The Other within Us: Feminist Explorations of Women and Aging

By Marilyn Pearsall | Go to book overview

8
GENDER, RACE,
AND CLASS
Beyond the Feminization of Poverty in Later Life

Paula L. Dressel

Increasing popular and scholarly attention is devoted to the feminization of poverty argument, which is focused both on women in general ( Ehrenreich & Piven, 1984; Pearce, 1978) and on older women in particular ( Minkler & Stone, 1985; Older Women's League, 1986). Such publications have made important contributions to the understanding of gender inequalities. For example, their discussions of the family wage system, the sexual division of paid and unpaid labor, and the existence of dual labor markets have highlighted structural and ideological bases of different economic opportunities and barriers for men and women. The writings have also provided a wealth of statistics that have documented gender inequalities and described the many social policies that undergird and reproduce different experiences by gender. Political activism by various age-based and feminist advocacy organizations has been fueled by the growing literature on the feminization of poverty across women's lives.

Although acknowledgement is due the contributions made in the literature, a concern is that the feminization of poverty argument in isolation also has the potential for distorting and simplifying the issue of old age poverty and for being politically divisive. In the subsequent sections, it is maintained that gerontology scholars and activists need to move beyond the feminization of poverty argument to acknowledge how complexly the factors of race and gender are interlocked with the variable of social class in the United States. Emphasis on only

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