Gendered Lives

Gendered Lives

Gender Inequalities in Production and Reproduction

Edited by Jacqueline Scott, Shirley Dex and Anke C. Plagnol

The focus of the book is on inequalities in production and reproductive activities, as played out over time and in specific contexts. It examines the different forms that gendered lives take in the household and the workplace, and explores how gender equalities may be promoted in a changing world. Gendered Lives offers many novel and sometimes unexpected findings that contribute to new understandings of not only the causes of gender inequalities but also the ongoing implications for economic well-being and societal integration.

Chapter 4: Financial Togetherness and Autonomy Within Couples

Fran Bennett, Jerome De Henau, Susan Himmelweit and Sirin Sung

Subjects: development studies, family and gender policy, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, family and gender policy, labour policy, sociology and sociological theory


Fran Bennett, Jerome De Henau, Susan Himmelweit and Sirin Sung 1. INTRODUCTION Whether togetherness or autonomy should be valued (more) within couples has been a long-standing topic of debate within feminism. Feminists have generally argued for women’s financial autonomy – for women to be free from financial dependence on men in general and their male partner in particular (see, for example, London Women’s Liberation Campaign for Legal and Financial Independence and Rights of Women 1979). However, there has also been recognition that individual independence can be a false ideal derived from a masculinist myth that is neither achievable nor desirable. Togetherness, in the sense of sharing resources within households, can be valued by household members for its practical advantages; these include economies of scale, and/or its ideological appeal to the household as a collective unit, especially when resources are limited (Daly and Leonard 2002). This chapter examines the implications of the concepts of togetherness and financial autonomy for gender equality, drawing on findings from both qualitative and quantitative research. The qualitative research explored the two concepts in individual interviews with men and women in low- to moderate-income couples. The quantitative research used the British Household Panel Survey to analyse the factors affecting the differing assessments of their household income by men and women in couples across the range of incomes. The findings support the argument that an honest recognition of interdependence (or togetherness) is essential when analysing women’s financial autonomy. Policy-makers tend to show more interest in a household’s1 total current...

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