Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: https://www.um.edu.mt/library/oar/handle/123456789/36217
Title: ‘I am what I am’ : queering career development and practice
Other Titles: Career guidance for emancipation : reclaiming justice for the multitude
Authors: Hancock, Adrian
Taylor, Alan
Keywords: Vocational guidance -- Philosophy
Social justice -- Vocational guidance
Sexual minorities -- Employment
Issue Date: 2019
Publisher: Routledge
Citation: Hancock, A., & Taylor, A. (2019). ‘I am what I am’ : queering career development and practice. In T. Hooley, R. G. Sultana & R. Thomsen (Eds.), Career guidance for emancipation : reclaiming justice for the multitude (pp. 47-64). London: Routledge.
Abstract: A fertile ground for the expression, contestation and establishment of social justice in the last few decades has been in the increased rights that have been obtained for LGBT+ people—lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgendered, intersex, asexual and other sexual minorities— across the globe. LGBT+ rights are a live topic for political debate, are discussed in terms of business best practice and have energised social change in many countries. A significant contribution to debates within these disparate fields has been made by queer theory, queer authors and queer activism. Rather than discussing individual career choice and development for LGBT+ people as being worthy of ‘special’ support, with the help of queer theory we will instead trouble and ‘queer’ the notion of career guidance. We will propose that career guidance could be considered complicit and active in the reproduction of gendered and oppressive social control. Career guidance appears to be stuck in outmoded concepts of sexuality through its implicit adoption of heteronormative assumptions about the nature of career, work, organisation and personal development. Conversely, queer theory asks questions about how work could be organised differently, as well as drawing attention to the power relations inherent in neoliberalism at the expense of LGBT+ people and other marginalised groups. This chapter will build on previously reported possibilities for practice with the LGBT+ community, thus addressing a specific need: namely, to increase the LGBT+ community’s visibility within career guidance. However, we must also recognise that for some LGBT+ individuals (especially the younger generation) there is no such thing as a fixed sexual or gender identity. And we go even further by arguing that, once we accept the need to incorporate the LGBT+ community within our practice, we will be engaged in a broader challenge to patriarchy. We therefore need to immediately ‘queer’ our assumptions about how career guidance may contribute to the oppression of sexual minorities, and indeed all of us,through an assumption of the normality of (artificially developed) heterosexual lifestyles and constraints—heteronormativity (Warner, 1993). In this chapter we will discuss some of the tenets of queer theory and those aspects of career guidance which are troubled by queer theory concepts and suggest how queering career guidance practice could challenge the tenets of neoliberalism—which are contingent on heteronormative assumptions—and thus contribute to the development of social justice within working lives and in broader society. It may be helpful to point out that the authors of this chapter have had to negotiate LGBT+ identities throughout their careers. First, we need to establish what we are discussing when we start to address social justice from a feminist, and then from a queer, standpoint. Fraser (1999) characterises two main approaches to social justice: the redistributive paradigm emphasised by Marxist, socialist and economic approaches; and the recognitive approach which is predicated on a defence of minority cultural lifestyles and, more than that, a celebration of diversity (see also the chapter by Rice in Career Guidance for Social Justice). Examples of the latter include feminist approaches, critiques of racism and, in turn, approaches which seek to recognise, and protect, the lives of those who do not comply with cultural ‘norms’ and dominant paradigms, including socialist, capitalist and neoliberal worldviews. While Fraser (1999) argued for the integration of the two approaches above, we can usefully draw on the recognitive approach to draw attention to issues of elision and exclusion of LGBT+ lives within careers discourse, as well as debating whether career practitioners challenge or replicate social injustice. Further, and in contrast, one can analyse and deconstruct social justice by drawing on feminist notions of intersectionality (Crenshaw, 1991) and, more radically, by an approach of ‘queering’ or destabilising the normal, and normalising cultural forces, which one can argue are fundamental in the reproduction of social injustice experienced by those living minority and, most usually, abject or subaltern lifestyles (Spivak, 1988). We propose that a queer approach to careers is essential for the establishment of social justice with regard to LGBT+ people, and that it may also be liberatory for everyone for whom traditional heteronormalising power articulations are unsupportive—for instance, single mothers, people in non-traditional or fragmented careers (Fenton & Dermott, 2006) and blended families—indeed anyone who does not fit with a particular, historical notion of the ‘working family’ (see Chapter 2). Neoliberalism is a discourse which splits the domestic and the workplace, through highly gendered assumptions which facilitate male (heterosexual) paid work and female (domestic, caring) unpaid work, through educational and disciplinary devices which reproduce and define heterosexual normality. Neoliberalism does not create a conducive environment for the LGBT+ community (Grady, Marquez, & McLaren, 2012; Peterson, 2011), although there will be both ‘queer winners and losers of neoliberalism’ (Binnie, 2014, p. 245). Simple resistance to heteronormativity through non-conformity can result in a reinforcement of neoliberal hegemony through the proliferation of pleasure-centred consumerist lifestyles (Winnubst, 2012). Equally, and illustratively, there are clear indications that ‘homonormativity’ (Duggan, 2002), visibility of the ‘pink pound’ and domination of the discourse of LGBT+ resistance by white gay males can further marginalise people of colour (Grady et al., 2012), women and other minorities. It is essential therefore, that in queering career guidance we move firmly towards a destabilisation of neoliberalism and concomitant heteronormativity and become more aware of and engaged in sexual politics in support of social justice. Whilst neoliberalism and heteronormativity may be supported by much current career practice, practitioners have the opportunity to analyse, subvert and recognise alternatives to this.
URI: https://www.um.edu.mt/library/oar//handle/123456789/36217
ISBN: 9781138087439
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