Historically, debates over wage theory have largely concentrated on the tension between wages as a living and wages as a price. Feminist thought contributes to this conversation about wages and wage setting through the central concept of gender. While most contemporary feminist thought is grounded in gender as an analytical construct, there are different understandings of what gender is and how it is constituted. Therefore, in this chapter we trace alternative understandings of gender, beginning with an examination of the classic work of Simone de Beauvoir. De Beauvoir's influence on the socalled second wave of feminist theorizing and activism in the 1960s and 1970s is summarized. Next we examine the polarization between structural theories of women's oppression (i.e., patriarchy) and ideologically based theories of the social construction of gender.
We introduce feminist interpretations of “practice theory, ” an important development in contemporary gender theory since the 1990s. Practice theory is an attempt to reconcile structure and agency as influences on gendered outcomes. We utilize this perspective and explain how its innovative approach to gender can help us better understand wage setting by illuminating a third dimension to wages, wages as a social practice. The interdisciplinary gender theory, methodological approaches, and literature we discuss are aimed at generating our feminist theory of wage setting.
In writing The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir (1974 ) crystalized many of the ideas that have continued to guide the development of feminist thought. She astutely noted the limits of biological categories, beginning her opus with a denial of the universality of a simple duality between male and female. She also denied the existence of a universal female nature. In fact, de Beauvoir contended that “it must be repeated once more that in human society nothing is natural and that woman, like much else, is a product elaborated by civilization” (1974 : 806). Although she did not use the term “gender, ” de Beauvoir articulated the idea that femininity was separable from biological sex. In perhaps her most famous assertion: “One is not born, but