Women’s changing productive practices, gender relations and identities in fishing through a critical feminisation perspective
In recent years there has been increased academic and policy attention to the important contributions of women in fishing families, communities and industries. Whilst it is important to make visible these contributions, there has been little attention to how women’s different and changing roles and practices are associated with (un)changed gender relations shaping, and being shaped by, women’s (fishing) identities in different ways. To attend to this gap, the paper reviews and critically re-interprets literature on women’s changing practices in fishing. The review is conceptually framed by drawing on – and going beyond – the feminisation approach developed in research on agriculture – incorporating key criticisms of the feminisation concept from other research fields. By reviewing and re-interpreting the literature on women in fishing through this critical feminisation approach, the intention is to examine how women’s productive practices are associated with particular and changing gender relations and identities. In doing so, the paper identifies gaps in research and suggests avenues for future empirical, theoretical and methodological research on women in fishing. In terms of future directions for empirical research, the paper suggests there is a need for more research on women’s practices going under the labels of ‘progressive’ and ‘reconstitutive’ feminisation. Further, and more importantly, the paper proposes new directions for future research focusing on women’s subjectivities and identities as well as their working conditions. The paper also argues there is a need for relational approaches as well as more in-depth and emplaced empirical research on women’s messy everyday lives to gain understandings of women’s lives ‘in their own right’ in varying socio-spatial contexts.
This paper begun by suggesting there is a gap in knowledge around how women’s changing fishing roles and practices are associated with (re)shaped gendered relations and identities. To address this gap the paper drew on a critical feminisation approach developed by integrating the feminisation approach developed in agriculture with key criticisms of the feminisation concept in other research fields. By critically re-interpreting the literature on women in fishing through this conceptual approach, the paper highlights a broad range of fishing practices that women perform in fishing families and economies, stressing the need to include these varied productive practices in mainstream definition of what is meant by a ‘fishery’. The feminisation approach also helped to make visible the different meanings and identities which productive practices could take on for women in fishing families – and how changing practices shaped and reshaped gender relations and identities. The paper further identifies empirical, theorical and methodological gaps in current scholarly understanding. In terms of empirical gaps, the paper suggests that more research could expand on practices labelled as progressive feminisation as these, whilst being suggested as a possible avenue for growing and sustaining fishing economies (see Kirwan et al., 2018 for England), have been relatively under-researched – in particular in relation to women’s practices. In terms of theoretical and methodological gaps, reviewing the literature on women in fishing in this way helped to highlight four avenues for future research. These are: i) a need to methodologically attend to the messiness of women’s everyday lives and practices in fishing families, ii) more research on women’s subjectivities and intersectional identities as the review reveals the socio-cultural dimensions of women’s fishing lives have been underexplored, iii) a need to draw on relational approaches to examining women’s fishing lives – focusing, for example, research on the relational context of the family, and iv) examining women’s working conditions as previous research stress the precarity of women’s employment within the fishing sector. By revealing empirical gaps in knowledge and suggesting these four approaches to be taken forward in future research, the paper seek to take the field of research on women’s fishing lives forward by moving beyond documenting women’s vulnerability to understanding women’s fishing lives in their own right.