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1 - Genre en action

THE PERFORMANCE OF WOMEN’S GENDER IDENTITY IN THE

CONTEXT OF AGRICULTURAL PRACTICES :

AN INTERNATIONAL COMPARISON 1

WRIGHT, Wynne

Associate Professor of Sociology,

Department of Community, Agriculture,

Recreation and Resource Studies,

Michigan State University, USA

ANNES, Alexis

Enseignant Chercheur en Sociologie,

Département de Sciences Sociales,

Environnement et Biodiversité, INP-

EI Purpan, University de Toulouse,

France

REDLIN, Meredith,

Professor of Sociology, Department of

Sociology and Rural Studies, South

Dakota State University, USA

LARKINS JACQUES, Michelle

Doctoral Student, Department of

Community, Agriculture, Recreation

and Resource Studies, Michigan

State University, USA

Abstract

In the globalized era, both farming and farmers have changed, which

necessitates an equivalent change in the study of new farmers and new farming

practices. With this presentation, we survey recent studies on modern agriculture,

with particular attention to gender (i.e., new farmers) and gender performativity

(i.e., new practices). The main objective of our work is to ask: how are identities

constructed and performed in the context of current agricultural practices?

Specific to the role of women in French and American agriculture we ask: what

women hold agricultural ownership of land and/or partnership in collective farm

activity? Are there patterns by class, ethnicity? Is women's ownership indicative of

local status and family status? Are new women farmers emerging in the population?

Are they distinguished from existing women in agriculture either in farmer identity

formation, production activity and/or in ownership and access to resources?

1 Corresponding author, Alexis Annes, alexis.annes@purpan.fr

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Key words: Women farmer, Gender performativity, Rurality and Globalization,

International Comparative Research

Introduction

In this article 2 , we describe our research proposal focusing on women and

agriculture in France and in the United States. Recent agricultural censuses, both

in France and in the United States, stress the growing involvement of women in

agriculture in general and of women as primary farm operator or co-operator.

Interestingly, in both countries, similar trends occur. Women farmer tend to be

more involved in diversified and entrepreneurial activities. These activities require

new skills and competences. Recently, Brandth and Haugen (2010) suggested that

these activities affect the performance of gender relationships, power and

identities. In our research project, we want to explore further this hypothesis by

exploring it in the French and the US context. We ask: how are gender identities

constructed and performed in the context of current agricultural practices,

especially entrepreneurial activities? Following Brandth and Haugen’s work (2010),

by exploring gender’s construction and performances, we aim at unveiling possible

trend in gender equality. We also want to assess how women farmers, because of

their shared experience as a social group, might develop specific strategies to

sustain their agricultural practices in the context of agricultural crisis. In this

research project, we want to question women’s role in agriculture using standpoint

theory in order to bring women’s knowledge, experience, and viewpoint to the

forefront.

First, we briefly present current trends regarding women’s involvement in

agriculture based on recent agricultural censuses. Second, we turn to the social

sciences literature which has emerged for the past few decades and which has

explored in many ways (identity, representations, and practices) the evolving role

of women in American and French rural space. Third, we present and the stress the

relevance of standpoint theory and gender performance theory to answer hour

2 This article is based on an international research project which started in June 2012. Researchers involved in

this project received a grant Soutien à la Mobilité Internationale granted by the Institut National Polytechnique

de Toulouse (INP Toulouse), a branch of the University of Toulouse system.

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esearch questions. Last, we briefly discuss the methodology we choose to

implement.

Women in Agriculture: Data from Ag Census

French women

In France, the number of women involved in agriculture has been increasing

for the past several decades. The latest agricultural census implemented in 2010

shows that more of than ¼ of farms’ primary operator or co-operator are women

compared to only 8% in 1970 (Agreste, 2012). This increase is partly due to the

evolution of statuses for women in agriculture. In the 1999’s Ag. Framework Law

the status of “conjoint collaborateurs” (co-operators) was created. It allowed

women who, until then, were working without status on the farm to gain an official

one; the majority of women who became recognized as primary operator or cooperator

had already been working on the farm for several years before.

Consequently, a little over 60% of women primary operators or co-operators are

over 50 years old and the average age of women operators or co-operators is 53.2

when the one of men is 49.2. However, these data do not mean that young women

are not getting more involved in agriculture than in the past. In 2010, in 2010, 945

women less than 40 years old became farmers, which represents 24% of new

farmers in that age group (Agreste, 2012).

