City Research Online

The Feminization of Body Work

Cohen, R. L. & Wolkowitz, C. (2018). The Feminization of Body Work. Gender, Work and Organization, 25(1), pp. 42-62. doi: 10.1111/gwao.12186


This article explores the relationship between ‘body work’ and gender, asking why paid work involving the physical touch and manipulation of others’ bodies is largely performed by women. It argues that the feminization of body work is not simply explicable as ‘nurturance’, nor as the continuation of a pre-existing domestic division of labour. Rather, feminization resolves dilemmas that arise when intimate touch is refigured as paid labour. These ‘body work dilemmas’ are rooted in the material nature of body work. They are both cultural (related to the meaning of inter-corporeality) and organizational (related to the spatial, temporal and labour process constraints of work on bodies). Two sectors are explored as exemplars: hairdressing and care work. Synthesizing UK quantitative data and existing research, the article traces similarities and differences in the composition of these sectors and in how gender both responds to and re-entrenches the cultural and organizational body work dilemmas identified.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Cohen, R. L., and Wolkowitz, C. (2018) The Feminization of Body Work. Gender, Work & Organization, 25: 42– 62, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
SWORD Depositor:
[thumbnail of Cohen & Wolkowitz - Mar 2017 - The Feminization of Body Work (final version to publishers).pdf]
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