her field:

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1 SM: They wanted me to be a docto::r marry a docto::r have a few little docto::rs 2 you kno::w respectable thing (.) so I (.) the nearest thing I could be is a 3 science teacher 4 JK: Mmhmm= 5 SM: = I had no interest in (.) science (.) no interest in children 6 [no- ((laugh)) ] 7 JK: [Oh goodness ((laugh)) does your mother] know this 8 SM: No interest in people actually (‘Interview with Shazia Mirza’, Capital FM , 19 November 2012)

Although Mirza evaluates marriage and having children in positive terms (respectable thing ) in her first turn, her prolonged syllables indicate irony. As the sequence unfolds, she proceeds to undermine the notion that women are naturally maternal (no interest in children, line 5). Kam’s exclamation and question in line 7 exhibit recognition of this subversion, and their joint laughter (lines 6 and 7) seems to function as a means of legitimating Mirza’s stance. As their talk progresses, both Kam and Mirza continue to subvert the view that women must marry: 1 JK: 2 SM: 3 4 JK: (‘Interview

Are they still trying to match you up then Oh my god they’ve spent their whole life [trying to] get me married off [((laugh))] with Shazia Mirza’, Capital FM , 19 November 2012)

In Kam’s question (line 1), the adverb still implies a negative attitude towards Mirza’s parents’ efforts in trying to find her a husband. This disdain is shared by Mirza as indicated by the negative semantic prosody of the phrase get me married off (line 3). She emphasises this through the exclamation Oh my god (line 2) as well as the use of the hyperbolic phrase their whole life (line 2), where whole is stressed. Kam’s laughter (line 4) endorses Mirza’s position on the issue. At the same time, Kam continually revisits the topic of marriage and relationships in the interview. Hence, it could be argued that, at least on her part, it is parental pressure rather than the compulsoriness of marriage that is being undermined. The disproportionate attention that she gives to this topic seems to imply the importance of marriage and, perhaps, motherhood. It is also possible that Kam returns again and again to this stereotypically feminine conversation topic because she believes

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that marriage and relationships are of interest to Capital FM ’s listeners. And since the talk is constructed for the entertainment of an overhearing audience, Kam could also be exploiting the topic’s potential humour.

Summary This chapter has examined cultural beliefs about motherhood and waged work, and the ways in which these are constructed, maintained and contested through the media’s use of language. It identifies four dominant discourses that serve to reinforce patriarchal and neoliberal feminist ideologies, namely ‘happy work–family balance’, ‘extensive mothering’, ‘mother as main parent’ and ‘mother as worker’. These discourses intersect to constitute feminine identities that reconcile conflicting national and cultural ideals. On the one hand, by interpellating women as capitalenhancing subjects, they support state policies that see female labour participation as a crucial growth resource as the nation transitions to a knowledge economy. On the other hand, women continue to play a central role in raising the family, in line with more traditional and moralistic gendered discourses in Malaysian society. The problem with the dominance of ‘mother as main parent’, ‘extensive mothering’ and ‘mother as worker’ is that although they may linguistically position women in ways that reflect current understandings of work and family roles in Malaysia and what is often the case in practice, they do not promote more egalitarian ideals for women and men. By putting women at the epicentre of caregiving, promoting highly privatised understandings of care and normalising expectations for men to be primary providers, the discourses legitimise and entrench some of the very issues that are hindering women’s equal participation in the workforce in Malaysia. However, the entanglement of conservative ideas with the neoliberal feminist emphasis on women empowerment and self-determination makes these patriarchal beliefs pernicious and difficult to contest. The women’s media examined rarely moves away from its adherence to neoliberal principles, and this keeps them from offering any real solutions to gender inequality in the workplace and families. The challenges that Malaysian women face when combining motherhood and career are glossed over. Instead, the neoliberal feminist ‘empowered’ subject is called to accept full responsibility for calibrating a ‘happy work–family balance’. By encouraging self-responsibilisation, the neoliberal feminist discourse disarticulates structural inequality in Malaysia. It also needs to be noted

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that the predominant image of women promulgated in the print media examined is the married heterosexual woman with children. Given that homosexuality remains illegal and punishable in this country, the absence of any mention of non-heteronormative relationships is unsurprising. Such absences are easy to ignore as heteronormativity is often assumed in Malaysian media. However, the implication of this is the naturalisation and reinforcement of a heteronormative gender order.

Note 1. Malaysian expression that is used in the same way as ‘wow’.

References Acker, Joan. 1990. Hierarchies, Jobs, Bodies: A Theory of Gendered Organizations. Gender & Society 4 (2): 139–58. Banet-Weiser, Sarah, Rosalind Gill, and Catherine Rottenberg. 2020. “Postfeminism, Popular Feminism and Neoliberal Feminism? Sarah Banet-Weiser, Rosalind Gill and Catherine Rottenberg in Conversation.” Feminist Theory 21 (1): 3–24. Chin Abdullah, Maria. 2012. “Women’s Rights to Employment: The Forgotten and Invisible Women Workers. In Equality Under Construction: Malaysian Women’s Human Rights Report 2010/11, edited by EMPOWER, 45–110. Selangor: EMPOWER. Christopher, Karen. 2012. “Extensive Mothering: Employed Mothers’ Constructions of the Good Mother.” Gender & Society 26 (1): 73–96. Cram, Bridgette, Mohamad G. Alkadry, and Leslie E. Tower. 2016. “Social Costs: The Career-Family Tradeoff”. In Handbook on Well-Being of Working Women, edited by Mary L. Connerley and Jiyun Wu, 473–87. Dordrecht: Springer. Elias, Juanita. 2011. “The Gender Politics of Economic Competitiveness in Malaysia’s Transition to a Knowledge Economy.” The Pacific Review 24 (5): 529–52. Goffman, Erving. 1981. Forms of Talk. Oxford: Blackwell. Hays, Sharon. 1996. The Cultural Contradictions of Motherhood. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Hochschild, Arlie. 1997. The Time Bind: When Work Becomes Home and Home Becomes Work. New York: Metropolitan Books. Hutchby, Ian. 2006. Media Talk: Conversation Analysis and the Study of Broadcasting. Berkshire: Open University Press.

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Kendall, Shari. 2007. “Father as Breadwinner, Mother as Worker: Gendered Positions in Feminist and Traditional Discourses of Work and Family.” In Family Talk: Discourse and Identity in Four American Families, edited by Deborah Tannen, Shari Kendall and Cynthia Gordon, 123–63. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Khazanah Research Institute. 2019. Time to Care: Gender Inequality, Unpaid Care Work and Time Use Survey. Kuala Lumpur: Khazanah Research Institute. MacKenzie, Jai. 2018. “‘Good Mums Don’t, Apparently, Wear Make-up’: Negotiating Discourses of Gendered Parenthood in Mumsnet Talk.” Gender and Language 12 (1): 114–35. ———. 2019. Language, Gender and Parenthood Online: Negotiating Motherhood in Mumsnet Talk. Oxon: Routledge. McRobbie, Angela. 2013. “Feminism, the Family and the New Mediated Maternalism.” New Formations 80: 119–37. Orgad, Shani. 2017. “The Cruel Optimism of the Good Wife: The Fantastic Working Mother on the Fantastical Treadmill.” Television and New Media 18 (2): 165–83. ———. 2019. Heading Home: Motherhood, Work, and the Failed Promise of Equality. New York: Columbia Press. Potuchek, Jean L. 1997. Who Supports the Family? Gender and Breadwinning in Dual-earner Marriages. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Rottenberg, Catherine. 2018. The Rise of Neoliberal Feminism. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Sandberg, Sheryl. 2013. Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. Stivens, Maila. 1998. “Sex, Gender and the Making of the New Malay Middle Classes.” In Gender and Power in Affluent Asia, edited by Krishna Sen and Maila Stivens, 87–126. London: Routledge. Stokoe, Elizabeth H., and Janet Smithson. 2001. “Making Gender Relevant: Conversation Analysis and Gender Categories in Interaction.” Discourse & Society 12 (2): 217–44. Sunderland, Jane. 2000. “‘Parenting’ or ‘Mothering’? The Case of Modern Childcare Magazines.” Discourse & Society 17 (4): 503–27. ———. 2004. Gendered Discourses. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. ———.2006. “Baby Entertainer, Bumbling Assistant and Line Manager: Discourses of Fatherhood in Parentcraft Texts.” Discourse & Society 11 (2): 249–74. Wall, Glenda. 2013. “‘Putting Family First’: Shifting Discourses of Motherhood and Childhood in Representations of Mothers’ Employment and Child Care.” Women’s Studies International Forum 40: 162–71. Williams, Joan. 2000. Unbending Gender: Why Family and Work Conflict and What to Do about It. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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World Bank. 2012. Malaysia Economic Monitor: Unlocking Women’s Talent. Washington, DC: World Bank. Zarina Md. Noor, and Anton Abdulbasah Kamil. 2012. “Sustaining the Livelihood of Single Mothers through Wealth Creation and Savings Opportunities: A Long Road Ahead.” International Journal of Trade, Economics and Finance 3 (2): 126–31.

CHAPTER 5

Postfeminist Discourses and Work Femininities in Women’s Media

Abstract This chapter presents a critical analysis of the professional discourses at play in Malaysian women’s media and the subject positions that they offer to women. It identifies four main discourses that are profoundly connected to postfeminism: ‘female heroes’, which suggests that women can achieve success through confidence, control, resilience and passion; ‘female lack’, which blames gender work disparities on women’s personal behaviour and psyches; ‘balanced femininity’, which invites women to embrace yet carefully manage their femininity in the workplace; and ‘aesthetic labour’, which calls on career women to participate in intensive beauty practices. The analysis demonstrates that these discourses substitute individual accomplishments, personal transformation and positive dispositions for genuine change, while producing workplace femininities that do little to alter the status quo. Keywords Postfeminism · Professional discourses · Denying sexism · Culture of confidence · Gender essentialism · Aesthetic labour

This chapter continues with the linguistic analysis of professional discourses that circulate in Her World, Clove and Capital FM . While Chapter 4 examines the neoliberal feminist logics in the articles and radio shows, the present chapter interrogates the postfeminist values that © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 M. Yoong, Professional Discourses, Gender and Identity in Women’s Media, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-55544-3_5

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inform their representations of career women. As we shall see, these media articulate a configuration of professional discourses that draws heavily on the core features of postfeminism, namely the repudiation of sexism, the emphasis on individualism, agency, self-surveillance and self-transformation, and the resurgence of ideas about gender difference. These discourses and their role in perpetuating gender inequalities in the labour market are examined across two main sections. The first shows that the discourses of ‘female heroes’ and ‘female lack’ evacuate gender and class politics from discussions about women’s success and struggles, while the second looks at how the ‘balanced femininity’ and ‘aesthetic labour’ discourses reinforce essentialism and normative ideals about how women should speak, behave and present themselves in the workplace. Given postfeminism’s strong association with neoliberal ideology, the critique of postfeminist discourses in this chapter is also a critique of the unbridled individualism and myth of meritocracy that neoliberalism promotes.

Women’s Professional Success and Struggles: Personalising the Political As we have seen in Chapter 1, the Malaysian labour market is still far from gender equal. Women struggle to navigate the workplace labyrinth due to a range of institutional, cultural and economic factors. However, the issue of discrimination is largely absent in the articles and radio talk examined. Instead, by invoking what I have interpretively identified as the discourses of ‘female heroes’ and ‘female lack’, the media tacitly denies that sexism is a factor structuring gender asymmetries in Malaysian workplaces. What is foregrounded are ‘not simply the individual but also the psychological’ (Gill 2017, 618), thereby foreclosing the complexities of women’s realities and any discussion of social change. The ‘female heroes’ discourse is named after Adamson and Kelan’s (2019) notion of the ‘female hero’ role model, a contemporary postfeminist figure characterised by confidence, control and courage (discussed in Chapter 2). As they explain, the female hero ‘is not a fixed and actual person to be emulated, but a cultural “ideal”, a set of social and cultural expectations that seem to dominate [the autobiographies of celebrity businesswomen]’ (ibid., 992). However, more than a gendered ideal, I conceptualise ‘female heroes’ as a gendered discourse within a wider postfeminist sensibility as it exhibits a regularity in the behaviours and attitudes that are promoted to women. Specifically, the discourse of ‘female heroes’ is underpinned by the notion that women can thrive in

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their working lives simply by being confident, in control, resilient and passionate about their jobs. It is postfeminist as it constitutes a sense that women have already made it and, thus, feminism and collective action are redundant. Vested with authority by the media and the highly successful women who model its ideal, it has the potential to shape what counts as solutions to gender disparities in the professional realm. ‘Female heroes’ can also shape subjectivity. It is a discourse that is culturally available to women who may draw upon it when constructing their own professional identities. In the analysis, we shall see how high-achieving women assume the subject position of this cultural ideal through the discourse. ‘Female heroes’ can be regarded as being in oppositional relationship with the discourse of ‘female lack’, which locates the blame for gender inequality in women’s behaviour, attitudes and psyches. The feel-good narrative that success is no longer hampered by gender cannot, by itself, explain the disjuncture between the rhetoric and the stark gender disparities across professional fields in Malaysia. As such, women’s ‘internal barriers’, such as an ambition or confidence gap, provide a convenient rationale for this. By presenting professional difficulties as being entirely a personal matter, the discourse of ‘female lack’ ensures that the postfeminist and neoliberal myths of gender equality and individual merit are not disrupted. Like ‘female heroes’, it brings into being a disciplining subject. While the female hero says to women, ‘Craft your interior lives to be more like me’, the lacking woman serves as a potent cautionary reminder to women of the importance of policing their conduct, disposition and emotional state. In the analysis that follows, I show how the discourses of ‘female heroes’ and ‘female lack’ materialise in the media texts and talk, and reinforce the postfeminist message that gender is no longer an issue for employed women. Female Heroes As expected from women’s media, successful women are highly visible in Her World, Clove and Capital FM . High-achieving women are featured in numerous interviews and frequently exhibited in career advice articles to underscore the substantive progress that women have made in the labour market. These high-flyers serve as evidence that feminine professional success is attainable, as models for women’s empowerment, and as mentors through their work-related advice. By examining the ways in which the women are depicted, we can begin to understand the

