Women Constructing Masculinity in Voluntary Firefighting


  • Susan Ainsworth,

  • Alex Batty,

  • Rosaria Burchielli

Address for correspondence: Susan Ainsworth, Department of Management and Marketing, The University of Melbourne, VIC 3010, Australia; e-mail: susanaa@unimelb.edu.au


Within gender studies, research and theorizing have used archetypal ‘masculine’ occupations to explore how masculinity is accomplished and practised in social interaction. In contrast, little work has explored how masculinity is constructed in the voluntary sector. In this paper, we address this gap by exploring how masculinity is constructed and experienced by women volunteers who are active firefighters in rural and regional Victoria. Firefighting is widely recognized as a non-traditional occupation for women and they are underrepresented as volunteers as well as paid employees. We explore masculinity from the perspective of women volunteers because this can enhance our understanding of masculinity as a relational achievement as well as help to identify practices that they experience as problematic. Our research shows how voluntary work can afford a distinct range of resources for the ‘doing’ of gender and how this reflects the specific organizational and geographical contexts in which such volunteering occurs.