Feminism and Work J. Pollard, Newcastle University, Newcastle, UK & 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Glossary Discourse A set of practices through which the world is rendered meaningful and intelligible, including narratives, concepts, ideologies, and signifying practices. Essentialism The belief in the existence of fixed, invariable properties (‘essences’) that define a person or entity. Globalization The increasingly international integration, connectivity, and hybridity of a range of economic, cultural, political, and environmental activities. Human Capital Theory Argues that individuals invest in their own human capital by improving their skills and qualifications for which they are rewarded accordingly. Liberal Feminism Views women and men as equal, as deserving of equal rights in economic, social, and political life, and the use of the political and legal system to secure such rights. Queer Theory Challenges essentialist notions of homosexuality and heterosexuality and understands sexuality as constructed and shifting in different historical and cultural contexts. Radical Feminism Argues that inequalities between men and women are rooted in patriarchy, a system that constructs rights, structures, and practices in ways that privilege men. Socialist Feminism Argues that there is a link between the class structure in capitalism and the oppression of women.
Definitions Feminism is a broad, complex, contested term that comprises both an intellectual and a political project that seeks to identify, understand, and dismantle inequalities between men and women. As an intellectual movement, different strands of liberal, Marxist/socialist, radical, and post-structuralist feminist thought have demonstrated how sexual differentiation and the social construction of gender differences are intricately linked with questions of power. As a political movement, feminism has waxed and waned and evolved through different eras of activity and achievement. Early, so-called ‘first wave’ feminists in the US and UK, inspired in part by Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) and its appeal to the power of reason and equality, fought for women’s
political rights, notably the vote. A second wave of feminist activism in the 1960s fought a broader array of economic and social inequalities, including discrimination in the workplace and earnings inequality. This era of activism also asserted that ‘the personal is political’, that women’s rights extended to control of their bodies, their sexuality, and reproductive rights. Feminist theorists, writers, and activists have long struggled with tensions between competing claims around universalism (that women have common experiences of inequality and discrimination) and particularism (that women are not homogeneous, that they occupy different social, economic, cultural, political, and geographical locations). Arising from black feminists’ and others’ critiques of the class and racial bases of second wave feminism, ‘third wave’ feminists have explored the diversity of women’s lives, experiences, and politics. Key to this has been an interest in the politics of intersectionality, the relations between gender and its co-constitution with other axes of difference, like race, ethnicity, and sexuality. Drawing on queer theory, postcolonial theories, and post-structuralist scholarship, feminist theorists have explored the significance of representation, subjectivity, language, and identity. Many feminists now critique discourses concerning the singularity of knowledge and truth and note the partiality of projects that treat ‘women’ as an already constituted, homogeneous group or that treat ‘gender’ as a stable, social category. The philosophical, political, and theoretical diversity that now characterizes feminist thought makes it difficult to generalize its key aspirations and achievements and it is now more accurate to talk about ‘feminisms’ in the plural. Nevertheless, through their strong ethical, political, and utopian impulses, feminists have sought to highlight and resist the systematic production of social difference around gender and challenge the persistence of inequalities between men and women. Work – what it is, who does it, and where – has been a key arena of struggle. There is now a vast literature on feminism and work and some excellent reviews are available. In what follows, some key feminist and geographical contributions are highlighted.
Origins of Interest in Human Geography and the Social Sciences Just as there is no single definition of feminism, there is no single origin of social scientific interest in women’s demands for equality that fueled feminist scholarship. Part of
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the impetus came from feminist writers such as Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Emma Goldman, and Simone de Beauvoir who identified work and class as important sites in the struggle for women’s liberation. Yet, this emphasis on work also reflected the reality that women all over the world spend the major portion of their lives working, be it paid or unpaid. The twentieth century involved a transformation in the economic landscapes of many economies and the gradual feminization of waged employment, especially in service industries and occupations. For many women in North America and Europe, World War II marked a turning point as they were drawn into paid work, often for the first time, on a massive scale. The demand for labor was such that traditional gender divisions of labor were swept aside, at least temporarily, as women filled jobs traditionally occupied by men in engineering, steel, autos, and other manufacturing industries. Since the 1950s in particular, a raft of social and cultural shifts and, in many places, economic necessity have driven rising female participation in labor markets in the global south and north. While it is difficult to find consistent data, most especially for many of the world’s poorest countries, Joni Seager’s Atlas of Women in the World presents a wealth of data on women’s work. UN figures reveal that in large parts of Africa and Central Europe and some parts of northern Europe, over 60% of all women were working for pay in 1999. While the overall trend has been toward rising female participation in waged labor, there is a good deal of geographic variation, with lower rates of female participation in Catholic and Islamic countries. In many parts of the world, women are concentrated in agriculture or informal, largely unregulated sectors like domestic service or market trading (see Table 1).