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cultural expectations about the kind of woman that one has be to attain success. The data analysis shows that the women are represented in a remarkably patterned way. They are often portrayed as self-confident and determined individuals who have a passion for work and exercise control over the various demands on their time. This is illustrated in the quotes below, respectively by Shuba Kumar, principal director of a management consulting firm; award-winning film and television producer Lina Tan; senior vice president with A+E Networks Michele Schofield; and former national gymnast Carolyn Au-Yong, who talks about opening her own school of rhythmic gymnastics: I am vocal and I always make sure that I get my opinion across at work. I am very confident and assertive, and I do not let anyone walk over me. Once you prove that you are competent and knowledgeable, everything else falls into place and people come to you for your opinions and advice. I did not need special privileges as a woman, but I did make it known that I had to go out to attend to my children, and nobody scorned at me as they knew that at the end of the day, I got my work done. Once you have proven your capabilities, people give you the respect you rightly deserve. (‘Top of the World’, Her World, September 2013) Perseverance and the fact that I really love what I did helped a lot. Women need to be confident about their abilities and less critical of themselves. (‘Who Runs the World?’, Her World, June 2013) “I just love TV, I passionately consume TV myself, I get excited about original productions that we get to do, I love looking at content that we get to buy, it’s just watching, and being part of the industry because I think that people genuinely do enjoy consuming tv,” said Schofield, who has reached a satisfying place in her career and finds fulfilment in going to work every single day. (‘Life in TV’, Clove, 23 June 2013) I discovered that it was my passion. It took off from there simply because I felt it was something that I really wanted to pursue … The dream materialised probably because I have been trained to be very disciplined, determined and focused through my entire career as a gymnast. (‘Continuing a Dream’, Clove, 24 March 2013)

As exemplified in the above, the female hero ideal is produced and performed by invoking the vocabularies of confidence (vocal, confident,

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assertive), resilience (perseverance, determined), passion (passion) and control (disciplined, focused). In the first quote, Shuba Kumar models the self-confidence that is characteristic of postfeminism (see Chapter 2) by getting her opinion across at work and not letting anyone walk over her. She also presents herself as having a tight grip of control over her work and family life; the factive verb knew presupposes the truth of its complementary subordinate clause, that is, she is able to manage her work (and childcare duties) efficiently. In the other three extracts, the women’s love for their jobs is strongly emphasised through the ‘affective evaluations’ (Fairclough 2003) in bold. Not just within these examples, but across the data, the female hero role model is constructed as being self-assured, resilient, in control and passionate about work. In fact, Yang and Nyathi (2019) found similar representations of professional women in Female, another women’s magazine, which suggests a trend across Malaysian publications. This prescribes ways of being and thinking for women who, too, wish to be recognised as ‘successful’—ways that are notably individualistic. In the data, these highly accomplished women repeatedly articulate their selves as agentic beings who are empowered to take charge of their careers, obfuscating the wider structures that may explain why they have experienced more professional success than other women. As many scholars have pointed out, such injunctions to be confident and resilient and to seek passionate work are increasingly central to postfeminist culture and contemporary forms of neoliberal governance (see Favaro 2017; Gill 2017; Gill and Orgad 2015, 2017; Hong 2015). Crucially, the focus on personal qualities leaves the work status quo intact as the emphasis is on harnessing women’s individual resources to fit into existing organisational and social structures rather than on challenging them. The discourse of ‘female heroes’ presents the positive feelings and dispositions noted above as an effective pathway to favourable economic and affective outcomes. According to the excerpts above, for example, Tan, Schofield and Au-Yong were able to achieve their dreams and find fulfilment by virtue of their perseverance, passion and self-discipline. In Shuba Kumar’s quote, the once-clauses give rise to the conventional implicature that all that women need to do to be respected professionally is to prove their competence, knowledge and capability, which presumably comes with being confident and in control. Constituting women—interpellated by the pronoun you—as the Actor of the process prove endows them with agency. It suggests that women have the choice

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to push through any barriers that hold them back, which echoes postfeminism. This not only implicitly dismisses the structural obstacles in women’s career ‘labyrinth’ (Eagly and Carli 2007) but also ignores the possibility that by being self-confident and assertive, which are stereotypically associated with masculinity, women may be negatively assessed for going against gender norms and even seem threatening to their colleagues (Mullany 2007). In the penultimate sentence, Shuba Kumar reinforces the neoliberal ideal of self-sufficiency by rejecting what I assume to be gender policies. By naming them special privileges and asserting that she did not need them, Shuba Kumar presents collective action solutions as unnecessary and unjust, which builds on the assumption that gender equality has been achieved. This also promotes shame about dependence and vulnerability, which Gill and Orgad (2015, 340) argue is ‘the lifeblood of neoliberalism’. So far, this analysis has shown that the ‘grammar of individualism’ (Gill 2007, 153) that underpins postfeminist rhetoric in Western media culture also permeates Malaysian women’s media. Nevertheless, there are localised differences in the successful femininity that emerges from the present work and those identified in earlier research, showing how postfeminist subjectivities are formed anew in local contexts. While the female hero in this study is ultimately responsible for creating her own success, several women role models credit their parents for their success, which is unsurprising given that Malaysian societies are still deeply influenced by filial piety. We can see this in the following quotes by Mina Cheah-Foong, Managing Director of The Body Shop Malaysia, and Fauziah Latiff, one of Malaysia’s most popular singers, respectively: “My dad instilled in us a certain fearlessness which has stayed with me in my business acumen …” (‘With Eyes Wide Open’, Her World, June 2013) “I have my father to thank for instilling this sense of responsibility in me,” she claims. “When he found out that I was into music, he encouraged me to give it my all. But at the same time, he reminded me that work is work and I have to take what I’ve chosen to do very seriously …” (‘Just Jee’, Her World, June 2013)

Here, I want to highlight how the women are depicted as appreciative to their fathers for inculcating entrepreneurial qualities in them. The characteristics and behaviours in bold are part of the confidence, discipline and

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passion underpinning the ‘female heroes’ discourse. Importantly, there is an implication that their success was made possible by these internal qualities and unconnected to structural or cultural forces. This is simultaneously affective and political. It indirectly encourages women to cultivate ‘the “right” kinds of dispositions for surviving in neoliberal society’ (Gill 2017, 606), which are built around a depoliticised mindset. The emphasis upon individualism, agency and choice does not, however, mean that structural and collective concerns have been completely overlooked in the media. For instance, Shuba Kumar’s acknowledgement that she had to go out to attend to her children offers a brief recognition of the role strain that many employed mothers experience. Indeed, it would have been difficult to ignore such issues since at around the time the media texts and talk were produced, the Malaysia government and other organisations had released several reports on the crucial link between low women’s LFPR and motherhood. The policies and strategies introduced to address the associated challenges received significant media coverage, which gave the issue visibility. Nevertheless, as we saw earlier, Shuba Kumar rearticulates this structural problem in the language of personal agency. The solution offered to women is to simply work harder in order to prove that they are competent, thus harnessing ‘the dream of women’s emancipation to the engine of capitalist accumulation’ (Fraser 2013, 110–11) rather than to social change. This finding can be situated within contemporary incitements to confidence and resilience which, Gill and Orgad (2015, 340) argue, momentarily acknowledge cultural injuries inflicted on women ‘only to show how it has been or could and should be “overcome” with the right techniques or self-regulation practices or a suitably “adjusted” (mind)set’. It also echoes Gill et al.’s (2017, 227) observation that workplace inequalities are often presented ‘as “just how it is”, in a way that does not require social transformation, but simply (harder) work and entrepreneurialism on the part of each individual woman’. Female Lack The analysis shows that ‘female heroes’ works symbiotically with the discourse of ‘female lack’ to reinforce the postfeminist narrative that women have achieved equality and, hence, further action is unnecessary. Like the former, the latter discourse disavows the existence of gender discrimination, and it does this by construing professional difficulties as

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manifestations of feminine inadequacies such as self-doubt. While the ‘female heroes’ discourse brings into existence an active, agentic and self-responsible subject, ‘female lack’ interpellates women as lacking the necessary characteristics to succeed in their careers. The spectre of this othered feminine subject looms large in the data, conjured, for example, in the following extract taken from Capital FM’s ‘Success Circuit’ segment. In the sequence below, radio host Deborah Raj along with Lily Cheah, a newspaper editor and regular guest on the show, discuss Sally Helgesen’s (1990) book The Female Advantage and the negative traits she purports prevent women from becoming successful leaders: 1 LC: She says there are three things that women tend to struggle with when it 2 comes to leadership (.) and the first thing is visibility right 3 DR: [Mmm::] 4 LC: [U::h ] there’s this tendency to think (.) no-lah1 I don’t need to talk about 5 myself 6 DR: [Yeah I don’t want to be known] 7 LC: [(#) ] work will s- my good work will speak for itself 8 and that’s the first thing women struggle with so we need to (.) learn to put 9 ourselves out there= 10 DR: = Mmm (‘Success Circuit’, Capital FM , 10 September 2013)

Here, we see Raj and Cheah jointly representing women as not being sufficiently assertive and self-promoting as they pursue success. Cheah ‘animates’ (Goffman 1981) Helgesen’s negative assessment of women, which Raj legitimises through agreement tokens (lines 3, 6 and 10) and a cooperative formulation of Cheah’s preceding contribution (line 6). Both women also use ‘witnessing’ moves (Hutchby 2006) (lines 4–7) to claim first-hand experience of these ‘feminine’ ways of thinking and being. Interestingly, Cheah’s advice to women to put themselves out there (lines 8–9) has resonances with Sheryl Sandberg’s (2013) call for women to assert their positions and make themselves more visible in the workplace. The ‘female lack’ discourse exists within what Gill and Orgad (2015, 324) call a postfeminist ‘culture of confidence’, which establishes women’s lack of confidence as the fundamental barrier to their success and achievement, and accordingly, promotes the development of self-confidence as the ultimate solution. Women’s supposed self-doubt, unassertiveness and reluctance to self-promote are often cited as key factors behind a range of issues such as the gender gap in leadership,

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as illustrated by the previous excerpt as well as this quote attributed to Chin Suit Fang, Senior Executive Director of Pricewaterhouse Coopers: Q: WHY DO YOU THINK THERE ARE SO FEW WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP POSITIONS IN MALAYSIA? A: Employers don’t recognise the importance of championing women’s advancement, viewing it merely as a gender issue instead of a business opportunity. Think about it; female consumers have more spending power these days. It makes good economic sense to put them in decision-making roles as they know what will appeal to their own brethren in the marketplace. Malaysian women tend to have many self-imposed barriers. This includes lack of self-confidence in profiling their achievements and being modest about asking for well-deserved promotions; not to mention the ‘guilt’ factor, where they feel they have to be perfect wives, mothers, and career women. (‘Top of the World’, Her World, September 2013)

The quote begins by holding organisations accountable for the low levels of women leaders, but quickly follows this with a business case argument for equality, while playing down gender via the adverb merely. In claiming greater inclusion of women, it also essentialises them. Women are valued not as strong leaders, but only as leaders better able to understand the interests of their sex. This effectively depoliticises calls for gender diversity, reframing them instead as capitalist common sense. This corresponds with my earlier argument in Chapter 1 that capitalist and economic priorities tend to prevail over social justice in discussions around gender equity in the labour market. The extract goes on to reproduce the discourse of ‘female lack’ by attributing the gender leadership gap to women’s many self -imposed barriers. The premodifier self -imposed implies that women are being held back not by institutionalised discrimination, but by personal barriers— barriers that they can surmount if they transform their selves and remodel their interior life, which in this case entails overcoming their lack of self -confidence and modesty. The analysis indicates that the media’s prescription and proscription of appropriate workplace behaviour is problematically evacuated of political content and refracts professional life through notions of selfdetermination and choice. Underlying much of the critique and advice given is the assumption that women are autonomous agents whose behaviour is within their control and freely chosen. In reality, women ‘engage in a complex process whereby they assess others’ stereotypical

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beliefs about gender and then tactically adopt strategies which will be most likely to achieve their ends’ (Mills and Mullany 2011, 55). Like Cheah and Raj, Chin appears to fail to recognise that adopting the masculinised stereotype of leadership that is assertive and self-promoting (Baxter 2008) can cause women to be vilified. As a result of gender stereotypes and cultural expectations, women risk being negatively assessed as overly aggressive if they ‘interact in a stereotypically masculine manner, using “marked” linguistic forms’ (Mullany 2007, 32). Chin’s critique of women’s alleged guilt feelings can be linked to the wider postfeminist culture, which ‘increasingly “favours” happiness and “positive mental attitude[s]”, systematically outlawing other emotional states, including anger and insecurity’ (Gill 2017, 610). Crucially, it elides the sources of guilt and pressure. It does not comment on structural issues, such as how women and men are held to different standards in evaluation and promotion processes, or how women are expected to be hands-on mothers and put in long hours in the office to show commitment (see Chapter 4). Indeed, across the media texts and talk examined, the factors behind women’s supposed shortcomings are rarely brought up. The ‘female lack’ discourse evokes the makeover paradigm that constitutes postfeminist media culture. Just as the ‘makeover’ shows dominating contemporary television shame the (predominantly female) participants into believing that they are flawed and need to reinvent themselves with the guidance of experts (Gill 2008), the texts and talk in the media examined attempt to produce ‘new ethical selves’ (Wood and Skeggs 2004, 206) as solutions to women’s disenfranchisement. The quote below, taken from a Her World article on the gender wage gap, illustrates how the media draws on ‘female lack’ to repudiate sexism in favour of self-adjustment and self-improvement: Ask and she shall receive! Women often find it hard to ask for things, whether it’s a business opportunity or a salary rise. We simply expect others to recognise our value and hard work. Asking for what you want in a gracious thoughtful way often results in getting what you want, so put your fears aside and ask for what you want. You might just get it! (‘Are You Still Underpaid?’ Her World, February 2013)

The sentences in bold assure women that they will receive equal pay if they ask. The modal verb shall and adverb often both express strong certainty

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of this, though this is somewhat undermined by the shift in modality in the final sentence. What is implied here is that the gender pay gap is the outcome of not only women’s own behaviour, but also their psyches. It is asserted that women often find it hard to ask for things and although we are not explicitly told why, the noun phrase your fears in the imperative causes the presupposition that women are anxious and apprehensive. The advice given is reminiscent of Sandberg’s (2013, 34) message to women that feeling confident or pretending to feel confident ‘is necessary to reach for opportunities’. Women are encouraged to be bold and to ask for what they want, but also expected to modulate their assertiveness and make their request in a gracious thoughtful way, which echoes Gill and Orgad’s (2017) analysis of career advice in Marie Claire magazine (see Chapter 2). This reinforces the double bind, in that women are expected to adopt stereotypically masculine traits, but not violate gender norms. In a similar way, women are called to relentless self-development in response to the career break penalty: Staying updated and relevant is crucial when women go on a break. With sophisticated technology, information is at the tip of their fingers. In my opinion, the main reason that women face difficulties in returning to work is not because of gender or status, but the lack of continuous learning. It’s important for women who are on a break to keep their knowledge relevant and skill sets upgraded. (‘Top of the World’, Her World, September 2013)

This quote explicitly denies that gender discrimination exists (in bold) and contends that women’s return to the workforce, presumably after raising children, is hampered by their own lack of continuous learning. The use of this noun phrase has the effect of reifying a presupposed lack. The reader is encouraged to accept the common perception among recruiters and employers that returning women have a skills and knowledge gap—an assumption that has led to many women working below their potential (PwC 2016). Notably, women are urged to keep their knowledge relevant and skill sets upgraded even when they are unemployed, which demonstrates how the intensity of the self-monitoring and discipline required of women has increased significantly within postfeminist and neoliberal times (Gill 2007). By holding women responsible for their own progress and urging them towards ceaseless self-improvement, the media conceptualises women in mainly entrepreneurial terms. Further, this illustrates how neoliberal market rationality has permeated the domestic space.

