Calling on Femininity? Gender, Call Centers, and Restructuring in the Rural American West
AbstractThis research explores the geographical processes (re)shaping the call center industry in the rural American West. In light of growing public debate concerned with globalization and the “outsourcing” of information service jobs from Western,industrialized locations to ‘third world’ nations, I argue that it is also significant to document the expansion of the call center industry within the rural western United States. In this paper, I examine the economic shifts and cultural narratives circumscribing call center growth in this region. First, I consider telephones as a gendered technology. I link this analysis to the feminized construction of call
center work and the gendered practices and stereotypes that work to devalue women’s labor in call centers while simultaneously constructing women as best suited for this type of employment. I then unpack the ways in which call centers in the rural American West are linked to the processes of rapid restructuring and economic transition. Locating the processes of transnational capitalism and rural restructuring within a feminist geographic perspective, I argue that the social construction of call center work concentrates women in occupations that tend to be clustered at the bottom of the occupational hierarchy in the “new information economy”.
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