Key Contributions Contesting the Definition of Work One of feminist theorists’ major contributions to the study of work has been to critique how economics, sociology, geography, and other social science disciplines have defined ‘work’. Many social scientific analyses have equated ‘work’ with ‘paid employment’, an assumption visible in long histories of different governments’ statistics-keeping practices that define and categorize work in particular occupational and industrial classifications. Feminist scholars have argued that defining ‘work’ to include only formal waged labor represents a masculine norm and ignores a raft of unpaid, paid-in-kind, and informal work often performed by women, notably domestic labor and childcare. Early research on work largely ignored domestic labor because homes were not viewed as sites of work or production but rather as places where women engaged in
what were viewed as their ‘natural’ and biologically given roles of caring and nurturing. Yet this analytical and spatial separation of home and work is geographically and historically specific; it is a description that applies largely to a suite of industrialized capitalist economies after the industrial revolution. An important feminist contribution was thus to challenge the analytical separation of work (the public sphere) and home (the private sphere) in industrialized capitalist economies that suggested that women’s reproductive roles either limited their work to the private sphere or else meant a ‘second shift’ in the public sphere of paid work. Feminists have sought to understand housework as a form of work, to analyze it like other forms of work, and to have it taken seriously in terms of its role in producing essential goods and services. Anne Oakley’s The sociology of housework was a major contribution that argued that unpaid work in the home could be understood in the same terms as paid work. For liberal feminists like Betty Friedan, the unpaid status of domestic labor meant that is was undervalued. Other Marxian and socialist feminists joined in what became known as the ‘domestic labor debates’ of the 1970s and 1980s and argued that homemakers were fundamental for the reproduction of capitalist social relations and, like their partners in paid work, were being exploited. Theoretically, this emphasis on the household was important because it did more than simply add the experiences of women into traditional analyses; instead, it challenged prevailing approaches that explained sexual divisions of labor in terms of individual choices and argued that issues of dependence, tradition, and most especially power over resources were crucial. Key schisms in these literatures concerned the analytical status of class and gender and whether capitalism and patriarchy were conceived as a single or ‘dual system’. Politically, this scholarship highlighted the precarious situation of many married women who were full-time domestic laborers and thus economically dependent on waged partners. Moreover, women’s domestic labor, unpaid and undervalued, was not subject to various forms of statutory protections, like social security, redundancy pay, or unemployment benefit that accompanied waged work. At various times then, this scholarship translated into demands for wages for housework and attempts to measure the economic value of domestic labor, although this in turn created many debates about how to draw the line between work, leisure, and play in, for example, activities such as child rearing. Explaining Occupational Segregation A second contribution of feminist scholarship has been to confront and interrogate one of the most pervasive and enduring features of women’s participation in the
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Women’s employment by economic activitya 1995–2003, selected countries
Argentina Australia Bangladesh Bolivia Botswana Canada France Japan Kenya Mexico Norway Pakistan Russian Federation Singapore Slovenia South Africa Sri Lanka Thailand UK Yemen
Agricultureb 1995–2002 (%)
Industryc 1995–2002 (%)
Servicesd 1995–2002 (%)
Contributing family memberse 1995–2003 (%)
3 77 3 17 2 1 5 16 6 2 73 8
1 6 53 6 22 4 2 5 20 24 6 44 15
87 87 12 82 67 87 86 73 75 72 88 18 69 81 61 75 27 35 88 9
69 64 30 55 51 64 64 57 57 48 58 36 49 69 43 50 37 30 62 43
41 42 19 37 55 35
10 12 38 50 2 43
30 30 11 39 26 33 34 37 23 28 33 20 36 31 46 33 23 20 36 14
59 58 81 63 45 65
10 9 49 48 1 88
12 10 9 14 14 11 13 21 10 22 9 9 22 18 29 14 22 17 11 3
49 63 33 42 76 62
51 38 67 58 24 38
56 66 68 26
44 34 32 74