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In this section, we have seen how the postfeminist discourses of ‘female heroes’ and ‘female lack’ legitimate the myth of egalitarianism and meritocracy through the construction of paradoxical female subjectivities. The representations of the female hero often promote the possibility of achieving success solely by exercising self-confidence, control, determination and passion for work, thus creating an impression of female empowerment. There is rarely any acknowledgement of any gendered barriers that had to be overcome or class privileges that may have improved the role models’ opportunities to build successful businesses or get better jobs and positions. The discourse of ‘female lack’, too, endows women liberally with agency. The lacking feminine subject is blamed for lagging behind their male counterparts, regardless of bias in the system or the circumstances she has been dealt, and expected to self-regulate and transform themselves to a more ideal state. This discourse can feed into the stubborn perception that women are simply less professionally capable than men, which continues to negatively influence promotion and compensation decisions in Malaysia and globally (Rahmah et al. 2017). Crucially, the discourse of ‘female lack’ treats women as a homogenous group without regard to social class, cultural or individual differences. It indistinguishably applies a relatively stable set of qualities to women as a whole. Gender is regarded as the defining feature of individuals in the workplace, and assumptions are made about the reader or listener’s professional traits and abilities simply because they are a woman (or assumed to be one). Moving forward, this chapter takes a deeper look at the media’s endorsement of gender essentialism and explores how it causes women to walk precariously along a ‘tightrope of impression management’ (Holmes 2006, 35).

The Discursive Constitution of Successful Femininity Above we have seen how the discourse of ‘female lack’ rejects qualities traditionally associated with femininity, such as passivity and reticence. However, this does not mean that the women’s media completely repudiate long-held cultural norms of femininity. Rather, the discourse points to a postfeminist reworking of gender ideals. In discussing the emergence of new femininities in late modernity, Budgeon (2011, 53–4) observes that ‘many aspects of long-established norms may now co-exist with newer expectations about what constitutes legitimate femininity’.

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Indeed, what emerges from the analysis is that women are called to be ‘assertive, autonomous, and self-determining’ in the workplace while retaining ‘aspects of traditional femininity, including heterosexual desirability and emotional sensitivity to others’. As in postfeminism in general, many of the articles and radio shows encourage women to embrace ‘desirable’ elements of normative femininity (Gill 2007). In fact, enacting the ‘right’ kind of femininity is presented as crucial for career success. And by calling on women to be ‘properly’ feminine, the media again constructs women as objects in need of monitoring and improvement, while systemic issues are left unresolved. In this section, I explore two discourses that regulate women’s professional subjectivities by establishing expectations about how to think, look and behave to produce ‘appropriate’ workplace femininity, namely ‘balanced femininity’ and ‘aesthetic labour’. I will now describe each of these in turn before examining how they operate. As discussed in Chapter 2, Adamson (2017, 323) uncovered an emerging ‘balanced femininity’ discourse in biographies of women CEOs, which ‘invites women to balance femininity in the right way to succeed’. My findings reveal that just as with the autobiographies, the women’s media examined emphasise the importance of balancing feminine and masculine behaviours and characteristics as well as feminist attitudes. Crucially, doing balance successfully involves doing femininity ‘in a market-oriented, economically efficient and calculated way which ultimately benefits business goals’ (ibid.), thereby making the ‘balanced’ woman a good neoliberal subject as well. As the analysis shows, the workplace femininities that are deemed balanced—and therefore valuable and desirable—have no disruptive potential. They represent individualistic solutions that ‘may offer some control over one’s career development, [but] in the long run … only offer certain “tactics” for fitting in’ (ibid., 324). While much of this chapter explores how women are urged to monitor and transform their psychic dispositions, the analysis shows that, consonant with prior research, labouring on bodily dispositions, too, is part and parcel of enacting successful workplace femininities (Adamson and Salmenniemi 2017). The body is a key site of feminine identity construction within postfeminist culture, and in the final section of this chapter, I demonstrate how a discourse of ‘aesthetic labour’ encourages professional women to cultivate physical beauty as part of ‘doing’ successful femininity. In doing so, the discourse constitutes the figure of the ‘aesthetic entrepreneur’ which, ‘like the neoliberal subject more broadly

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… is autonomous, self-inventing and self-regulating in the pursuit of beauty practices. Preoccupations with appearance, beauty and the body are turned into yet another project to be planned, managed and regulated in a way that is calculative and seemingly self-directed’. The term ‘entrepreneur’ captures not only the labour involved, but, importantly, the agency with which women go about transforming themselves (Elias, Gill and Scharff 2017, 39). Much has been written on the aesthetic labour of femininity, so on account of space, I shall focus on the intensification of beauty pressures on career women. I contend that by normalising high beauty standards as part of ‘doing’ successful workplace femininity, the discourse increases the motherhood penalty and reproduces age and class inequalities for many women in the labour market. Balanced Femininity The analysis indicates that the discourse of ‘balanced femininity’ requires women leaders to tread a fine line between being sufficiently feminine and being too feminine. I shall illustrate this through another excerpt from the Capital FM segment discussing Helgesen’s (1990) book The Female Advantage. To give some context, one early theoretical perspective to research in the field of gender, language and leadership is the essentialist view that women and men use different styles of speaking to enact leadership. According to organisational behaviourists (e.g. Vinnicombe and Singh 2002), while men tend to use ‘transactional’ or goal-oriented leadership styles, women prefer more ‘relational’ or ‘transformational’ practices that aim to share power, promote trust and respect, and preserve consensus. In her book, Helgesen (1990) argues that because women use ‘relational’ leadership styles more proficiently, they have an edge over men in a business environment that increasingly values professional relationships. Over the years, there has been a lot of empirical research disputing that women and men use differently gendered leadership language (e.g. Baxter 2008; Mullany 2007; Schnurr and Mak 2011) or that women have a ‘female advantage’ in leadership (e.g. Eagly and Carli 2007). Nevertheless, the postfeminist emphasis on essential sexual differences ‘has contributed to increased recognition of and value placed on the skills, attributes and leadership styles associated with women’ (Lewis 2014, 1856), as exemplified below. Here, I want to draw attention to how the listener is indirectly called to do femininity while managing ‘less desirable’ aspects of it:

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1 LC: And the five things are so the first thing is u::h is the high value that we place 2 on relationships 3 DR: [Aa::h] 4 LC: [The ] second thing is our preference for direct communication 5 DR: Uh do we have a preference for direct commu- communication though I find 6 we beat around the bush 7 [a little bit ((laugh)) ] 8 LC: [((laugh)) But we like] to talk-lah2 right (‘Success Circuit’, Capital FM , 10 September 2013)

In her first two turns, Cheah specifies two qualities that Helgesen claims give women an edge over men in leadership. Raj acknowledges the first trait with a change-of-state token (Heritage 1984) in line 3. By accepting this to be a ‘female advantage’, Cheah and Raj implicitly encourage the listener to conform to stereotype and construct a relational workplace femininity. However, this wrongly assumes that the workplace is a monolithic context. While discourse strategies indexing femininity may be unmarked in relatively feminine communities of practice, they may be negatively evaluated in more masculine communities of practice (see Holmes and Schnurr 2006). By using the ‘witnessing’ device (Hutchby 2006) in bold, Raj raises doubt that women use direct speech (line 5) which is culturally coded as masculine. Through her use of the idiom beat around the bush (line 6), she contradicts Cheah and evokes the stereotype that women do not speak their minds. As indicated by their mutual laughter (lines 7–8), both women treat this alleged feminine characteristic as humorous—and, by implication, an aspect that is inappropriate for the workplace and needs to be managed. The listener is implicitly directed to adopt the more ‘masculine’, direct style of communication that was presented as a leadership advantage. Even as women are encouraged to use a relational leadership skillset, they are cautioned not to ‘overdo’ it or risk appearing ineffective, thus illustrating the difficulty that many women face in finding the ‘right’ way of doing gender in the workplace. We can observe this in the results of a Her World quiz, ‘What Kind of Boss are You?’. The quiz forces women into three archetypal roles: the ‘Micromanager’, the ‘Queen Bee’ and the ‘Mentor’. I have excluded my analysis of the texts describing the ‘Micromanager’ and the ‘Queen Bee’ on account of space limitations. Briefly, while the ‘Micromanager’ is censured for not emphasising teamwork,

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fostering trust or mentoring her team members, the ‘Queen Bee’ is negatively assessed for being hierarchical and failing to take on a supportive and communal role. Only the ‘Mentor’ is regarded positively, possibly because it is the only archetype that is relational and collegiate and, thus, sufficiently feminine: THE MENTOR You are the boss that everyone wants to work with. You give your staff praises when they perform, feedback and advice as well as opportunities to develop their skills. You care about their welfare and always put their needs above yours. However, you have to be careful not to let this get in the way of being an effective boss. (‘What Kind of Boss are You?’, Her World, May 2013)

Through the verb phrases in bold, the ‘Mentor’ is presented as a nurturing, self-sacrificing ‘workplace mother’. It carries echoes of the role trap that Kanter (1993) identified as the ‘mother’, whose display of authority is aligned with domestic servicing roles and idealised feminine characteristics rather than professional expertise. The reader is indirectly encouraged to conform to this archetype even though the ‘mother’ is not a powerful role since ‘she is expected to provide a support service to peers rather than to be respected for her independent, professional and critical abilities’ (Baxter 2010a, 29). At the same time, the reader is also cautioned not to let her socio-emotional qualities get in the way of being an effective boss. This clearly illustrates how constructing a successful workplace femininity entails striking the ‘right’ balance when performing the ‘multiple forms of feminine labour - emotional work, self-work, [and] caring work’ (Swan 2017, 292). This also reflects the observations made in earlier research that women who express feelings in the workplace can be perceived as overly emotional (Cameron 2003; Lakoff 2003). More recently, Adamson (2017, 320) argues that being emotional represents ‘unbalanced “excessive” femininity’ that is undesirable not only in a postfeminist climate of self-control and responsibility, but also ‘because it may impede business processes and goals’. The ‘balanced femininity’ discourse is closely connected to the gendered discourse of female emotionality/irrationality which draws on common representations of women as emotional, irrational, intuitive, and caring … It supports the generalised claim about women using

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language supportively to connect and to build rapport. The discourse also draws less positively on representations of women as moody, unpredictable and hysterical, which might be manifested linguistically by losing one’s temper for no apparent reason, or conversely, using silence to indicate passive aggression. (Baxter 2010b, 44)

The findings indicate that an important part of achieving a ‘successfully’ balanced femininity is carefully regulating one’s emotions. Several texts suggest that excessive emotionality is typical of women and caution them, whether explicitly or implicitly, to retain emotional control, for example: I think females can do most of the things that guys can do. We have a higher pain threshold, we are more patient, we have a softer heart, though we are more emotional. (‘Balancing Act’, Her World June 2013)

This quote uses intensive and possessive verbs (are, have) to make assumptions about the reader. Women are initially represented as superior to men for their idealised feminine, socio-emotional qualities, but eventually characterised as overly emotional in the final clause in bold. This indirectly encourages women to embrace, but carefully manage their assumed innate femininity, so that they are ‘not too emotional but not too cold either’ (Adamson and Kelan 2019, 991). We can observe this in the extract below as well, which comes from an article featuring three sisters who run a party planning company: For Ida, the thought of working with her sisters was scary at first because she wasn’t sure what their expectations were. She was worried that they might tear some heads off by the first month! But Nina says they were also comfortable because they were familiar with each other’s habits and behaviours. So far, working with each other has been going well. (‘Let’s Party’, Clove, 11 November 2012)

From the use of the idiom tear some heads off , Ida Othman’s initial fears about working with her siblings appear to emanate from the stereotype of over-emotional femininity, which is intensified here by the time indicator by the first month and expressive punctuation. However, we are subsequently assured that working with each other has been going well. We can infer that the sisters are able to apply themselves productively in their business venture partly because of their balanced way of doing femininity; they possess the required emotional sensitivity to each other’s habits and

