Economy and gender

With reliable regularity, media reports advise us that the pay women receive for their work is well below the amount paid to men. This helps us to get used to the situation. One look in the business pages of any newspaper – or at the media coverage of executive and supervisory boards – is enough to show us that business is even more male-dominated than politics, education or culture. Is the economy therefore a monosexual sector? Or is there such a thing as the other gender of the economy? We are thus led to wonder about the mechanisms of marginalization and the rules of the division of labor by sex. But this is only the beginning of the distinctions that can be made, for in late-capitalist Western society we will not necessarily discover the same patterns of gender division in the economy as in the post-socialist former Eastern Bloc. Different branches of the economy display different gender relationships, and sex itself is a commodity like no other. Work, success, income, profit, expansion etc. are at the same time categories resonant with elements of libido, which lends the gender dimension of the economy a further quality. Are power relationships mirrored in the structures of desire and/or can we subversively undermine the former when we begin to depart from the tacit bipolarity of the sexes?
The spring program at Kunstraum Lakeside spotlights a few aspects of the complex relationship of economy and gender. Renowned US scientist Eileen Trauth has been studying gender relations in the IT industry for several years now and will put her methods and results up for discussion in a lecture. Tadej Pogačar, whose exhibition opens the semester, devotes his work to one of the most sexually structured economic branches of all – prostitution – focusing here on struggles for recognition and rights based on the example of a Brazilian prostitutes’ initiative, where this struggle is expressed in the creation of a fashion label as an alternative economy. Bojana Pejić (lecture) and Mare Tralla (video) explore the socialist “Heroine of Labor” and trace the transformation this female image is subject to under the conditions of neocapitalism and the feminization of poverty.
In the second exhibition this spring, Renate Lorenz and Pauline Boudry present staged photographs by a 19th-century English house servant named Hannah Cullwick – a treasure of historic gender performance – and reflect on these in the context of current practices for traversing social and gender boundaries. Antke Engel, director of the Hamburg Institute for Queer Theory, will discuss in her talk the meaning of the reproduction of gender identities for neoliberal concepts of subjectivity.
The end of the semester falls in the weeks of the Euro 2008 football championship, an economic factor of the first degree. In a juxtaposition of selected works by Josef Dabernig and Deimantas Narkevičius, myths of masculinity, such as those cultivated in football, and the realities of trafficking in women, which finds fertile ground in the sphere of major sporting events, will be subjected to comparative scrutiny.

Christian Kravagna, Hedwig Saxenhuber