Men Doing “Women’s Work”: Masculinity and Gender Relations Among Street Vendors in Maputo, Mozambique

  • Victor Agadjanian


Since Boserup (1970) first set the agenda for research on gender and work in developing settings several studies of sub-Saharan Africa have described how women can successfully compete with men in both rural and urban labor markets (e.g., Osirim 1996; Spring 2000) and how women’s increased participation in labor forces affect gender relations and family decisions (e.g., Adepoju and Oppong 1994). Most of this literature has been concerned with sub-Saharan women’s catching up to men in rates of labor force participation and entry into traditionally male occupations but has typically overlooked the opposite phenomenon— men’s work in traditionally female jobs. Yet studies in developed settings suggest that this phenomenon may have profound implication for gender identity and inequality. Thus Williams (1989, 1992, 1995) showed that men and women reproduce and maintain gender differences while participating in nontraditional occupations and that, reflecting the dominant gender hierarchy, this process is asymmetrical: while women entering traditionally male occupations are relegated to their margins, men involved in traditionally female occupations are, on the contrary, often channeled to the most prestigious and materially rewarding specialties that are also seen as more “masculine.” At the same time, men in traditionally female occupations, such as nursing, librarianship, elementary school teaching and social work, do become objects of negative “feminine” stereotypes on the part of clients and outsiders. The gender stigma attached to these occupations (in addition to lower material returns) may deter men from entering

those occupations in greater numbers (Williams 1992) or prompt them to leave those occupations quickly (Jacobs 1993; Williams and Villemez 1993).


Gender Identity Gender Relation Informal Economy Female Occupation Street Vendor 
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© Lahoucine Ouzgane and Robert Morrell 2005

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  • Victor Agadjanian

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