Deem, R. (1999) 'How do we get out of the ghetto? Strategies for research on gender and leisure for the 21st century', in Leisure Studies, 18, 3: 161 - 77.
The general problem is that if we focus on gender alone, we find ourselves in a ghetto, while to focus on a more general topic such as consumption risks making gender marginal.
Leisure studies itself has been ghettoised. It is not central to the RAE ( Research Assessment Exercise -- a big grading exercise for UK universities with big rewards for the succcessful), or the ESRC ( Economic and Social Research Centre -- another grant-awarding body), and is associated with low-status '1992 universities' ( former Polytechnics). Although it can be a creative area, gender is still marginalised within it. Gender is seen as too personal an issue, and to research it invites ghettoisation. There is a parallel here with research and education, where gender is a major issue, but the research is now colonised by studies of boys and their under-achievement [some good references to this work are provided on page 164].
The general issue of social exclusion is still marginalised in social sciences, and there have been significant changes in structures and cultures, in gender and in social divisions. However the old patterns have not entirely disappeared. It is important to avoid reductionism. The emphasis may now be on differences rather than inequalities, as in the work on gender by Hammersley and Gomm, who have been correct to point to general assumptions involved in feminist research methods ( in education). These themes have been developed in Leisure Studies by people such as Coalter (Leisure Studies 17, 1998).
For example, the exclusion of women seems to be greatest in public leisure rather than in private or commercial forms. Earlier research underplayed the issue of pleasure, although it did acknowledge it, for example the positive aspects of motherhood. The ambiguities of differences and choices are focused in studies of consumerism: choice here is still limited, just like parental choice in education. Further, in welcoming changes such as postfordism, there is a tendency to overlook the growth in insecurity for women.
Deem's own preferred approach would be to explore the links between gender and consumption. There are some clear parallels: some leisure pursuits such as hobbies require consumption, while in other areas they can be a clash, such as that between playing sport or going shopping. What is required is close and detailed investigations about how goods are used. It might still be possible to develop more general studies of gender, although there is clearly a risk of foundationalism [which seems to lead to an odd kind of empiricism...] so we should only prioritise gender if the data themselves suggest so.
To take one of her own research interests, it is clear that recreational caravanning is still gendered. This study grew from her original study of female leisure in Milton Keynes when she began to research what the women did on holidays. Gender relations obviously seemed to have an effect on holiday pursuits, although this tended to be dismissed as trivial, and her research has even been resented and blocked as marginal. Eventually, she was able to focus on caravanning as a combination of leisure and consumption. She found there were gender aspects in the choice and use of caravans, but claims these emerged rather than being grounded in some prior feminist analysis. This work is still seen as marginal, and caravanning is seen as an isolated example rather than as something more inclusive and general. However, for Deem, this work does reveal aspects of lifestyles in maternity and the impact of gender, and could be a template for further research.
One of the notes points to a paper by Don Slater, on consumerism , given at the BSA conference in 1997, and to his subsequent book on consumerism and modernity, as indicating a way forward. It seems that her own work on caravanning might have been published in Leisure Studies in 1996.
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