When comparing the structures of farms run exclusively by women,

differences appear. Women farmers are more likely to sell their production locally

(farmers market, on-farm sale, etc.) and to be more diversified. They also tend to

become farmers later, after receiving a non-agriculture related degree and after

having worked as employees in other domains. Also, young female farmers are

more likely to have a higher education degree than their male counterpart. In

2010, 44.2% of women farmers less than 40 have a higher education degree, when

only 32.1% of men farmers have one (Agreste, 2012).

US women

In the United States, two trends in agriculture are impacting on the role of

women. First, the industrialization of agriculture has led to the transformation of

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farm structures, the increase of inputs and costs, as well as changes in agricultural

practices and work habits. Second, agriculture is experiencing changes in gender

roles. As in France, women are moving from the status of wife to the status of

farmer (primary operator) and from the status of helper to the status of owner.

The first trend (industrialization of agriculture) leads to a dichotomy between

family farms, giving more and new opportunities for smaller and more specialized

structures. The second trend increases opportunities for women in the agricultural

sector, especially in the case of father/daughter succession (something which was

rare until recently).

In 2002, women primary operators were on average 56.7 years old, slightly

above men. Further, for 68% of women farmers, only 25% of the annual income of

their household comes from their agricultural activity. In fact, most of them have

additional off-farm employment or income-generating ventures. The vast majority

of women farmers are White and own their land (84% are owner, 11% are co-owner,

and 5% rent their land). They also tend to operate smaller (15% operate farms less

than 4.5 ha, 25% less than 24.5 ha, 30% less than 89.5 ha, 13% less than 249.5 ha,

and 7% more than 250 ha) smaller and more specialized farms than men. Last,

women’s share of farms has been increasing (it went from less than 6% in 1978 to

almost 12% in 2002).

Overall, the general tendency shows an increasing involvement of women in

agriculture. The average age of women farmers is decreasing slowly and the nature

of women’s involvement is changing with a reorientation toward animal production

(particularly horses).

Women and Agriculture in Developed Countries: State of the Art

Women all over the world have played significant roles in agriculture (Sachs

and Alston, 2010) and these two countries are no exception. While women’s

agricultural labor is often associated with the developing world, it would be a

mistake to conclude that American and French women are not leaving their imprint

on agriculture production, processing, distributing, marketing, consumption as well

as the culture of agriculture. In concert with a broader intellectual movement to

explore history from the position of marginalized voices, social historians and

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sociologists began in the 1970s and 1980s to make women’s contributions to

farming visible overwhelmingly with the use of qualitative methods (Barthez, 1982;

Fink, 1992; Haney, 1983; Osterud,1991; Rosenfeld, 1992; Sachs, 1983).

In their analysis of scholarship (mainly Anglo-Saxon) during this period, Allen

and Sachs (2007) present three domains that define women’s relationship to food –

the material, socio-cultural and corporeal. Much of this early work focused on the

material realm often through the lens of the gendered division of farm and

household labor (Bokemeier and Garkovich, 1987; Haney, 1983; Sachs, 1983;

Whatmore, 1991) whereby women were seen to contribute to the farm through

direct production activities and in activity often subordinated as secondary or

supportive of the primary, male farmer. Other literature focused on the sociocultural

realm through issues of farm and rural women’s identity construction

(Hassanein, 1999; Naples, 1994). For instance, women frequently downplayed their

contributions and eschewed the label of farmer, opting instead to see themselves

as “helpers” to the primary male operator. As women increasingly left the farm in

the 1970s and found employment in local villages and towns, the sociological

scholarship likewise turned toward the question of women’s economic contribution

on subsidizing farm activity (Bokemeier and Garkovich, 1985; Oberhauser, 2002;

Sachs, 1983). More recently, scholars have explored the question of women and

land tenure, probing how women access land in patriarchal cultures as well as how

they diverge from men in their management of land (Friedmann, 1986; U.S. Census

of Agriculture, 2002).

Sachs and Alston (2010) argue that much of the scholarship on women and

agriculture has privileged the farm as the central focus and neglected women’s

roles in other domains of the agrifood system. Scholarship in the 1980s and 1990s,

while continuing to focus on the material realm, began to draw our attention away

from the farm as the center of agriculture activity and positioned the farm and its

operators in a broader system of productive and consumptive action. Often

referred to as value chains or commodity systems, this integrative approach to

agriculture and food allows us to more fully see patterns of control and

vulnerability that may be rooted in longstanding patterns of tradition or may

emanate from far afield (Brandt, 1996; Dolan, 2004). The advance of neo-liberal

globalization of markets and economies has also helped to shed light on the

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complexity of women’s experience in a global agrifood system (Allen and Sachs,

2007).