Defined as all employed and unemployed persons (including those seeking work for the first time), employers operating unincorporated enterprises, people working on their own account, employees, unpaid contributing family workers, members of producers cooperatives, members of the armed forces, those producing primary products (e.g., foodstuffs for their own consumption), and certain other nonmonetary activities. In principle, any such work for as little as 1 h a week is taken to define a person as economically active. Note that elements of the standard concept of economically active population may differ substantially from country to country, such as the choice of time-reference period and the determination of minimum hours of work and unpaid family work, including production for own consumption. These differences may result in the undercounting of women who are economically active. Also, in most countries, the statistics of the economically active population relate only to employed and unemployed persons above a specified age, while in some there is no such age provision in the definition of economic activity. Source: United Nations Women’s Watch 2000, Table 5a Economic Activity, http://unstats.un.org/unsd/demographic/products/indwm/tab5c.htm b Agriculture refers to activities in agriculture, hunting, forestry, and fishing. c Industry refers to mining and quarrying, manufacturing, construction, and public utilities (gas, water, and electricity). d Services refer to wholesale and retail trade; restaurants and hotels; transport, storage, and communications; finance, insurance, real estate, and business services; and community, social, and personal services. e Contributing family member is defined as a ‘person who works without pay in an economic enterprise operated by a related person living in the same household’ p. 354 UNDP 2005, Technical notes. Source: Compiled from UN Human Development Report (2005) International cooperation at a crossroads: Aid, trade and security in an unequal world, Table 28, United Nations, New York (http://hdr.undp.org/reports/global/2005/pdf/HDR05_HDI.pdf).
waged-labor force, namely their segregation both vertically (in the lowest levels of seniority) and horizontally (in particular, industries, typically clerical and other personal service work and in some forms of manufacturing like textiles, clothing, and footwear). Men and women typically perform different jobs, in different industries, with womendominated occupations often classified as ‘unskilled’ or ‘semiskilled’, while men predominate in occupations labelled ‘skilled’. Women are also disproportionately represented in home work, part-time work and other forms of temporary, flexible, and casualized work. For human capital theorists like Gary Becker, this state of affairs is predictable given that men are, in general, better educated and command higher rates of return in the labor force than women. Taking a household as the unit of analysis, human capital theorists would argue that it is rational for men to
undertake waged work and for women to perform domestic labor and if they do undertake waged work, to work part time and relatively close to home. While accounts such as these describe some common patterns, they take as given, rather than explain, prevailing gender divisions of labor. Many feminists have rejected explanations based on individual choices made in the context of family responsibilities. Many early analyses turned to Marxian theory for inspiration and sought to understand how women’s labor helped to reproduce capitalist social relations. Socialist feminists sought to reconstruct Marxist theory in order to introduce analyses of male domination as a key axis of power relations, alongside class. Early Marxist and socialist feminist analyses of women’s occupational segregation noted the similarities in the kinds of work being performed by women in the home and
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workplace and argued that occupational segregation benefited employers in that, women’s unpaid domestic labor minimized employers’ costs of reproducing labor power and, in turn, gave employers a strong incentive to restrict women to low-paid jobs (to maintain their dependence on other wage earners for whom they perform domestic labor). As such, women were conceived as a ‘reserve army’ of labor, a disposable, underemployed group whose numbers wax and wane with the requirements of employers. Later work of labor market segmentation theorists examined the correspondence between the sexual division of labor and stable, well-paid (‘primary’ sector) jobs and those more precarious, low-paid jobs with high turnover (‘secondary’ sector jobs). Marxian-inspired variants of segmentation theory argued that employers had a vested class interest in dividing and ruling workers, just as the working class had an interest in unity and, by implication, resisting segmentation. Yet, the difficulty faced by Marxian and other accounts of segregation is its sheer persistence and its resilience to changing labor-market demographics, competition, new forms of work, and constantly shifting occupational and industrial structures. Although employers have an interest in ‘divide