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behaviours, but steer away from ‘difficult’ emotions such as anger and frustration. The next quote is a further illustration of how women are encouraged to balance traditional feminine and masculine qualities and behaviours. What is particularly interesting here is how it implicitly draws on the most stereotypically masculinised of Kanter’s (1993) role traps, the ‘iron maiden’, to compel women to hedge their display of masculine assertiveness: Pick your battles. Be tough only when you need to be so you don’t sweat the small stuff. Perseverance is key and, most importantly, be humble all the time. You’ll be amazed how far you can get from being humble. (‘Who Runs the World?’ Her World, June 2013)

The reader is advised to embody the feminine virtues of perseverance and humility, which are presented as crucial for professional success. At the same time, the imperatives in bold orient women towards being authoritative and forceful within firm limits. This cautionary advice carries echoes of the ‘iron maiden’ or ‘battle-axe’ who is ‘considered to speak and behave aggressively’ and is routinely represented as ‘tough’ and ‘calculating’ (i.e. sweating the small stuff ) (Baxter 2010a, 26). The reader is instructed to carefully manage such behaviour, possibly because being tough is ‘against a woman’s caring and nurturing female nature’ (ibid.). In addition to finding a balance when performing the feminine characteristics of nurture and emotion, women are also required to express feminist attitudes in a balanced way that ‘causes minimum disruption to business goals’ (Adamson 2017, 321). Just as with the CEO autobiographies in Adamson’s study, the women’s media attach importance to promoting women’s interests and addressing gender issues. Unlike in those books, however, such issues are not presented as sexism. Readers and listeners are advised to stand up for themselves in a ‘balanced’ way that ‘allows a certain amount of confrontation but softens the critical angle’, thus enabling them to remain good postfeminist subjects who construe themselves as empowered women with full rights and abandon critique of patriarchal structures (ibid.). This is illustrated in the following excerpts from a regular segment on Capital FM called ‘Talking to Mars’. The show, which can be described as gender essentialist, features male celebrity guests who try to help the female audience navigate relationship and work issues by offering a male perspective. In this excerpt, the radio announcers, Joanne Kam and Xandria Ooi, and their guest, Gavin Yap,

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give advice to a female caller who was overlooked for a promotion and suspects that she was discriminated against due to her gender. Prior to the exchange below, Yap conjectured that the woman may be held back by a ‘boy’s club’ culture at her workplace: 1 GY: 2 JK: 3 GY: 4 5 XO: 6 GY: 7 8 9 XO: 10 GY: 11 12 JK: (‘Talking

There’s there’s no reason why it can’t be brought up in the diplomatic way [Okay ] [Why it] why it can’t be brought up in (.) not not a c- not necessarily not in too casual a way [but ] [Mm]hmm= = But not necessa- but not in a confronting I want to fight you on this kind of way but it’s just to make the boss realise it’s like look er there’s this other person here [Mmhmm] [Who is ] (.) just as if not more qualified and she’s a little upset that she wasn’t noticed Aa::::h (.) okay to Mars’, Capital FM , 13 August 2013)

As we can see, critique is not completely prohibited (line 1). The caller is advised to be assertive (not in too casual a way, lines 3–4), but in a diplomatic and non-confrontational way (lines 1 and 6). By stressing the need to be diplomatic and avoid being confronting, Yap orients to the importance of retaining emotional control in the workplace. In this sequence, Kam and Ooi’s stance is ambiguous; their minimal responses (lines 2, 5, 9 and 12) may function as continuers and/or agreement tokens. As the discussion progresses, Kam moves beyond acknowledgement to actively show her concurrence with Yap’s view via upgrades: 1 GY: And and I think she has that (.) to her advantage where she can actually have 2 a conversation with this guy= 3 JK: = Yeah I I think I think that’s a better way to put it instead of confronting [right] 4 GY: [Yeah] 5 JK: When we book in a conversation a (.) a private conversation with him where (.) 6 you know she could address all these issues in a (.) [nice ] way= 7 GY: [Yeah] 8 = cos it needs to be addressed because it clearly bugs her you know and er (.) 9 and (.) you know if (.) maybe in in while having this conversation she might (#) 10 e::r sort of suggest the possibility of other places within the company where she 11 might (.) where her (.) qualities might er make her more easily noticed 12 [so she’ll] be (.) more eligible for er promotion in the future 13 XO: [Mmm:: ] (‘Talking to Mars’, Capital FM , 13 August 2013)

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Immediately prior to this sequence, Yap stated that it is easier for women than men to raise workplace issues with their bosses. Although his opinion that the caller has a supposed ‘female advantage’ (line 1) is potentially relevant in this discussion, it is his suggestion that the caller should have a conversation with her boss (lines 1–2) that is displayed as relevant and consequential to Kam. Her upgraded agreement (lines 3 and 5–6) encourages the caller to be non-confrontational and present concerns in a nice way. We can argue the Yap and Kam’s advice is guided by the ‘balanced femininity’ discourse which offers a ‘successfully’ balanced feminine organisational subjectivity that is assertive but ‘poses little challenge to the existing gendered power relations in organizations’ (Adamson 2017, 314). Crucially, Yap downplays the gender discrimination that the woman possibly experienced. The dependent clause because it clearly bugs her (line 8) implies that she should speak to her boss only because she is upset and needs to clear the air, rather than because there is a serious problem. Moreover, she is advised to request for a transfer to a different department, which ignores the possibility of a ‘boys’ club’ culture elsewhere in the organisation. This contains echoes of neoliberal rhetoric that demands individuals to make personal adjustments and compromises and just get on with one’s work in order to succeed, instead of requiring companies to address and eliminate institutionalised discrimination. As Adamson (2017, 321) observes her own study, balancing attitudes is presented as desirable for career women ‘as it allows one to remain a good neoliberal subject, one that maximizes efficiency by subjecting personal attitudes and feelings to the calculated, market-driven logic of economic productivity’. Aesthetic Labour The analysis shows that it is not just the behavioural aspects of gender difference that continue to be valued. Traditional dictates of femininity such as physical attractiveness and bodily ideals are also required of women who want to be recognised as ‘successful’. While the monitoring and disciplining of women’s bodies by the beauty industry have long been critiqued, postfeminist and neoliberal culture have dramatically intensified feminine beauty norms and women’s regime of self-scrutiny in recent years (see Elias et al. 2017; Gill 2007; McRobbie 2015; Negra 2009). Women are increasingly expected ‘to undertake seriously aesthetic

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labour upon their bodies, which involves time, money, skill, effort, physical discomfort and sometimes even health risks’ (Lazar 2017, 51). In this final section of the chapter, I interrogate the intensification of aesthetic entrepreneurship into women’s professional subjectivities. One way in which intensive beauty and bodywork are normalised in the women’s media examined is through accounts of high-achieving women’s personal beauty routine. What is crucial in these accounts is that, far from being a helpless victim, the figure of the aesthetic entrepreneur is positioned by a discourse of ‘aesthetic labour’ as a ‘willing participant, whose pursuit of beauty is unrelenting and self-generated’ (Lazar 2017, 52). The extract below from an interview with award-winning actor and television presenter Debbie Goh elucidates this: On her health and beauty regime, Goh keeps a strict schedule. As she needs to be up at 4am for hair and make-up, she sleeps at 10pm to ensure she gets sufficient rest. She also drinks a lot of water and stays away from sodas so that she remains hydrated. Exercise wise, Goh admits to barely having any time for the gym so does what she can at home like situps and other core exercises. “At the gym, I swim. I have also recently discovered TRX and the RPM class,” she said of her routine during her time off. As for her porcelain complexion, the statuesque beauty keeps it simple. “I never used to pay very much attention to my skin but now that I am older, I do a basic cleanse nowadays and concentrate heavily on the eye area. I use Clarins’ Eye-lift right now and when I travel, I always ensure that I have a hair masque, a facial masque, moisturiser for my lips, handcream and sunblock. (‘Drama Queen’, Clove, 7 April 2013)

As in other interviews, there is a great level of detail and specificity in the description of the role model’s aesthetic regime. In describing her strict schedule and repeatedly positioning her as the active agent of the various processes, Goh is presented as a calculating, vigilant and enterprising (and hence, neoliberal) role model who rests because it is beautifying, monitors her fluid intake, and consumes beauty products to stall the ageing process (and, with it, the loss of femininity). To maintain a slim and feminine figure, she does what she can at home (even with six hours of sleep and despite barely having any time) and steps up her exercise routine during her time off . Through Goh’s example, keeping up aesthetic labour emerges as a reasonable necessity. The reporting verb admits (in bold)

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establishes her speech act to be a confessional one and, in doing so, positions regular visits to the gym—and the bodily disciplines required to produce or maintain a slim, feminine aesthetic—as normative. Although researchers have primarily discussed aesthetic labour in relation to those in creative industries, such as Goh, as well as those in service, hospitality and retail sectors (e.g. Entwistle and Wissinger 2006; Sheane 2012; Warhurst and Nickson 2007), the present findings indicate that ‘[n]eoliberalism makes us all “aesthetic entrepreneurs” - not simply those who are models or working in fashion or design’ (Elias et al 2017, 5). In the following extracts from an interview with general manager Lam Swee Kim, for example, professional women are called to greater selfsurveillance and discipline and to transform their bodies regardless of whether their appearance is part of their work: Not forgetting I believe that you still have to look good throughout the day even with three hours of sleep. Never neglect yourself. You still have to dress up and look good no matter what. Many women neglect their appearance after they age and get pregnant. It’s quite sad because every woman wants to feel good about herself. (‘Balancing Act’, Her World, June 2013)

Women are incited to meet untenable beauty standards (look good throughout the day even with three hours of sleep) and to put on their femininity (dress up and look good). These practices are made compulsory through the repeated obligational modality have to and the adverb no matter what. At the same time, the serious effort involved is elided. In the second extract and other instances in the data, aesthetic labour is recontextualised ‘as non-work, as a pleasurable feminine activity’ (Lazar 2017, 55). Lam’s generalisation that every woman wants to feel good about herself presents beauty work as a source of pleasure and self-confidence, which is consistent with earlier studies (e.g. Lazar 2009). Non-conformity is evaluated negatively as quite sad. As such, the discourse of ‘aesthetic labour’ not only calls forth an aesthetic entrepreneur incited to work endlessly on her physical appearance, but makes the idealised subject palatable by attempting to shape what women are supposed to feel when engaging—or not—in the female body project. It must be acknowledged that beauty work is pleasurable for many women. At the same time, the unrealistic beauty pressures generated

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by the discourse of ‘aesthetic labour’ are obviously problematic, not only because they subject women’s embodied appearances to ‘an ever expanding and intensifying regime of self-scrutiny’ (Dosekun 2017, 168). In today’s workplace, the feminine self-presentation that is culturally demanded for women is sometimes associated ‘with not being taken seriously’ (Elias et al 2017, 35). Therefore, Lam’s directive to women to dress up elides the difficulties that women, particularly those in senior positions, face as they negotiate the conflicting demands of gender, aesthetics and authority, and learn ‘how to perform the “right kind” of feminine self-presentation, whilst eschewing presentations of femininity that are “trashy” (a code word for lower class) or too sexualized’ (ibid.). Not only are ‘norms of professionalism for women much less clear-cut than for men’, but women also ‘require higher levels of aesthetic labour to be deemed professional’ (Brown 2017, 152). Unforgiving expectations of beauty and bodywork are exclusionary and can form barriers to a successful career trajectory. As Lazar (2017, 60) points out, ‘aesthetic labour is a middle-class pursuit’. Investing in one’s appearance and aspiring to normative beauty and entrepreneurial femininity require time, energy and money to which not all women have access. However, in the context of postfeminist sensibility, non-conformity has social costs. Within postfeminist culture, the female body ‘is constructed as a window to the individual’s interior life’ (Gill 2007, 150). A groomed appearance ‘implies the moral character of the postfeminist subject as determined, proactive and confident’ (Lazar 2017, 52). A ‘slim, feminine figure, carefully polished nails and elegant clothes … signal[] neoliberal and postfeminist virtues of responsibility, self-discipline and self-governance’ (Adamson and Salmenniemi 2017, 307–308). Therefore, when a woman is unable to—or refuses to—partake in endless feminine bodily labour, this can be construed as an internal state of disorder and the absence of the selfregulation needed to meet conflicting demands on their time. In the interview with Lam, for example, the failure to comply with expectations of feminine image is described as neglect, which carries an implicit moral judgement. Hence, intensified aesthetic labour, which the media play a constitutive role in normalising, may result in discriminatory consequences for low-income or older women as well as employed mothers who are unable to cope with a third shift of beauty work (Wolf 1990) while performing the second shift of childcare and household labour (Hochschild 1989).

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Beauty pressures and the ‘aesthetic labour’ discourse are rarely challenged in the media examined. One exception occurs in a Capital FM interview with American-Australian naturalist Terri Irwin: 1 XO: Okay Terri though I- one one of the thing is that you know when we look at 2 photos of you:: uh whether it’s print or on TV right in- in real life you look 3 extremely fit (.) you know wh- what do you eat like we’re 4 [just] curious like how do you keep this physique= 5 TI: [Uh ] = On this 6 trip everything it- it is so funny I’ve been uh travelling through South East Asia 7 and travelling with some great team from Discovery Kids (.) and I said I’m 8 starting to feel a bit sumo 9 XO: [((laugh)) You’re nowhere near sumo] 10 JK: [((laugh)) ] And yeah trust me 11 TI: It’s so funny but um (.) but I do like being fit and strong and healthy and I try 12 to teach Bindi that (.) it’s not about (.) um how tiny you are it’s how good you 13 feel (.) so if you feel healthy and happy being small (.) or or being (.) bigger 14 because you want to be stronger we do crocodile research work every year (.) 15 where we’re jumping crocodiles holding them down putting satellite trackers 16 on them and you need to be strong to do that kind of work (‘Interview with Terri Irwin’, Capital FM , 24 April 2013)

The exchange above begins with a positive assessment of Irwin’s physical appearance. In line 3, Ooi compliments Irwin for looking extremely fit. The adjective fit, when taken in the light of the ensuing questions what do you eat and how do you keep this physique, can be interpreted as ‘slim’, rather than ‘healthy’. By using sumo wrestlers as an analogy in her denial (line 8), Irwin orients to this understanding of fit since sumo wrestlers are healthy despite being overweight. Ooi’s questions construct Irwin as an agentic subject who is actively entrepreneurial in monitoring her diet and disciplining her body to maintain her slim, feminine image. In her response, Irwin seems to implicitly endorse the imperative of slenderness for women. Her utterance it is so funny (line 6) suggests that her subsequent stretch of talk can be interpreted as an attempt to appear modest by using self-deprecating humour—humour that is grounded on the assumption that being sumo (i.e. not being slim) is undesirable. This shared presupposition leads the radio announcers to reject Irwin’s self-categorisation as sumo (lines 9–10). However, in her next turn, Irwin resists the ‘aesthetic labour’ discourse and a more progressive perspective of women’s bodies begins to emerge. By listing fit, strong and healthy together (line 11), Irwin implies some kind of equivalence between being fit and being vigorous rather than slender. She also explicitly challenges the ideal of thinness in her advice to

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her daughter, Bindi (lines 12 and 13). In lines 11 and 16, she describes herself as strong, while in lines 13 and 14, she seems to equate being bigger with being stronger. Hence, by implication, she is constructing herself as someone who is bigger, though, this time, not in a negative way. Although the lexical choices in the sequence above are not intrinsically gendered, by making a reference to her daughter, but not her son, Irwin displays that gender is a relevant category in this discussion about the body.

