Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Research in Anthropology and Sociology

The Relationship between Domestic Space and Gender Identity: Some Signs of Emergence of Alternative Domestic Femininity and Masculinity

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Research in Anthropology and Sociology

The Relationship between Domestic Space and Gender Identity: Some Signs of Emergence of Alternative Domestic Femininity and Masculinity

Article excerpt

Introduction

Through the present paper, we intend to bring closer spatial studies of home (from the sociology of space, human geography, and consumer culture studies) with gender studies of masculinity and femininity. Gender studies tend to give priority to gender differences that legitimize masculine hegemony, but the attention given to gender similarities, hiding subtler power relations, is still scarce.

This paper builds on four recent contributions to the literature. First, in the sociology of space literature, Gieryn (2000) wrote an article pleading for giving more attention to place, understood not only as a container of social actions, but also as an actor influencing and being influenced by social interactions. The article was so influential that inspired more than 1300 studies. Similarly, Gans (2002) pointed to the need for more sociological studies of space oriented towards spatial practices from the private sphere. Second, as an important contribution to gender studies, the article introducing the concept of "doing gender" (West & Zimmerman, 1987) became one of the most influential sociological papers in the last decades (Healy, 2014; Caren, 2012), receiving more than 8000 citations. It gave rise to a follow-up conceptualization of "undoing gender" (Deutsch, 2007) that was also noteworthy, receiving more than 500 citations. Third, in the sociology of home field the critical review of the literature performed by Mallett (2004) is one of the most cited articles in home studies, being referenced in more than 600 papers. The author highlights the importance of gender in analyzing the meaning of home, concluding "general debate about gender and the meaning of home remains problematic, if not simplistic" (ibidem, p. 77). More exactly, earlier studies have focused on the feminist interpretation of how gender differences are reinforced by domestic space, legitimizing masculine hegemony, but they ignored women's positive interpretations of home and the intersection between gender and other identities. Fourth, because of the growing body of qualitative research results, scholars recommend using particular methods of qualitative research synthesis, different from the conventional ones (meta-analysis, systematic review, literature review). Inside these methods, the interpretive synthesis technique is gaining more and more acceptance (Campbell et al., 2011; Barnett-Page, 2009; Weed, 2008, 2005; Jensen & Allen, 1996), especially in the fields of education, health, community development, and organizations (Major & Savin-Baden, 2011). We think it might contribute to integrating qualitative results from the fields of gender studies and spatial studies.

Overall, in gender studies multiple masculinities and femininities are not new. However, we think a closer look at how they interact with the domestic space, in various temporal and cultural contexts, may be advanced by moving the accent from traditional hegemonic gender relations based on differences, to signs of emergence of alternative domestic masculinities and femininities, transcending differences, united by the positive orientation towards the domestic space. Thus, the present paper interprets the domestic space through doing and undoing gender lenses, using as materials the results of 20 recent research papers, to show that gender studies might also benefit from looking at similarities instead of focusing only on differences. In this way, we suggest the concept of "doing or undoing gender", applied in the study of domestic space, might be understood as "doing and undoing gender", and that "gendered spaces" may be interpreted as a context where gender similarities arise, and power relations are subtler than thought before. In writing this paper, we knew that specific interpretations might not be new in some particular fields of study. Our aims were modest, focusing on showing how trying to cross the disciplines' borders might help understand the dynamics of gender identity, and might inspire particular research topics or new interpretations of already established conceptual frameworks. …

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