The female body is crucial to the ways in which relations of power between the sexes are constructed and reinforced. The body is the kernel of oppression because the body is what women are while at the same time it is made to legitimate women's own subordination.
The overarching research question of this study concerns how the female body is recruited to confirm and rationalise women's subordination. Through an examination of the discourse on the Swedish police force encompassing the period 1950-1998 the how of women's subordination is analysed, in particular how the modus operandi of subordination rests on women's embodiment.
The police have a decisive function in the state. Political theory insists on the emergence of police power as the condition precedent for any acknowledgement that a state as such exists. As an institution the police articulates legitimate power and political order. A police officer in uniform can be seen as a symbol of the political order. Female police officers thus have to appear to the public as dominant by dint of being police at the same time as they are subordinated as women. There is a collision between gender power and police power as such. This collision encapsulates the paradoxes and contradictions that the analysis identifies and problematises.
Four mechanisms of subordination - separation, incongruity, construction and sexualisation - are identified and interpreted. These mechanisms point to different modalities of subordination. The first mechanism, separation, refers both to the way in which women are separated off from a putative, sexually undifferentiated totality and to how that totality's implicit masculinity becomes the universal norm which consigns women to the status of a special and deviant case. Incongruity works through an 'in spite of' proposition. Women can become police only in spite of their being women. Incongruity functions through a mismatch between the meaning of being a woman and the meaning of being a police officer. The third mechanism, construction, refers to the creation of femininity, the assertion of what it is about femininity that makes it impossible for women to be 'real' police officers. Women are constructed as a special resource for the police force. In this role it is precisely women's gender specificity that counts - the very factor that disqualifies them from being 'real' police. Sexualisation operates through the refusal to accord women the status of subjects and their subjection to the male gaze. The female body is imbued with a meaning which cannot be reconciled with the authoritative gaze of the police, a gaze that is central to the visual dimensions connected with the upholding of law and order.
Malmö: Liber, 2000. , 136 p.