SOSC 1350 Lecture Notes - Moral Police, Socalled, Heterosexism

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March 7, 2012
THE FEMINIZATION AND CRIMINALIZATION OF POVERTY
There’s some controversy about how the feminization of poverty is understood
In a nutshell, some feminists argue that this is a new problem created with the advent of
neoliberalism.
Some argue that this is an issue as old as capitalism
1. The Feminization of Poverty and Neoliberalism
Neoliberalism has contributed to the feminization of poverty
Since the advent in the late 70s and early 80s, women’s’ poverty has increased
2 reasons:
1. The retrenchment of the state
2. The reorganization of labor
a. Why neoliberal retrenchment of the state adversely affects the socio-economic
position of women more than men
Retrenchment of the state: involves the state taking steps back. The various social
programs that were created in the post WWII era have been systematically been
dismantled under neoliberalism; and women depend on these programs, much more than
men, therefore the retrenchment of the state is linked to the feminization of poverty
o E.g., heath care: Canadians as part of the nationalistic myth like to claim that we
have a wonderful system of universal healthcare. However, health care has been
under attack as a result of neoliberalism in the past decade. Women tend to be less
likely to have jobs with benefits (i.e., health benefits) than men. As such, cutbacks in
healthcare seem to disproportionately affect women
o Restructuring of employment insurance (EI) In 1996 the EI system was massively
revamped and the eligibility criteria made it inaccessible to a large portion that paid
into it. If you’re unemployed you’ll have access to the insurance, but since the
changes in 96, increasingly number of people haven’t had access to EI who under
the previous law would have. This disproportionately affect women because they
are much more likely to have temporary or contractual work and other
interruptions in their work than men (i.e., child rearing and sexual harassment), and
thus, women tend to be more dependent on EI than men
Recall: because of the way in which the law deals with sexual harassment, it’s
a lot easier for women to just leave their jobs than pursue legal channels. As a
result, women tend to change jobs more often than men
As a result, women are left far more vulnerable by these cutbacks to EI than
men are
b. Why the neoliberal reorganization of labor disproportionately affects the
employment and earning rates of women
Neoliberalism also involves a fundamental reorganization of labor
Recall: women’s employment patterns contribute to poverty (i.e., education does not
eliminate this wage gap or guarantee freedom from poverty, women especially women of of
color are much more likely to be able to secure part-time positions/temporary positions)
Under neoliberalism, there’s been a huge change in how people work in Canada
A lot of work has been done particularly in the field of feminist political economy to chart
these changes in the labor market and how they affect women
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The way people work in the last 25 years ago is very different than before the advent of
neoliberalism. Government policies have contributed to creating more “flexible” labor
forces
People used to expect that going to university will provide them with a good paying job,
have job security and financial security etc. But you cannot make this assumption anymore
Instead of permanent jobs, there’s been an increase in lower-paid temporary jobs
“Flexible” tends to be represented as something good. The media often represents flexible
labor as being good for women as it allows them to have more time with their family.
Scholarly literature points out that flexible tends to mean lower wages, less secure
contractual and temporary jobs
Some higher end earners might find it easier to control the flexibility of their work and
make it fit their schedule, but the vast majority of “flexible” workers deal with
unpredictability and constant rescheduling rather than flexibility. Therefore, neoliberalism
has contributed to women’s poverty in that this flexibility means less pay, less security and
more difficulty in day-to-day jobs
Labor market strategies are changing the way we work
Immigrant women and women of color are particularly likely to be stuck in this type of
labor. Overall, when we think about this retrenchment of the state, and the way in which
labor is being reorganized, both of these things play a huge role in contributing to the
feminization of poverty
Under neoliberalism, the gap between the rich and the poor is expanding (recall
neoliberalism water balloon video) the middle class is shrinking, and poor class is
increasing
Neoliberalism does exacerbate the poverty of women, and it shuffles them into jobs that
men, particularly white men, don’t want to take
c. Some feminists argue that the feminization of poverty is not new
There’s been debate in the feminist community about this term “feminization of poverty”
Some argue that that it should be a problem that’s though about in terms of contemporary
neoliberalism because of how much the feminization of poverty has increased under
neoliberalism
Some feminists argue that it’s an old problem that has been given a new name; it is as old as
capitalism itself. It’s been given a new shape under neoliberalism
2. The Feminization of Poverty: An Old Problem with a New Name
a. Women have always been poor; their poverty has been concealed
Feminists who argue that this is an old problem would say that women have always been
poor, it’ simply through their dependent roles of wives and daughters that their poverty
has been concealed
In the last 25-30 years, as many women live without men, either by choice or incisively,
women’s poverty becomes more visible and their dependency has transferred from the
male dependency to the state
At every stage in their lives, women are more likely to be poor, and are more likely to be
trapped in a life of poverty
b. The “feminization of poverty” ought to be defined as such: without the support of a
man, a woman is likely to be poor
As such, some feminists argue that the feminization of poverty should be abstracted from
neoliberalism and demined at such: without the support of a man, a woman is likely to be
poor
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E.g., lesbian women whether single or in a partnership are far more likely than gay
single men or partnered men to be poor because their women and make less money than
men
o It can be incredibly expensive to have children for example, adoption, in vitro
fertilization
o Heterosexism or homophobia in the workforce that might force lesbian women to
change jobs more frequently than heterosexual women/men
E.g., disable women much less likely to be married than are disabled men or able-bodied
women. In other words, married disabled men are more likely to have a spouse helping
them than disabled women.
o We see here again that without the support of a man, women are more likely to be
poor.
o They’re also more likely to be underemployed or unemployed
o Inaccessible/unaffordable housing for these women in Toronto
E.g., growing phenomenon of homelessness amongst women. It’s often seen as a plight that
happens to men because the more visible homeless people that you would run into tend to
be men.
o But the poverty and the homelessness of women are often invisible. Only a small
minority to panhandle in the streets, and those that do tend to be men therefore
they have more visibility.
o Young homeless women are more likely to be recruited as sex-trade workers
although you may not see them on the streets during the day, you might see them on
the streets at night
o In fact, more homeless people you don’t see at all
o Under neoliberalism there have been cutbacks to homeless shelters and women
shelters which has only made matters worse
c. Regardless of whether the term “feminization of povertyis understood to describe
an old or new (neoliberal) phenomenon, women today form the majority of the poor
in Canada
Women do form the majority of the poor in Canada, whether they are part of the working
poor or the homeless
3. The Feminization of Poverty in Canada: A Snapshot
Men’s standard of living tends to stay the same or go up, and women’s standard of living tends to
go down substantially, sometimes putting women into poverty
Middle class women are one man away from the welfare line
In 2005, over half of single-parent families headed by women are poor
Jean Chretien said he would eradicate child poverty by 2000. Not only did he NOT do this, but he
actually increased child poverty, and that was increased under the leadership of Harper
Neoliberalism is incompatible with the goal of eradicating child poverty
o Why are children poor? Because their parents are poor. We can’t separate child poverty
from the feminization of poverty
a. 2.4 million Canadian women live in poverty
b. This has been tied to the divorce rate
You can’t separate what happens to women after divorce from child poverty
c. 70 percent of minimum wage workers are women (particularly immigrant women
and women of color
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