Downsizing Masculinity: Gender, Family, and Fatherhood in Post-Industrial America



This paper employs interviewing of and participant observation among laid-off and soon to be laid-off industrial workers to explore how conceptions of masculinity, fatherhood, and family are negotiated during the traumatic and transitory period of a plant closing. As economic globalization erodes the industrial base of the Rust Belt, traditional ideas about masculinity, fatherhood and family—including the notion of a sole provider or “breadwinner”—become increasingly impracticable. This study finds that industrial workers adapt to the realities of downward mobility by discarding elements of the “breadwinner ideal”while clinging to others, including beliefs about the American dream and fatherhood.