Monday, October 26, 2009

Week 10: Men and Work

To answer this blog prompt I will provide you with the doctrine I am working from. Patriarchy thrives upon capitalism. Capitalism is what has placed us into whatever “class category” we fall into. Class is a major issue within the feminist movement that is rarely spoken on. All oppressions are intersecting.

That being said, I would like to address that this is the week to speak on “Men and Work” so I would prefer it if within your posts you speak specifically to class because it is not spoken to nearly enough within the feminist movement. Do the readings and focus specifically on the privileges that the authors are both accepting and denying within class boundaries. Think about class labels (upper/middle/lower/untouchable/all others) and how you do identify and do not identify within them. Also, think about the intersections within race, sexuality, gender identity, ethnicity, ability, political identification, religion and other varying ways we identify ourselves as they relate specifically to class issues. And, dissect the ways that masculinities are played out among varying class lines and discuss the ways that all genders perform these masculinities.

Also, please keep in mind that, we all are assuming some sort of class privilege by being able to sit in a college classroom, discuss these things, and have a computer/internet access in order to participate in this realm of the course as well.


Sara N said...

To speak to Kathryn's blog prompt I'd like to point to Schilt's article "Just One of the Guys?: How Transmen Make Gender visible at Work." In the "Method" section she lays out the sample group, how she found these individuals and some limitations of this case study. It is extremely important that she notes on page 225 that "these findings may not be representative of the experiences of transmen" in other cities, states etc. In fact, "California passed a statewide gender identity protection for employees in 2003, meaning that the men in my study live in an environment in which tey cannot legally be fired for being transgender...This legal protection means that California transmen might have very different workplace experiences than men in states without gender identity protection" (Schilt, 225). This is where I would like to connect the notion of how gender and class intersect.

It is of the utmost importance to note that I cannot speak for the trans community. Although, some reliable resources have indicated that it is difficult for openly trans persons or transitioning persons to find work (race and sexuality etc. only complicate this further). What does this mean for trans folk living in places where this is not protected and who have few to no options of supporting themselves? Too often this is one way in which society produces and regulates the criminal body. These individuals might turn to prostitution, to take just one example, and then get arrested for engaging in illegal activity. Of course, this is not the case across the board, but I argue that it is much more common than we would like to think. Additionally, there is the added complexity of treatment in jail or prison not to mention what these individuals do when they get out. There are financial consequences that add up from being in jail or prison for which there was no income during this time. This easily sets the stage for a cycle that is hard to break furthering the "lower class status" of these individuals.

This is just one way in which gender is related to class issues that is also not spoken about nearly enough.

Ariel Dansky said...

Before I read the prompt, I had my entire blog entry written out in my head. I had read the readings and knew which of them I was going to cite in my entry. However, after I read this prompt, I realized that I, like the author of the text I was to discuss, had overlooked class in examining gender in the workplace.

Allow me to begin with what I was originally going to write before viewing the prompt. In the first of our assigned readings in Men's Lives, the author discussed the Glass Escalator phenomenon in which men in traditionally women's professions find themselves on a "track" which propels them to become promoted to higher paid, administrative positions. Further, the author found that solidarity between men on the job was a significant factor in mens' promotions. He concluded that while females in traditionally male career spaces strive to minimize their femininity by dressing and acting "masculine" and minimizing their association with other women, males are encouraged to emphasize their gender through commradery with other males, whether the workspace be predominantly male or predominantly female. According to the author, "their [male] gender is construed as a positive difference. Therefore, they have an incentive to bond together and emphasize their distinctiveness from the female majority (182)."

On Tuesday of this week, I attended a Women in Leadership Forum at UCF in which a panel of 4 women (Lietenant General, Philosophy Professor, Enginner, and Lawyer) discussed how they overcame discrimination to become successful in their respective fields. I really wish more members of our class could have seen this presentation. It personally rang true to me, as I was beginning to negotiate my future career plans with my desire to have a family. I clearly identified with these women.

