GENMAC congratulates Dr. Jan Brace-Govan on her retirement!
Dr. Brace-Govan was an Associate Professor in the Business School of Monash University and helped shape GENMAC through her service on the GENMAC Advisory Board.
Her research focused on critical marketing analyses of gender issues and on consumption. She published in the European Journal of Marketing, Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, Marketing Theory, Journal of Consumer Culture, the Sociological Review, Consumption Markets & Culture, and the Journal of Macromarketing.
We are grateful for her dedicated and impactful career in the marketing academy!
How did you become interested in gender and the study of gender in the marketplace?
For the starting point I would not have picked the word ‘gender’. That is a quite contemporary shorthand that absorbs several decades of women’s activism, theory development and then impact on the academy. My initial interest was in what was called ‘sex discrimination’; specifically, why as a girl aged 15 my rowing crew were not given access to the best boat despite being far, far more successful than the boys crew. We changed that, and from then on, I sat on a range of committees over 3 decades that advocated for women’s rights. So, my introduction was as someone who wanted change for women’s sport and leisure; an activist. I came to feminist theories later.
The important, ground-breaking theory that made a case for gender, as opposed to ‘sex roles’, was made by feminist activists and academics from a range of disciplines. From the interdisciplinarity of Women’s Studies theories of embodiment and mind/body connections extended and embedded conceptualisations of gender into the academy. It was around these issues that my sport activism and my academic interests coincided, particularly around women and physical strength.
The extent to which gender as a concept is taken for granted nowadays prompts me to refine my interest as a feminist view of gender in the marketplace. This recognises the power differentials at play and goes well beyond simple separation of consumers into sexualities or lifestyles. Given gender’s hard-fought beginnings I am quite ambivalent about the extent to which the word gender is bandied about, especially in marketing.
How has gender shaped your choice of research topics, settings, and/or methods?
A feminist approach to gender that demands a critical reflexivity and challenges conventional thinking to consider the subaltern position and offer avenues to elucidate and air their experiences drew me towards several variations of interpretive qualitative methods. A closer involvement with participants allows the ‘quiet’ voices to be heard. Although most of my work in this vein focussed on women’s embodiment, topics also considered power imbalances in other settings.
What is a gender-related research project or initiative you are particularly proud of in your career?
This is a hard question to answer because to be proud of something implies that other projects were lesser, which was rarely the case, rather each was important at the time. I found it incredibly difficult to bring to fruition projects that did not chime with my convictions, although those do exist and, perversely perhaps, were the toughest. Somewhat tautologically, different projects have different rewards and for the most part I am proud of projects for different reasons. Some projects successfully challenged the status quo; some projects were satisfying because they addressed issues dear to participants (and usually myself); some projects were a learning experience; some projects were herculean efforts either in a team or as an individual. But like the concept of gender, I have observed that, if an initiative is absorbed into the everyday to the point where it is taken for granted it is one’s most successful initiative.