This link between organizations and gender is the starting point of the debate on organizations and gender in women’s and gender research, because organizations are understood inside as well as outside of the overall social structure. The conditions of production in modern capitalist societies, such a basic argument, were based on the separation of labor and family labor – and this separation, as well as the fact that women are generally family workers, also characterized organizations. Moreover, according to another central argument, the continuous ‘doing gender’, which is built into social practices, cannot simply be exposed in organizations. On the contrary, the construction of gender is also carried out in everyday work and through the actions of and in organizations. This raises the question to what extent such a thing is contained in a ‘one-dimensional’ organization.

In a multiculturally structured and differentiated society such as Switzerland, the active production of difference in central areas of life is permanently the focus of social science research and its question of social change processes.

In the ethnomethodological theory model of Doing Difference, Sarah Fenstermaker and Candace West complement the microsociological approach of “Doing Gender” by the interactive construction of the two dimensions class and ethnicity. In their opinion, the social and ethnic affiliation of men and women should have much more attention. In this way they are leading the more one-dimensional approach of gender research to a new level.

The starting point for the “Doing Difference” concept were then the questionable mathematical metaphors, which were often used by some authors in gender research. Mainly as an aid to describe the relationship between the inequality factors gender, ethnicity and class. In the course of this, the science of sociology itself did not stop before geometrical concepts. It is the expression of expressions such as “intersecting systems” or “interlocking categories of experience”, which are supposed to meet the interferences of the different social dimensions. In dealing with categorical affiliation, many scientists assume an additive model. These simply sum up the effects of individual variables to explain their consequences. Other scientists tend to start from a multiplicative model. The negative or positive effects of individual variables are simply multiplied by one another and are referred to hereinafter as “double” or “threefold disadvantage”. In this approach, however, it is ruled out that there are some problems associated with these different metaphors. It is known, for example from mathematics, that a multiplication occurs when two negative signs are multiplied.

In general, mathematical comparisons such as these assume that all three variables can be separated from each other by gender, class, and ethnicity.

This is precisely the place where the criticism of the two authors, who are of the opinion “that gender cannot be coherently separated from race and class in the way we conceptualize it, then multiplicative metaphors make little sense” (West and Fenstermaker 1995, p.12). The different social dimensions of individuals can be experienced both simultaneously. Finally, the concept of “Doing Difference” represents the thesis that ethnic, class and gender-specific inequalities are constantly generated in everyday interaction between individuals. In this context they are understood as “ongoing, methodical, and situated accomplishments” (West and Fenstermaker 1995, p. 30). Depending on the situation, however, the dominance of the different dimensions can vary. In one case the ethnic affiliation of an individual can dominate and in another case the social class.

The simultaneous process of the “Doing Difference” concept is the active production of difference and is encountered in daily social situations and can be explained as follows. Since each individual belongs to certain groups or institutions, certain expectations are linked to his actions, which are again based on previous interactions. Social interactions give meaning to the differentiation dimensions. In this way, differences between individuals are socially constructed and suddenly viewed as natural. The differences between the individuals that were actually created by this simultaneous process are now regarded as perfectly normal and are regarded as “natural” characteristics of the individuals. But this is by no means a predetermined division of nature, but rather a social construction. Discrimination or oppressive forms, such as, sexism or racism are then merely reactions to these determining characteristics.


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