Working-Class Job Loss, Gender, and the Negotiation of Household Labor

Working-Class Job Loss, Gender, and the Negotiation of Household Labor

  1. Marie Cornwall Brigham Young University

Abstract: Scholars see the gendered division of household labor as a stronghold of gender inequality. We explore changes in household labor and gender relations when conservative, working-class families experience employment disruptions. Using data from 49 qualitative interviews conducted with men and women following the forced unemployment of breadwinning husbands, we observe some change in gendered household labor but conclude that a significant degendering of housework is thwarted by institutional-, interactive-, and individual-level processes. At the institutional level, the lack of well-paying jobs and the persistent gendering of household tasks discourage change. At the individual level, challenges to gendered identities encourage a reinforcement of traditional gender ideologies. At the interactional level, women’s responsibility for care work and the meaning of paid work for unemployed husbands forestall the adjustment of tasks.

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