and rule’, they also have strong material incentives to substitute cheap(er) female labor for its more expensive (male) equivalent. Heidi Hartmann made an important contribution to these debates by arguing that men’s patriarchal interests in maintaining the subordination of women gave them a material incentive for supporting segmentation in the workplace. In essence, Hartmann argued that capitalism and patriarchy operated as ‘dual systems’ which articulate in different ways at different times. In addition to explaining a rationale for persistent occupational segregation, feminist scholars have sought to identify the mechanisms that perpetuate occupational segregation. This body of work has tended to look at different occupations, workplaces, and organizations to understand how work is labeled ‘male’ or ‘female’ in different contexts. Feminists’ insistence on establishing a distinction between sex as a biological category and gender as a social category has been crucial in dismantling biological determinism as an explanation for occupational segregation. Generalizations about women’s strength, height, or dexterity and their suitability for some, but not other occupations, have foundered on their conspicuous lack of historical, geographical, and occupational consistency. Instead, feminists have argued that jobs are created as ‘appropriate’ for men or women, that jobs are socially constructed and maintained through practices that embody the socially accepted (and very variable) attributes of femininity and masculinity. There have been many excellent studies in this area. One particularly important contribution has been the argument that ‘skill’, a key component of job
classification, is not an objective characteristic of work, but one that is socially constructed to value highly certain kinds of work and to undervalue other kinds of work. Thus, the capacity of employers and institutions like labor unions to define job and skill categories and to shape recruitment and retention policies plays a crucial role in reproducing the segregation of men and women in the workplace. Cynthia Cockburn’s Brothers: Male dominance and technological change (1983), presents a fascinating insight into how skilled male compositors in the British printing industry fought to maintain their skilled status in the face of technological changes that replaced their hot metal compositing with computerized typesetting. The men were retrained with new keyboard skills (often by young women) and represented themselves as skilled, experienced printers in contrast with their new female colleagues who were merely ‘typists’. Another significant suite of studies looking at the maintenance of segregation focused not on particular occupations and the social and discursive construction of particular skills or workers, but rather the manner in which firms and corporations organize and reorganize work. A classic of this genre was Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s Men and women of the corporation (1977), which argued that organizational structures and the management of bureaucracies, and not the characteristics of workers per se, perpetuates gender differences in the workplace. Kanter argued that in large bureaucracies, the need for clear communications encourages managers to opt for ‘homosociability’, to stick with familiar and common experiences. Thus, male managers in male-dominated parts of organizations are likely to appoint other men to their teams at the expense of those in the numerical minority (the so-called ‘tokens’). Kanter suggested that increasing the proportion of ‘tokens’ in any group was the key to changing the social dynamics of workplace groups, whatever their age, gender, ethnic, or racial composition. Kanter’s arguments generated significant debate and critique because of her focus on organizational hierarchy rather than gender, yet her work has been important in illustrating how organization and hierarchy can produce different workplace behaviors and attitudes. Some of the critiques of Kanter’s work pointed to the fact that women entering traditionally male occupations faced greater hostility than men working in femaledominated sectors and thus that gender does matter, beyond the organization of work, and requires systematic analysis. Moreover, feminists like Joan Acker have argued that organizations are saturated with gendered meanings, practices, and ideologies that shape the definition of jobs, job evaluation, promotion criteria, and other managerial practices. Labor market and other institutions, in turn, reflect and reproduce masculinist values which are institutionalized, normalized, and taken for granted. As Robin Leidner has argued in her examination of