Summary This chapter examines the professional discourses realised in Her World, Clove and Capital FM , and the subject positions that these discourses make available for employed women. The close textual analysis of the magazine and newspaper articles and radio talk demonstrates that postfeminism animates sense-making about women and work in these media. I argue that these discourses work symbiotically to construct postfeminist and neoliberal narratives that depoliticise and strengthen inherent obstacles for gender equality in the Malaysian labour market. Even when the subject positions offered to women promise them modes of resisting gender norms and power relations, they ultimately reinstall normative gender stereotypes and hierarchies. In the first section, I show how representations of feminine success and failure privatise issues of inequality and reduce the political to the individual. The discourses of ‘female heroes’ and ‘female lack’ fetishise personal responsibility and produce opposing, self-oriented femininities which are endowed liberally with agency. They also advocate individualistic strategies to deal with gender imbalances in the spirit of neoliberal capitalism. Discrimination within social structures, on the other hand, are largely unacknowledged as issues of concern. The second section examines two postfeminist discourses that govern the practices of ‘doing’ successful femininity. The discourses of ‘balanced femininity’ and ‘aesthetic labour’ require women to juggle both feminine and masculine characteristics and invest time and energy in beauty work. Crucially, these discourses are underpinned by postfeminist rhetoric that ‘offers the pleasure and comfort of (re)claiming an identity uncomplicated by politics’ (Negra 2009, 2). Despite the positive portrayals of normative femininity and feminine practices, the postfeminist position does not change, but rather reproduces, limiting ideals regarding how professional women should speak, behave and present themselves.

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Notes 1. Malaysian English particle which is used here to emphasise a point. 2. Malaysian English particle which is used here to emphasise a point.

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Neoliberalism, edited by Ana Sofia Elias, Rosalind Gill, and Christina Scharff, 3–49. London: Palgrave. Entwistle, Joanne, and Elizabeth Wissinger. 2006. “Keeping up Appearances: Aesthetic Labour in the Fashion Modelling Industries of London and New York.” The Sociological Review 54 (4): 774–94. Fairclough, Norman. 2003. Analysing Discourse: Textual Analysis for Social Research. London: Routledge. Favaro, Laura. 2017. “‘Just Be Confident Girls!’ Confidence Chic as Neoliberal Governmentality.” In Aesthetic Labour: Beauty Politics in Neoliberalism, edited by Ana Sofia Elias, Rosalind Gill, and Christina Scharff, 283–99. London: Palgrave. Fraser, Nancy. 2013. Fortunes of Feminism: From State-Managed Capitalism to Neoliberal Crisis. Brooklyn: Verso Books. Gill, Rosalind. 2007. “Postfeminist Media Culture: Elements of a Sensibility.” European Journal of Cultural Studies 10 (2): 147–66. ———. 2008. “Culture and Subjectivity in Neoliberal and Postfeminist Times.” Subjectivity 25: 432–45. ———. 2017. “The Affective, Cultural and Psychic Life of Postfeminism: 10 Years On.” European Journal of Cultural Studies 20 (6): 606–26. Gill, Rosalind, and Shani Orgad. 2015. “The Confidence Cult(ure).” Australian Feminist Studies 30 (86): 324–44. ———. 2017. “Confidence Culture and the Remaking of Feminism.” New Formations 19: 16–34. Gill, Rosalind, Elisabeth K. Kelan, and Christina M. Scharff. 2017. “A Postfeminist Sensibility at Work.” Gender, Work & Organization 24 (3): 226–44. Goffman, Erving. 1981. Forms of Talk. Oxford: Blackwell. Helgesen, Sally. 1990. The Female Advantage: Women’s Ways of Leadership. New York: Doubleday/Currency. Heritage, John. 1984. “A Change of State Token and Aspects of Its Sequential Placement.” In Structures of Social Interaction, edited by J. Maxwell Atkinson and John Heritage, 299–345. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Hochschild, Arlie. 1989. The Second Shift: Working Families and the Revolution at Home. New York: Viking. Holmes, Janet. 2006. Gendered Talk at Work. Oxford: Blackwell. Holmes, Janet, and Stephanie Schnurr. 2006. “Doing Femininity at Work: More Than Just Relational Practice.” Journal of Sociolinguistics 10 (1): 31–51. Hong, Renyi. 2015. “Finding Passion in Work: Media, Passion and Career Guides.” European Journal of Cultural Studies 18 (2): 190–206. Hutchby, Ian. 2006. Media Talk: Conversation Analysis and the Study of Broadcasting. Berkshire: Open University Press. Kanter, Rosabeth Moss. 1993. Men and Women of the Corporation, 2nd ed. New York: Basic Books.

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Lakoff, Robin. 2003. “Language, Gender, and Politics: Putting ‘Women’ and ‘Power’ in the Same Sentence.” In The Handbook of Language and Gender, edited by Janet Holmes and Miriam Meyerhoff, 161–78. Oxford: Blackwell. Lazar, Michelle M. 2009. “Entitled to Consume: Post-feminist Femininity and a Culture of Post-Critique.” Discourse & Communication 3 (4): 371–400. ———. 2017. “‘Seriously Girly Fun!’ Recontextualising Aesthetic Labour as Fun and Play in Cosmetics Advertising.” In Aesthetic Labour: Beauty Politics in Neoliberalism, edited by Ana Sofia Elias, Rosalind Gill and Christina Scharff, 51–66. London: Palgrave. Lewis, Patricia. 2014. “Postfeminism, Femininities and Organization Studies: Exploring a New Agenda.” Organization Studies 35 (12): 1845–66. McRobbie, Angela. 2015. “Notes on the Perfect.” Australian Feminist Studies 30 (83): 3–20. Mills, Sara, and Louise Mullany. 2011. Language, Gender and Feminism: Theory, Methodology and Practice. Oxon: Routledge. Mullany, Louise. 2007. Gendered Discourse in the Professional Workplace. Basingstoke: Palgrave. Negra, Diane. 2009. What a Girl Wants? Fantasizing the Reclamation of Self in Postfeminism. London: Routledge. PwC. 2016. Women Returners. PwC. https://www.pwc.co.uk/economicservices/women-returners/pwc-research-women-returners-nov-2016.pdf. Accessed on March 8, 2020. Rahmah Ismail, Maryam Farhadi, and Chung Khain Wye. 2017. “Occupational Segregation and Gender Wage Differentials: Evidence from Malaysia.” Asian Economic Journal 31 (4): 381–401. Sandberg, Sheryl. 2013. Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. Schnurr, Stephanie, and Bernie Mak. 2011. “Leadership in Hong Kong: Is Gender Really Not an Issue?” Gender and Language 5 (2): 343–71. Sheane, Susan D. 2012. “Putting on a Good Face: An Examination of the Emotional and Aesthetic Roots of Presentational Labour.” Economic and Industrial Democracy 33 (1): 145–58. Swan, Elaine. 2017. “Postfeminist Stylistics, Work Femininities and Coaching: A Multimodal Study of a Website.” Gender, Work and Organization 24 (3): 274–96. Vinnicombe, Susan, and Val Singh. 2002. “Sex Role Stereotyping and Requisites of Successful Top Managers.” Women in Management Review 17: 120–30. Warhurst, Chris, and Dennis Nickson. 2007. “Employee Experience of Aesthetic Labour in Retail and Hospitality.” Work, Employment & Society 21 (1): 103– 20. Wolf, Naomi. 1990. The Beauty Myth. London: Vintage.

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Wood, Helen, and Beverley Skeggs. 2004. “Notes on Ethical Scenarios of Self on British Reality TV.” Feminist Media Studies 4 (2): 205–208. Yang, Lai Fong, and Shammah Esther Chiriseri Nyathi. 2019. “Gender Representation and Framing of Malaysian Women: A Study of Feature Articles in Female Magazine.” Journal of Content, Community & Communication 10: 29–38.

CHAPTER 6

Synthetic Sisterhood in Malaysian Women’s Media

Abstract This chapter explores the linguistic strategies that women’s media in Malaysia employ to build a sense of friendship and intimacy with their audience. It extends Talbot’s work on ‘synthetic sisterhood’ in a magazine in two main ways. Firstly, it examines the language features used not only to establish this imaginary friendship, but also to preserve it. I look at how the media attenuates threats to the reader or listener’s positive face and distance themselves from sexist views that their audience may find problematic. Secondly, it discusses the linguistic practices adopted by women in radio to present themselves as sisterly advice-givers and create closeness with their listeners. Keywords Media for women · Synthetic sisterhood · Synthetic personalisation · Women in media

In the previous chapters, we explored the ideological aspects of articles published by Her World and Clove as well as radio shows broadcast on Capital FM . We saw how these media texts articulate professional discourses that convey patriarchal, neoliberal feminist and postfeminist ideas which can exacerbate gender discrimination and inequality in the labour market. This chapter now turns to the persuasive aspects of these texts. © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 M. Yoong, Professional Discourses, Gender and Identity in Women’s Media, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-55544-3_6

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Media practitioners in women’s media are generally sharply divided from their audience, and often attempt to minimise this social distance by offering their readers and listeners a ‘synthetic sisterhood’ (Talbot 1995), that is, a bogus female community with shared interests and characterised by friendship and care. In Talbot’s analysis of Jackie, a teen magazine, she argues that the media simulates intimacy with the reader by constructing a sisterly persona for themselves, while ascribing attitudes, values and preoccupations to the reader to show that they know what she is like and how she thinks. Building upon Talbot’s study, I first explore the ways in which Her World, Clove and Capital FM establish a synthetic sisterhood that is charged with ideological assumptions about how career women should be, but is presented as caring for and supporting the women they are addressing. Although Talbot’s work was based on a print publication, this chapter demonstrates that her findings are applicable to radio talk. Capital FM was tailored to ‘be a friend and confidante’ (Chan 2011), and this chapter shows how a synthetic friendship is constructed with the listener through language practices and conversational strategies that attempt to build solidarity and intimacy. I then move on to discuss the various linguistic techniques used to preserve friendly relations between the text producers and the audience. I look at how the media attenuates threats to the reader or listener’s positive face, and distance themselves from sexist views that their audience may find problematic.

Establishing a Synthetic Sisterhood This section discusses the linguistic strategies that Her World, Clove and Capital FM deploy to establish a synthetic sisterhood with their audience and ‘encourage an ideal reading and a complicity with the values offered by the text’1 (Benwell 2002, 156). Following Talbot, these linguistic devices are broadly categorised into those that simulate friendship and those that simulate reciprocal discourse. To simulate friendship with their target audience, Her World, Clove and Capital FM employ many of the linguistic devices that Talbot identifies in her study. First, these media often directly address the reader or listener with the inclusive we, our or us to claim solidarity and common ground with her, or second-person pronouns as if she were an individual addressee, as illustrated below:

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List down the various things you’ve always wanted to do but couldn’t because of your work schedule. Now go do them! (‘You’re Fired, Now What?’ Her World, December 2012)

The media practitioners also establish friendly relations with their audience by assuming shared knowledge, values, concerns and experiences. For instance, in the extract above, the noun phrase in bold presupposes that there are things that the reader has been held back from pursuing. By presenting this desire as though it exists in the reader’s mind, the writer sets herself up as a close friend who knows and understands what the reader thinks and feels. Thirdly, to simulate friendly interaction, the Her World and Clove writers occasionally adopt an informal style that mimics the speech patterns of their ideal reader. In the example above, the use of informal language and expressive punctuation in the text and article title constructs the writer as friendly, enthusiastic and eager to help. A similar strategy is employed on the Capital FM shows, where the radio talk typically resembles friendly, casual conversations. The women frequently make use of positive minimal responses, cooperative overlaps and laughter to support each other’s views and show enthusiasm, just as one would expect in everyday friendly talk. The shared humour communicates common ground, that is, the women share ‘a common view about what is amusing’, thus fostering a sense of solidarity (Holmes 2000, 167). Further, the interviewers and guests often initiate an agreement or disagreement at the point of occurrence, which departs from the turn-taking pattern in more formal interviews where interviewees wait for the interviewer to introduce a question before proceeding with their response (Clayman and Heritage 2002). Importantly, the radio hosts are not just simulating friendship with their guests, but also performing intimacy for an audience. The ‘conversationalisation’ (Fairclough 1995) of talk on air can build a sense of female friendship for their absent listeners and create an impression of overhearing ‘girl talk’. But this intimacy extends to the audience as well. By directly addressing the listener through pronouns such as we, us, and you, the radio hosts and guests place her in an imaginary conversation with them. In addition to the linguistic techniques highlighted in Talbot’s work, the media practitioners in the present study create closeness with their audience by constructing a confiding relationship within the imagined feminine community. This is achieved by sharing so-called ‘secrets’ on

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how to succeed in the workplace or discussing personal and affiliative issues that ‘mimic the ways in which intimacy is typically done in female friendships’ (Frith et al. 2010, 477), as exemplified here: The stylish businesswoman admits to having a tough time getting back to her former weight despite making healthy food choices and remaining active during her pregnancy. (‘Baby Talk’, Clove, 4 August 2013)

