Posts Tagged ‘economy’
My friend Marta is working at the YWCA this summer, which I am totally jealous of. She wrote this article for them about the feminization of poverty both in the United States and around the world. I thought it might be of interest. Marta is a rising senior majoring in Health and Society at my alma mater (weird to say that), Beloit College. She is from San Diego, CA, but is working at the YWCA of Rock County in Janesville, WI this summer as the Economic Empowerment Intern.
Women and Global Poverty
Globally, seven out of every ten people who go to bed hungry each night are women.
The feminization of poverty is the direct result of the increasing number of female-headed households world-wide. Previously a western phenomenon, women around the world are increasingly becoming solely responsible for their households. Because men have more earning power than women (30% more in the United States and even more in the developing world), households headed by women automatically lack a tremendous resource. This has resulted in women constituting more than 70% of the world’s poverty.
Poverty is a feminist issue. As the economy takes a turn for the worst, it is clear that many women are carrying twice the burden of their male counterparts. But female poverty goes well beyond the economic depression in the United States. Globally, more than 1.5 billion (yes, BILLION) people live on less than $1 per day, and the majority of them are women who are responsible for children, agriculture (food production), and earning money. Women have suffered profoundly at the hands of misguided cultural practices and norms, as well as urbanization and the emergence of cash economies in rural areas (which generally move men towards cities and away from their families and, consequently, their monetary responsibilities.) Inequalities between men and women run rampant around the world, sometimes subjugating women and girls so profoundly that their lives are literally at stake. It is not uncommon for women to lack the monetary support of a male partner, but also lack entitlement to basic human rights, access to inheritances, as well as land and property ownership. Globally, women are too often excluded from credit as well, which deeply disturbs their ability to rise out of poverty.
So, what are female-focused solutions to global poverty? Short of a global uprising against economic disparities between men and women, many have suggested that “investing in women’s access to land, water, fertilizers, [and] farm labor… is the long-term solution to preventing a hunger crisis” as well as lifting women (ever so slightly) out of the type of poverty that threatens their day to day existence. Others have suggested, and in some cases successfully implemented, microcredit programs that specifically target women, giving them access to credit and encouraging entrepreneurial activities. And still others claim that education is the way to brighter economic futures for women (in many countries women and girls are denied educational opportunities, therefore stunting their economic potential.) While these are all wonderful and decidedly practical solutions to helping women around the world make ends meet, none of them directly combat the root of the problem: a global epidemic of negative, harmful, and archaic views of women.
Poverty is a feminist issue. As feminists, how can we ignore the fact that so many of the people living in poverty are women, and many of those women are single mothers supporting their families?
I have privilege living in the middle class and growing up not being deprived of anything important (though I didn’t see it like that at the time). But I try to always be aware of this class privilege (as well as my other privileges). It’s not always easy, but it’s important to point out privilege when it is present to bring it into light and into discussion. This is the only way that the privilege will ever be addressed.
So as feminists, we have the responsibility to acknowledge that privilege that class gives some of us and the realities of women and families that live in poverty. Because of the feminization of poverty is prevalent throughout the world, feminists have to address this social reality. If feminists don’t have a say in tackling this massive problem, the women who live in poverty will not have the voices heard all of the time.
If you have an abortion, you are contributing to the demise of the American economy. Well, that’s at least what this billboard (found on Sociological Images) wants you to believe.
Nations always have pro- or anti-natal policies to control their population. Basically, do it (or don’t do it) for your country. But according to this billboard (and the policies, the billboard is just way more obvious), women have a duty to their country over their bodies and their reproductive choices.
If I tell someone that I have a degree in Women’s and Gender Studies, I often get the responses: “What’s that?” or “What are you going to do with that?” How do you explain to others, especially potential employers (in this economy) the skills that Women’s Studies provides that other disciplines don’t? How do you dispell the false beliefs about Women’s Studies and show the importance of the knowledge gained through Women’s Stuides? While people in the field of Women’s and Gender Studies know the advantages of it, the general public is still uneducated on the benefits of Women’s and Gender Studies.
Women’s Studies majors know how to read analytically, write passionately, and apply their knowledge from the classroom to the “real world.” In my senior seminar, we had to write a definition of Women’s and Gender Studies in 100 words (in my case, 102 words) and I think that this can be helpful in marketing your Women’s Studies degree to future employers, friends, acquaintances, and anyone who might have a curious comment.
Women’s and Gender Studies is the interdisciplinary examining and questioning of interlocking forms of oppression that different women face that is grounded in their lived experiences. While the experiences of women play an important role in the construction of knowledge within women’s studies, it is important to question the context of those experiences. It was developed as the academic arm of “the” women’s movemnet and has further developed the connection between academics and activism. Academics feeds activism, but activism also feeds academics. Women’s studies encourages questioning the construction of knowledge both outside and within the discipline and its relation to the patriarchy.
While the definition does not highlight all of the skills and knowledge that one gains as a Women’s Studies major, it is an important first step. Understanding what Women’s Studies means to you in a concise way will help you realize the marketable skills that you have.
I encourage everyone to write their own definition because so much of Women’s Studies depends on personal experience. Start by thinking of the definition, then the skills, such as analytical reading, good writing skills, and the application of classroom knowledge.