International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food

Farm Women: Driving Tractors and Negotiating Gender

International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food

Volume 13, issue 1 (2005), pages 1-18

Author: Barbara Pini
Affiliation: School of Management, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia

ISSN: 0798-1759


This paper uses data from focus groups with eighty women involved in the Australian sugar industry, and draws on feminist post-structural theory to explore the construction of gendered identities in on-farm physical work. The key focus is on the strategies women engage to negotiate their gendered subject positions while undertaking a role typically defined as “men’s work”. Findings are compared with a similar study undertaken by Brandth in 1994. While many of the strategies adopted by the cane farming women to manage gender are similar to those described by the Norwegian farming women in the previous study, one “new” discursive strategy has emerged by which women may claim both a feminine subjectivity and involvement in tractor work. This is the adoption of a “farm as business” discourse. This discourse reconstitutes the “farm” as a “business” and the “farmer” and “farm wife” as “business partners”. While this may provide a discursive space for women to be legitimate actors in all aspects of the enterprise, the paper concludes by drawing attention to the factors that make it unlikely that such a possibility will be realized.

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