Making Gendered Work Visible


In my work, I aspire to be…

  • Thoughtful and active: It is important to deconstruct an issue by making all of its parts visible, empathizing with a range of perspectives on it, and constructing a broader network of qualitative, quantitative, relational, and contextual information to fully understand it. But just thinking through an issue is insufficient–the work must inspire some form of positive action.
  • Intersectional, with a sharpened lens towards marginality: With any work that delves into social change, it is imperative to consider how different identities work together to create complex lived experiences. While putting things through an intersectional frame, however, I believe it is important to capture and value marginalized experiences, particularly to problematize narratives that fall within the majority experience.
  • Grounded in the Personal, but Embedded within Systems: We are most powerful when we speak from the experiences and information that we know best- and generally those are our own personal experiences. Within work that touches on the social aspect of life, it is inhibiting to try to remove ourselves from our thoughts and observations. It is therefore important to personally understand and see ourselves within the change we hope to make. At the same time, we must acknowledge the historical construction of greater social structures, such as racism, colorism, sexism, cis-heteronormativity, classism, ableism, ageism, regional/nationalism, among others. It is only when we place ourselves within broader structures that we are able to diagnose the deeper symptoms of systems that we hope to change.
  • Aspires to radical change, while beginning with workable solutions: As we conceive of solutions, it is helpful to shed the confines of current trajectory as an inevitability so that we can consider other, radical outcomes. From there, we can work backwards to understand how to negotiate between our current reality and our ideal reality. Within this process, it is important to base our immediate work within the current context and systems, not only to achieve short-term gains to facilitate greater long term buy-in, but also so that we are not forgetting the current generation in hopes of only helping future generations.
  • Compassionate: I personally believe in solutions that emphasize healing. I think that it is important to learn from mistakes through critical reflection, and that that is best facilitated in spaces that are based in accountability, but also based in trust, caring, and belief.


Among the topics that I identified earlier in the semester as issues to progress through social change was uplifting emotional (and other forms of gendered) labor. Currently emotional, domestic, clerical, and educational labor generally fall primarily to those who are not cis-gender men in society along the lines of gender, and more generally to oppressed people as opposed to those in the majority. For this assignment, I hope to affect the way male-identifying people think about gendered work, particularly as a model that can be replicated in the Healthy Masculinity Discussion Group that I coordinate within my department, particularly through a retreat away from campus and through social presencing theater.

Education. To begin with, it seems important to educate members of the group (and more generally, male-identifying people) on the different types of work that are being inordinately borne by non-males in society, and how much of that work is invisible because it is often unheralded and uncompensated. Within this component, it is important to read about these topics from feminist scholars (such as Arlie Hochschild, among others) to better understand the way in which this work is built into structural expectations. Along with having conversations of what these different kinds of gendered work entail, I hope to highlight different examples of how this work manifests, and encourage participants in this conversation to begin personal conversations and empathetically listen to those in their lives who have to bear a greater share of gendered (or otherwise marginalized) work.

Experience. One way to begin to understand what this work looks and feels like is to put male-identifying participants in the situation where they are forced to do this work, without support, and expected to complete tasks to a high degree. They could do this by being given specific tasks and expectations regarding the planning and logistics of the retreat, managing the social and emotional experience of preparing for the retreat, and using that as an initiation point of conversation for those around them. They would be given a loose task, expectations of how well the task should be done (without giving away steps of how to complete it), and a prompt to engage more deeply through conversation.

Theorize. Finally, once on the retreat, the final step would be to engage participants to consider how they imagine an equitable world would look like. This conversation can and should extend outside the bounds of gender, but they can draw on them. However, to get participants to fully drop their pretenses and engage with the visionary and structure-based perspective that we are bringing to this topic, I hope to lead a session on social presencing theater. In this type of exercise, participants are instructed to consider a prompt, such as “what work do you imagine doing in a gender just world that you are currently unused to seeing. However, rather than just having a conversation of the answer, they are asked to perform their vision. I imagine this exercise to be done in the form of a dance party, as it is not always common for male-identifying people to see dancing spaces as particularly safe to introspectively explore their bodies or their ideas, as opposed to spaces in which they are encouraged to perform traditional gender roles for one another and/or seek a mate. While they are dancing to act out their own response to the prompt, participants will be encouraged to look at others in the group, and make eye contact with others in the group to make the experience more personal, intimate, and constructive. Finally, after the dance party, the group will be asked to reflect on the dynamics they perceived, the ideas they saw portrayed and how they physically reacted to what others were doing, and finally, what action- and system-based takeaways they are leaving this activity with.

One thought on “Making Gendered Work Visible

  1. A. I find the addition of compassion as a container for learning really powerful; compassion is often framed as something an individual extends to another individual as opposed to a mechanism for group learning.

    B. I would suggest thinking through how people with different abilities can participate in a dance party.

    C. As someone who identifies as male with 6 years of formal dance training (in another life), some deejaying and a lifetime of partying under my belt, I’d be happy to help think about approaches to making the dance party fantastic. There are some timing questions I have about the experience portion of the retreat (does it happen during or before, what do the people who do not identify as males do?) and I have about 10 years of convening planning experience to offer to think that through!

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