Everyday labor geographies of China's women workers in service workplaces

Authors: Yuying Xie*,
Topics: Feminist Geographies, Gender, China
Keywords: service work, hegemonic masculinity, emotional labor, aesthetic labor
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 5:55 PM
Room: Virtual 31
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The service industry boomed in coastal China in the late 20th century. It has attracted a large group of migrant workers, leading to dramatically different working conditions. Many migrants no longer work in the factories with inanimate machines; instead, they engage in interpersonal and interactive work with people from varied backgrounds. Service work is recognized as highly interactive and gendered and analyzing the workplaces where it occurs reveal deeply unequal gender relations.

This paper explores the service workplace in China, a topic often overlooked by geographers and other social scientists. Using a feminist approach, I explore the everyday labor geographies of China's female workers in one segment of the service industry in Changzhou, China. Based on two months of ethnographic research and in-depth interviews in a luxury restaurant, I focus on women's everyday working environments and their labor process to understand the intricacies of this gendered work.

I draw out two central themes: first, I contextualize women restaurant workers in China's male-dominated drinking culture. I address this by employing the concept of hegemonic masculinity, revealing how drinking shapes patriarchal consumptive places in China. Second, I analyze the women’s embodied labor as they deal with specific consumptive modes. For this, I use the concepts of emotional and aesthetic labor to explore the impact of masculine culture on women workers. I conclude by arguing that women workers in China's service industry are able to navigate the intertwined oppression of masculinized cultures and capitalist management in the service sector.

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