Into the fire: disaster and the remaking of gender by Shelley Pacholok

By Shelley Pacholok

In August 2003, one of many greatest wildfires in Canadian background struck close to Kelowna, British Columbia and the encircling Okanagan Valley, inflicting remarkable harm. As Shelley Pacholok observes during this leading edge learn, the turbulence and severe stipulations that within the wake of this catastrophe destabilized an incredible zone of social existence - that of gender family.

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Therefore, the inability to live up to Black Fridays 15 the standards of good firefighting also presented challenges to masculinity construction. In short, “losing” troubled the link between masculinity and firefighting. This created a crisis tendency in the gender regime of firefighting that created opportunities for the undoing of gender. In chapter 4, I examine the possibilities for gender change created by the losses and by the firefighters’ subsequent sense of failure. I ask, In the wake of the crisis did firefighters reproduce old patterns of masculinity or did their defeat open up possibilities for change?

It is precisely in times of uncertainty and crisis – when customary social relations are disrupted – that masculinity is “put on the line” (Morgan 1992, 47) and its performance requires extra effort. Disasters thus provide fertile ground for studying masculinity and gender relations (Messerschmidt 1995; Morgan 1992). Finally, just as for women, normative gender ideologies can have negative repercussions for men affected by disasters when they impair emotional expression, the ability to earn a living, or the ability to otherwise recover from losses (Mishra 2009).

For some this was a novel experience. Even most of those who usually worked with a few women firefighters in their ranks had not done so on a large interface fire. So the fire presented a rare opportunity for women to demonstrate their proficiency under very difficult circumstances in the presence of their male colleagues. 16 Into the Fire Much of the research on gender and work indicates that women’s entry into masculinized occupations does little to challenge workplace gender regimes and even entrenches the status quo.

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