The Myth of Empowerment: The Crisis of Middle-Class Working Women
Please cite the paper as:
Ritwika Patgiri, (2022), The Myth of Empowerment: The Crisis of Middle-Class Working Women, World Economics Association (WEA) Conferences, No. 1 2022, Feminist Economics, Contributions and Challenges
Women empowerment is closely related to socio-cultural issues. Despite the working of women outside home for economical reasons, but this is will not lead to women empowerment. Sometimes (and in many cases in developing countries ) working outside home is a step towards women empowerment.
Definitely agreed. However, it is the double burden of work that women often find themselves in that I wanted to highlight.
This paper reinforces much of what I already knew. I can not emphasize enough how the idea that poor women have always worked outside the home needs to be repeated. The same sentiment goes for the double burden placed on women of working outside the home with no reduction in household responsibilities.
Perhaps the idea of economic necessity of working outside the home could be explored a little more. Among others, Julie Matthaei explores this in her book “An Economic History of Women in America.” She pointed that certain pressures began to emerge in the US. that caused middle class women to reevaluate their role in the household. Where once married women considered it to be their role to adjust household consumption to household income, these pressures caused them to adjust income to household consumption by the only means available – getting a job outside the home. This was often the only means they had available because they did not have independent access to credit, and possessed undervalued skills , since you point out that “Caring activity is often dismissed as a non-marketable skill.”
One result of this is the phenomenon of competitive consumption which contributes to increased household debt burdens with interesting household welfare implications.
It seems a comment I made a couple of days ago was never posted.
First, I acknowledge the ‘double burden’ that women often face. May of the themes in this paper are reflected also in US historical development, especially the idea that lower- and middle-class women always worked outside their own home – often in someone else’s. My source for this is Julie Matthaei’s work, “An Economic History of Women in America.”
You are right to question whether the ‘neoliberal’ form of feminism represents progress, since ‘care work is undervalued. Upper middle-class women were once restricted to care of heath and home, and this came to be regarded in many industrial nations as the ideal family type, so ‘neoliberal’ feminism was progressive is it allowed such women to break those shackles.
Other types of feminism that question capitalism or neoliberalism, or whatever you want to call, are largely ignored in many current discussions. This paper is a welcome antidote to that trend.