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interactive service work in her book Fast food, fast talk (1993), one of the striking accomplishments of the social construction of gender is the illusion that gender variations in behavior, attitudes, appearance, and competence are ‘natural’ and not created. Leidner’s work was also part of a shift to taking seriously the embodied nature of work, particularly in the context of the growth of service work in which the characteristics and performance of workers – their appearance, demeanor, and gender identity – is fundamental to the product being sold, be it a hair cut, some fast food, or a piece of legal advice. Gender and sexuality are thus ‘performed’ in the workplace as culturally embedded notions of masculinity and femininity shape both workers and their occupations. In this vein, Rosemary Pringle’s book Secretaries talk: sexuality and power at work (1988) made two important contributions to the literature. First, while many feminist analyses of women’s work have examined the gendering of occupations by studying male-dominated manufacturing jobs, Pringle examined a stereotypically feminized occupation. Second, she was innovative in using post-structural theories of subject and discourse to weave together discursive and structural understandings of women’s work. Pringle started out by noting the difficulty in defining what a secretary is, given the vast and often ambiguous range of tasks she undertakes in different contexts. She argued that attempts to define ‘secretary’ are repeatedly driven back to stereotypical notions of ‘who she is’. She explored how three discourses – ‘the office wife’, ‘the sexy secretary,’ and ‘the career woman’ – played out in various media and everyday office life, shape and reproduce gender inequalities in the workplace, leaving male-embodied sexuality in the workplace largely invisible. One of the key analytical shifts and contributions here was the recognition that institutional, cultural, and structural factors, and not simply the attributes and qualifications of individual workers, shape the gendering of employment. Feminist researchers have demonstrated that men and women do not enter the labor force with fixed and stable gender characteristics, rather gender identities and traits are assigned to workers on the basis of the jobs they do. Challenging Earnings Inequalities A third key contribution of feminist scholarship has been to translate academic scholarship into political action designed to improve women’s position in the labor force. To take the above example, occupational segregation has attracted attention from feminist scholars not only because of its pervasiveness and its durability but, crucially, because of its relationship with another truism of women’s work, namely their lower earnings compared to men. UN data from 2002 showed that in 27 of 39 countries surveyed – in OECD and industrializing
countries – women’s wages were 20–50% less than men’s for work in manufacturing (see Table 2). Scholarship has thus been used to fuel campaigns to increase women’s representation in high-wage occupations, to challenge the so-called ‘glass ceilings’ that constrain women’s advancement in organizations, and to increase wages in women-dominated occupations and sectors. Feminists have argued that earnings inequalities between men and women cannot be explained solely by differences in skills, experience, and educational attainment, and scholars in economics, sociology, and economic history have examined the gender-wage gap, how it has varied historically and spatially and its sensitivity to educational attainment, hours, ethnicity, and occupational segregation. This scholarship has in turn fueled campaigns for ‘Equal Pay’ legislation and, in the USA for example, ‘Affirmative Action’ legislation (which seeks to improve women and minorities’ access to higher-paying jobs). Further links between feminist academic and political work can be seen in analyses of gendered organizations and institutions discussed above. While early attempts at equal pay relied on job evaluations to assess the ‘worth’ of different jobs, scholarship on gendered organizations argues that evaluation methods contain gendered biases that downgrade jobs with any ‘nurturing’ content. Thus, labor unions and other institutions have turned to look at how pay is assigned to particular jobs and, in so doing, to go some way to addressing gender bias in how different jobs are valued.
Table 2 Women’s wages in manufacturing as a percentage of men’s wages, selected countries, various years Country
Australia Bahrain Botswana Brazil Colombia Egypt France Hungary Iran Ireland Japan Kenya Lithuania Mexico Norway Singapore Sri Lanka Thailand UK Ukraine
2002 2002 2003 2002 2003 2002 2002 2002 2001 2003 2003 1997 2003 2001 2003 2003 2003 2001 2003 2003
89 44 52 61 65 68 78 74 80 69 60 123 77 70 88 61 81 72 79 69
Source: Compiled from United Nations Statistics Division http:// unstats.un.org/unsd/demographic/products/indwm/ww2005/ tab5g.htm.
