Rebuilding ‘Real Men’: Work and Working-Class Male Civilian Bodies in Wartime
This chapter utilises newly conducted oral interviews as well as a range of other evidence, including archived interviews and published autobiographies, to explore how war impacted upon male civilian workers’ gender identities. Working men experienced subordination to the economic imperatives of war and degrees of emasculation associated with not being in uniform and feeling threatened by the wartime work roles of women. However, in wartime working men also found ways to express, validate and rebuild male identities after the ravages of the 1930s Depression. Moreover, masculinities were expressed through bodies and war impacted upon reserved workers’ corporeality in myriad ways. An array of evidence tells a more complex and contingent story of the agency of male workers on the home front.
For an extended discussion of the issues aired here, see J. Pattinson, A. McIvor and L. Robb (2017), Men in Reserve: British Civilian Masculinities in the Second World War (Manchester: Manchester University Press), especially Chaps. 4 and 5. I am grateful to the editors of this volume and to external readers for their comments on earlier drafts of this work, including Emma Newlands, Wendy Ugolini, Geoff Field and Tim Strangleman.