However, I now wonder if the reason I could so easily identify with these women was because I was in the same race and class as they were. All of the women were, like me, white women born into reasonably well off families (at least, this was what I gathered from the presentation). What if I were a woman of color from a lower income family? Would I have felt the same level of solidarity with those women? Would those women be able to speak to us about their accomplishments if they had not been born into a priviledged racial and economic background?

The answer most likely would be no. These women were able to succeed during a time when it was unacceptable for women to work in "men's" fields because their families had the means to give them a fantastic education.

To return to the previously mentioned Men's Lives article, the article did not at all touch on class issues. Come to think of it, neither did the forum. As inspiring as those womens' stories were, they were coming from a second wave perspective. While we should honor the women and men who have worked hard to break the barriers of what is considered acceptable for their gender, we must also look forward at how we shall come to a higher understanding of how intersections of race and class effect our position in the workplace; in turn, we must work together to find solutions on how to break all barriers of discrimiation in the workplace.

Lisa said...

The section in Men's Lives that dealt with men and work would have been better titled "educated men and work". The Glass Escalator article touched on a lot of important themes regarding the entrance of men into female dominated work spaces, however all of these jobs (nursing, librarianship, elementary school teaching, and social work) all require the opportunities for higher education.
It's just as, if not more important to analyze the job opportunities for working class folks because this is the realm where traditional masculinity is most visible.

The Glass Escalator article pointed out some reasons why a majority of men choose not to pursue nontraditional occupations, but fell short of explaining the impact and importance that this has on greater society. For example the article states "Unlike women who enter traditionally male professions, men's movement into these jobs is perceived by the "outside world" as a step down in status.", but never directly says that the reason for this is because "women's work" holds less value in this society and which is a result of the overall devaluation of women.
Also, These traditionally gendered careers are much more ambiguous the lower that you move down the class ladder. Aside from construction work, many of the jobs held by the lower class and working class are much more gender neutral- I'm mostly thinking of service oriented jobs.

Ross said...

Thank you, Kathryn, for this excellent prompt! I was going to devote most of my discussion leading time to class issues even before you told me what the prompt would be about. The intersection of class and gender is vitally important, and it is disappointing that this week’s readings so little reflect this. Although they address class in a roundabout way, it is never the main course, so to speak.

Class is difficult to talk about because it is at the same time a social and an economic phenomenon. As we saw in the Henson and Rogers article, individuals who find themselves in the low economic class still consider themselves to be higher class socially (especially when class intersects with race and gender): “While someone has to clean the bathrooms (often work relegated to poor women of color), Kirk Stevens believed he was not the type of person (e.g. white, educated, and male) who should be asked to do so.” Kirk considered himself somehow more entitled than others making the same amount of money. Race and gender play a role here, certainly, but they do not paint the whole picture. Consider the divisions between “old money” and the nouveau riche as another example. Class cannot be described as a solely economic label, but rather a tendency for elites who have attained power through economic strength to recognize and protect their own.

Which came first? Did class originate when the powerful and exclusive appropriated wealth, or when the wealthy translated their wealth into power through exclusion? Yet another chicken-and-egg question and one that should be considered more of a thought experiment than an attempt to gain historical insight. I’d like to zero in on how the explanation of class privilege intersects with gender.

Women make only 78 cents for every dollar that men make. Furthermore, as we’ve seen in the Williams article and in countless other places, men tend to rise into dominant positions even when they share an industry with women. Following the economic logic behind class, shouldn’t class lines follow gender? To a great extent this is true: the feminization of poverty and the economic barriers that women face are two important topics in feminism. Still, people don’t tend think of the male/female difference as a class division. I believe this is because the repression of women’s agency in our society creates a “piggyback” effect when determining class. Economic class is determined more by a household’s income than by an individual’s. A woman working on her own might be more likely to fall into poverty, but a woman who gains the tenuous economic security of a marriage adopts the class of her husband (this holds true more for traditional marriage arrangements than alternative unions, I suspect). The same process works with brother-sister and parent-child relationships. Thus a woman with low or no income lives a higher-class lifestyle by becoming an extension of her male family members. I believe that this is one of the things that obscure the class aspect of the gender divide. Of course, the explanation of women’s lower wages may itself involve class. More chicken-and-eg

Kelly T said...

