“Against a sharp white background”: How Black women experience the white gaze at work
Rabelo VC, Robotham KJ, McCluney CL. “Against a sharp white background”: How Black women experience the white gaze at work. Gender Work Organ. 2020;1–19. https://doi.org/10.1111/gwao.12564RABELO ET AL.-19
Whiteness is a pervasive context in (post)colonial organizations that maintains its enduring presence through everyday practices such as the white gaze: seeing people’s bodies through the lens of whiteness. The white gaze distorts perceptions of people who deviate from whiteness, subjecting them to bodily scrutiny and control. Understanding how the white gaze manifests is therefore important for understanding the marginalization of particular bodies in organizations. We therefore center Black women’s narratives to examine the following research question: How is the white gaze enacted and experienced at work? We conducted a critical discourse analysis of 1169 tweets containing the hashtag #BlackWomenAtWork and identified four mechanisms of the white gaze whereby whiteness is imposed, presumed, venerated, and forced on Black women’s bodies. We conclude with a discussion of the white gaze as an apparatus to enforce gendered racialized hierarchies vis‐à‐vis the body and how foregrounding whiteness deepens our understanding of marginalization at work.