Income, Productivity, and
Evolving Gender Relations
in Two Tahitian Islands
Victoria S. Lockwood
With the expansion of capitalist relations of production throughout the developing world, rural women have moved increasingly into wage labor and commodity production to meet their families' basic economic needs and rising consumer aspirations. Many produce cash crops or petty commodities such as crafts and prepared food for sale. In some cases, these activities and the income earning associated with them represent a significant departure from women's “traditional” (precapitalist) roles; in others, they represent an intensification of prevailing roles with a new focus on cash earning.
Understanding patterns of women's participation in commercial production and income earning is important for two reasons. First, studies have shown that women's income is oftentimes critical to family wellbeing and survival because it is typically expended on family necessities such as food and clothing, whereas men's income is more frequently diverted to consumer and luxury items (Charleton 1984; Kandiyoti 1992). For this reason, many planned development programs now focus greater attention on women's income-generating strategies (e.g., Carney 1996; Wilson-Moore 1997).
Second, one of the key issues to emerge in the analysis of development's impact on non-Western women is the variability in women's new productive roles and income earning either ameliorating or reinforcing patriarchal systems of gender relations. Income (capital) generation and control is a potential material foundation for the exercise of social, economic, and political power in all societies characterized by capitalist relations of production. For women in developing societies, income generation (and control) is potentially a source of greater financial independence and