I recently visited Seeds & Spores Family Farm located in Marquette, MI. The owner of this farm is a woman and many of her employees are women. This got me thinking about how we as a society typically cannot picture women as farmers or performing hard, manual labor. My mind started turning, and I began thinking about the reasons why society believes women cannot perform certain jobs or tasks. Why can we so easily picture male farmers, but we have such a hard time picturing female farmers? A quick google search confirms this—for when I typed in “strong farmers” into the search bar, a plethora of men, specifically white, muscular, rugged men emerged. Why is it so easy to picture male farmers, but not so easy to picture female farmers?
“When most people think of a farmer, they might envision an Old MacDonald type in a straw hat—but that’s far from reality” (Ruiz-Grossman 2016). In actuality, many women are farmers. According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, women make up 30 percent of all U.S. farmers (USDA 2014). One example of a strong woman farmer comes out of a struggle for food justice in The Bronx. “Karen Washington has spent decades working to promote urban farming to create access to fresh produce. She co-founded La Familia Verde coalition of urban gardeners to bring their harvest to a weekly farmer’s market in the Bronx” (Ruiz-Grossman 2016). Another story comes from Montana of the first woman to be seated on a local farming board. “Michelle Erickson farms over 8,500 acres of wheat, barley and other commodity crops in Big Sky country. A former transportation manager for UPS and Amazon, her skills in logistics, supply chain management and leadership have earned her a seat as the first woman on the officer board for the Montana Grain Growers Association” (Ruiz-Grossman 2016). As you can see, there are women farmers spread across the nation, including right here in Marquette at the Seeds & Spores Family Farm. Yet society still has these preconceived notions that women are not fit to be farmers.
The idea of an “Old MacDonald type” farmer is rooted in gender stereotypes and gender roles that have lasted generations. Gender stereotypes are typically inaccurate generalizations about males and females. The attributes are simply based on gender and are not accurate representations of an individual male or female (Brewer 2017). Today, society continues to make assumptions based on these gender stereotypes. The goal of this blog is to explore these deeply rooted stereotypes and to show the damaging effects that they have on women, specifically women in the workplace.