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Visual Arts Undergraduate Researcher Uses Honeybees to Probe Society's Gender Roles

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Still shot from Christina Dietz's video

What do domestic work and the traditional gender roles of women have in common with the non-visible labor of honeybees? In a multimedia project in which women performed the work of honeybees, undergraduate Christina Dietz found that, in both subjects, the value of labor is lessened based on its lack of visibility.

“I hope to bring attention to the occurrence of a shift in perceived importance when the member that performs a specific labor changes,” said Dietz. “The roles and processes of bees become more visible when humans perform in their place.”

As part of her project, "Honeybees and Homemakers: Pollination and Gendered Labor," Dietz built a small, house-like structure. She installed two observation hives in the windows of the house, allowing viewers to glimpse what goes on inside a beehive. She also created a video that follows three young women in their imagined workday as they perform the task of pollination. The women blur the lines between work and leisure, as they must uphold a lovely appearance while toiling in the fields, spreading pollen from one flower to another. At the end of the day, they brush pollen from their skirts, collect their soiled gloves, and retire for the day, to prepare to work again the next day.

Full story by Tammy Hosterman

Image: In Christina Dietz's video, three women leave home for a day of gathering pollen and pollinating flowers. Photo by Helen Maser.