Abjection in extremely gendered colonial organizations: female military firefighter officers in Brazil

de Souza, Eloisio Moulin; Brewis, Joanna and Godfrey, Richard (2022). Abjection in extremely gendered colonial organizations: female military firefighter officers in Brazil. Human Relations pp. 1–24.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/00187267221098759

Abstract

It is often suggested that some occupations are inherently more suited to men or to women. Such beliefs can become norms that can have powerful effects on those who inhabit – or wish to enter - such occupations. This article explores the discursive framing of gendered occupations by considering the experience of cis female military firefighter officers in the masculine world of the Corpo de Bombeiros Militar in the Brazilian state of Espírito Santo. We identify this Global South organization as extremely gendered but also profoundly colonial in its patriarchal order and its hierarchical culture and structure. We use Kristeva (1982, 1989) and Butler’s (1990, 1993a, 1993b, 1997) work on abjection – referring to processes of exclusion or casting out - to understand how these officers and their bodies are differentiated in the Corps. Based on interviews and analysis of a recruitment document, we foreground their abjection using three examples: the organization’s physical entrance test, the maternal body and its masculine organizational grammar. Yet, just as they are targets of exclusion, these women and their bodies are also necessary to maintain the hypermasculinity of this organization. Our contribution is to analyse abjection in a specific hypergendered organizational context where masculinity is not only amplified by the co-presence of military service and firefighting but also where gender relations, structure and culture have deep colonial roots.

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