By including such disclosures, the producers are not only encouraging the reader to identify with the surrogate sisterhood, but also suggesting that they know and understand the concerns of their readers. Alongside the simulation of friendship, a synthetic sisterhood is also constructed through the impression of a two-way interaction. In line with Talbot’s (1995) findings, this is mostly achieved through responsedemanding utterances (e.g. commands and questions), interpolations and adjacency pairs. As we have seen in Chapters 4 and 5, several articles include two-part question–answer exchanges with interviewees as well as reconstructed interviewee responses that require the reader to postulate questions by an interviewer. This simulation of reciprocal discourse gives ‘the tone of intimacy which is pervasive in all women’s magazines’ and creates the idea of the publication ‘as friend, giving advice or solution to common problems’ (Caldas-Coulthard 1996, 259). However, this effect obscures the reality that the questions posed by the editorial team are often disingenuous and meant to lead the reader towards a particular viewpoint. For example, in Chapter 5, we analysed a quiz in Her World that asks readers to assess their leadership style by answering a set of questions, such as: It’s time for the weekly Monday morning meeting and your assistant calls in sick at the last minute. What do you tell her? (‘What Kind of Boss Are You?’ Her World, May 2013)

On the surface, the reader is encouraged to believe that she is getting to know herself better, but the advice given in fact encourages women to behave according to stereotypical gender roles, as illustrated below: You will earn more respect and loyalty if you are not afraid to get your hands dirty. Work together with your team to meet a deadline. Have more patience with your staff and offer the occasional praise when they achieve success. (‘What Kind of Boss Are You?’ Her World, May 2013)

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Synthetic sisterhood is pernicious as it can conceal the less than empowering positioning of the reader or listener. The quiz mentioned above, for example, makes extensive use of you to speak to the reader as if she were an individual addressee and to assume access to her thought processes. This allows the magazine to construct close relations with her. However, there are points in the quiz when the writer shifts subject positions from friend to adviser while addressing the reader with the same pronoun. For instance, in the extract above, you is used to construct the role of a novice for the reader, thereby constituting relations of authority rather than solidarity between the text producers and the audience. The analysis indicates that the media is sensitive to the fragility of this bogus sisterhood and takes careful steps to navigate the tension between friendliness and authority. This is discussed in the next section.

Preserving an Imaginary Friendship To uphold friendly relations with the audience and maintain their sisterly persona, the text producers work at attenuating face-threatening acts (FTAs) (Brown and Levinson 1987) and find ways around potentially offensive situations. One approach that both the print and broadcast media take is to use impersonal pronouns or gendered nouns when expressing negative views about women. This can be observed in the exchange below between radio host Xandria Ooi and professional image consultant Wendy Lee: 1 XO: We have Wendy Lee a professional image consultant (.) talking to us about the 2 top communication challenges that professional women face and this one 3 Wendy I guess you would (.) come across a lot in all your workshops and 4 trainings right projecting self-confidence (.) and a powerful presence how do 5 we do [that] 6 WL: [Oh ] yes yeah one of the uh uh habits that we y’know girls or ladies 7 tend to do or or all of us yeah huh would be (.) not to (.) you know uh (.) show 8 (.) um (.) body language-wise (.) posture= 9 XO: = [Mm ] 10 WL: [Some] of us slou::ch or when we sit down we tend to you know you see some 11 (.) shy (.) girls (.) if they are shy you know that they are shy because they tend 12 to take less space (.) when they sit for example they will put their hands (.) 13 underneath their (.) you know their(‘Communication Challenges’, Capital FM , 10 January 2013)

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When the show starts, both Ooi and Lee use first-person plural pronouns to claim solidarity and common ground with the audience (lines 1–8) and construct the issue of self-confidence as one that is relevant to them. Although there are a few references to the habits and posture of the listener, who is implicated by the inclusive we and us, the topic is still relatively vague and safe. However, as Lee paints an increasingly negative picture of feminine behaviour, she softens her original extreme case formulation from all of us (line 7) to some of us (line 10) before shifting to the third person they and their. The result is talk that could come across to its audience as ‘somehow intimate, direct: addressed, if not specifically “to them”’ then at least “for them”’ (Hutchby 2006, 11). While the listener is told that she lacks confidence, it is only in general terms, and she is left to identify with the behaviour of shy girls and make the desired connection. This pattern of starting with first-person plural pronouns before switching to impersonal pronouns when performing FTAs is repeated in the data, and can be seen in another extract from the same segment: 1 WL: Yeah I think one of the things we would have to address would be sometimes 2 uh ladies or us right we- we- when we are (.) friendly it can sometimes be 3 misconstrued as (.) you’re being too friendly it becomes a little bit too 4 [(.) ] flirta[tious right ] 5 XO: [Yeah] [eh how do] you deal with that if you’re a friendly person tak kan2 6 you [become not friendly ] 7 JK: [Because maybe sometimes] you are just like that you know (‘Communication Challenges’, Capital FM , 10 January 2013)

In making the self-repair from ladies to the inclusive us and we (line 2), Lee attempts to position herself with the listeners and radio hosts, and present the ‘problem’ in question as having relevance to all of them. However, she soon shifts to the impersonal pronouns you and it (line 3), thereby placing some distance between the audience and accusations of being too friendly and a little bit too flirtatious. By using it rather than a personal pronoun, it is women’s conduct that is censured, rather than women themselves. The radio hosts also use the impersonal you in their subsequent turns to generalise the ‘problem’ to others. Another means of preserving friendly relations with the audience is through the use of disclaimers (see Speer 2005). As Lazar (2017, 63) points out, there is often an element of knowingness embedded in the media’s discourse of intimate friendship. In her study of cosmetics

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advertisements, she argues that disclaimers can represent ‘a knowing female voice, someone who is socially aware and does not want to appear politically incorrect’. Importantly, disclaimers enable the producer ‘to perpetuate the status quo from a “safe” distance’. In the following sequence, which was analysed earlier in Chapter 4, a disclaimer is used to manage concerns about being heard as sexist: 1 JK: So I guess like before I mean the m- men usually were the breadwinners 2 and all but now we find them on (.) equal grounds as women as well (.) 3 [right] 4 ZZ: [Ye- ] yeah and (.) just to talk about you know not saying that (.) women 5 being strong is a problem no my mother was a very very strong character 6 (.) she was very independent women she lived in the States on her own 7 she worked at the World Bank (.) you know she actually supported the 8 family when we were there when my father was doing his Masters (.) but 9 (.) no matter what my father was the head of the family the role was very 10 clear (-) yeah (‘Talk of the Town’, Capital FM , 11 April 2013)

In line 4, Zarina Zainal begins to problematise female breadwinning, but stops and prefaces her argument with a disclaimer (not saying that women being strong is a problem) to manage her potentially problematic argument and maintain solidarity with an audience familiar with feminist views. She then proceeds to share her own positive experience of female breadwinning (lines 5–8). Hence, through the disclaimer and ‘witnessing’ device (Hutchby 2006), she inoculates herself from criticism and presents herself as egalitarian and pro-women. A further way to preserve friendly relations with the audience is to use ‘footing shifts’ (Goffman 1981) and take up positions of distance when expressing criticisms of women. In other words, the negative views are represented not as personal opinions, but as those belonging to others, as illustrated below: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

XO ZZ:

XO: JK:

Now Zarina could our independence (.) deter men (.) from stepping up to take responsibility for the family or even from wanting to do things for us I would believe so because as I mentioned (.) this (.) we’re talking about the issue being local (.) but I’ve had (.) foreign women and Arab women in particular who came up to me and actually said (.) you Malaysian women are so stupid (.) why do you want to do everything when you can get the men to do it for you= = Wah3 = = [Wah]

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10 ZZ: [(#) ] and you know that was such an eye-opener it’s like oh my god 11 ((laugh)) (‘Talk of the Town’, Capital FM , 11 April 2013)

Although Zarina Zainal begins her turn by expressing her opinion, she shifts footing in line 5 so that she is no longer author or principal, and the accusation that Malaysian women are so stupid are attributed to the ‘voices’ of foreign women and Arab women. The creation of third-party narrators not only makes pretensions to factuality, but also suggests that to some extent, the interactants are conscious of the synthetic personalisation practices they are adopting and, hence, feel the need to transfer the responsibility of what is being uttered to others. Although the radio hosts are often the addressees of the guest’s responses and they may converse like friends, they are aware that they are producing talk for an overhearing audience and are interacting on the basis of their institutional identities. This form of proxy advice-giving enables Zarina Zainal to implicitly instruct women against taking a dominant role in the family, while distancing herself from the FTA. In this extract, we can observe yet another approach that the media takes to avoid jeopardising the synthetic sisterhood, that is, to employ humour to reduce the face threat of criticisms. The censure expressed above is attenuated by Zarina Zainal’s humorous tone and laughter in lines 10 and 11. To conclude, this chapter has explored the various linguistic strategies used by women’s media in Malaysia to construct and maintain a sense of friendship and affinity with the reader or listener. Through these techniques, the producers and their audience are synthesised in a relationship that is characterised by care, support and shared values, which could potentially obscure the problematic nature of the discourses articulated and make the subject positions offered seem innocuous. These language features are not unique to Malaysian media. Indeed, many of these are recognised strategies for enhancing intimacy that have been identified across a range of media genres (e.g. Frith et al. 2010; Lazar 2017; Talbot 1995). Nonetheless, they remain important features for linguistic analysis in order to uncover how the media attempts to engage women audiences and encourage greater acceptance of the ideological messages of their texts.

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Notes 1. While media producers are in a position of power due to the control they exercise over what is included in the content and how it is presented, media influence is not absolute. The meaning that a text gains from its interpretation is dependent on who the reader or listener is and the resources available to them for interpreting the text (Talbot 2010). 2. Malay slang for ‘It would be odd if’. 3. Malaysian expression that is used in the same way as ‘wow’.

References Benwell, Bethan. 2002. “Is There Anything ‘New’ About These Lads? The Textual and Visual Construction of Masculinity in Men’s Magazines.” In Gender Identity and Discourse Analysis, edited by Lia Litosseliti and Jane Sunderland, 149–74. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. Brown, Penelope, and Stephen Levinson. 1987. Politeness: Some Universals in Language Usage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Caldas-Coulthard, Carmen Rosa. 1996. “‘Women Who Pay for Sex. And Enjoy It’: Trangression Versus Morality in Women’s Magazines.” In Texts and Practices: Readings in Critical Discourse Analysis, edited by Carmen Rosa Caldas-Coulthard and Malcolm Coulthard, 250–70. London: Routledge. Chan, Jade. 2011. “Capital FM 88.9—Malaysia’s First Women’s Radio Station to Go on Air Thursday.” The Star Online. https://www.thestar.com.my/ news/nation/2011/11/30/capital-fm-889–malaysias-first-womens-radio-sta tion-to-go-on-air-thursday. Accessed on September 8, 2019. Clayman, Steven, and John Heritage. 2002. The News Interview: Journalists and Public Figures on the Air. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Fairclough, Norman. 1995. Media Discourse. London: Edward Arnold. Frith, Hannah, Jayne Raisborough, and Orly Klein. 2010. “C’mon Girlfriend: Sisterhood, Sexuality and the Space of the Benign in Makeover TV.” International Journal of Cultural Studies 13 (5): 471–89. Goffman, Erving. 1981. Forms of Talk. Oxford: Blackwell. Holmes, Janet. 2000. “Politeness, Power and Provocation: How Humour Functions in the Workplace.” Discourse Studies 2 (2): 159–85. Hutchby, Ian. 2006. Media Talk: Conversation Analysis and the Study of Broadcasting. Berkshire: Open University Press. Lazar, Michelle M. 2017. “‘Seriously Girly Fun!’: Recontextualising Aesthetic Labour as Fun and Play in Cosmetics Advertising.” In Aesthetic Labour: Beauty Politics in Neoliberalism, edited by Ana Sofia Elias, Rosalind Gill and Christina Scharff, 51–66. London: Palgrave. Speer, Susan A. 2005. Gender Talk: Feminism, Discourse and Conversation Analysis. Hove, East Sussex: Routledge.

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Talbot, Mary. 1995. “A Synthetic Sisterhood: False Friends in a Teenage Magazine.” In Gender Articulated: Language and the Socially Constructed Self , edited by Kira Hall and Mary Bucholtz, 143–65. New York: Routledge. ———. 2010. Language and Gender. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Polity Press.

CHAPTER 7

Gender Workplace Equality: From Research to Policy and Practice

Abstract This chapter presents a summary of the study’s key findings before considering their implications for media practices and gender equality policies in Malaysia and elsewhere. It briefly discusses how media text production processes, media commodification, and societal norms and values shape the discourses deployed within women’s media. Against this background and based on the results of the analysis, it suggests alternative ways that women’s media could portray employed women to help advance gender workplace equality. The chapter closes by proposing recommendations for policy and practice to affect positive changes to gender, employment and family care. Keywords Gender workplace equality · Media economics · Media representations · Gender equality policies · Workplace practices

This study explores media narratives and messages about women, work and family that are drip-fed to the Malaysian public. Through a close linguistic analysis of articles published in Her World and Clove and radio shows broadcast on Capital FM , I have addressed the following questions:

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 M. Yoong, Professional Discourses, Gender and Identity in Women’s Media, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-55544-3_7

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1. What are the professional discourses articulated, and what subject positions do they make available for employed women? 2. What ideologies do these discourses enact and legitimise? The first section of this chapter summarises the key findings. As mentioned in Chapter 1, this study has a feminist, emancipatory agenda. Hence, I shall close this book with broad recommendations for media practices and policy-making. Drawing on the outcomes of the analysis, the second section explores opportunities for women’s media to play a role in transforming sociocultural ideas about women, employment and caregiving. The final section suggests ways that institutional policies could disrupt the professional discourses and support women to participate on equal terms with men in the labour market.

