The term “masculine women” describes women who identify, or are socially recognized, as women, yet display masculinity broadly through appearance, behavior, and interactional styles. Researchers have suggested that masculine women often identify as lesbian or queer and, as a result, can face a double stigma due to both their gender nonconformity and their sexual orientation. Being perceived as a man or a woman significantly influences work experience due to gender inequality and persistent sex segregation in the workplace. Women may be the targets of prejudice and discrimination at work because of both their position in work structures and gender stereotypes that influence expectations for women at work including their tasks, authority, behavior, and occupation. Masculinity exists as a continuum, and while some masculine women can use concealment strategies, such as feminizing their appearance, other women are too masculine to avoid detection. In this study, the author interviewed 49 self-identified masculine women in the United States to examine how they negotiate stigma in the workplace.
In this study, the author interviewed 49 self-identified masculine women in the United States to examine how they negotiate stigma in the workplace. Masculine women often negotiate dual stigmas due to both their gender nonconformity and perceived sexual orientation. Participants used a variety of strategies to cope with their stigmatized identity including modifying clothing; incorporating feminine behaviors to counteract masculine appearance; working in high-demand, undesirable jobs; working in male-dominated settings; and opting out of formal work organizations. While some participants experienced mistreatment in male-dominated settings, many reported positive outcomes including strong relationships with male coworkers, opportunities for advancement, and a general comfort in the work environment. Participants challenge Goffman’s notion of sexual orientation as a concealable status, showing that sexual orientation minority women who are gender nonconforming employ strategies similar to members of other visibly stigmatized groups. Findings from this study suggest that researchers addressing sexual orientation minorities should include gender expression as a variable that can influence individual experiences and outcomes. Online slides for instructors who want to use this article for teaching are available on PWQ’s website at http://journals.sagepub.com/page/pwq/suppl/index.
Female Masculinity at Work: Managing Stigma on the Job
First Published January 19, 2017
From Psychology of Women Quarterly
stigma, sexual orientation, masculinity, gender identity, working conditions