The first decade of the twentieth-first century has also ushered in a new set

of questions that explores women’s entrepreneurialism in the agrifood system.

This is a subject to which we position our current study. This turn to the

entrepreneurial is predominately rooted in the rise of ‘alternative’ agriculture

organized around a more holistic approach to production which is mindful of issues

of farm scale, gender appropriate technologies, quality of life and spirituality

issues (Chiappe and Flora, 1998). A growing recognition of women as on-farm

entrepreneurs stems from the growth in women’s leadership in redefining the farm

as a public space for education, entertainment, and respite. Research reports that

women may find their participation in farm tourism as empowering, yet traditional

norms indicative of heterosexual couple relations remain unchanged (Brandth and

Haugen, 2010).

To this growing inquiry we must acknowledge a similarly strong body of

scholarship that comes out of a culture or food studies tradition that explores the

efforts of women to revive cultural traditions and to forge identities in the

household and community through food. These efforts also serve, however, to

question and create class positions. (Lewin, 1943; DeVault, 1991). A systems

approach allows us to link the productive and consumptive elements of agriculture

and food and see their embeddedness and also their ability to shape and inform

each other. We now recognize that women have imprinted on the agrifood system

through culinary imaginaries in the home, household consumption patterns on

behalf of the family, authorship of cookbooks, and generally as cultural authorities

on food and foodways (Allen and Sachs, 2997; Bentley, 1998; Inness, 2006; Kasdan,

1956; Ransom and Wright, 2012).

Lastly, we see a turn to the question of sustainability as scholars explore

how women’s social location, identity, and experiences with inequality affect the

transition to a sustainable agrifood system. Some of this work has identified the

differential relations women have with nature and motivations for sustainable

agrifood system work (Chiappe and Flora, 1998). Trauger (2004) has explored the

structural conduciveness of sustainable agriculture that invite women, rather than

the exclusionary practices of conventional agriculture that closes off women’s

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participation. Still, others fear sustainable agriculture practices may be little more

than illusionary, as they struggle to transform social systems that perpetuate

inequality (Hall and Mogyorody; 2007; Meares, 1997; Pilgeram, 2011; Sachs, 2007;

Trauger and Sachs, 2006). No doubt, the future of scholarship devoted to women

in agriculture and food systems will continue to confront the contradictions and

struggle women experience.

In this context, we want to position our work in the study on women’s

entrepreneurship within the context of family farm, which remain the dominant

organization of agriculture in France and in the United States. As mentioned in the

introduction, we want to explore if these entrepreneurial activities create spaces

for renegotiating traditional gender relationships, power, and identities. To

contextualize this question, we now turn to more specific studies focusing on rural

women in the United States and in France. First, we present the specificities of the

rural context in which agricultural activities occur in France and in the United

States.

Characteristics in which agriculture now occurs

The traditional agricultural practices of many French and American farmers

are being questioned and modified as their role and the status of agricultural

production changes in these two countries. In France and the United States,

farmers’ agricultural practices are being shaped by two simultaneous and

somewhat contradictory factors: (1) farmers face high structural constraints and

are constantly surrounded by rhetoric of economic efficiency (2) farmers must take

into account the limited nature of the environmental resources.

Further, French and U.S. rural spaces are undergoing similar

transformations, albeit to different degrees between and within each country.

Despite intra and inter country scalar differences, however, both constitute

postindustrial societies where rural spaces can no longer be reduced to the location

of agricultural production. Rural spaces and rural populations have undergone

significant transformations (Cloke, 2007) and these recent demographic, social and

economic changes have dramatically affected the organization of the French and

US countryside. In addition to the traditional agricultural “function” of rural spaces

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in these countries, other “functions” have emerged. Rural spaces are becoming

popular residential and recreational destinations, and integral to biodiversity

conservation efforts. Thus in many instances farmers may be forced to modify their

agricultural practices based on the expectations and practices of other/new users

of rural spaces.

As a result of these changing social, cultural, economic and environmental

expectations of agriculture, farmers have in many instances been forced to

question their practices and potentially not only the way they work and interact

with others, but also their conception of self. Recent studies have suggested that

some farmers’ have experienced difficulty adopting the new practices imposed by

these expectations, and that in some instances this struggle for survival is

perceived to be a struggle to maintain their identity (Coldwell, 2010; Trauger,

2004). These studies deconstructed how agricultural practices and identity

construction shape and are shaped by one another. Improving our understanding of

farmers’ identity and practices provides opportunities for new conceptualization of

those practices and the impact of change on farm retention and transfer.

