The Withering of Trade Union Patriarchy: Home Page

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Carl J. Cuneo Dept. of SociologyKenneth Taylor Hall, Room 608

McMaster University

Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8S 4M4

E-mail: [email protected]

Personal Web Page: Cuneo

beauty contests domestic labour feminism gender labour press men patriarchy pinups Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union sexism sexual harassment trade unionism visual sociology wage labour


Social change is rarely linear, balanced, or evolutionary. The transition from patriarchy to feminism is one of many such examples. Using a trade union organization (The Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union in the United States and Canada) as a case study, this paper employs a mult-media approach, combining text, sound, and graphics, to illustrate the uneven withering away of patriarchy, and the tentative and uncertain emergence of liberal and trade union feminism between 1954 and 1986. Drawing on text, photos, and cartoons from the union newspaper in the areas of domestic and wage labour, sexism, sexual harassment, pinups, beauty contests, misogyny, internal union activities, women’s union organizing, day care, maternity leave, gender discrimination, and non- traditional work, an interregnum is demonstrated during the 1960s and 1970s when patriarchy and feminism experienced a contradictory and unstable co-existence; this divided the 1950s when patriarchy dominated, from the 1980s, when liberal and trade union feminism made their tentative appearance. The withering away of patriarchy was more pronounced than the growth of one or more feminisms. Feminism did not replace patriarchy as much as it continued to co-exist with its latent , and sometimes, manifest forms.

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