The purpose of this article is to explore the motivation of men entering female concentrated [sic] occupations. It deals with the bases on which men decide, or “end up” in such occupations an the problems they have while holding these jobs. This critique will summarize the paper, deal with the author’s methods and approach, summarize its findings and assess its strengths and weaknesses. 1. This paper deals with an interesting question: the issues facing men in female dominated occupations and motivations that put them there.
The issues are obvious: men in female dominated occupations worry substantially about their masculinity being questioned, get paid less than other men and are forced to engage in strategies that negotiate their position in such jobs. The basic structure of the paper is a bit convoluted. There is no normal progression from the thesis to methods to conclusion: there are “levels” of explanation, where the more general understanding of the whole is placed first, while more specific understandings of the whole come later.
The paper begins by dealing with the two approaches that the literature in this field has taken in dealing with men and female dominated occupations. First, that men going into such jobs are merely responding to their own preferences. Nursing is about the medical field, about helping, etc. And secondly, that men enter female controlled occupations due to the nature fo the job market (104). But this is never clearly explained.
If anything, this is the weakness of the paper: the class structure is only obliquely referenced, and the actual class issues involved are not dealt with at any length, which is odd, since that is the thesis of this paper. The second approach is that men enter these jobs as an escape, to get away from competition with other men, or to have a position where their gender will have them stand out in the crowd. The thesis here is the class structure in Great Britain is responsible for men’s entry into female controlled occupations.
There is only little detail given, but a careful reader can see that what the author is only hinting at is that lower class males see the female dominated jobs such as nursing, primary school teaching or library as an “easy” way of getting some kind of professional status (cf. 114ff). The thesis, then, is that class plays a large role in this phenomenon. 2. There are two general ideas surrounding the behavior of men in female dominated positions. The first is cliche, and that is that they are not female dominated positions at all.
They might be “female concentrated,” (a neologism), but are controlled by men, or by some vague “maleness” (105). This position exists largely to maintain the myth of a male-dominated society, where even occupations in the charge of women are somehow typed and gendered in such a way that maleness will dominate. Hence, this approach stresses the alleged male “gender privilege” within a “female concentrated” occupation. But that’s the last we hear of it. It does not arise again, and apparently, there is little evidence for this approach.
It seems to be based on more a priori assumptions about the world more than anything else. The second issue concerns the “maleness” of female positions. In other words, how can a male nurse “masculinize” his position? There are several strategies. First, he can enter a subfield that is more masculine, e. g. mental health nursing rather than pediatric nursing, this is called “channeling” according to the literature (106). Second, he can stress the male nature of the traditionally female occupations, e. g. speak of the career prospects in teaching 3rd grade, or the mental labor necessary in OR nursing.
Whether these “work” or not is not considered, but they are asserted as more or less common sense approaches to a male in a female position (105). Further, there can be some bonding with other males within the position: e. g. the bonding with male doctors and male nurses (107). Little actual evidence for these strategies are mentioned. While some argue the a priori position that maleness is inherently privilege-conferring, other argue that there are inherent weaknesses in the male’s position in a female controlled environment.
Primarily, this is the idea that one’s manhood or even heterosexuality can be questioned by friends and neighbors as a result. But these are presented as the only two options: the a priori commitments of the author and the established literature in the field do not even raise the question of gender discrimination in a female controlled environment (105). However, it is mentioned that even in female controlled areas, men do better financially, through no actual reasons for this are asserted.
The reader is supposed to assume some vague “maleness” controls everything, and that must be the reason why men do better even in female controlled jobs. Basic issues of male stability, female commitments in pregnancy and child-rearing, female instability, or other questions impinge on the question of male success. This is a serious weakness to the piece: it has a tendency to pander to establishment biases at the expense of serious criticism. 3. The methodology of this piece is rather simple. The author interviewed 27 men across 7 occupational groups in the UK from 1999 to 2002.
Specifically, the questions of the interviews steered the respondents to questions of masculinity, job performance and basic public perception of job prospects. The bulk of this paper is spent on reproducing the results of these interviews, actually quoting the men involved in the interview process. Among occupational groups, three were female dominated, 4 were basically neutral, such as accounting, ane used as a control group. While the author admits the sample is small, he does hold that the results are suggestive and, at the very least, suggest further avenues for more and more field work and research.
