Gender is rightly considered as one of the most popular and controversial research subjects. The growing emphasis on diversity opens new venues for the analysis of the ways to do gender in different societies and cultures. Gender aspects of dirty work are no less interesting, and in this relation, in their article, Mavin and Grandy (2011) explore the various paths of doing gender and managing stigma. In today’s societies, more and more individuals engage in the so-called “dirty” work, which is claimed to be socially tainted, degrading, and stigmatized (Mavin & Grandy, 2011). Consequently, under the pressure of the changing societal conditions, individuals involved in “dirty” work seek to balance their work attitudes with those of the society and reformulate their money-earning actions into an honorable necessity.
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At the heart of Mavin and Grandy’s (2011) study was the idea that exotic dancers apply a serious effort, trying to avoid stigmatization associated with the nature of their work and their identities. Consequently, the researchers focused on the use of various stigma management strategies by exotic dancers in the UK (Mavin & Grandy, 2011). Mavin and Grady (2011) provide an extensive review of the “dirty work” literature to enable unprofessional and inexperienced readers to understand the nature and implications of their study. According to Mavin and Grady (2011), dirty work is that which is considered as disgusting or degrading, and everyone involved in this type of work automatically agrees to accept and carry the dirty-work stigma. Exotic dancing is one of the most popular and widely spread “dirty” occupations in the developed world, and exotic dancers’ experiences have the potential to explain the patterns of stigma management in the so-called “dirty” professions. In addition, Mavin and Grandy (2011) analyze the way exotic dancers in the UK do gender in their work or the types of micropolitical and interactional activities they engage to express specific feminine or masculine features. The researchers confirm their vision of gender as a socially constructed category, which has little to do with physiological differences but is directly related to the nature and typology of social behaviors.
Mavin and Grady (2011) confess that their study is merely a part of a larger research project. For the purpose of this study, the social constructivist approach was used (Mavin & Grady, 2011). The social constructionist perspective fits perfectly well in the researchers’ vision of gender as socially situated and relational, and it leaves sufficient room for the development of unusual constructed realities. In this study, the researchers directly participated in the process of constructing individual realities and interpreting exotic dancers’ experiences (Mavin & Grady, 2011). The case study strategy was used to analyze the gender experiences of exotic dancers working in UK-based dancing and gentlemen’s clubs. The strategic goal of these has always been to present “dirty” work as publicly acceptable, legitimate, and even professional (Mavin & Grady, 2011). Rich accounts of gender experiences were obtained from 21 exotic dancers; the results have shown that exotic dancers use multiple gender identities to meet the audience’s expectations and obtain sufficient rewards for their work. At the same time, “dirty” workers constantly struggle to balance the empowerment afforded by the work with the perceptions of oppression and exploitation (Mavin & Grady, 2011). In most cases, exotic dancers create multiple identities that enable them to cope with challenges of “dirty” work.
The contribution of the study to the current understanding of gender practices in diverse social settings can hardly be overstated. Mavin and Grady (2011) admit that the results of their study provide a relevant empirical explanation to the way individuals in “dirty” professions do gender. Moreover, Mavin and Grady (2011) provide a relevant account of what it takes “dirty” workers to do their gender well. Second, the study is valuable in the sense that it brings gender practices and stigma management together to create a complete picture of “dirty” work (Mavin & Grady, 2011). At the same time, Mavin and Grady (2011) show various consequences of doing gender well. Unfortunately, in the absence of an explicit and comprehensive theoretical base, interpreting the results of the study is extremely problematic.
Among the major limitations of the study, Mavin and Grady (2011) mention the difficulties getting to the gentlemen’s clubs and obtaining subjects’ agreement to participate in the research. The researchers also speak about the overall fragmentation of the sex industry and the fact that the study sample was limited to UK-based sex clubs (Mavin & Grady, 2011). The latter also implies that the results of the study cannot be generalized to other “dirty” work settings, and the researchers cannot create a comprehensive picture of the international sex industry. Unfortunately, Mavin and Grady (2011) forget about the limitations of their social constructivist methodology and the implications which their participation in the study can have for the ultimate research results. The use of social constructivist methodologies often renders study results as too subjective and personal, whereas researchers’ direct participation can lead to bias and prejudice in interpreting the study results. Apparently, the discussed study is just the first step towards a better understanding of “dirty” work and the way “dirty” workers construct their identities to avoid stigmatization and exclusion.
Gender is truly one of the most controversial research subjects. Despite the growing body of literature, professional understanding of gender and the sociological implications of “dirty” work is rather scarce. Mavin and Grady (2011) try to close the existing empirical gap in literature and explore the social construction of gender practices and stigma management approaches of “dirty” workers in UK-based sex clubs. The results of the study provide a valuable insight into the nature of “dirty” work and the way “dirty” workers balance their multiple identities with the society’s prejudice towards their occupation. Simultaneously, the research and methodological implications of the study render its results incomplete. The study is just the first step towards a better understanding of “dirty” work and the ways in which “dirty” workers reformulate their money-earning activities into an honorable necessity.