I’d first like to start by saying that I’ve always had a problem with this caste system of ours. Who in their right mind decided that it was alright to say that they are better just because they are better off financially then someone else? Probably an upper class, white man, right? Or at least someone who in fact was better off. I know the whole class system has been around for ages, but that’s just the problem, it’s been around for AGES!

When speaking about class and gender, the more dominant of the two typically go hand-in-hand in our society. We always see “upper class”, white men running large corporations and hardly see women heading large organizations that have the same power. This can easily bring us back a few weeks in class discussion when we spoke about what it means to be “masculine” and the young men in the film Tough Guise all indicated that there needed to be some sort of authority in order to be masculine. So, what better way for men to gain this authority then to run the companies that put them at the top of the social food chain, so to speak, and don’t allow any room for anyone who deviates from the white, male category. So now, not only is it a matter of class, it brings it back to the matter of oppression. Because everyone who is oppressed is different from the societal norm of white, upper class male and most of the time doesn’t stand a chance at achieving the level of success in the workplace as these people.

When you get down to “lower classes” the jobs seem to be a bit more woven with gender. Because these are typically jobs that most people don’t want to do and will let anyone do them. For instance, most jobs of service can be held by any gender and it wouldn’t seem like a deviation from society because it’s a lower class person working that ambiguous lower class job that just needs to get done. However when you think about the people who are assuming these “lower class” jobs they are still people who are oppressed other than financially. They are oppressed by race, religion, sexual identity, ability, etc. But then again, just because the rest of society is more accepting of various people taking on these lower class roles doesn’t mean that everyone who is lumped into the lower class will agree that this is the type of work they should be doing. For instance, if someone were to be doing just fine being in college and then for whatever reason lost most of their money, they might not be able to continue their education. These means they would have never finished earning their degree and are now at the same place that a lot of the rest of the country is in. Then the only work they can find is a custodial job, do they take it? Or would they feel that they were too good for this kind of work because they had received further education and were once “better off” then those who typically take these custodial jobs.

It’s really all a matter of privilege. You could be smarter than the richest, upper class white man but you’re in the lowest economic class and of a different race. You’ll most likely never have the privilege to show what you have to offer just because of where you come from and the class that you were born into. This all kind of reminds me of the movie Good Will Hunting; it’s a rarity that someone is given the chance to show what they have to offer the world just because of how the classes are divided within our society. And in by doing so we could be missing out on the person who will cure cancer!

Brian H. said...

"The members of the tiny capitalist class at the top of the hierarchy have an influence on economy and society far beyond their numbers. They make investment decisions that open or close employment opportunities for millions of others. They contribute money to political parties, and they often own media enterprises that allow them influence over the thinking of other classes... The capitalist class strives to perpetuate itself: Assets, lifestyles, values and social networks... are all passed from one generation to the next." -Dennis Gilbert, The American Class Structure, 1998

