Teaching Gender in a Postfeminist Management Classroom

  • Nick Rumens
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Gender and Education book series (GED)


This chapter explores, through a self-ethnographic lens, the experience of teaching gender to business management students at a time when discourses on postfeminism have reshaped how gender inequality is understood and experienced in and outside the workplace. Following Gill (2007), I engage with postfeminism as a sensibility so that it can be treated as an object of critical analysis, thereby countering the tendency to reduce postfeminism to a distinct theoretical orientation, historical shift in feminism, or a one-dimensional form of feminist backlash. Furthermore, and germane to the purpose of this chapter, is the link between a postfeminist sensibility and neoliberalism, evident in how both emphasise individualism, in particular the role of the individual in changing themselves (e.g. bodies, behaviours, attitudes) in order to succeed at home and work. As such, I aim to explore the challenges this has presented in teaching gender inequality to undergraduate management students on an equality and diversity final-year management module. Students appear to give more credence to neoliberal discourses that promote the gendered subject at work as self-regulating and enterprising, which adheres closely to postfeminist discourses that circulate a notion of the individual unaffected by power relations and gender inequalities. This, I argue, enables students to engage more easily with the often challenging topic of gender inequality. While some students accept they may experience gender inequality in the workplace, many others frequently consign gender inequality as something that happened in the past, or dislocate it spatially as something that occurs in other cultural contexts and to other people. In regard to this last point, I have often noted that 'free choice' is a recurring leitmotif, illustrated in how students discursively construct notions of a ‘postfeminist workplace’ in which ‘hard work’ and making the ‘right choices’ are the primary means to avoid gender discrimination and inequality. The connections I explore between postfeminist and neoliberal discourses allow me to articulate the personal frustrations, pleasure, and concerns about teaching gender inequality as an openly gay man in the context of the business school.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nick Rumens
    • 1
  1. 1.University of PortsmouthPortsmouthUK

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