Female Workers Struggling in the Years after May 68

Relations to Feminism and Gender Subversions
By Fanny Gallot, Eve Meuret-Campfort

By studying workers from the Chantelle factory in Saint-Herblain, this article focuses on how women union members considered feminism in theory and in practice. These union members belonged to both the CGT and the CFDT. The two confederations distanced themselves from the universalizing notion of feminism, as well as from established militants of the exteme-left. Nonetheless, they imported some of their ideas and practices in the factory. Most female workers rejected the name of feminism, notably to privilege their specific membership in the working class. However, in the everyday life of the factory, these workers discussed their private lives which made moments of work into moments of mutual assistance and of exchange. During strikes, these workers foregrounded their dignity as laborers of Chantelle. They fashioned themselves just as much as workers as women to combat stigmatizing discourse. By this action, they conquered a new individual and collective identity associated with struggle and insubordination. Thus, this article analyzes how workers deployed their “agency”, that is to say their capacity to position themselves via the gender norms that confined them, notably their normative assignment to domestic work.

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