As Kathryn mentioned in the blog prompt, capitalism places a great deal of importance on class category and monetary standing, and it is important to remember that the vast majority of Americans are stuck in working class or lower class income families. As a student who has only worked a handful of jobs (busing tables, bagging, and packing/distribution) I don't know what it feels like to have to support myself (luckily), but my experiences working with others has taught me a lot.
I apologize for the anecdote, but it is what I have to go off of. While I was busing tables at Texas Road House, there was a depressing difference between the back of the house: dish washers, cooks, and prep, and the front of the house: waiters, hostesses, and food runners. The stark differences between them was a depressing reminder of how privilege, class, and race impacts everyone's lives. After talking to almost everyone, the vast majority of the cooks had either been to prison for miscellaneous offenses of had a "lower" traditional education than the front of the house. The dishwashers were entirely made up of Hispanic people who spoke limited English. There was blatant discrimination by the managers, because it seemed like an applicant was selected for their position solely on their race, ethnicity, education, or economic background, rather than their qualifications. Since I worked there for so long I noticed how the busers and servers were more likely to work for only a few months then move on to a different, better job, whereas the cooks and dishwashers were there for years and probably will be for more to come. It was also interesting, because the only woman who worked in the back was covered in tattoos and behaved as "one of the guys". The gender inequality was blatant and shaped the way that the restaurant functioned. I know that the microcosm of Texas Road House is not an anomaly, and that instances like this are replicated all across the country, and world. It is clear that there are still huge obstacles to overcome in this society in achieving economic, racial, gender etc. equality, and we still have a long way to go.

jorge mendoza said...

I agree with Ariel's opinion when she puts herself in the shoes of someone of a different class (presumably lower-income, different ethnicity) when describing how a woman could relate to the other established women at the Women's Leadership Conference. This realization, that one who has had the privilege of being able to be well-educated, is certainly important when assessing how people can relate to one another especially when looking at measures of socioeconomic status. But you do have to be careful to assume, just because the women are well-established and educated, that it was due to their family having the resources to provide them with the respective education which has served them. Now, I myself was not able to view this event and hear from or determine for myself the paths the women at the conference had, but we will agree that despite the resources providing for the education and career progression of the women, there are still various social obstacles they must have confronted.

With saying that, I see there is a consensus that not enough, even barely, emphasis was had on the role of class. I have to admit, I was bored after awhile reading about clerical/temporary work and the men who work in these fields. I mean sure it's important to understand the issues here, but a typology arises from the understanding of the majority of the men described in the first couple of passages, presumably college educated white men, talking about how they were made to feel inferior in this way or that way for working in 'feminized' jobs. What comes to my mind is other work/occupational areas where class plays a much larger role with stark perceptions of socioeconomic status: the Service Industry and Janitorial/Custodial services. Men in such service industry jobs such as waiting tables are often perceived to be feminine because of the very nature of the work and how they can be instructed to treat guests/customers. As a waiter, you clean up after others, you make sure they have whatever they need or want, and generally, you never forget that "The customer is always right". There is much deference and 'care-giving' involved, and yes I am speaking of my own experiences as a server for 2 years. Yet, there are men who make this occupation their living, and can do very well from it. The men are not always white, not always college-educated, and not always heterosexual (Yet this varies with the kind of dining establishment itself).
These jobs are not considered 'white collar' by most, but they still are not adequately placed in the same line of work as dishwashers, clotheswashers, and custodians, who are often ethnic minorities and can be equally male and female, though the common conception of 'cleaning' jobs are considered to be for women. It would be interesting to see what studies of these kinds of jobs could yield in our understanding of the role of class and gender in work occupations.

Merritt Johnson said...

Like Leandra stated, I am lucky to be privlendged enough to be in this classroom right now, being taught by great professors and bettering myself, in hopes one day I will have a job and be successful. There are all types of jobs out there and often the job criteria is different for sexes/races/education levels. I think it is sad that many men and women are unable to further themselves by going to college, simply because they cannot afford it. Luckily, there is bright futures in Florida and various scholarships available if you work hard enough. Growing up in the Keys, different types of people; Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, men, women, and people with disabilities work the same jobs. My mom always said she loved living there because people are so true to themselves, you could be sitting next to a millionaire or a homeless person having the same conversation and not know who is who. It seems as if the straight, middle class, white, Christian man has the upper advantage in the world today, yet slowly that is changing and for the better. Women are moving up as well as different races and religions. Often, I find that Spanish people find themselves as janitors, and working at stores in the malls and homosexual men at hot clothing stores such as Express. I don’t know if they feel comfortable here, or this is the only place that will hire them. If that is the case things need to change. I have noticed the mixture of races and gender identity diversity on campus. UCF has a large population of homosexuals, Asians, Blacks, Whites, Jewish, Indian. It is great to see all these different types of students working toward something and working with people of difference.

mixed enigma said...

