It doesn't bother me: An intersectional analysis of discrimination among white women farmers in the US Corn Belt

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Department of Social Sciences


While women in United States agriculture are increasingly asserting control over land and assuming identities as primary producers, they continue to face significant challenges in being “read” as legitimate producers and in accessing the material resources (land, labor, capital) to do the work of farming. Although scholarship documents how women are generating new strategies to gain legitimacy as farmers and how programs have emerged to provide agricultural outreach to women, much of this work has been “colorblind” in its lack of a critical analysis of race and its intersections with gender. In this paper, we analyze the complex intersections between white supremacy and patriarchy that may benefit white women farmers as they negotiate and normalize gender-based discrimination. Viewing race and gender as materially lived and negotiated, we analyze in-depth qualitative data from 43 conventional white women producers in the US Corn Belt to identify the nuanced ways they socially navigate the white male-dominated world of production agriculture. We find while respondents universally feel that women claiming the role of farmer are subject to both dismissals and outright aggressions in agricultural encounters, many of the respondents claim this discrimination “doesn't bother” them. We argue, that in the semi-dynastic world of Corn Belt production, these white women socially position themselves by drawing on both their embodied histories of labor along with their relationalities to land and people (particularly men) in ways that facilitate a sense of collective belonging contingent on others' exclusion. We conclude by reflecting on how agricultural research on gender could incorporate more critical analyses of race to uncover continuing forms of discrimination in agricultural spaces.

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Journal of Rural Studies