However, despite these changes, rural spaces both in France and the United

States remain spaces where patriarchy and masculinity are still prevalent. Studies

in the United States (Sachs and Allen, 2007) as well as in France (Saugeres, 2002)

stressed this persisting patriarchal and masculine culture where the main

institutions and social organizations are dominated by men. This is particularly true

in agriculture, where leaders of agricultural organizations (such as unions,

cooperatives, extension services, etc.) are, if not exclusively, largely men. In

addition, French and American rural spaces remain highly hetero-normative spaces

emphasizing nuclear (heterosexual) family lives and stereotypical gender roles and

interactions which remain unquestioned (Little, 2003; Little and Panelli, 2007). As

shown by Annes and Redlin (2012), a strong heterosexual matrix still characterizes

these rural spaces and affects its inhabitants in their presentation of self.

Despite this context--patriarchal and masculine, as well as heteronormative-

-the number of women involved in agriculture has been increasing, but, as noted by

Brandth and Haugen (2010, 426), if: “women have assumed new positions and

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engaged in new practices, (…) power relations have remained much the same, and

women's work continues to hold low status in accordance with the discourses and

ideologies of appropriate gender behavior in family farming.” In this research

project, we want to explore if emerging entrepreneurial activities developed in the

context of family farms allow French and US women to reach more gender equity.

We now turn to the specific literature focusing on rural women in France and

in the United States.

Rural Women: Representations and Practices

Despite scholarship that argues rural identities are shaped by a variety of

structural and cultural factors (Cloke, 2006) and that these identities also differ

within locational contexts (Sachs, 1985; Tickameyer and Henderson, 2003), the

ideal of the country woman is a popular normative construct. Idealized as the

“good wife” (Liepens, 1998), she is a caretaker, involved in the community,

engaged in reproductive farm and household work, and a staunch supporter of the

family farm (Little, 1997). These normative identities may be both reproduced and

maintained by rural women themselves (Little, 2006). Thus as rural communities

are challenged through economic restructuring, agricultural policy shifts, and rates

of in and out migration (Salomon, 1992), some aspects of gender roles may

continue to be static and traditional. Indeed, despite the increasing importance of

women’s contribution to household incomes from off-farm work, rural cultural

expectations continue to embody traditional ideas of wifehood and child rearing

(Shortall, 2002; Little and Panelli, 2003).

American Farm Women

Studies of farm women and their labors began as early as the 1920’s (Sachs,

1985). Traditionally reflected in these studies is an analysis of farm work versus

domestic work, and sometimes the interaction between the two (Ross, 1985). For

example, Fassinger and Schwarzweller (1980) found that the number of hours of

work that wives did on the farm, increased with farm size; while the number of

hours of domestic work remained constant. Thus, in keeping with more

contemporary findings, the farm and the family are placed above personal time or

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needs (Heather et. al., 2005). The common unit of analysis for these studies is the

family farm, and it is argued that some of the persistent gendered divisions of

labor of farm households come from its patriarchal traditions (Brandth, 2002;

Sachs, 1985). Male perspectives and knowledge continue to dominate most

conventional agricultural discourses, despite the realization that many family farms

could not have survived without the labor (paid and unpaid) of farm women (Sachs,

1985).

Bokemeier and Garkovich (1987), in their study of farm women, suggested

that women who were involved in more egalitarian farm structures where they

participated in operations and decision making expressed self-identities that

reflected a high sense of farm involvement. In contrast, women who identified

themselves as homemakers on the farm felt they were less involved. Deference to

her husband’s knowledge and her self- identification as a farm ‘wife’ suggests the

importance placed on maintaining the role of wife-hood by some women in

traditional rural communities (Little and Panelli 2003). Further in locating her role

outside of farm production, she reflects a self-identity as a supporter of the farm,

rather than involved in its operation (Bokemeier and Garkovich, 1987; Shortall,

2002). These results are echoed in Grace’s 1998 study which found that women

who took part in management/production activity were more likely to identify as

farmers or graziers and not as homemakers. Similarly, Brandth (1994) found that

Norwegian women who identified as women farmers resisted homemaker discourses

and labels associated with traditional gender norms. While these women still

engaged in housework chores, their agricultural labor was primary.

