Femininity, Class and Status: The societal devaluation of the female early years workforce.

PhD Thesis

Brooks, R. 2023. Femininity, Class and Status: The societal devaluation of the female early years workforce. PhD Thesis University of Derby Education https://doi.org/10.48773/9w8wv
AuthorsBrooks, R.
TypePhD Thesis
Qualification namePhD

This thesis responds to contemporary debates about early childhood education and the gendered nature of the workforce, drawing on feminist theory, interpretive methodologies and practitioner accounts. This project amplifies the female voice of practitioners in the workforce, using data drawn from semi-structured interviews with 11 early years practitioners. Drawing on intersectional feminist theories surrounding women’s liberation from misogyny, and Foucauldian conceptualisations of power, this project will highlight the role of femininity on predominantly working-class early childhood practitioners, and how it distorts their identity and their relationships with colleagues under the current neoliberal regulation of the sector. Through analysing the qualitative data, this thesis will explore the impact of the assumption that women are the traditional caregivers on practitioners themselves; how the patriarchy reproduces this norm by perpetuating misogyny and marginalisation; and how this notion affects women’s oppression and the consequent movements towards liberation. This thesis offers two conceptual and empirical contributions to the field of early childhood education research. Firstly, the theoretical underpinnings of Foucauldian and feminist theory with interpretive methodologies to explore women’s oppression in the early childhood workforce. Secondly, in exploring the role of gendered language and gossip in interactions between early childhood professionals, this thesis analyses the extent to which patriarchal language surrounding gossip is used to trivialise and devalue the female voice and probes the extent to which gossip is a form of power for women. This study contributes important perspectives on how current drives towards the 'educationalization' of early years settings can have harmful consequences for the professional development of early childhood educators, rather than raising the standards of childcare in the UK.

KeywordsGender, Early Childhood, Gossip, Feminism, Femininity, Class.
PublisherCollege of Arts, Humanities and Education, University of Derby
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.48773/9w8wv
File Access Level
Output statusUnpublished
Publication process dates
Deposited01 Feb 2023
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