February 10th, 2004

rock shadow

weekend, orkut, "productive" fields

I had a nice weekend up the Mendocino coast, celebrating David's birthday. We stayed in a small, slightly-run-down cabin that had a hot tub mere feet from the ocean cliffs. Needless to say, we spent a lot of time in the hot tub. We also put David's new bike rack to good use, played an overly-competitive Scrabble game, nursed a spluttering fire in the cabin's fireplace, and ate two lovely meals in nearby Gualala.

Last night we both bit the bullet and signed up on Orkut. I avoided it for a while because I didn't want to "commoditize my friends," as David said, but I was interested in poking around the web of friends and friends' friends, so I did it after all. I was surprised how many have already signed up.

Collapse ) This reminds me of a discussion last semester in my political and economic development class about "feminized" fields. Some (Marxists and Marxist feminists especially) theorize that predominantly-male fields (e.g. engineering, law, medicine) are perceived as "productive" fields, and are viewed as more important than other fields. Those who are in "productive" fields are paid more because of this perceived importance. Female-dominated "reproductive" fields (e.g. teaching, bookkeeping, psychology), in contrast, are seen as less important, and those who practice them are paid less.

Occasionally, a field shifts from being "productive," or male-dominated, to being "reproductive," or female-dominated. Interestingly, a field has never shifted in the opposite direction. (Aside - this is also true with names: male or gender-neutral names can become feminized, but female names don't become masculinized.) When this happens, wages drop and the field starts to generally be thought of as "softer," "less scientific," or "less productive" than productive fields.

Psychology is one field that has made the shift; biology has partly done so. Medicine is one that my teacher posited is currently making the shift: the hegemony of HMOs has made doctor's wages drop so low that many are having a lot of trouble paying off their med-school debts, and last fall, 64% of the students admitted to medical school in the U.S. were women, up from somewhere around one-third fifteen years ago. Certain medical professions - such as gynecology - have become particularly feminized (in part due to demands like mine), while others - such as surgery - remain "productive" and still earn high wages.
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