Though to what end is not mentioned. The men interviewed seemed to need some putting at ease (113) and the men involved thought it important that the interviewer “get what he wanted. ” In other words, that the respondents were concerned with providing “correct” answers more than anything else (113-114). This already makes the study problematic, and this much the author is willing to admit (114). The collation of the interview results are reviewed informally, and some basic “vibes” are given as results. 4. The findings are the following: First, one of the most important reason for approaching a female career path are the prospects involved.
Men see female jobs as providing quick promotion and a means to stand out (114). Job security is also seen as important and, for reasons unknown, are associated by these men with female dominated employment (118). Second, class structure is important, though this is only obliquely referenced in the reported responses. This is to say that lower class men see the ability to “middle class” themselves by approaching a female job. Though these jobs are of lesser pay then other jobs dominated by men, they are still beyond what the normal “blue collar” job would pay (116-7).
Third, a large problem among men in female dominated jobs is that their blue collar status is jeopardized by the “non-physical” nature of the female job such as nursing or teaching. This seems to clash with #2. While it is true that many of the men in female controlled jobs dealt with the question of “professional prospects,” it remains the case that the social context of the blue collar life and family does have drawbacks. The blue collar mentality is that of physical, masculine labor defining one’s “job.
” But these blue collar men did not want merely another “job,” but wanted a career with good prospects and promotion, which they received in the female dominated job (118). Fourth, the men interviewed spoke of the concept fo masculinity quite a bit. However, the men in female occupations spoke of it the most, which is telling, and a major part of this study, in other words, that the question of having one’s masculinity brought into debate seemed to affect these men to some extent (122ff). Fifth, the author’s “two processes” thesis: that men in female jobs are part of a dual process: first, that blue collar men (i.
e. men from a blue collar background) are disadvantaged in the job market, and seek some kind of semi-professional status by seeking to enter female employment. Such things are seen as a sort of professional position that has fewer entry barriers (122). Second, that there is an attempt to both raise one’s social status and “masculinize” the female-style position achieved in approaching female dominated employment. Hence, while class is important, gender is as well, and men seek to stress the masculine elements of female employment. When all is said and done, however, the former question is the most important.
The desire for a rewarding job among those with few prospects, given the above interviews, are the central concern of men in female jobs. 5. This paper is weak at many points. First, the ideological point of view is reflexively feminist. There is no discussion of male suffering under female domination. In fact, this latter concept is ruled out of court without argument. This is likely not an accident, and not an accident because the author’s a priori commitments prevent it. The fact that the author has hidden his/her identity by not using a first name is also significant.
Second, the interpretations of the responses seek to find too much. This author seeks to uncover every nuance of meaning in an informal discussion, seeking to fine every “gendered” concept in nearly every sentence uttered. It is almost like the author is seeking the justification of the a priori feminist commitments. Third, though the author admits this, the attitude of those interviewed seems based on sounding “proper” than in giving information. But the consequences of this should merely be borne in mind by the careful reader and weighed accordingly.
Fourth, the constant use of loaded phrases and terminology, “leaving” the reader with an “impression” designed beforehand. So on page 105, the author spends a few sentences on the issue of male success in female positions without giving even a hint as to why. But this is important since he is speaking of male success even when the structure itself is female controlled (not merely female-concentrated). Is one left with a feeling of inherent male superiority in these areas (i. e. they should not be female concentrated), or is one left with the idea that male superiority is so conditioned in our society that women will promote men over women
reflexively. Such a thesis is too fantastic to be left without argument. But it seems to be the “proper” impression the reader will receive. Ultimately, the paper says very little. It repeats more or less common sense truisms about males in female dominated positions, and confirms this with a handful of interviews. Oddly, the concept of gender barrier being broken down does not even enter into the question. In other words, could it be that gender roles are over-conceptualized, and that men in female positions are responding to this? Do most people really care if their male neighbor is a nurse?