This article examines the masculinities of male workers in the context of an emotionally rich form of labour: surfboard-making. Contributing to emerging research around the emotional and embodied dimensions of men's working lives, the article maps the cultural, emotional and embodied dimensions of work onto masculine identity construction. Combining cultural economy theory, emotional geographies and in-depth ethnographic methods, I reveal how surfboard-making has become a gendered form of work; how jobs rely on (and impact) the body and what surfboard-making means to workers outside of financial returns. Following a manual labour process, and informed by Western surfing subculture, commercial surfboard-making has layered onto male bodies. Men perform 'blokey' masculinities in relation with one another. However, doing manual craftwork evokes close, personal interaction; among co-workers but also through engagements with place and local customers. Felt, embodied craft skills help workers personalise boards for individual customers and local breaks. Beneath masculine work cultures and pretensions, surfboard-making is a deeply emotional and embodied work. Labour is dependent on haptic knowledge: sense of touch, bodily movement and eye for detail. Contrasting their blokey masculinity, surfboard-makers rely on intimate links between their bodies, tools, materials, customers and surfing places. These 'strong bodied' men articulate a 'passion' and 'love' for 'soulful' jobs, demonstrating how waged work comprises alternative masculinities, shaped by working culture, relations and labour processes. A cultural economy framework and emotionally engaged research approach are valuable for challenging hegemonic masculinity, important for achieving more inclusive, tolerant and equitable workplaces.
Warren, A. (2016). Crafting masculinities: gender, culture and emotion at work in the surfboard industry. Gender, Place and Culture: a journal of feminist geography, 23 (1), 36-54.