Notes on Gender and Work-Related Death

Occupational sex segregation is really nothing new. As more and more women entered the workforce, they were often headed into different spaces from the men (sometimes entirely different physical locations, and sometimes only subtly differentiated spaces). This might mean different buildings, but even within buildings, occupations can be sex segregated. So, women and men are both working. But this simple statement disguises the fact that they’re not necessarily doing the same work–not precisely. In fact, it’s a smaller proportion of people than you might think who work alongside someone doing the same work, with the same occupational title, on the same shift. Approximately 1 in 10 workers in the U.S. labor force fit this description of a gender-integrated occupation. So, if you’re one of them, take a moment to count yourself lucky and consider just how truly odd you are.

Roughly one third of the 66,000,000 women in the workforce in the early 2000’s could be accounted for by only 10 (of the 503) occupations listed on the U.S. Census. That’s occupational segregation! The “occupational ghettos” that have been feminized are often “rewarded” with more care work, less pay, and lower levels of cultural status and prestige. These are the jobs we sometimes refer to as “pink-collar work.” Some of men’s occupational preserves are rewarded with higher status, more money, and a great deal of power. But this is not true of all of men’s jobs.

Blue-collar work has been in sharp decline in the U.S. for some time. We may “put things together,” but by and large, we don’t build things from the ground up like we used to in the U.S. That said, blue-collar work has not completely disappeared. And blue-collar work is sometimes “rewarded” by ranking among the most life-threatening occupations.

NPR story picNPR’s “Planet Money” blog just ran a story on the jobs with the highest rates of work-related deaths–the “deadliest jobs”. Collecting data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2011, they produced the graph here (right) to illustrate those jobs with some of the highest (and lowest) rates of on-the-job deaths compared with the national average of 3.5 deaths per 100,000 full-time (or equivalent) employed persons.

It’s an interesting image. But in the short post, I was struck that gender was not mentioned once. Looking down the list of jobs with the highest work-related deaths listed, gender seemed to jump out of the figure at me (fishermen, loggers, pilots, farmers and ranchers, police officers, construction workers). These are all jobs that most Americans probably picture a man “doing.”

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A Brief History of the Gender of Home Gardens and Gardening

I like gardening, but I don’t have much of a green thumb.  The way I think of it, sometimes the things I plant “take,” and sometimes they don’t.  Gardens and gardening was never something that I gave much thought to as a topic of sociological analysis until a saw a presentation at the Eastern Sociological Society meetings in 2006 that changed my mind.*  I went to a session because Marjorie DeVault was presiding (and I LOVE her work).  It was an interesting panel full of people at all different stages of their careers.  One woman’s presentation dealt with front yard gardens and she convinced me the topic was worthwhile.

Gardens and gardening (particularly domestic gardens and gardening)—as you might imagine—are not topics of study that receive a great deal of attention.  When gardens are mentioned in sociology, it’s often a variable included somewhere in a list of “chores” people do around the house.  Quantitative studies of the division of household labor sometimes have oddly exhaustive lists of chores like this.  But gardens are also a space.  They are places we go to relax (sometimes even while we’re “working”).  Like our homes, they are part of a performance of domestic identity that we labor to keep up.  Gardens are also gendered spaces and gardening, a gendered activity.  Bhatti and Church put it this way,

meanings of gardens are highly gendered, and… the garden is a place within which gender relations are often played out or re-negotiated…  [I]t is necessary, as with studies of the home as a domestic sphere and consumption in the home, to view domestic gardens not simply as sites where man and women adopt different roles, but as places shaped by the continual restructuring of gender relations. (here)

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