Some farm women who must work off the farm to support their families

acknowledge the gendered hardship (Heather et.al, 2005) but are reluctant to

ascribe any feminist notions to the nature of their lives. In keeping with the

importance of community cohesiveness, these women may reject feminist

arguments to avoid stigmatism within their rural communities and the perceived

attack on nuclear family values in feminist discourses (Grace and Lennie, 1998). At

the same time, these women concede that working off the farm in paid

employment could provide a sense of empowerment and time for self which they

cannot have when working on the farm full time. However, it remains clear that

the income derived from their off-farm endeavors is for the maintenance of the

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farm, and the keeping of their families (Shortall, 2002, Heather et. al., 2005).

Indeed, despite the fact that their earnings may outpace that of the farm, farm

women may still speak of the farm as the primary economic occupation of the

family (Shortall, 2002). While some male farmers acknowledge the financial

contribution of their wives, it has not necessarily led to any transfer or

renegotiation of her full time domestic responsibilities (Shortall, 2002).What

connects these experiences is the expectation that whether the woman chose to

work outside the home or not, her economic life was subsumed by the traditional

responsibilities of wifehood (Little and Panelli, 2003). However, this should not be

read as victimhood or passivity; as Oldrup (1999) argues, farm women may

acknowledge their hardship in constructing an identity as a farm wife or farm

woman. However, they are still actively engaging in daily practices of identity

negotiation and may work toward incremental changes in expectations or norms.

French Farm women

In the French countryside, farming is still largely defined as a masculine

space, associated with technical expertise and strength (Sagueres, 2002a). The

contributions of women’s work is marginalized or discounted via a hierarchical

construction of masculine and feminine bodily abilities. Women who cross the

gender boundary and identify as farmers independent of a male guardian are often

ostracized and desexualized (Trauger et al., 2008, Sagueres, 2002a) as they defy

the traditional conception of women lacking the affinity and capabilities to work

the land and operate agricultural machinery. Women who exercise the identity of

the agricultrice (female farmer) operate outside the rural French gender norms of

women as “wives” or “sexual objects” (Saugeres, 2002a). Thus in the market or

other social interactions, these women are ridiculed as outsiders— ‘they cannot be

taken seriously’ (Sagueres, 2002a). It is men who are conceptualized as the natural

farmer, and this identity is strongly rooted in an idealization of traditional paysan

practices. In the paysan tradition, farmers are intimately engaged with the land,

leading a simple lifestyle outside of modern concerns for growth or capital.

Interestingly, this construction also resists industrialization/mechanization,

suggesting a divergence in French rural masculinities related to

industrialization/mechanization popularized in other western discourses.

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In interviews with rural French men and women living/working on farms,

respondents of both genders indicated that women were best suited to tending of

livestock— a role that is socially constructed as less demanding, menial, and

secondary to farm survival (Sagueres, 2002b). All primary and essential production

roles were ascribed to male farmers. Single, female farmers were described as

unnatural, and existing outside French conceptions of femininity and

heterosexuality. Thus while farm men may exercise the right to self-definition,

farm women must concede to marginal positions or exist outside the community.

Further, this hegemonic definition of masculinity delegitimizes the agricultural

work of French women, and maintains/reproduces disparate gender relations

through both body (strength) and mind (affinity for the land). Further local

investigation of this persistent and unequal set of gender relations may increase

understanding of the relationship between self-identification, and agricultural

practice.

Theoretical Approach: Standpoint theory and Gender performativity

Two theoretical approaches will be used to complete this research project.

First we will implement standpoint theory and standpoint methodology to question

women’s role in agriculture. We choose this approach as it allows developing a

sociological understanding of gender relations, power and identity which will be

rooted into women’s experience. Second, as we want to focus on the how gender

might be redefined in the context of entrepreneurial activities, we will use a

performativity theory based on the work of Zimmerman and West (1987) and Butler

(1990).

Standpoint theory

Standpoint theory focuses on examining social phenomena from the

perspective and experience of a subordinated group (Collins, 1990). Arising from

the work of feminist sociologists, standpoint theory has evolved as a recognized

theoretical framework for understanding the positionality of women in society and

their interpretation of their roles, barriers, challenges and life chances as women

(Collins, 1990, Harding, 1993; Smith, 1990). Initially, it was formulated in the

context of Marxist politics. Adopting this materialist perspective, it asserts the

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existence of an underlying material reality structuring our social world (Herkman,

1997). In other words, material life shapes our subjective perception of the world

and how we experience it. Accounting for the social positioning of social agents,

the “situatedness of the knowing subjects,” stands for an essential claim of

feminist standpoint theory (Stoelzler and Yuval-Davis, 2002:315). Additionally,

standpoint theorists argued that sociological thought had been based on and built

up within the male social universe. It gave to sociology an unquestioned

androcentric mode of thought in which women’s perspective had been excluded.

