Aesthetic Labour - Sample Essay

Instead some respondents went further and alluded to having a sexy workforce operating in sexy environments who captured the imagination of the customer by several means. This was done by, the performativity of the worker, the use of corporeal assets and the actual workplace itself. Completing the holistic assault on the senses of the customer was clever use of subtle imagery provided by uniform and emotional empathy, both worn as a costume by the worker.

A great deal of previous research has been carried out in the greater Glasgow area of Scotland, however as far as can be ascertained to date, there has been no research on this topic in the Scottish capital. This investigation was important therefore to determine if there is any evidence of AL in hospitality venues in Edinburgh that mirrored or disputed the results from Glasgow.

Previous researchers have considered various definitions of AL; Dean (2004) suggests that, “the aesthetic labor process in performing is about the need of the employer to conjure particular associations through the use of the worker’s body” Payne (2005) states, “aesthetic labor includes things like body language, dress sense, grooming, deportment, voice/accent, body shape, demeanour and general stylishness” and Warhurst et al.

(2000) address not only style but describe a need for interaction with the customers and importantly staff that can portray the image of the company while appealing to the senses of the customer. The interesting dimension to this particular phenomenon is that there is no clear definition of who, either female or male may be considered to be attractive. There are no gauges or easy assessment templates to assist the researcher in the identification process of possible candidates.

Similarly this research attempts to include both heterosexual and the gay/lesbian scenes to give a broad representation of views and observations. The problem of access to gay social life if not part of it was highlighted by Humphries (1975) and in this instance is challenging. Additionally, previous researchers show a reluctance to use the term attractive in defining AL.

However, preceding circumstances may have suggested that the individual might not have to be attractive but perhaps that an emphasis was on a certain look combined with person to person social skills (Warhurst and Thompson, 1999) or grooming and presentation (Payne, 2005). What is of interest in this context however is that while researchers distance themselves from the politically incorrect langue de la rue, that they have paradoxically perhaps invented a new langue de la mode or trendy speak to describe good looking or trendy staff; Oaff (2003) who suggests “lookism” to describe these staff.

Subsequently, this research examines the concept of AL and the presentation of self in conjunction with the performativity of the worker and this is considered in analogous reference to the workplace being similar to a theatrical stage and similarly the performativity of the workers’ body as it may be used by the worker or as directed by the organisation. Hochschild’s (1983) theory that some institutions have become very adept at influencing deep acting in the workforce and directing the worker how to imagine and how to feel is explored to assess how the concept of EL may be linked to AL.

Speiss and Waring’s (2005) account of sexualised labor in South East Asian airlines is taken into account and is of interest as a contemporary contrast to early “sky girls” and how modern advertising may subliminally suggest sex in the mind of the customer. These concepts become increasingly important as the research unfolds and crucially Downloaded by University of Surrey At 06:08 30 December 2014 (PT) links the importance of the so-called aesthetic worker from an appreciation from the customer to the customer interactively buying into and participating in the aesthetic environment.

The results therefore appear under the following sections: (1) Background of AL, evidence and tacit/explicit admissions of attractive staff. Moulding of the employee, subordination, parity and superordination. (2) AL – is it attractive, beautiful, stunning or sexy staff? Pose, poise, polish, performance and prettiness. (3) Performativity, stage and EL – performance of the individual, transition, how to imagine and how to feel. (4) Aestheticism and the relationship between staff and customers – introduction to an aesthetic labor.