'Max' and 'Wardy': Masculine porters appropriating gentleness and solicitude in a Scottish hospital
(St. Andrews University)
Paper short abstract:
This essay offers an interpretation of the intimacies and attachments expressed in the working practices of hospital porters. In this overwhelmingly male, occupational grouping, a gentleness and a solicitousness can be found which might be seen to belie the rude, masculine forms in which it is expressed.
Paper long abstract:
This essay offers an interpretation of the intimacies and attachments expressed in the working practices of hospital porters as they go about their daily rounds in a Scottish medical institution. In this overwhelmingly male, occupational grouping, undertaking tasks deemed largely peripheral to the skilled and prestigious purpose of the institution that employs them, a gentleness and a solicitousness can be found which might be seen to belie the rude, masculine forms in which it is expressed. In the form of teasing and reciprocal challenging that takes up much of the spoken interaction among porters during the working day --who is the laziest, the most effeminate, the best at drinking, sex, skiving off work, fighting or playing football-- can also be found the ambiguous expression of knowledge and affection for one another. In the intricate forms of mutual teasing and challenging, heads and bodies metaphorically touch: intimate emotions and relations are given ambivalent expression. Indeed, there is a distinct discourse of porters openly reaching out to one another in the Hospital, in friendship and mutual support: hope, warmth, love, fear, grief and pain are quite explicitly adverted to. In the context of two porters' stories in particular, the essay recounts a more gentle discourse of mutual solicitude, exploring how it sits alongside the more conventionally masculine teasing and bravado in an uneasy partnership.
Social transformation in the United Kingdom: appropriation, class and identity