Forced to view themselves not as subjects, but as the “other,” women had been

marginalized (Smith, 1990). Therefore, feminist standpoint theory provides a mode

of thought rooted in women’s experience.

Since the development of this theoretical perspective in the 1970s, various

but interrelated discourses have emerged. However, it is possible to identify

similarities in these discourses. First, the unit of analysis of this theory is the

group. In fact, as noted by Collins (1997), a standpoint results from a historically

shared, group-based experience. Here, a group refers to a social collectivity with

history and shared experiences allowing for the development of a common

knowledge of social relations.

Second, the standpoint of a group stems from a shared location in the social

landscape and in relation to power (Collins, 1997). However, as argued by all

feminist standpoint theorists, a standpoint should not be mistaken with a simple

“viewpoint.” In fact, they suggest that there are no automatic correlations

between social location and standpoint (i.e. “situated knowledge”). A standpoint

does emerge from the “simple” location of an individual in the social landscape. In

other words, there are no essentialist underpinning associated with this concept

(Herkman, 1997; Smith, 1990). On the contrary, a standpoint is socially constructed

and grounded in actual social practices. These practices are given and transmitted

from the past and have emerged from long standing patterns of discrimination.

Grounded in social practices (i.e. material reality), a standpoint gives an

oppressed group (a group whose knowledge and perspective has not been given any

credit, contrary to the discourses of dominant groups which has come to define

reality) a specific vision and interpretation of social reality. By focusing on the

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situated knowledge of this oppressed group, standpoint theory can grasp and bring

to the forefront this specific understanding of the social world.

Despite the origination of the standpoint theoretical framework, its use does

not require a feminist perspective on the part of either researchers or subjects.

Rather, it focuses the investigation on the knowledge and lived experience of a

particular social group, in this case French and American women engaged in

agriculture.

Doing Gender

Within the theoretical framework of performativity, gender is

conceptualized as a perpetual accomplishment, not as the expression of any

essential nature. Rather, gender stands for the expression of a dynamic which is

not something we are, but something we do. In other words, it is a performance

which is achieved through “interactions, bodily displays and work practices” (West

and Zimmerman, 1987).

This performance occurs within specific “normative conceptions of men and

women” (Deutsch, 2007) influenced by compulsory heterosexuality (Butler, 1990)

or particular context and institutional norms (West and Zimmerman, 1987). During

these performances, men and women alike are aware that they will be judged

according to these “normative conceptions” which might vary from one context to

another. By following these conceptions, men and women contribute to reinforce

them and to make gender appear stable over time.

In this study, we want to question gender performance within the context of

changing American and French rural spaces, as well as in the context of

entrepreneurial agricultural activities such as agritourism.

Methodology: Qualitative Methodology

This research project is designed to understand, from women’s standpoint,

how gender identities are constructed and performed in the context of current

agricultural practices, especially entrepreneurial activities. Because gender

performances are socially constructed, exist in people’s consciousness, and are

expressed through everyday practices, it is methodologically relevant to study

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them from the subjective point of view of those who live within them (Sasson-Levy,

2002). Thus, the project will be informed by qualitative research methodology

which is therefore the methodology best able to provide a sociological

understanding of the construction of gender identity within family farms with

entrepreneurial activities. In addition, the main goal of qualitative interviewing is

to allow interpretation of participants’ discourse, “to understand the meaning of

respondents’ experiences and life words” (Warren, 2002:84).

We propose a comparative research design. We focus this research on the

knowledge and lived experience of women in agriculture in the Midwest of the

United States (including two locations—Michigan and South Dakota) and in France

(the Midi-Pyrénées Region). In both cases, in-depth interviews will be conducted.

They give a rich documentation of personal experience and subjectivity as well as

an in-depth understanding of social, cultural, and historical structures shaping this

personal experience over the life course. Because one major research objective of

this study is to investigate and understand the performance of gender identity in

the process of entrepreneurial activities in family farms as well as to assess the

impact of social and cultural contexts (for example American rural versus French

rural), this kind of interviewing is the most suitable.

Contact of research populations will be made through researcher association

with existing farm organizations, outreach services from affiliated universities, and

social networks among participants.

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