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Feminist Geographies of Work This section focuses on feminist readings of work that embody a geographical imagination, spanning from the body to the globe. Geographers have actively engaged with feminist scholarship and sought to understand how the binary, and hierarchical, male/female has been written through the social production of space. The section includes reference to theoretically informed work which explores local and international labor markets and the gendered construction of globalization. Gendered Local Labor Markets Many economic and sociological analyses of women’s occupational segregation paid little attention to the spatialities of gendered behaviors and divisions of labor. Some of the early geographic research on gender divisions thus focused on how individuals’ daily time– space paths are shaped by domestic responsibilities and access to physical infrastructure, like transport, schools, and workplaces that shape and constrain mobility. Studies thus focused on, for example, commuting patterns and whether different groups of women undertake shorter or longer commutes than their partners. Literatures in geography, urban studies, and planning also analyzed the rise of suburbanization and the changing spatial separation of ‘home’ and (paid) ‘work’. In addition to exploring the spatialities of daily life that shape labor markets, geographers have also drawn attention to the uneven spatial distribution of different sectors and occupations. Given the pronounced occupational segregation discussed above, the geographies of men and women’s participation are shaped, differentially, by the growth and decline of particular types of work. Thus, Susan Hanson, Geraldine Pratt, Doreen Massey, and others have examined the gendered implications of economic change, especially manufacturing decline and the growth of service sectors and occupations, in industrial areas characterized by unionized, male-dominated jobs. Returning to the discussion about the social construction of skill, labor process theorists like Harry Braverman have argued that as work is deskilled by employers, women would be employed as the new ‘unskilled’ laborers, replacing men. Extending some of the Marxian accounts of women’s work discussed earlier, feminist geographers argued that employers seeking to make use of divisions between workers to reduce their costs may thus be attracted to regions where there is a plentiful supply of cheap ‘green’, female (and indeed child) labor and that these workers constitute a reserve army of labor. Similarly on an international scale, literatures on the new international division of labor in the 1980s drew attention to the feminization of poorly paid
manufacturing work as industrialized economies in the north started to relocate labor-intensive manufacturing work, like electronics assembly and garment production, to lower wage economies in Southeast Asia and other parts of the globe. Gendered Globalization Another important product of a geographical feminist imagination has been engagement with critical development studies to explore the experiences of women in diverse social and geographical contexts and, specifically, the experiences of women beyond the (for the most part) privileged confines of North America, Australia, and Western Europe. This engagement entails an empirical shift in that it brings into focus the often neglected places and subjects of economic geography. More than this, however, it entails an analytical shift away from westerncentered knowledges that privilege capitalism, class, and globalization and toward grounded analyses of the experiences of marginalized groups and spaces that opens up possibilities for different ways of theorizing globalization. The research on changing international divisions of labor described thus, for example, generated vigorous debate around two areas. First, there were concerns that stereotypes surrounding women’s employment – that women represented a nimble fingered, nonunionized and, relatively docile, labor force to be exploited by capitalists – again reared their head, with little recognition of women’s agency and their capacities and strategies for resistance. Lesley Salzinger, for example, has undertaken ethnographies of work that reveal the embodied, performative context-dependent production of gender identities in four macquiladoras in Chihuahua, Mexico. Salzinger demonstrates the variability and flexibility of gender identities and argues that women’s productivity and docility did not predate the arrival of transnational firms in Mexico, but was instead produced by firms that moved to the region. Second, however, women’s growing visibility in factory production in industrializing economies also fueled debate about the qualities of jobs being created and whether women’s labor force participation improved or worsened the quality of life for these women. Many analyses of women’s growing engagement with transnational nature of capitalist production – which is often in a geopolitical context of high levels of indebtedness and neoliberal structural adjustment policies imposed by western lending institutions-argue that women’s participation in low-paid manufacturing jobs strains household dynamics and further increases women’s workloads. These analyses drew attention to the necessity of recognizing and exploring the relationship between household and workplace, between production and reproduction, the formal and the informal and, in essence, questioning the
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supposed dominance of capitalist forms of production. An important accomplishment of feminists’ research is a broadening of analysis to acknowledge that ‘the economic’ takes place not only in the factory, but also in the home, the street, and elsewhere. More recent feminist literatures on globalization explore issues of marginalization, displacement, and struggle through analyses of how globalization is producing new transnational movements of women and children, particularly from industrializing countries in the south. Saskia Sassen has explored the links between the deteriorating economic position of different industrializing economies and the growth of what she terms ‘counter geographies’, women’s growing involvement in alternative economies of survival based on prostitution, illegal trafficking, migration, and remittances. International networks now organize the transnational movements of women who are pushed, lured, or coerced into formal and informal work as maids, nurses, mail-order brides, sex workers, and so forth. Joni Seager estimates that about 500 000 women and children are trafficked into Western Europe each year, many from China, other parts of Southeast Asia, and parts of East and Central Europe where unemployment and debt have pushed households into poverty and fueled the growth of trafficking as a profitable industry. While poorer regions typically become source regions for trafficking, rising disposable income in other regions fuels demand for these women and children. Research on trafficking, prostitution, and the global sex trade and on women’s mobilities as migrants and refugees thus reveals how these complex counter geographies are intrinsic to the economic, cultural, and political connections and flows which link work, economic restructuring, and livelihoods in the north and south.