Summary of Findings This study has interpretively identified eight key discourses pertaining to women, family and professional life in Her World, Clove and Capital FM : ‘happy work–family balance’, ‘extensive mothering’, ‘mother as main parent’, ‘mother as worker’, ‘female heroes’, ‘female lack’, ‘balanced femininity’ and ‘aesthetic labour’. These discourses work symbiotically to convey patriarchal, neoliberal feminist and postfeminist ideas. The influence of neoliberal feminism on media representations of employed mothers is evident in the way they often present a happy work– family balance as the ultimate endgame and encourage upwardly mobile women to emulate the ‘balanced woman’. This idealised subject position is exemplified by high-powered women who manage to ‘balance a spectacularly successful career with a satisfying home life’ (Rottenberg 2018, 72). Cultivating a felicitous equilibrium entails engaging in ‘extensive mothering’, that is, outsourcing care work to less privileged women or relatives in order to perform as ideal workers, and then happily returning to a ‘second shift’ of family care (Hochschild 1989). The texts are largely silent about shared parenting or universal childcare, which reflects the neoliberal insistence on self-sufficiency and legitimates the idea that childcare is both ‘women’s work’ and a private endeavour. In this way, being able to adapt to the ‘double burden’ has emerged as a neoliberal indicator of women’s competence. Above all, by ascribing mothers with neoliberal

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agency and self-determination, the media measures all women by the same middle-class yardstick and renders the class element invisible. The assemblage of ‘happy work–family balance’, ‘extensive mothering’ and ‘mother as main parent’ discourses enables women to be simultaneously constituted as workers and the central caregiver in line with the nation’s economic needs and dominant cultural expectations for mothers (see Chapter 1). However, their careers are still viewed as supplemental and contingent. In the texts, several women are shown engaging in a ‘mother as worker’ discourse by positioning themselves as workers and their husbands as breadwinners. Such a perspective can render mothers’ employment sensitive to various factors such as childcare support and costs. The media examined also articulate a set of discourses underpinned by postfeminist logic. Chapter 5 reveals how, by invoking ‘female heroes’ and ‘female lack’, the media depoliticise issues of gender and class when talking about women’s success and struggles in the workplace. ‘Female heroes’ brings into being a postfeminist subject that is confident, resilient, passionate about her work and in control of all areas of her life. It is against this individualistic ideal that women are invited to measure their own conduct and attitudes to work. By constituting this idealised disciplining subject, the discourse privileges the view that any work challenges can be easily overcome by adopting the characteristics noted above. At the same time, the existence of gender discrimination is often ignored, minimised or denied. The discourse of ‘female lack’ construes professional difficulties as manifestations of personal inadequacies—the outcome of natural differences or women’s own choices—which should be responded to through extensive self-surveillance and reflexive entrepreneurship. Together, ‘female heroes’ and ‘female lack’ reinforce the postfeminist narrative that gender equality has been achieved and, thus, structural change is unnecessary. The final two discourses, ‘balanced femininity’ and ‘aesthetic labour’, celebrate essentialised gender differences, in line with postfeminism. Through ‘balanced femininity’, women are compelled to perform a careful balance of both femininity and masculinity. They are expected to be relational and nurturing, while avoiding ‘difficult’ emotions that may impede business goals. This not only disregards women’s ‘double bind’ in the workplace, but also reinforces the pre-existing pressure on women to ‘observe, regulate, police, review and repair the way they appear and sound to their colleagues, in order to avoid negative judgement’ (Baxter

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2008, 217). ‘Aesthetic labour’ casts feminine beauty as a signifier of professional success. It encourages women to take up the subject position of the aesthetic entrepreneur who uses her autonomy and capacity for ‘self-care’ to work upon her body and appearance. Within this discourse, engaging in feminine bodily labour and having the ‘right’ appearance are indices of neoliberal discipline and self-improvement. As discussed in Chapter 1, in Malaysia, stark gender gaps persist in leadership, employment, pay and who shoulders the responsibility for care. It is regrettable, then, that the configuration of professional discourses invoked in Malaysian women’s media and the subjectivities they articulate mobilise ideas and beliefs that ultimately maintain the status quo. While there is no doubt that media consumers can and sometimes will resist the ideological force of media texts, the repetition of discourses in the media can potentially influence how the audience perceives professional women and their experiences. Fortunately, although mainstream discourses are powerful, people are not ‘trapped’ by them. And discourses can, and do, change as new understandings develop through time. The remaining sections of this chapter attempt to push back against the normalisation of the above ways of thinking about women, waged work and family care. They offer some suggestions about how women’s media as well as government and workplace policies might be mobilised to close the gender gaps in the professional sphere as well as in unpaid household and care work.

Women’s Media as Catalysts for Change The three media outlets communicate a relatively stable array of messages. Almost all of the key discourses discussed above are invoked in Her World, Clove and Capital FM .1 This notable overlap in the discourses articulated can be partly attributed to the cultural landscape that they arise from and reflect. For discourses to be recognisable to the researcher, they must be circulating not only within media texts, but also more broadly in society (Sunderland 2004), such as in the workplace, in the home, and in policy actors. Crucially, however, women’s media can be more than mirrors of society; they hold potential to be actors of positive change. The stories they tell about women who are successful as well as those who are struggling, and the way they talk about women’s challenges and opportunities, all matter as these can offer alternative visions of gender roles, work and care. This section identifies opportunities for women’s media to contribute to gender workplace equality both

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in Malaysia and beyond. But before doing so, we need to first consider how media text production processes and media economics shape and constrain the discourses produced. How does the competitive commercial environment that women’s media operate in affect editorial decisions about what to include and what to leave out? How far then can women’s media be catalysts for change? Discourses in the media are shaped not only by sociocultural norms, but also by media commodification. Media businesses function in a dual product market with two products and two buyers. They produce content that are marketed and sold to readers, listeners or viewers, and sell access to their audience to advertisers. To appeal to their intended audience, the media often deploys discourses that they can be confident the reader or listener will be able to recognise (Matheson 2005). The reliance on time-tested formulae and the acculturation of these formulaic conventions has led to considerable similarity of media content (Havens and Lotz 2012), including that which reinforces normative ideas of beauty and motherhood. However, by articulating discourses concerning these ideals, the media examined are not just constructing a familiar world for their audience, but also implicitly persuading them to purchase the beauty, fashion, childcare and household products offered by their advertisers. As a result of media commodification, editors ‘are under intense pressure to relate [their] content to advertising’. These pressures have led to ‘the proliferation of genres such as advice columns, interviews, and “advertorials” – where products are promoted less explicitly, as part of “advice” to readers’ (Litosseliti 2013, 99). In other words, ‘[t]he voice of advertising is virtually always present’ (Talbot 2010, 145), including in the career advice and interviews analysed in this book. For instance, by intensifying women’s bodily self-policing and portraying the consumption of fashion and beauty products as a source of empowerment, the media and its advertisers are able to capitalise on women’s apprehensions about their appearance and push their products and services. To gain a following among their target readers and listeners, namely urban middle-class women, Her World, Clove and Capital FM cannot solely promote conservative gender ideologies, particularly with the growth of feminism as a sociopolitical force in Malaysia. The drive for popularity has almost certainly led the media to incorporate neoliberal feminist and postfeminist principles in their marketing, programming and content. By constructing modern and seemingly emancipated identities

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for employed women, they are broadening their range of subject positions so that readers and listeners are hailed more accurately and are able to recognise themselves as addressees as well as relate to the social experiences being communicated. All this does not imply that women media practitioners are merely ‘cogs in corporate machines producing texts full of ideological messages that maintain those in power’ (Havens and Lotz 2012, 13). At the same time, we must be cautious of treating their ideas as only a direct reflection of their own views. While the three media outlets may incorporate some feminist ideas, there is little politicisation of gender norms and structures hindering women’s meaningful participation and progress in the labour market. This paucity can be attributed to media text production processes that restrict the expression of ideas that do not conform to the preferred narrative. Although the media may not be given specific instructions about the content surrounding the advertisements, their editorial decisions may be governed by what they think the ‘constructed advertiser’ may or may not like as the advertisers’ ‘indirect influence is very real and powerful’ (Havens and Lotz 2012, 117). Her World and Clove may have remained silent on feminist views that are more political as these may not be acceptable to their advertisers, and by choosing one representation of reality over another, they assist in the reproduction and naturalisation of dominant ideologies (Hall 1980, 1982). In contrast, a large proportion of radio shows involves unscripted talk, despite the typical planning that takes place prior to the broadcasts, and this clears a space for contradictory views to be articulated by interviewees. As the analysis shows, the ‘happy work–family balance’ discourse and traditional bodily ideals were contested on the radio programmes. However, it was guests such as Shazia Mirza and Terri Irwin who engaged in constructing resistant subject positions and pushed the boundaries of appropriate and acceptable feminine behaviour. Although the radio hosts and regular expert contributors showed some awareness of feminist ideas, their inconsistent positions suggest that such beliefs and values were not central to the radio station despite its explicitly feminist agenda. It was highly likely that Capital FM appropriated feminist discourses for marketing purposes. Even if the radio hosts personally identified as feminists, their institutional role, which required them to maintain the experts’ positive face, may have mitigated their ability to express feminist notions that would directly contradict the latter’s views. Although the interaction between radio announcers and their guests may seem like a friendly

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chat on the surface, the talk is not a conversation and each participant is filling quite rigid roles as host or expert (Matheson 2005). In this sense, the radio announcers were not free agents. Rather, ‘[h]ow much freedom women have on air is related to institutional constraints … that surround their space’ (Mitchell 1998, 83). At the same time, it is too reductive to presume a purely feminist motivation in the behaviour of guests such as Mirza and Irwin. They participated in the interviews with particular goals, such as promoting their shows or products, and it can be expected that they would communicate perspectives that align with their professional identities, in addition to providing humorous banter for the radio station to entice an audience. Even as women’s media operate as cultural commodities, they are at the same time contributing to shifting cultural values (Fairclough 1995). They play a role in mediating public perception about women, waged work and family care. This means there are opportunities to transform discourses around these, such as by advocating for universal childcare and egalitarian role sharing of domestic responsibilities. Both parents should be positioned as primary caregivers even when this may run counter to cultural common sense. Conversely, more stories that explicitly recognise women as breadwinners should be included. The media could also spark discussions about how policymakers and organisations can make the professional workplace more family-friendly for both women and men, although it is perhaps unlikely that the long-hours work culture and its effects on women’s workforce participation can be discussed in a politicised way given that the media relies on corporate advertising for much of their profits. Women’s media, in general, constructs women’s lives as an array of problems for which it offers solutions. These solutions include not only the products and services it advertises, but also itself, an important commodity (Fiske 2011), such as through the advice it provides. It is, therefore, unlikely that they will ‘cease to capitalise on women’s perceived insecurities and to desist from peddling “remedial” merchandise to make good their imagined “defects”’ (McLoughlin 2017, 252). Hence, below are other recommendations that I am hopeful, but somewhat sceptical would be implemented. Firstly, women’s media can become spaces that call out, rather than reinforce, a misogyny that places pressure on women to walk along a ‘tightrope of impression management’ (Holmes 2006, 35). A significant part of this is by actively avoiding perpetuating feminine

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stereotypes, whether to criticise or valorise women. Instead of essentialising women, they should bring complex and diverse narratives together to show that women are not a monolithic group with stereotypical qualities. While offering optimistic accounts of women’s success is important, these narratives should discuss the gendered and classed barriers that women encounter as they make their way through the career labyrinth (Eagly and Carli 2007) and, crucially, push for social rather than individual change. Additionally, the subjects of coverage are always physically attractive due to the surrounding beauty and fashion advertisements as well as the necessity to present the audience with role models that the editors believe will appeal to them (Matheson 2005). Moving away from such idealised portrayals of women, which set unrealistic standards of beauty and femininity, could challenge the notion that women need to cultivate the ‘right’ kinds of appearance to be deemed professional and successful. However, media editors will likely see this as a commercially risky undertaking. Overall, while these small acts of resistance through the agency of women’s media may not be tremendously disruptive or have direct effects on gender equality in the workplace, they are potentially valuable as they could ‘re-politicise’ what has been depoliticised and gradually transform gender norms. This is crucial for women’s empowerment in cultures where there is a lack of critical and political feminist perspectives in institutional discourses.

Recommendations for Institutional Policies and Practice Multiple reports have emphasised the role of patriarchal family norms in constraining women’s access to employment and positions of power in Malaysia (see Chapter 1). This study suggests that the status quo is also shored up by neoliberal feminist rhetoric. Not only are women expected to bear disproportionate care responsibilities, but this is being further entrenched by neoliberal feminist ideals around balance. As long as caring labour still falls more heavily on women, they will continue to bear a ‘double burden’ and be regarded as a ‘risk’ or less committed employees. In consequence, issues such as pregnancy discrimination will persist. There are numerous opportunities for policymakers and companies to bring about change in how women and men understand and perform their roles within the family. To send the message that men are

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just as responsible as women for family care and housework, the focus of state and employer policies must be expanded to include both parents (Crinis and Bandali 2017). For example, men should be given the same opportunities as women to use flexible working arrangements. Shared parental leave should also be introduced to strongly encourage fathers to take a greater share of care responsibilities for their newborn. This not only promotes egalitarian role sharing of childcare, but also recognises women as breadwinners who have ‘an obligation to work for the essential support of the family’ (Kendall 2007, 144). As Crinis and Bandali (2017, 52) argue, although the Malaysian government has established a substantial policy agenda to support women’s attempts to combine the demands of their paid and unpaid labour, ‘the policies build on the status quo rather than disrupting it’. But ‘without serious disruption of the gender roles entrenched in Malaysian society … women’s participation in the workforce will not increase’. To provide women full and equal access to the workplace, it is not enough to reform the unjust division of family labour, as important as this is. We also require counterdiscourses challenging privatising rhetoric on family care. Crucially, any conversation around work–family and care policies must include challenges faced by women who may not considered to be ‘capital-enhancing subjects’. As neoliberal feminism ‘activates a more attentive, “luminous,” and exclusive address to upwardly mobile aspirational women’ (Rottenberg 2018, 83), we have to ensure that the lives of poor women and the growing inequalities between classes of women are not rendered more invisible. Work-based childcare should be made accessible to parents in low-income occupations. At the same time, quality universal childcare can be made part of the national development agenda. Steps must also be taken to ensure employed women are unencumbered by sex-based prejudices. The analysis has clearly shown that professional women continue to be refracted through the prism of gender stereotypes. However, in Malaysia, gender stereotyping has been largely overlooked in institutional policies promoting gender workplace equality. There are multiple ways to confront this issue so that it does not drive decision-making in Malaysian workplaces. One is to explicitly raise awareness of gendered linguistic stereotypes and how these can affect women’s career progression. Learning concepts such as the ‘double bind’ and encouraging people to critically reflect upon their value judgements of others based upon gendered language norms can help them recognise and understand their own communicative prejudices, and ultimately change

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their behaviours. Another recommendation is to produce best practice guides for those writing letters of reference for promotion applications to ensure that an (un)conscious gender bias does not enter the process (Mullany and Yoong 2017). Further, both the government and companies should critically review their ‘women and leadership’ programmes to ensure they do not promote the stereotypical notion that women are being held back by a confidence or assertiveness deficit. To conclude, by examining media texts and talk through the lenses of neoliberal feminism and postfeminism, this book has identified a constellation of professional discourses that interpellate women as empowered, autonomous and successful, but only to entrench the status quo. The striking similarities in the discourses articulated across multiple media platforms strongly suggest that neoliberal feminist and postfeminist logics are prevalent within the wider Malaysian society, shaping normative standards, gender expectations and behaviour. Of course, it is important to keep in mind that the media examined in this study are only three sites of a much larger discourse of women, employment and family care. Therefore, future research could perform similar linguistic analyses of other media sources. As the influence of neoliberal feminism and postfeminism continues to grow both in Malaysia and elsewhere, critical research into the ways that neoliberal feminism and postfeminism operate through language is an important step in bringing the personal back to the political.

