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Wed, 08 Mar

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University of Bath, School of Management

Making Respectable Women- University of Bath Community and Inclusion Talk

How the assessment of being or not being 'respectable' has been applied to women and implications for citizenship and inequality. This talk presents the ways in which the assessment of being or not being 'respectable' has been applied to women in the UK in the past one hundred and fifty years.

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Making Respectable Women- University of Bath Community and Inclusion Talk
Making Respectable Women- University of Bath Community and Inclusion Talk

Time & Location

08 Mar 2023, 13:15 – 14:15

University of Bath, School of Management, Convocation Ave, Claverton Down, Bath BA2 7AZ, UK

About the Event

This talk presents the ways in which the assessment of being or not being 'respectable' has been applied to women in the UK in the past one hundred and fifty years. 

Mary Evans shows how the term 'respectable' has changed and how, most importantly, the basis of the ways in which the respectability of women has been judged has shifted from a location in women's personal, domestic and sexual behaviour to that of how women engage in contemporary forms of citizenship, not the least of which is paid work. 

This shift has important social and political implications: amongst these are the growing marginalisation of the validation of the traditional care work of women, the assumption that paid work is implicitly and inevitably empowering and the complex ways in which respectability and conformity to highly sexualised conventions about female appearance have been normalised. 

These forms of social marginality and exclusion act to exclude women in new ways, whilst at the same time challenging the part that gender has been assumed to play in organisational and political contexts. The talk concludes with insights for the idea of respectability and citizenship for women in universities.

Mary Evans is an Emeritus Leverhulme Professor, the author of various studies of feminism and feminist writers. Her most recent work ( with Sarah Moore and Hazel Johnstone ) is a study of detective fiction ( Detecting the Modern ) and the theme of that book, of how detective fiction locates the central dynamics of the contemporary world, arises from her continuing interest in the ways in which we learn and acquire our social identities. 

She is currently working on a study of the ways in which the definition of 'respectable' has been constructed, and changed, for women in the past one hundred years. This project comes out of longstanding interests in the various forms of coincidence between feminism and changing expectations of the 'citizen'. More generally, her work lies in the intersection of works of the imagination with the material world and – in the context of recent politics – the ways in which 'austerity' politics disproportionately impact upon women and refute assumptions about the 'emancipation' of women. 

Recent work in the Women's Library has provided rich material for an understanding of the continuity rather than the disappearance of gender inequality and the emergence of new forms of inequality.

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