Debates, Intersections, and Concluding Comments Different waves of feminist theory and practice have made incisive and lasting contributions to understanding the gendered construction of work. As such, discussion of feminist approaches to work is becoming a regular feature in textbooks and readers in economic geography, sociology, and development studies. Analyses have moved well beyond simply emphasizing women’s (hitherto neglected) contributions to different forms of work and have expanded the definition of ‘work’ and sought to explain the social, cultural, and economic trends that have fueled the feminization of labor forces in many parts of the globe. Feminists have moved away from viewing gender as a fixed attribute of individuals and have instead identified the mechanisms, practices, and performances that construct occupations as more or less appropriate for
(typically very variable) characteristics of masculinities and femininities. Feminist geographers have made important contributions to these debates by demonstrating the geographically constituted gendering of work in different sites (household, factory, office, and market) and at scales ranging from the body to international divisions of labor. More recent work on globlization demonstrates some of the complex links between women in different, yet connected, circuits of labor in the global north and south. In terms of its future contributions, feminist scholars continue to explore the tensions between women’s commonality of experiences of inequality and discrimination and the importance of recognizing their different locations – in terms of age, ethnicity, class, sexuality, and so forth – in divisions of labor. Different feminisms will continue to broaden analyses of work, exploring the heterogeneity of women and their practices, paid and unpaid, which constitute their economies in diverse geographical, political, and cultural contexts. Yet, this sensitivity to heterogeneity will proceed alongside the political commitment to translate knowledge into political action. As feminists have long argued, any analysis of gender is also an analysis of power. In rapidly shifting, increasingly international divisions of labor in which women still perform the bulk of childcare and domestic labor, in addition to their other waged and unwaged work, feminist scholars and activists have important roles to play in the struggle for social justice and greater equality. See also: Capitalism; Development I; Labor Market; Labor Unionism; Marxism/Marxist Geography I; Political Economy, Geographical; Postcolonialism/Postcolonial Geographies; Poststructuralism/Poststructuralist Geographies; Social Class; Spatial Division of Labor; Structural Adjustment.
Further Reading Beechey, V. (1987). Unequal work. London: Verso. Cockburn, C. (1988). Machinery of dominance: Women, men and technical know-how. Boston, MA: Northeastern University Press. Fuentes, A. and Ehrenreich, B. (1983). Women in the global factory. Boston, MA: South End Press. Game, A. and Pringle, R. (1983). Gender at work. London: George Allen and Unwin. Goldin, C. (1990). Understanding the gender gap: An economic history of American women. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Hanson, S. and Pratt, G. (1995). Gender, work and space. London: Routledge. McDowell, L. (1991). Life without Father and Ford: The new gender order of post-Fordism. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 16, 400--419. McDowell, L. (1997). Capital culture: Women at work in the city. Oxford: Blackwell.
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Pringle, R. (1988). Secretaries talk: Sexuality, power and work. London: Verso. Sassen, S. (2000). Women’s burden: Counter-geographies of globalization and the feminization of survival. Journal of International Affairs 53, 503--524. Walby, S. (1986). Patriarchy at work. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. Women and Geography Study Group (1997). Feminist geographies: Explorations in diversity and difference. Harlow: Longman.
Relevant Websites http://www.un.org Directory of UN Resources on Gender and Women’s Issues. http://www.unifem.org United Nations Development Fund for Women. http://unstats.un.org United Nations Statistics Division. http://w3.unece.org United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.