From 'mother earth' to 'father holding the baby' : a gendered analysis of organic agriculture in Gloucestershire, England
This thesis examines what it means to be a gendered subject in the context of organic agriculture. Specifically, it considers the extent to which the ideological standpoint of the organic agriculture movement facilitates the representation and construction of distinctive gender roles, relations and identities within organic fanning. Three particular features of organic agriculture have been identified that could potentially impact upon gender roles, relations and identities: firstly, the organic movement has non-agrarian roots and has therefore attracted individuals who are not part of the traditional gendered heritage of agriculture; secondly, the basis of the organic ideology suggests a fundamentally different approach to society-nature relations to that which dominates the agro-industrial model; and thirdly, the ideology of the organic agriculture movement makes explicit reference to the social relations inherent to agriculture and the role that organic fanning should take in working towards a production process that is 'socially just'. These three reasons suggest that the construction and representation of gender roles, relations and identities within organic farming may be distinct from agriculture more widely, in which highly 'traditional' hierarchical constructions of masculinity and femininity have been shown to persist. Informed by perspectives within feminist geography, two phases of empirical research were undertaken in order to address the research aim. The first phase involved a content analysis of three publications drawn from the UK organic agriculture movement (and one from conventional agriculture) and explored how gender roles, relations and identities have been represented throughout its history. In the second phase the themes that emerged from the textual analysis were explored in more detail through a series of in-depth, semistructured interviews with forty-one men and women working on organic farms in the county of Gloucestershire, UK, in order to critically assess the ongoing construction and maintenance of gender roles, relations and identities within contemporary organic fanning. The findings of the research show that organic agriculture is largely dominated by 'traditional' representations and constructions of gender roles, relations and identities. However, they also show that organic agriculture does provide a space for alternative configurations of gender roles, relations and identities. Nevertheless, these pose a challenge to feminist understandings of what constitutes 'progressive' gender roles, relations and identities since, paradoxically, they draw upon highly traditional notions which associate women and nature whilst at the same time enabling women and men to assume gender roles and relations that transcend conventional boundaries.