Feeling devalued: the creative industries, motherhood, gender and class inequality
Authors: Dent, T.
There is a growing body of data that illustrates how work in the creative media industries is marked by bleak inequalities. Critical sociological accounts of the industry have explored the barriers to employment opportunities for workers from different ethnic, disabled, gendered and more recently socially classed backgrounds resulting in the awareness that the majority of those who control the means of production for creative and cultural commodities are male, white and middle class. With regards to women, the problem of gender inequality has commonly been linked to women’s childbearing capabilities citing the demands of childcare as a key reason for women’s withdrawal from and under-representation within the industry. Linking gender inequality in the creative workforce to motherhood creates a smokescreen, a framework which allows for concepts of ‘choice’ and ‘preference’ to mask deeply complicated processes of oppression and exclusion. Motherhood also places the issue of gender inequality into a singular axis, failing therefore to consider the multiple axes of exclusion that operate within the workforce. This thesis takes this issue of motherhood, gender inequality and work in the creative industries as its focus point to explore how motherhood has become synonymous with female withdrawal from the industry. It responds to literature on modes and practices of work in modern society drawing from those who have equated work in the creative sector as emblematic of a “brave new world of work” (Beck 2002 in Deuze 2007, p.21) and exposed a paradox between celebratory concepts of creative practice and the lived realities of the creative workforce. My own contribution has been drawn from a series of in-depth interviews with mothers who either work or have left work in the creative sector following the birth of a child/children. The research findings emerged inductively, following a grounded theoretical approach but one that was informed by a feminist epistemological framework to knowledge production. Thinking about motherhood as a fluid and constructed concept enables an exploration into the relationship between motherhood, gender and class-based inequalities and how they operate within the industry.