Chapter 27.doc

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Women's and Gender Studies
Anissa Talahite- Moodley

Chapter 27: Privilege and Oppression: The Configuration of Race, Gender, and Class in Southern Ontario Auto Plants, 1939 to 1949 - since the beginnings of the industry, white men have dominated the auto-manufacturing workforce - anyone who was not white and male was in the minority, different, an intruder, treated as unequal - an understanding of the social meaning of racial and sexual difference is central to an analysis of the workplace, working people, and their struggles - when we recognize these differences, we uncover many parallel, but separate working-class realities - the distinctive experiences of black men in the industry can be attributed to the particular ways in which race, gender, and class, both as subjectivities and social processes, have converged at different moments and touched the lives of workers, as well as shaped the larger historical scenario Foundries Is Made for Black Men’ - auto makers took special measures to locate black male labourers largely because they wanted them to fill the most undesirable jobs in the plants – jobs that few white men wanted - compounding the labour force requirements of auto manufacturers and the dire economic straits of most black workers, employers upheld a particular vision of black masculinity that rested in part of the belief that a ‘coloured man’ was most suited to hard, dirty, and physically demanding jobs - before foundries became highly automated, many of the operations required enormous physical strength - and the dominant cultural image of a black man was that of a strong, robust, and muscular worker - moreover, foundry work was performed at extraordinarily high temperatures and thus demanded tremendous physical stamina - exhibiting a racialized paternalism, some managers publicly showcased ‘their’ hard-working black employees - in doing so, they presented black masculinity in a hyperbolic form – using a racial stereotype to magnify the image of the unskilled working man - in the eyes of some observers in the plants, these men were little more than powerful, labouring bodies - these men were highlighted for displaying manly brawn and to some extent they themselves expressed pride in their ability to perform work that involved remarkably high levels of physical exertion The Privileges of Manhood − assumed to be breadwinners, black men held departmental, and ultimately plant-wide seniority rights, received the same ways and piece rates, and in theory, could occupy the same job classifications as all other male auto workers − married or single, male auto workers received higher than average wages for working-class men because of the successful efforts of the UAW to secure a family wage − the family wage demand was promised on the assumption that workers (men only) must be paid a relatively high rate because of their responsibility, as head of a household, for the economic welfare of a wife and children − it was this ideology that male
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