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Reimagining Economics: Why Feminism is the Missing Piece

At the delicate age of eight, I was taught that I may have ambition but not too much of it. I could strive for success but not overachieve. I was told how to shrink or make myself smaller because if otherwise, I might threaten a boy. Because I am a girl, I was supposed to want to get married. Marriage may be a source of joy, love, and mutual support, but why do we urge girls to aspire to marry but not boys? Why do we encourage women to perceive each other as rivals, not for jobs or other accomplishments, but for men's attention? Many people associate "feminism" with furious 1920s females, phrases like "man-hater" and worse. But, these days, a feminist isn't someone who despises men, nor are they necessarily someone who identifies as a woman. The idea that feminists can only be women is a fairly widespread one. A feminist can be anyone, and you don't have to be politically engaged to support the cause.

It does not just help women; a myth that must be corrected. It aims for political, economic, personal, and social gender equality rather than female superiority. It is an attempt to dismantle the stereotypical gender roles defined by society since the beginning of time. When we look at modern feminism, we observe how it engages in life-changing initiatives. It continuously challenges patriarchy and tries to abolish gender norms. It empowers males to be anyone they want without fear of being condemned. Everyone has a role in feminism, and it is essential to adopt liberal feminism to comprehend everyone's plight. Now I'd want to throw some light on how being a feminist in an economics classroom could prove to be quite infuriating at times! Theoretical economics is imbued with male ideals that prioritise the centre of an independent, rational individual who interacts with others only when it is in his best interests. Neoclassical economics' logic and vocabulary are incompatible with feminist and minority group perspectives.

When history and identity are erased, the ability to interact with these viewpoints is lost. A collection of flawed assumptions and arguments are legitimised because a restricted and subjectivist understanding of human nature is lauded as global. The research on gender and economic rights is almost entirely concerned with the relationship between women's economic liberties and women's empowerment1. It accentuates contributory variables such as women's allocation, lack of access to and control over resources and jobs, and societal norms to showcase women's frequently unseen efforts. Access to funds, particularly microfinance, has emerged as an essential instrument for women’s empowerment by providing economic resources that can strengthen their negotiating position in the home.

It is expected that by improving their negotiating position and increasing women's confidence, their standing in the community would improve and their involvement in community affairs and judgement calls would increase. Feminist economics studies the interaction of gender and the economy. Marilyn Waring's 1988 publication "If Women Counted" is widely considered as the discipline's "founding paper2." Its origin was associated with a reappraisal of the microeconomic assessment of household behaviour in need to accommodate the substantial shift in family structures that occurred throughout the late 1980s. Feminist economics considers the unpaid, non-market-intermediated sector of the economy and society, as well as the driving causes behind typical dilemmas such as economic-social, masculine-feminine, paid-unpaid, or public-private. Furthermore, feminist economics considers patriarchy and capitalism to be interconnected systems of oppression. Over the previous two decades, women's labour force participation has expanded dramatically.

In India, according to the GGGR 2022, "The proportion of women lawmakers, senior officials, and managers climbed from 14.6% to 17.6%, while the proportion of women in professional and technical occupations went from 29.2% to 32.9%3." Despite shifting gender patterns in labour markets, women's labour is still frequently relegated to the shadow economy or low-wage industries. The growth in women's employment in historically male-dominated industries is sometimes referred to as the "feminization of labour." The phrase has also come to represent the formalisation of paid employment as well as the lower wages, bad working conditions, and more "flexible" work arrangements that might be provided to women to contribute to more competitive pricing among corporations. Our economy should respect the caring and unpaid labour done by both men and women. Caregivers are essential for sustaining life. A decent society is one in which individuals are well cared for throughout their lives and in which we take pleasure in our nurturing obligations. We must accept vulnerability as a reality of life; it affects both men and women. An economy that recognizes the value of care would benefit society as a whole. We know that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is calculated by taking into account the wealth generated by the working class.

In India, according to the GGGR 2022, "The proportion of women lawmakers, senior officials, and managers climbed from 14.6% to 17.6%, while the proportion of women in professional and technical occupations went from 29.2% to 32.9%3." Despite shifting gender patterns in labour markets, women's labour is still frequently relegated to the shadow economy or low-wage industries. The growth in women's employment in historically male-dominated industries is sometimes referred to as the "feminization of labour." The phrase has also come to represent the formalisation of paid employment as well as the lower wages, bad working conditions, and more "flexible" work arrangements that might be provided to women to contribute to more competitive pricing among corporations. Our economy should respect the caring and unpaid labour done by both men and women. Caregivers are essential for sustaining life. A decent society is one in which individuals are well cared for throughout their lives and in which we take pleasure in our nurturing obligations. We must accept vulnerability as a reality of life; it affects both men and women. An economy that recognizes the value of care would benefit society as a whole. We know that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is calculated by taking into account the wealth generated by the working class.

We fail to consider the contribution of unpaid domestic and household work performed majorly by women in the house necessary for a smoothly functioning sector.According to the WEF Global Gender Gap Report, 66% of women's employment in India is unpaid, compared to 12% of men's unpaid labour4. Feminist economists believe that, in terms of approach and focus, current economics is overly focused on men, with women's inputs to the economy regularly overlooked. The underlying objective is to create a macroeconomic policy framework that enables women to devote their time to productive pursuits. The policy framework must include a comprehensive approach that includes women not only in labour and related plans but also in all social and development policies, in which both social protection initiatives for standardising informal support play distinct roles as enablers of women's work, particularly unpaid work. Traditional economic models also present an inadequate view of what influences men's lives because their survival is also dependent on unpaid employment, direct use, creation, and caring, and many men partake in these pursuits as well. A larger definition of "the economy" is required, with the existing system-according to orthodox economics, reliant on numerous activities that fall outside of the purview for its survival. Feminist economics is essentially a criticism of dualist thinking, which favours the centre of an independent, rational individual driven by self-interest while ostracising any perspectives that do not agree with scarcity concerns and self-interest vanity.

It must grapple with the idea of inclusivity and find disadvantaged perspectives. Nonetheless, the initiative can deal with significantly larger issues of social justice and combat the indifference of textbook economics. Feminism was founded in the nineteenth century, and it is lamentable that we still need it to fight for our privileges in the twenty-first century. The term "feminist" has been dragged through the sewer and completely misinterpreted by many individuals around the globe, but if we are to make further advances in equality for everybody, we must confront significant preconceived notions and include men, women, and individuals of all genders in our pursuit of actual equality! I am a firm believer in the value of words, particularly those that are often not said out loud. It's past time to replace our models' limited rational economic man with a more realistic depiction of human character that incorporates the 'feminine' features of humanism, connectivity, and instinct. Perhaps, in this sense, humanity will begin to exist within economic systems as well. “No country can truly develop if half of its population is left behind” - Justine Greening

Arushi Singh
High School Student

References:

1Exploring Economics. (n.d.). Retrieved October 16, 2022, from https://www.exploring-economics.org/en/orientation/feminist-economics/+omics/ 2Grady, C. (2018, July 20). The waves of feminism, and why people keep fighting over them, explained. Vox. Retrieved October 16, 2022, from https://www.vox.com/2018/3/20/16955588/feminism-waves-explained-first-second-third-fourth 3https:\/\/gsdrc.org\/author\/gsdrc_admin\/#author. (2016, May 4). Gender and economic rights - GSDRC. GSDRC - Governance, Social Development, Conflict and Humanitarian Knowledge Services. Retrieved October 16, 2022, from https://gsdrc.org/topic-guides/gender/gender-and-economic-rights/

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