Drawing on in-depth interviews and oral histories of longshoremen working at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which combined is the fifth largest port complex in the world, this paper examines the ways in which socially constructed notions of working-class masculinity structures historically male-dominated occupations and trade unions. I argue that working-class male longshoremen are experiencing a collective crisis of masculinity. The crisis of masculinity is not solely the result of women entering the industry, but instead is the outcome of an overall destabilization of men’s collective class-based identities in response to massive technological changes and a concomitant shift in the gendered regulation of workplace practices, defined by men’s embodied connection to longshore labor, as well as the challenging of the homosocial culture of the waterfront by female longshoremen. The collective crisis of dominant longshoremen’s masculinity, precipitated by technological and gendered workplace changes, played a major role in the backlash against women entering the industry leading to numerous gender discrimination lawsuits against the union (ILWU).
labor, masculinity, work, labor unions, gender