Bread Maker-Turned-Breadwinner: Representations of Gender and Power in the Canadian Television Series Bomb Girls


This research explores the representation of gender roles in the Canadian prime-time television series Bomb Girls, which depicts the lives of women working at a munitions factory in Toronto during the Second World War. The historical drama, which aired from 2012 to 2013, is set in a period that challenged gendered dynamics of power in the public and private spheres. Women’s participation in the workforce more than doubled during the war, reaching 1.2 million by late 1943. Women worked alongside men and in place of those fighting overseas, assuming (or at least sharing) the traditionally-male role of ‘breadwinner.’ This blurred gendered divisions of labour and challenged stereotypical conceptions of ‘womanhood.’ Life changed and, with that, so did women. Bomb Girls sought to tell the stories of a diverse group of female munitions factory workers ‘liberated’ from the home and the social restrictions that accompany a traditional division of labour. Through a content analysis of the television series, this study considers whether and, if so, how the series depicted these shifting power dynamics by analyzing—through a feminist media studies theoretical framework—the characters’ personal characteristics, professional positioning, and attitudes towards their own employment. In the end, the paper argues that Bomb Girls challenges traditional representations of gender prominent in mass media and, instead, captures the shift in women’s public-private roles and, with that, the nuances of a more grassroots shift within women toward personal, professional and social empowerment.

Author Information
Tracy Moniz, Mount Saint Vincent University, Canada

Paper Information
Conference: MediAsia2015
Stream: Critical and Cultural Studies

This paper is part of the MediAsia2015 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon