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CHAPTER FIVE Women’s Work Trips and Multifaceted Oppression* IBIPO JOHNSTON-ANUMONWO Being employed is an essential aspect of meaningful participation in society for most people. Access to jobs for different social groups is thus a relevant topic of inquiry. Since, like men, a majority of employed women work outside the home, an examination of women’s commuting is one way to appraise women’s access to jobs. This chapter will give a conceptual and empirical analysis of women’s work trips, using analysis of the multiple faces of oppression posited by Iris Young (1990). The premise of the chapter is that this situation of many working women, that they have more difficulty in getting to work, denies equitable access, and therefore can be tied to social structures of oppression. Based on evidence from empirical research in a variety of U.S. cities, I present an analysis of women’s commuting using Iris Young’s conceptual framework of different types of oppression that she identifies as marginalization, powerlessness, cultural imperialism, exploitation , and violence. The chapter focuses on problems faced by women working outside the home in the context of pervasive de facto residential segregation. Their socioeconomic, locational, and mobility characteristics are analyzed to understand the nature of the oppression associated with their work trips. For instance, to what extent does the stereotype that connects motherhood with short trips uphold or undermine the claim that cultural imperialism is involved in judging these women’s oppression? How might a multifactorial investigation of job type, monetary compensation, and trip length underscore the intricate links between powerlessness and exploitation for working 93 94 Ibipo Johnston-Anumonwo women? What, if any, form of violence do women encounter while commuting? I synthesize findings to these questions and show that the conceptual framework of Iris Young’s (1990) faces of oppression is both versatile and relevant for interpreting racial and gender differences in employment access. Housing-jobs mismatches and transportation constraints that restrict women’s access to jobs contribute to their marginalization in the labor market. The sample of findings reveals that many African American women continue to endure relatively long commutes to get to work because of, and in spite of, transportation , locational, and socioeconomic hindrances. I conclude this chapter by discussing the implications of multifaceted oppression in analyses of women’s work trips. Connecting Commuting With Multiple Faces of Oppression Do people have jobs? What are some constraints on people’s access to jobs? What jobs do people do? Where do they work? How much do they earn? How do they get to their workplace? These are all questions that can be addressed within a framework that examines connections between commuting and multiple faces of oppression. Young cites unemployment as a form of oppression she terms marginalization because jobless people may be confined to lives of social marginality (Young, 1990). Inadequate access to jobs because of the location of one’s home can lead to joblessness. Since the length of the separation between the home and the workplace is an indicator of access to employment, a focus on the work trip can reveal expedient job access or lack thereof. Another form of oppression, powerlessness, refers to socialclass injustices wherein the powerless group lacks the authority or opportunity to negotiate favorable conditions; while exploitation, a third face of oppression, occurs when a group does not benefit from their labor while others do. According to Young, powerlessness can be caused by the social division of labor between nonprofessionals and professionals, with the later group represented in positions of power and privilege. And in her conceptualization of exploitation as a face of oppression, Young emphasizes inadequate compensation, financial or otherwise, that benefits one group at the expense of another. Marginalization , powerlessness, and exploitation all refer to inequality within the context of employment. They are the faces of oppression that place attention on the resources to which people have access, 95 Women’s Work Trips and Multifaceted Oppression the material benefits possible from waged work, and the opportunities to exercise significant control in the employment context. In essence, these faces of oppression are about which group of workers benefits from whom, who is dispensable, and who gets to work to start with. For powerlessness and exploitation, I look at conventional labor market variables, occupation type, and employment earnings, to analyze these two faces of oppression. Regarding work trips, the empirical literature shows that high-status workers are generally in a better position to afford long commutes compared to low...


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