Edited by Deborah M. Figart and Tonia L. Warnecke
Chapter 2: Feminist economics as a theory and method
Several years ago while teaching at a liberal arts college, I had a conversation with a colleague at a similar institution regarding the long-run economic viability of institutions such as ours. I mentioned I was a ‘feminist’ economist, to which he politely replied that was just a good economist. My use of the modifier feminist seemed to him utterly unnecessary. So why is it necessary? This is really a variant of an old question first put in this form by Simone de Beauvoir; she asked in the introduction to the Second Sex why it was necessary that she be described as a female philosopher (de Beauvoir, 1949 ). Her answer was that women are defined with reference to men, but men are not defined in terms of reference to women. Men are human beings. Of course so are women, yet somehow they remain different. The same is true for feminist economics. It is defined in reference to economics unmodified, whether it is neoclassical, Marxist, or institutionalist. Economics is the study of human beings and economic processes; feminist economics, because it puts women at the center, is somehow different. I agree that it is both different and necessary because –even with decades and decades of scholarship, teaching, and activism – questions about women’s roles in economic life endure.
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