Note 1. ‘Female lack’ was not deployed in the Clove data. This is not surprising since the discourse was almost always produced through career advice in the other two media, whereas Clove mainly focused on beauty and fashion, and did not provide advice on professional life. Nevertheless, only a third of Clove articles were by the publication’s women editors, writers, or contributors. A large proportion of articles were purchased from foreign news agencies and media outlets. These were beyond the scope of this study, but we cannot discount the possibility that ‘female lack’ was deployed in these texts.

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References Baxter, Judith. 2008. “Is It All Tough Talking at the Top? A Post-structuralist Analysis of the Construction of Gendered Speaker Identities of British Business Leaders within Interview Narratives.” Gender and Language 2 (2): 197–222. Crinis, Vicki, and Alifa Bandali. 2017. “Malaysia: Balancing Paid and Unpaid Work.” In Women, Work and Care in the Asia-Pacific, edited by Marian Baird, Michele Ford, and Elizabeth Hill, 41–54. London: Routledge. Eagly, Alice H., and Linda L. Carli. 2007. Through the Labyrinth: The Truth About How Women Become Leaders. Boston: Harvard Business School Press. Fairclough, Norman. 1995. Media Discourse. London: Edward Arnold. Fiske, John. 2011. Introduction to Communication Studies, 3rd ed. Oxon: Routledge. Hall, Stuart. 1980. “Encoding/Decoding.” In Culture, Media Language: Working Papers in Cultural Studies, 1972–79, edited by Stuart Hall, Doothy Hobson, Andrew Lowe and Paul Willis, 128–38. London: Hutchinson. ——. 1982. “The Rediscovery of ‘Ideology’: Return of the Repressed in Media Studies.” In Culture, Society, and the Media, edited by Michael Gurevitch, Tony Bennett, James Curran, and Janet Woollacott, 56–90. London: Routledge. Havens, Timothy, and Amanda D. Lotz. 2012. Understanding Media Industries. New York: Oxford University Press. Hochschild, Arlie. 1989. The Second Shift: Working Families and the Revolution at Home. New York: Viking. Holmes, Janet. 2006. Gendered Talk at Work. Oxford: Blackwell. Kendall, Shari. 2007. “Father as Breadwinner, Mother as Worker: Gendered Positions in Feminist and Traditional Discourses of Work and Family.” In Family Talk: Discourse and Identity in Four American Families, edited by Deborah Tannen, Shari Kendall and Cynthia Gordon, 123–63. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Litosseliti, Lia. 2013. Gender and Language: Theory and Practice. Oxon: Routledge. Matheson, Donald. 2005. Media Discourse: Analysing Media Texts. Berkshire: Open University Press. McLoughlin, Linda. 2017. A Critical Discourse Analysis of South Asian Women’s Magazines: Undercover Beauty. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Mitchell, Caroline. 1998. “Women’s (Community) Radio as a Feminist Public Sphere.” Javnost-The Public 5 (2): 73–85. Mullany, Louise, and Melissa Yoong. 2017. “Gender and the Workplace.” In The Routledge Handbook of Language in the Workplace, edited by Bernadette Vine, 347–58. Oxon: Routledge.

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Rottenberg, Catherine. 2018. The Rise of Neoliberal Feminism. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Sunderland, Jane. 2004. Gendered Discourses. Basingstoke: Palgrave. Talbot, Mary. 2010. Language and Gender, 2nd ed. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Index

A Adamson, Maria, 36, 94, 105, 108–110, 112, 115 Advertising. See Media, commodification

B Balance, 2, 13, 17, 21, 29–31, 35, 36, 38, 64, 65, 67–71, 73, 77, 78, 80–84, 105, 108, 110, 134, 135, 140 happy, 29, 35, 64, 65, 70, 73, 74, 77, 80, 134. See also Discourses, ‘happy work–family balance’ work–family, 29, 35, 64, 65, 68, 71, 80, 82, 84, 134 Baxter, Judith, 14, 37, 52, 102, 106, 108–110, 135 Beauty. See Discourses, ‘aesthetic labour’ Body. See Discourses, ‘aesthetic labour’

Breadwinner, 6, 8, 10, 66, 67, 77–80, 129, 135, 139. See also Discourses, ‘mother as worker’ breadwinning, 66, 75, 76, 78–80, 129 male, 6, 8, 10, 67 universal, 10, 67 C CA. See Conversation analysis Care caregiving, 9, 64, 88 childcare, 6, 8–11, 13, 16, 64, 66, 67, 71–74, 77, 78, 115, 134, 135, 137, 139, 141 family-based, 9 options, 9 Carli, Linda. See Eagly, Alice CDA. See Critical discourse analysis Christopher, Karen, 64, 65, 73 Class, 4, 5, 10, 35, 45, 49, 64, 65, 72, 73, 78, 94, 104, 106, 113, 115, 135 inequalities, 73, 106

© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 M. Yoong, Professional Discourses, Gender and Identity in Women’s Media, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-55544-3

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INDEX

middle-, 7, 10, 45, 49, 65, 72, 78, 81, 115, 135, 137 working, 4, 5 Confidence, 32, 36, 94–96, 98–100, 128, 142 Conversation analysis, 19, 51. See also Feminist conversation analysis Critical discourse analysis, 19, 33, 47, 51. See also Feminist critical discourse analysis Critical stylistics, 19, 47, 50, 51, 54, 64. See also Jeffries, Lesley

D Discourses ‘aesthetic labour’, 94, 105, 113–117, 134, 135 ‘balanced femininity’, 94, 105, 106, 108, 112, 117, 134, 135 ‘extensive mothering’, 64–66, 71, 72, 74, 88, 134, 135 female emotionality, 108 ‘female heroes’, 94, 95, 97, 99, 100, 104, 117, 134, 135 ‘female lack’, 94, 95, 99–102, 104, 118, 134, 135 ‘happy work–family balance’, 65, 67, 88, 89, 134, 135, 138. See also Balance ‘mother as main parent’, 65, 66, 70, 71, 77, 78, 82, 88, 134, 135 ‘mother as worker’, 64–67, 76, 77, 88, 134, 135 ‘shared parenting’, 74, 76, 85 neoliberal feminist, 37, 38, 78, 81, 82, 88, 89 postfeminist, 17, 19, 32, 33, 35, 37, 38, 94, 104, 105, 117, 123, 135

professional, 2, 17–19, 44–47, 49, 52, 54–56, 58, 59, 93, 94, 117, 123, 133, 134, 136, 142 Discrimination. See also Sexual harassment; Stereotypes anti-, 21 gender, 14, 15, 53, 99, 103, 112, 123, 135 legislations on, 15 pregnancy, 3, 14, 16, 140 sex, 13 workplace, 14 Domestic workers, 13, 64 Double bind, 13, 103, 135, 141 Double burden, 9, 10, 64, 68, 72, 74, 75, 82, 134, 140

E Eagly, Alice, 12–14, 98, 106, 140 Elias, Juanita, 4, 5, 7, 11–14, 28, 31, 81, 106, 113–115 Emotions ‘difficult’, 110, 135 emotional control, 109, 111 emotional sensitivity, 105, 110 emotional state, 59, 95, 102 overly emotional, 108, 109 Essentialism, 94, 104

F Fairclough, Norman, 49, 55, 57, 58, 97, 125, 139 Family, 2, 3, 9, 13, 16, 17, 20, 28–31, 33, 34, 44, 47, 66–79, 82–85, 88, 97, 129, 130, 133, 134, 136, 139–142 division of family labour, 11, 12, 66, 72, 74, 80, 141 extended, 71–73, 77, 78 responsibilities. See Care

INDEX

FCA. See Feminist conversation analysis FCDA. See Feminist critical discourse analysis Female advantage, 106, 107, 112 Femininity. See also Identity; Stereotypes; Subjectivities balanced organisational, 36 entrepreneurial, 36, 115 normative, 18, 105, 118 successful, 36, 57, 98, 105, 106, 108, 109, 117 workplace, 105–108 Feminist conversation analysis, 19, 47, 50, 51 Feminist critical discourse analysis, 19, 34, 47. See also Lazar, Michelle

G Gap, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 13, 17, 55, 82, 95, 101–103, 136 gender earnings/pay/wage, 5, 8, 82, 102, 103 gender leadership, 3, 13, 101 gender participation, 7, 8 Gill, Rosalind, 17, 18, 27, 29, 31–33, 35, 36, 56, 65, 94, 97–100, 102, 103, 105, 106, 113–116

H Human capital, 30, 65, 80–83, 85, 86

I Ideal worker, 11, 65, 72, 81–83, 134 Identity. See also Femininity; Subjectivities caregiving, 76 feminine, 88, 105 gender, 37, 38

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professional, 37, 38, 76, 78, 95, 139

J Jeffries, Lesley, 50, 51, 54–59

K Kelan, Elisabeth, 31, 32, 36, 94, 99, 109 Kendall, Shari, 11, 66, 67, 77, 141

L Labour force participation, 14. See also Gap, gender participation Labyrinth, 12, 14, 94, 98, 140 Lazar, Michelle, 31, 33, 47–49, 113, 115, 116, 129, 131 Leadership, 11–13, 21, 32, 100–102, 106, 107, 126, 136. See also Gap, gender leadership; Labyrinth relational, 107 ‘transactional’ or goal-oriented, 106 LFPR. See Labour force participation

M Magazines, 18, 19, 33, 35, 43–45, 57–59, 66, 68, 70, 74, 83, 85, 97, 103, 117, 124, 126, 127 Media. See also Magazines; Newspapers; Radio commodification, 137 representations, 17, 19, 64, 134 women’s, 2, 17–19, 27, 49, 64, 88, 93, 95, 98, 104, 105, 110, 113, 124, 130, 134, 136, 137, 139, 140 Mother delegatory, 71 good, 13, 64, 65, 71, 72

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hands-on, 57, 102 happily balanced employed, 65 intensive, 29, 37, 65, 66, 73, 74 motherhood, 30, 37, 64, 65, 69, 72–74, 78, 81, 83, 86, 88, 99, 106, 137 present, 65 N Neoliberal feminism, 17–19, 27–32, 34, 37, 38, 48, 57, 64, 73, 80, 81, 83, 85, 86, 134, 141, 142 Neoliberalism, 28–30, 81, 94, 98 and postfeminism, 18, 27, 28, 34, 37, 38, 48, 142 Newspapers, 18, 43, 44, 100, 117 O Orgad, Shani, 10, 11, 35, 36, 56, 72, 81, 84, 97–100, 103 P Policies care, 141 development, 6 flexible working, 14 gender diversity, 11, 101 government, 12 institutional, 14, 19, 134, 141 state, 28, 67, 88 Postfeminism, 27, 31–35, 94, 97, 98, 105, 117, 135 as a cultural sensibility, 31 and neoliberalism, 30, 32, 33 within language, gender and sexuality scholarship, 33, 51 R Radio, 18, 19, 43–46, 51–54, 65–67, 74, 75, 93, 94, 100, 105, 111,

117, 123–125, 127–130, 133, 138, 139 Role traps, 108, 110 ‘iron maiden’, 110 ‘mother’, 108 Rottenberg, Catherine, 17, 27, 29–32, 34, 35, 57, 64, 65, 67, 68, 73, 80–83, 85, 86, 134, 141 S Sandberg, Sheryl, 34, 35, 44, 82, 100, 103 Second shift. See Double burden Sexism. See Discrimination; Sexual harassment; Stereotypes Sexual harassment, 3, 6, 14, 16 Slaughter, Anne-Marie, 34, 35, 44 Stereotypes. See also Role traps feminine, 55, 139 gender, 13, 102, 118, 141 over-controlling wife, 75 over-emotional femininity, 109 women do not speak their minds, 107 Subjectivities. See also Femininity; Identity ‘aesthetic entrepreneur’, 106 ‘balanced woman’, 35, 57, 134 capital-enhancing subject, 81, 82, 88, 141 entrepreneurial subject, 30, 80, 83 ‘female hero’, 36, 94, 95, 135 happy, confident, uncomplaining professional woman, 35 ‘lacking woman’, 95 neoliberal feminist subject, 34 postfeminist subject, 32, 36, 98, 110, 116, 135 work, 2, 18, 34–37 Sunderland, Jane, 37, 46, 66, 70, 136 Synthetic sisterhood, 18, 19, 36, 124, 126, 127, 130

INDEX

T Talbot, Mary, 18, 19, 53, 58, 124–126, 131, 137

W Work culture, 10, 11, 84, 139

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