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The effect of paid employment outside the household upon married women's gendered identity : (a case study of married white women in Pietermaritzburg)

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This research explores how formal employment outside the household affects the gendered identity of married women. A comparison of ten married white women who are not gainfully employed and ten married white women who are gainfully employed has been used to determine whether or not formal employment has an impact on gender identity. Tajfel's social identity construction theory argues that member of devalued social groups will strive to construct positive self-concepts by either reinterpreting the prevailing beliefs surrounding social categories or by challenging these beliefs. I focus on the division of women and men into the private and public spheres according to 'innate' abilities. Patriarchal ideology has devalued the social category 'women' and the domestic sphere. This research aimed to determine whether or not these gainfully employed married women were challenging patriarchal ideology and therefore renegotiating their gendered identities. This study focuses on three aspects: the role of work in the formation of a positive self concept; the experience of motherhood; and the double-shift. It was found that gainful employment although not altering a woman's gendered identity did result in a more positive self-concept because of public recognition and financial rewards. However, the experience of motherhood for employed married women remains integral to their gendered identity as women and they experience guilt and anxiety because they do not remain at home. Lastly, the household chores remain primarily a woman's responsibility, even when she is employed outside the household, resulting in a double-shift. The interviews for this study demonstrate that married women who are employed ful-time outside the household do not challenge the patriarchal ideology which shapes their gendered identity.


Thesis (M.Soc.Sc.)-University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 1999.


Theses--Sociology., Women--Employment--KwaZulu-Natal--Pietermaritzburg., Housewives--KwaZulu-Natal--Pietermaritzburg., Gender identity--South Africa.