Beyond sexy is what’s needed: The experiences of women employed in a luxury VIP nightclub in Cape Town

Dart, Sarah (2022-04)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2022.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Interactive service industries are categorised by the extensive performance of emotional and aesthetic labour, and bodywork performed by employees. Establishments capitalize on the bodies and minds of employees to provide quality service and drive business profits. Research has shown that women employed in interactive service industries are under a disproportionate amount of pressure, to act and look „the part‟, particularly in VIP Nightclubs (Warhurst & Nickson, 2009). This study aims to develop an understanding of how party starters employed in one of Cape Town‟s VIP nightclubs, Sky Nightclub, experience their work. Theories on emotional and aesthetic labour, as well as bodywork, were examined in relation to issues on gender, sexuality, power and control. Foucault‟s work on power and control, as well as Butler‟s work on performativity, were applied to theories on aesthetic and emotional labour and bodywork, to provide a detailed review of the literature. This study adopted a qualitative approach to develop context-rich research through a series of semi-structured interviews, as well as in-depth participant observation. The interviews were structured around understanding the role that party starters play, how they perform their gender and sexuality, the type of labour they perform and the consequences/risks involved in their line of work. Participant observation increased the credibility of the interview findings and ensured that an in-depth account of the work that party starters do, was provided. In addition, a case study was provided to give an account of the nature of Sky Nightclub and how party starters fit into the space. The study‟s findings reveal that being a party starter goes „beyond being sexy‟. Their role is multi-faceted and involves the hyper-performance of both their gender and sexuality. Aside from being aesthetically pleasing, being a party starter revolves around capitalizing on social skills, performing emotional management and the use of the body as a way to attract customers and encourage them to spend money. In addition, this study looks at the consequences and dangers associated with nightclub work and how party starters navigate the risks and handle instances of harassment. Overall, this study is aimed at showing how party starters have agency and despite the consequences associated with their jobs, they should not be seen as victims. Party starters have developed the ability to use their appearance, body and emotional capacity to manipulate men into spending money, which is financially beneficial to themselves, and increases the club‟s profits. However, this study also points out, which this work can lead to risky behaviour that affects the health, well-being, and lives of women party starters. This aspect is highlighted as part of the findings, but requires further study to understand the long-terms risks associated with this type of work.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Interaktiewe diensbedrywe word gekategoriseer volgens die uitgebreide prestasie van emosionele en estetiese arbeid, en liggaamswerk wat deur werknemers verrig word. Instellings kapitaliseer op die liggame en verstand van werknemers om kwaliteit diens te lewer en besigheidswinste te bevorder. Navorsing het getoon dat vroue wat in interaktiewe diensbedrywe werk 'n buitensporige mate van druk beleef om verwagtings te vervul ten opsigte van hoe iemand in hulle rol moet optree en voorkom, veral in BBP (sogenaamde “VIP”) nagklubs (Warhurst & Nickson, 2009). Hierdie studie het ten doel om 'n begrip te ontwikkel van hoe partytjiebeginners in een van Kaapstad se BBP-nagklubs, Sky Nightclub, hul werk ervaar. Teoriee oor emosionele en estetiese arbeid, sowel as liggaamswerk, is ondersoek in verband met kwessies wat verband hou met geslag, seksualiteit, mag en beheer. Foucault se werk oor mag en beheer, sowel as Butler se werk oor performatiwiteit, is toegepas op teoriee oor estetiese en emosionele arbeid en liggaamswerk, om 'n gedetailleerde oorsig van die literatuur te verskaf. Hierdie studie het 'n kwalitatiewe benadering gevolg om konteksryke navorsing te ontwikkel deur middel van 'n reeks semi-gestruktureerde onderhoude, sowel as in-diepte deelnemer waarneming. Die onderhoude is gestruktureer rondom die begrip van die rol wat partytjiebeginners speel, hoe hulle hul geslag en seksualiteit uitbeeld, die tipe arbeid wat hulle verrig en die nagevolge/risiko's verbonde aan hul werk. Deelnemerswaarneming het die geloofwaardigheid van die onderhoudsbevindinge verhoog en verseker dat 'n in-diepte weergawe van die werk wat party beginners doen, verskaf is. Daarbenewens is 'n gevallestudie verskaf om die aard van Sky Nightclub en hoe partytjiebeginners daar inpas te illustreer. Die studie se bevindinge toon dat om 'n partytjiebeginner te wees meer behels as om “sexy” te wees. Hul rol is veelsydig en behels die hiper-uitbeelding van beide hul geslag en seksualiteit. Behalwe dat dit esteties aangenaam is, slaan die rol van partytjiebeginne munt uit sosiale vaardighede, die uitvoering van emosionele beheer en die gebruik van die liggaam om kliente te lok en hulle aan te moedig om geld te spandeer. Daarbenewens kyk hierdie studie na die gevolge en gevare verbonde aan nagklubwerk en hoe partytjiebeginners die risiko's navigeer en gevalle van teistering hanteer. Oor die algemeen is hierdie studie daarop gemik om te wys hoe partytjiebeginners agentskap het, en nie as slagoffers beskou moet word nie, ten spyte van die gevolge verbonde aan hul werk. Partytjiebeginners het die vermoe ontwikkel om hul voorkoms, liggaam en emosionele vermoens te gebruik om mans te manipuleer om geld te spandeer, wat finansieel voordelig is vir hulself, en die klub se wins verhoog. Hierdie studie wys egter ook daarop dat hierdie werk kan lei tot riskante gedrag wat die gesondheid, welstand en lewens van vroue partytjiebeginners beinvloed. Hierdie aspek word beklemtoon as deel van die bevindinge, maar vereis verdere studie om die langtermynrisiko's wat met hierdie tipe werk verband hou, te verstaan.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/124793
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