"Working 9 to 5": How Working-Class Women Experience Sexism in the Workplace and Understand Media Representations of Working-Class Women

Taylor, Bridget Blakely, Media, Culture, and Technology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Ali, Christopher, Media Studies, University of Virginia

This thesis explores the relationship between working-class women’s experiences of sexism in the workplace and their perceptions and attitudes about media representations of working-class women. Historically, working-class women are grossly underrepresented in popular media, and existing portrayals often follow a set of pre-existing stereotypes and tropes. Moreover, working-class women’s experiences of sexism are often overlooked in academic research and popular culture in favor of more middle-class, “corporate” feminist pursuits. Through in-depth interviews and focus groups, I answer the following research questions: 1.) How do working-class women experience sexism and gender-based discrimination in their workplace environments? 2.) How do working-class women understand and perceive media representations of working-class women? 3.) How do media representations of working-class women impact working-class women’s sense of self and the strategies they use to combat sexism in the workplace? Using these research questions and critical feminist theory as a framework, I argue that the ways in which working-class women experience sexism in the workplace are dynamic and largely dependent on their workplace environment and the amount of work experience that they have. Furthermore, I argue that working-class women have a messy and complicated relationship with media portrayals of working-class women, which reflects the complicated nature of today’s American working class. Finally, while critical of media content, respondents with less work experience demonstrated a lack of class consciousness and alienation from their labor and from the self. Overall, no media representation of working-class women will ever fulfill the experiences and lived realities of working-class women. Yet, working-class women with less work experience do not identify with working-class characters not only because of their lack of time in the workforce but also because of the prevalence of middle-class hegemony in popular media; the history of social abjection of working-class characters; and these respondents’ desires to achieve class mobility.

MA (Master of Arts)
Working Class, Feminist Audience Studies, Unconscious Bias, Media Representation, Female Labor, Alienation
Issued Date: