Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
In Sri Lanka, women were employed in
marginal jobs, the best of which is working as a
receptionist and waitress, where they are easily
made submissive to the manager's demands.
Samarasuriya states that in fact women are
sought after in these occupations because of
their perceived 'submissiveness to authority and
their lack of organizational background' (1982,
p. 81), which allows hotels to exercise power
over them to bend and form them whichever
way management want.
Receptionists are also called upon to toler-
ate situations they would not normally tolerate,
e.g. tolerating a guest who is verbally abusive.
This involves not retaliating and holding back
anger and frustration. This frustration is suc-
cinctly expressed by the following stanza:
industry who are seeking to capitalize and 'cash
in' on the sexual appeal and sense of fantasy the
image promotes. He also points out how this
image is created and communicated to the pub-
lic through advertising:
on the cover of the Swallow Hotel's tariff the
female Receptionist has her shoulder length
hair in ringlets, she is wearing a wedding ring,
make-up and a smile which displays her white
teeth. With her wing collar shirt and puffed
sleeves and her hand on the computer terminal
she is both feminine, contemporary and
effi cient . . . and the decanter suggests that a
warm welcome awaits the businessman in his
home away from home!
(Mason, 1988, pp. 286-287)
Mason shows how the weaving of this image is
designed to lure the fantasy of businessmen.
The female receptionist, who is presented as a
social hostess, is 'someone who is made up to
look beautiful in the eyes of men, and coupled
with the appeal of a mother, appears domesti-
cated, organized and an object of sexual gratifi -
cation' (Mason, 1988, pp. 245-246). However,
Mason believes that the projection of women in
the reception role:
you've pinched me into submission,
your breath reeking of insolence,
neither blusters nor whispers but hangs
inaudibly like an English oil.
(Marcus, 1995, p. 251)
Next, the poet captures the resigned way in
which workers live through the turmoil of not
being able to express their true emotions:
You are an insult to
yourself because you request that
which you are unable to bear.
But you are forgiving, for what use
is a great emotion?
. . . is nothing more than a softener, a placid
and superfi cial projection of an image, created
by men for other men . . . The image of
receptionists becomes an advertisement for all
that can be expected, it becomes a commodity
itself: 'come to our hotel to buy our product
and this is what will await you'.
(Mason, 1988, pp. 245-246)
The withholding of one's own emotions so that
one neatly fi ts into the job description is the
focus here.
Adkins, in her study of female workers in the
tourism and hospitality industries, established
that the sexualization of women by the industry
extends far beyond just sexual harassment:
Sexualization of the role
Urry argues that the male gaze, the male look is
a kind of voyeuristic 'porno-tropics' and that
'tourism is often about the body-as-seen, dis-
playing, performing and seducing visitors with
skill, charm, strength, sexuality and so on'
(2002, p. 156). In this study, the feminized and
sexualized presentation of the receptionist is
made available for the visual consumption as a
well presented appetizing meal that is offered
for visual appreciation.
Mason (1988) agrees that the typical image
of a receptionist as an attractive female is pro-
moted by male executives in the hospitality
the conditions and controls which operated in
relation to the appearance of women workers
operated to sexualise them and to defi ne them
primarily in terms of their sexual attractiveness.
This reduced their status as workers. The
systematic sexualization of women and the
conditions and regulations to which they were
subject placed them in a situation where they
were defi ned primarily in relation to their sexual
attractiveness, and turned them into sexual
commodities. These processes prevented women
having any choice in relation to this defi nition (in
how they were defi ned) . . . Failure to be sexually
attractive (to be a sexual commodity) led to
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