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Handbook of Gender, Work, and Organization by Patricia Yancey Martin, David Knights,, Emma L Jeanes

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Chapter 1

Postmodern Feminism and Organization Studies: A Marriage of Inconvenience?

Melissa Tyler

University of Essex

Opening Thoughts

In her book Secretaries Talk, Rosemary Pringle (1989) describes a piece of public artwork called the ‘Olympia’ montage,1 created in the mid-1980s by a community artist working with a group of secretaries in Sydney. Drawing on Foucault’s (1979) emphasis on the productive rather than simply repressive capacity of power, Pringle recounts how the secretaries involved in the project attempted to subvert stereotypical perceptions of them:

Instead of rejecting or moralizing about these images she [the artist] recreates them in loving detail and plays with them. Here the naked reclining figure of Olympia the prostitute is brought together with every imaginable image of secretary, as sex object, femme fatale, temptress, worker, wife, mother, holding the boss in the palm of her hand and so on. The whole thing is lit up with flashing lights; it is flamboyant, garish, loud, and above all celebratory. It is constructed to create the possibility of multiple interpretations and indeed everyone who looks at it sees something different (Pringle, 1989: 103).

Here, Pringle touches on many of the themes that characterize postmodern feminism. The artist, as Pringle suggests, rejects a moral critique of stereotypical images of secretaries, choosing instead to parody such images and so subvert their power. She ‘plays’ with stereotypical ideas about what it means to ...

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