Since Gilligan (1982) established the theory of moral development, feminist psychologists have provided some interesting analysis to show, not whether morality is essentially gendered, but rather, how morality can be invoked to warrant gendered complaints (Muntigl and Turnbull, 1998). For example Stokoe (2003) demonstrated, from interview transcripts of neighbour’s disputes, how female categories such as ‘mothers, ‘single women’ and ‘sluts’ were made relevant (both explicitly and implicitly) in order to judge each other’s moral behaviour (Stokoe, 2003:320). In the following extract from The Sunday Mail’s exclusive interview with the dismissed Yeoman, I will suggest that much of the Yeoman’s warrant for unfair dismissal rests on invoking his former female colleagues status as a ‘single woman’. Consider the following extract in which the Beefeater describes the appointment of the first female Yeoman.
‘What concerned me most, and what caused apprehension and shock among the wives of the Beefeaters, was that she was single.…I have seen a lot of very good friends’ marriages go down the pan in the Army, not because they have done anything, but because other people perceive they have done something…It is not difficult to see the potential for trouble in employing a single woman. Naturally there was some ribald speculation as to what she might look like and whether she would wear high heels with her scarlet tunic’.
In this extract the Beefeater constructs an interpretative frame within which to interpret her appointment. Notice that he deploys the category ‘single woman’. Such a categorisation carries with it a host of inferences that can be traded on, and made available, as a stock of common-sense knowledge about ‘single women’ e.g. being sexually available. However, this alone is not sufficient to provide an immoral account of her. One way in which this can be achieved is by implying that certain types of ‘single women’ are immoral based on their activities (Wowk, 1984). Since gender relations are managed by the norms of monogamy, women (but not men) who are perceived to be a threat to this rule can be held morally accountable. Although the Beefeater does not explicitly state that she was ‘sexually overt’, she is positioned as such through speculation of ‘whether she would wear high heels with her scarlet tunic’ and as a potential cause marital problems for male colleagues. In this way then, the female Yeoman’s ‘single woman’ status is linked to immorality.
Beefeater sacked for harassing first female Yeoman tells how her arrival caused ructions at the Tower… and cost him his job
Social Psychology and Discourse
Mothers, Single Women and Sluts: Gender, Morality and Membership Categorization in Neighbour Disputes