Masculinity in the Andalusian countryside: the heavy burden of being a man and working the land

The agricultural sector in Andalusia represents 8.76% of employment for a population of 264,788 people. 75.17% are male and 24.82% are female. This evidences the great overrepresentation of masculinity in one of the most traditional workplaces of this autonomous community.

David D. Gilmore carried out a study with Andalusian day laborers and observed that “for the worker, the farmer or anyone who has to earn a living, work is also the responsibility – never questioned – of feeding those who depend on it” . This translates into the fact that the man has seen himself socially situated from a privileged position of power within families because he is in charge of providing for them.

We wonder, then, if this privileged position favors the construction of a hegemonic masculinity in Andalusian society. And, furthermore, we are concerned in which realities this masculinity manifests itself in the deepest Andalusia. Deconstructing this masculinity is a long road for men, but in rural areas this road is long and often also hostile.

In these contexts, not being “very man” implies being something like a lazy person, a concept loaded with pejorative elements such as insufficiency or uselessness. This relationship shows a link between manliness and an efficient (or useful) code of conduct in relation to work achievements. In rural areas, these labor achievements place men at the “center” of the public sphere.

The roles of men

In order to defend these positions, men must assimilate different roles, stereotypes and, consequently, privileges that seem to be found, in principle, more deeply rooted in small towns. The age of the majority of its inhabitants ranges between 40 and 65 years, so they could show more reluctance when it comes to (self)deconstructing thoughts of toxic masculinity.

For all these reasons, intervening in gender awareness matters is a more complex challenge. In addition, the exodus of the youth population to the cities in search of social projection is another element that hinders ideological renewal through youth and intergenerational relations of what it traditionally means to be a man. His exodus reduces the possibilities of permeability of the new ways of being in the world as a man from other, more egalitarian dimensions.

“Being a man” in the countryside, and more specifically a heterosexual man, who organizes his thinking based on patriarchal models, supposes the right to dispose of his life and to “give orders.” In labor relations in the field, a hierarchy is created that positions the man in a place of superiority or inferiority depending on the relationship he has with the means of production. If his position is closer to the means of production, he may place himself in a position of superior power.

The treatment between men in the social spaces of agricultural work becomes an exhibitor of the power struggles between the bosses and the day laborers.

The concept of manhood at work

In rural Andalusia, the concept of “manliness” refers to a brave and stoic attitude in the face of any threat, which can lead men to assume greater risks during the development of their work. The Ministry of Labor and Social Economy has already indicated that the increase in accidents in activities related to agriculture, a total of 13,151, corresponds mostly to wage-earners. If we add to this assumption of risks the difficult working conditions present in this sector, accepted in order not to lose their job and their ability to support themselves, the costs of masculinity that men must face and that can have repercussions on their security are evident. and health.

Turning down these jobs is not a popular option. In the rural areas of Andalusia, the concept of “gulf” is coined to refer to those who renounce their right to responsibility and virility for not working, this representation glimpses how men are “pushed” to assume risk situations within their work in the field. As a consequence, being “good as a man” means founding and maintaining a family no matter the personal cost.

If we analyze the studies of masculinities, we observe that they are not thinking from the towns, but from the cities. And that supposes a legitimization of the gender roles in that segment of the population that, with the desertification of these areas, are doomed to disappear.

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