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From “Old Boy” to “Gender Progressive”: The Shifting Gender Story of Funeral Work in Trade Journal Publications

Gender and the Media: Women’s Places

ISBN: 978-1-78754-330-0, eISBN: 978-1-78754-329-4

ISSN: 1529-2126

Publication date: 12 November 2018


Due to their pervasiveness in American society, cultural gender beliefs often organize workplaces and justify what jobs are suitable for men and for women (Ridgeway, 2009, 2011). When an occupation experiences feminization, jobs and occupations once considered “men’s work” must be “retyped” to justify and accommodate the movement of women into the occupation (Lincoln, 2010; Reskin & Roos, 1990). Using the case of funeral directing, this chapter explores the “retyping” of funeral directing, a formerly male-dominated, currently feminizing occupation by examining shifting gender narratives about funeral work in trade journals published between 1995 and 2013. Findings indicate multiple gender narratives involved in explaining the movement of women into funeral directing and the implications for gender inequality in feminizing occupations. Some narratives (old boy and gender essential) explain women’s entry and justify sex segregation by drawing on stereotypical gender differences in physical strength and emotional labor between men and women. While other narratives (gender blind and gender progressive) reject and challenge essentialism by impugning the notion that gender stereotypes are a reliable indicator of skill.




I would like to thank Chardie L. Baird, Tina Hebert Deshotels, and Laura S. Logan for reading the previous versions of this work.


Donley, S.B. (2018), "From “Old Boy” to “Gender Progressive”: The Shifting Gender Story of Funeral Work in Trade Journal Publications", Segal, M.T. and Demos, V. (Ed.) Gender and the Media: Women’s Places (Advances in Gender Research, Vol. 26), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 29-48.



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