I think majority of the class is Transphobic; consistently, we have been denying any opportunity to discuss trans issues. One out of the four articles we read this week was about transfolks and none of the discussion leaders or students brought forth these topics in class. It’s quite evident that trans-individuals aid the demonstration of binary gender inequality; “it is a central site for the creation and reproduction of gender differences and gender inequality” (Schilt, 235). They have that lived experience of an “outsider-within” perspective that most have never had. So, it’s shameful on our behalf that we deny the transgendered perspectives, which really can help the feminist movement. If transpeople were made more apparent in popular culture, then maybe attention would be brought upon the inequality of women in society. In the article, “Just one of the guys?”, what some of the transmen have discussed is that there is an eminent difference in privilege from being woman to man. The privileges, or advantages, of these transmen were either “gaining competency and authority, gaining respect and recognition for hard work, gaining ’body privilege,’ and gaining economic opportunities and respect” (Schilt, 228) Thus, from this quote one may gather that gaining competency leads to what one defines as being assertive, or taking the lead. Unfortunately, women cannot benefit from being assertive, for such a characteristic detriments women as they “appear” to their co-workers or peers as bitchy etc. But the male counterpart benefits from this for he is seen as having more rational abilities and thus is a competent individual. “As a man, being assertive is consistent with gendered expectations for men, meaning his leadership skills have more worth in the workplace because of his transition“ (Schilt, 229). In the previous article, sexual harassment and how it intertwines with masculinity was discussed. Gender identities, such as masculinity, is portrayed as an act of ignorance on behalf of men. Also, the author notes that “ sexual harassment stem[s]…from a studied, often compulsory, lack of motivation to identity with women’s experiences” (Quinn, 216). With that said, some transmen noted how sexual harassment amongst co-workers was less likely to happen after transitioning. “Another form of reward that some transmen report receiving posttransition is a type of bodily respect in the form of being freed from unwanted sexual advances or inquiries about sexuality” (Schilt, 231). It’s ridiculous how some of the transmen believe that as a woman their accomplishments would not be recognized. This demonstration of stupidity on behalf of all society gives me the motivation to break such constructions. I, as a woman, plan on doing a whole lot of back lashing on what others have created for me, and I, as a woman, will succeed being the assertive woman. “While some transmen report that their ’feminine knowledge’…is discounted when they gain social identities as men, this new recognition of ’masculine knowledge’ seems to command more social authority…” (Schilt, 234). Does not anyone see how this research and these lived experiences as both genders can truly exemplify the oppression of women? And not only that but how racism still exists! One black transman said that he was written up for rolling his eyes too assertively!

mixed enigma said...

“Examining how race/ethnicity and appearance intersect with gender, the, illustrates that masculinity is not a fixed construct that automatically generated privilege, but that white, tall men often see greater returns from the patriarchal dividends than short men, young men, and men of color” (Schilt, 235). Once again, people who benefit from patriarchy do not resist the patriarchal standards because they need it in place to keep their power. With this being said, I’m starting to think that some people in our class may be constructing patriarchal standards, for our class is extremely heteronormative. Though most of us would like to disagree, sit back, think to your self before you speak, and count all the heteronormative comments that come out of your mouth. The majority, if not all, of the people in the class are womanists, feminists, or pro-feminist, thus we should avoid displaying a hierarchy of oppressions within the contemporary movement. So next time that there are transpeople, people of color, or any other minorities we often over look, presented let’s try to address them, shall we?