Dr. Barber received her Ph.D. from University of Southern California and joined the SIUC faculty in 2011. She is an Assistant Professor with a full appointment in Sociology and is faculty affiliate in the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department. Her research and teaching focus on issues of gender and social inequalities.
Barber is on the Gender & Society Editorial Board, is an elected member of the American Sociological Association’s council for the section on Sex and Gender —the largest section of the ASA—is past council member for the ASA section on Sociology of the Body & Embodiment, and has served as a grant reviewer for the National Science Foundation.
Dr. Barber’s book, Styling Masculinity: Gender, Class, and Inequality in the Men’s Grooming Industry (Rutgers University Press, 2016), looks at the social relations involved in selling beauty to men. Drawing from ethnographic observations, in-depth interviews, and surveys with employees and clients at high-service men’s salons in California, this book shows how women beauty workers become organizationally responsible for not just convincing men they need a stylish haircut and pedicure, but that these services will preserve rather than jeopardize their social status.
In Styling Masculinity, Barber brings together the scholarship on the culture of consumption with the sociology of service work. She theorizes the “labor of consumption” by using a feminist analysis of how women who groom men end up supporting men’s structural privileges. This perspective provides insight into how gender, class, race, and heterosexuality become corporate marketing strategies through the commercialization of particular women workers as part of the consumer experience. The salons’ women employees wrestle with the organizational demands that set them up as gendered persons before skilled workers, showing that the men’s grooming industry is not the beacon of emerging gender equality popularly assumed.
Findings from this research were also published in Gender & Society, here.
*Styling Masculinity made the New York Times’ 2016 List of “Stylish Reads,” here, and has also been mention in Playboy, Mel Magazine, The Atlantic, The Houston Chronicle, and more. Barber has talked about her research on The Matt Townsend Show, WPR’s Central Time, NHPR’s Word of Moth, and NPR’s Marketplace.
Barber is working with Dr. Kelsy Kretschmer on a study of men’s participation in feminist protest. This continues her focus on men in conventionally women’s spaces. Using long-running Take Back the Night marches and the more recent SlutWalk events as case studies, this work explores how shifting boundaries around who can participate in these anti-sexual assault protests shape feminist movement messages about equality. Preliminary work on this project is published in the journals, Mobilization and Contexts.
AREAS OF SPECIALIZATION AND INTEREST
- Gender and Sexuality
- Social Inequalities
- Sociology of Culture
- Work and Organizations
- Qualitative Methodology
- Disaster Research
Kelsy Kretschmer and Kristen Barber. 2016. "Men at the March: Feminist Movement Boundaries and Men's Participation in Take Back the Night and SlutWalk." Mobilization 21(3): 283-300.
Kristen Barber. 2016. "'Men Wanted': Heterosexual Aesthetic Labor in the Masculinization of the Hair Salon." Gender & Society 30(4): 618-642.
Kristen Barber and Timothy J. Haney. 2016. “The Experiential Gap in Disaster Research: Feminist Epistemology and the Contribution of Local Affected Researchers." Sociological Spectrum 36(2): 57-74.
Shiloh Deitz and Kristen Barber. 2015. “Geographies of Inequalities: Urban Renewal and the Race, Gender, and Class of Post-Katrina New Orleans.” Race, Gender & Class 134-159.
Kristen Barber. 2015. “Styled Masculinity: Men’s Consumption of Salon Hair Care and the Construction of Difference.” In (Re)Theorizing Masculinities, edited by C.J. Pascoe and Tristan Bridges. Cambridge, U.K.: Oxford University Press.
Ronald E. Hallett and Kristen Barber. 2014. “Ethnographic Research in a Cyber Era.” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 43(3): 306-320.
Kristen Barber and Kelsy Kretschmer. 2013. “Walking Like a Man?” Contexts: Understanding People in their Social Worlds. 12(2): 40-45.
Kristen Barber. 2008. “The Well-Coiffed Man: Class, Race, and Heterosexual Masculinity in the Hair Salon.” Gender & Society 22(4): 455-476.
Kristen Barber. 2006. “Sex and Power.” In Introducing the New Sexuality Studies: Original Essays and Interviews, edited by Steven Seidman, Nancy Fischer, and Chet Meeks, 59-63. London, U.K.: Routledge.
SELECTION OF COURSES TAUGHT
- Women & Men in Contemporary Society, SOC 223/WGSS 223
- Elements of Sociological Research Methods, SOC 312
- Sociology of Gender, SOC 423/WGSS 442
Graduate: M.A. and Ph.D.
- Social Research Methods and Design, SOC 512
- Qualitative Methodology, SOC 514
- Teaching Sociology, SOC 518
- Gender and Work, SOC 530