What Does Feminist Economics Mean?

Longstanding gender inequalities in regard to wages and salaries are key points of focus for Feminist Economists.
Longstanding gender inequalities in regard to wages and salaries are key points of focus for Feminist Economists.

The discipline of feminist economics is defined as the critical study of economies, including relevant methodology, epistemology, history, and empirical research, when viewed in the light of females' socioeconomic struggles as they attempt to overcome male and patriarchal biases. The field focuses on areas which are particularly relevant to women like occupational segregation and new forms of data collection such as gender empowerment measure.

History of the Field

The history of this field as we know it today can be traced back to 1969 when numerous feminists, economists, and scientists put forth a strong argument asserting that the work which is traditionally meant for a woman was undervalued. For example, child raising, caring for the elderly family members and general housekeeping was not included in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), yet this was the starting point of any production. Women cooked for their husbands and children and hence their input should be considered while calculating labor. Betsy Warrior argues that the first product that any human being uses first is breast milk which is neither paid for nor calculated as a product in the GDP. Most feminists felt that this was not fair and started advocating for a more inclusive economic model.

Relevant Applications

The field of feminist economics is widely used by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to emphasize the need for women's, maternal, and young children's welfare. It has also been used to advocate for more gender equality in all sectors of the economy by focusing on the effort put rather than the total output to the market. It is also becoming a popular career course, and some universities and colleges are offering it as a field of study

Evolution Over Time

Economists have developed areas of inquiry in the economic sector to yield more balanced, less gender-biased, models. Some of the areas have included the use living standards and well-being as a measure of success rather than the use of mechanisms such as income. Other areas of concern include the accuracy in measuring the unpaid work and also giving the necessary attention to the care sector which is dominated by women. Feminists have also come up with an idea of using human capabilities a way of measuring success as opposed to the traditional measures such as GDP and per capita incomes.

Praises and Criticisms

Proponents of feminist economics have argued that that traditional economics marginalized women and ignored their inputs into economies. The work of a woman in a household is equally as important as to what their male counterparts do in the industries. They assert that traditional economists made unrealistic assumptions. such as that all women are married and have children, that they are economically dependent on a male relative, and that they are irrational and cannot be entrusted to make economic decisions. However, the critics of this model of economy argue that the feminist model of economics is unrealistic and will require massive assumptions. For example, one will have to equate the child caring services with that of a daycare center or a child psychologist to value the job. It is not also clear on how one can value motherly love or the breast milk the mother feeds her child.


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