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Lecture 3

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SOC365 Week 3 The production of Gender through work Leidner: Serving hamburgers and selling insurance: gender, work and identity in interactive service jobs  Explores the interrelationship of work, gender and identity through an analysis of two highly routinized interactive service jobs: fast food service and insurance sales  Notions of proper gender behavior are flexible yet in gender-segregated service jobs it reinforces the conception of gender differences as natural  Gender-typed work has different meanings for women and men, however, because of differences in the cultural valuation of behavior considered appropriate to each gender  Acceptance by a worker of the identity implied by a job is therefore determined in part by the degree in a way that is satisfying  Contemporary theory and research on gender shares an emphasis on its active and continual construction through social interaction  E.g West and Zimmerman: argue that ‘participants in interaction organize their various and manifold activities to reflect or express gender and they are disposed to perceive the behavior of others in a similar light  Gender segregation of work reinforces the appearance of naturalness such as aspects of the social construction of gender that creates the impression that gender differences in personality, interest, character etc are natural  When jobholders are all of one gender, it appears that people of that gender must be especially well suited to the work, even if at other times and places, the other gender does the same work  Author draws on research on the routinization of jobs that involve direct interactions with customers or clients – interactive service work  Interactive service jobs have several distinctive features that make them revealing for investigation of the interrelation of work, gender and identity  1. These jobs differ from other types of work in that the distinctions among product, work process and worker are blurred or nonexistent, since the quality of the interaction may itself be part of the service offered  Workers identity usually an integral part of work  When interactive work is routinized, workers interactions are directly controlled by employers  How employers try to combine the proper interactive elements to achieve the desired effects can make visible the processes by which meaning, control and identity are ordinarily created through interaction in all kinds of settings  Once assumptions about proper gender behavior are built into workers’ routines, service recipients may have to accept them in order to fit smoothly into the service interaction  To do such jobs as intended, workers must ‘do gender’ in a particular way  (Emotional labor)- workers in all kinds of jobs need to consider how their work relates to their own identities, including their gender identities  Employers of interactive service workers may be unusually open in their attempts to channel workers’ attitudes and manipulate workers’ identities SOC365 Week 3 The production of Gender through work  Eg. McDonalds and Insurance sales: jobs were not strictly gender segregated, but held predominantly by either men or women, influencing how workers, employers and customers thought about the jobs  Examination of these two jobs and of how workers thought about them highlights a central paradox in the construction of gender: considerable flexibility of notions of proper gender enactment does not undermine the
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