Where the Only Work is Women's Work: Changing Rural Opportunities
Sage, Rayna Amber
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This dissertation examines a number of issues related to how gender and social status shape out-migration, education, work, and family. In many rural communities, the bulk of local employment has shifted from high-wage resource extraction and manufacturing to low-wage service jobs, including recreation, health care, and education (Flora et al., 1992; Morris & Western, 1999). These changes have also presented a shift in the availability of jobs which can increase or maintain prestige and social status, especially for men. This change, in addition to women surpassing men in academic performance and college graduation rates in the early 1980s (Massey, 2007), as well as what has been coined the "mancession" (Rampell, 2009), has caused much public outcry about "the end of men" (Homans, 2012; Rosin, 2012) and concerns about women becoming the more powerful sex. These economic changes have raised concerns about changes in gender roles and relations (Bianchi et al., 2012; Hurd & Rohwedder, 2010; Kimmel, 2009). This study is an in-depth exploration of how rural gender expectations and norms about education, work, and family interact with social status to both constrain and enhance educational and employment opportunities within a rural context that, despite changing economic realities, still tends to favor traditional gender roles and hegemonic masculinity (Connell, 1995). I find that men and traditional masculinity continue to be privileged, even in work environments dominated by women. Although many women feel conflicted between family and work obligations, they too tend to do gender in a way that favors femininity as intimately linked to roles within the family. This study focuses on the distinct ways in which men and women manage gender and social status and how these strategies promotes a hegemonic form of rural masculinity in relation to education, work, and family that is uniquely tied to positions within the locally-defined social hierarchy.