Front and back of the house: socio-spatial inequalities in food work
- 1.6k Downloads
Work on farms and in restaurants is characterized by highly gendered and racialized divisions of labor, low wages, and persistent inequalities. Gender, race, and ethnicity often determine the spaces where people work in the food system. Although some research focuses on gendered divisions of labor in restaurants and on farms, few efforts look more broadly at intersectional inequalities in food work. Our study examines how inequality is perpetuated through restaurant and farm work in the United States and, specifically, how gender and race/ethnicity influence where people work, their tasks and responsibilities, and their work experiences. In describing restaurant work, people in the restaurant industry typically refer to the front and back of the house to distinguish between different working spaces, jobs, and workers. We use this spatial metaphor of front and back of the house to analyze intersectional inequalities of food work in restaurants and on farms. The data derive from conversations with 63 restaurant and farm owners, managers, and workers in California and Pennsylvania. Our findings suggest that gendered and racialized bodies often define who works in the front and back of the “house,” and that owners and workers often naturalize gender and racial divisions of labor in food work. Despite these patterns, we found evidence of attempts to reduce these inequalities on farms and in restaurants.
KeywordsUS food system Workers Migrant labor Gendered labor Inequality regime Food work Restaurant Farm
- Associated Press. 2010. Arizona immigration crackdown, Sizzler restaurants raided, 9 arrested. Christian Science Monitor June 3.Google Scholar
- Barndt, D. 1999. Women working the NAFTA food chain: Women, food, and globalization. Toronto: Second Story Press.Google Scholar
- Brandth, B. 1999. Modernity, feminism and farm women. Unpublished paper given at Gender and Transformation in Rural Europe, Wageningen, Netherlands, 14–17 October 1999.Google Scholar
- Collins, P.H. 1991. Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment. New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Crompton, R., and K. Sanderson. 1990. Gendered jobs and social change. Boston, MA: Unwin Hyman.Google Scholar
- Fine, G.A. 2008. Kitchens: The culture of restaurant work. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
- Gabriel, Y. 1990. Working lives in catering. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Glaser, B., and A. Strauss. 1967. The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. Chicago, IL: Aldine Publishing Company.Google Scholar
- Goffman, E. 1959. The presentation of self in everyday life. New York, NY: Doubleday.Google Scholar
- Jordan, M., and J. Jargon. 2011. Cases target illegal labor: Immigration crackdown widens with criminal probe and arrests at restaurant chains. Wall Street Journal April 21.Google Scholar
- Kearney, M., and C. Nagengast. 1989. Anthropological perspectives on transnational communities in rural California. Working Group on Farm Labor and Rural Poverty Working Paper No. 3. Davis, CA: California Institute for Rural Studies.Google Scholar
- Massey, D.B. 1984. Spatial divisions of labour: Social structures and the geography of production. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
- Pfeffer, M.J. 1983. Social origins of three systems of farm production in the United States. Rural Sociology 48(4): 540–562.Google Scholar
- Purcell, K. 1997. Women’s employment in UK tourism: Gender roles and labour markets. In Gender, work and tourism, ed. M.T. Sinclair, 33–56. New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Sachs, C. 1996. Gendered fields: Rural women, agriculture, and environment. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
- Sommerville, K.L. 2007. Hospitality employee management and supervision: Concepts and practical applications. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.Google Scholar
- US Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2012a. Median weekly earnings of full-time wage and salary workers by detailed occupation and sex. http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat39.htm. Accessed 8 April 2013.
- US Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2012b. Occupational Employment Statistics: May 2012 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, United States. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm#35-0000. Accessed 8 April 2013.
- US Department of Agriculture. 2007. The Census of Agriculture. http://www.agcensus.usda.gov/Publications/2007/Online_Highlights/Fact_Sheets/index.asp. Accessed 20 Jan 2012.
- US Department of Labor. 2000. Findings from the National Agricultural Workers Survey, 1997–98: A demographic and employment profile of United States farmworkers. Research Report No. 8. Washington, DC: US Department of Labor.Google Scholar
- US Department of Labor. 2010. National Agricultural Workers Survey, 2007–2009. Employment and Training Administration. Washington, DC: US Department of Labor.Google Scholar
- Williams, C. 1995. Still a man’s world: Men who do “women’s work”. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar