Dissertation Diaries III: Why think sociologically about farming?
Those who ventured to the lecture I gave or have endured my dissertation snippets, may know that my key interest at the moment revolves around the under-researched area of gender in farming…but what can actually be done to target the status of women in farming?
In my eyes, Sociology mustn't lose sight of its ability to inform the public and policy. So when conducting the research for my dissertation, I made sure I thought through the potential implications of the findings. Bearing in mind the data collection and analysis was grounded in real world experiences and points of views of the women involved, it's important that it's transferable to making change at ground level.
In light of uncovering instances of women enduring marginalizing interactions, improving the image of farming women may be a step in the right direction. Occasions where a woman’s capability to farm is questioned or it is assumed that they are accompanying a man may be counteracted by the portrayal of farm women in the media in a modern and positive light. It is true that many television programmes feature farming, such as the likes of Countryfile, First Time Farmers and The Dales. But they do little to challenge the outdated perceptions of what it means to be a farmer and fail to acknowledge real issues today. The gender dynamics of Countryfile are questionable given that the female presenters come across as a token addition, dressed in their best tweeds and still learning about farming themselves. See more here.
In terms of the potential for government initiatives, the UK could take some inspiration from Australia which promotes gender mainstreaming in the agricultural sector via a Rural Women’s Unit within the Department of Agriculture. Dedicated to promoting the contribution made by women in farming, it encourages women to take part in decision‐making processes and works to ensure that policies don't reflect a male orientation. Watch this space for the some of the dominant narratives that have traditionally sustained women at the periphery of farming!