This paper examines the feminization of poverty
This paper examines the feminization of poverty. Poverty is not mentioned often in society and looked at as a thing someone brings onto themselves or chooses most of the time. I grew up in poverty with my mother, when my father passed away, my mother raised me as a single-mom. According to Macionis (2019), single moms compose 21% of white families. In fact, women make 80 cents for every dollar a man makes in society (BLS, 2018). The feminization of poverty relates to our discussion on gender and stratification.
Feminization of poverty emulates that in society, women are among the most impoverished today. This being most common when they are the head of household. In comparison to men or couples who typically lead a household. Globally according to Lombardo, “about 60% of the 1.5 billion people who live on just $1 per day or less happen to be women” (Lombardo, 2017). Relative poverty has been stated by Macionis to be, “The lack of resources of some people in relation to those who have more” (Macionis, 2018). This means that one can make barely enough to get by, often in limbo with the poverty line and set at a disadvantage because of this. Social inequality is the idea that all members of society are not equal and this may depend on power, wealth and prestige. The glass ceiling is an invisible barrier that halts promotion of an individual based off physical factors like gender, race, or ethnicity.
A functionalist would insist that feminization of poverty is not a bad thing because it assigns roles are that set by society in order to maintain balance and stability. According to Macionis, “The Structural-Functional approach views society as a complex system of many separate but integrated parts. From this point of view, gender serves as a means to organize social life (Macionis, 2018). From the beginning of time it was expected that women; the “expressive” child bearing gender are natural caregivers and men are the “instrumental” gender are the protector/providers. This concept has evolved but remained roughly the same. A manifest function here would be that the gender roles created early designated men and women to specified jobs. Men are thought to be in more positions of power, ownership and higher paid positions. Opposed to woman typically being in positions of caring for others or service work. The latent function being that this created a divide, limiting women’s capabilities in the work force, which brought about the wage gap and glass ceiling phenomenon along with possibility of poverty. A Functionalist would have a hard time explaining why the wage gap is actually functional for stability for a woman. Lombardo states, “One could easily point to the overall wage gap, where women make about $0.25 less per dollar that a man earns in the same job, as a primary reason for poverty” (Lombardo, 2017). Functionalist perspective does not explain my topic is does however reinforce why feminization of poverty is continuous.
A conflict theorist would reveal gender inequality/stratification as the root of feminization of poverty in society. One would point out that the power division in favor of men over women only divides and creates struggles for women that lead to relative poverty and oppression. The two power groups are between men and women, in that women struggle to gain power or control from men. The rapid growth of capitalism is the culprit to male domination. As capitalism uses trade and industrial production to make wealth, this in turn gives more power to me as they are major income and property owners. Increasing capitalism turns women into the consumers (Macionis, 2018). A theorist would say that women are exploited by capitalists in various ways; used as primary consumers, to work and bring men’s wages or forced to leave their jobs and give them to men and stay home to make labor supply better. The conflict theorist would hard time explaining the interruption of gender roles and how they could affect the harmony and cohesiveness of a family as a whole. Conflict theory does explain feminization of poverty quite thoroughly because this theory explains how the gender inequalities are rooted into the beginning of time as men and women began cohabiting in the hunter-gather society. Therefor it is something as a society that was created in simpler times but no longer is as functional as it once was to continue following. It has created a divide and pitted women as the subordinate gender.
An Interactionalist would define my phenomenon by explaining that society has birthed and strengthened through repeated interactions and ideas what gender should be. Symbolism like what it means to be masculine or feminine help to create a divide that does put women in a specific place on the power totem pole especially financially, again under men. Macionis explains, “Our society defines men who are masculine as having more value than women who are feminine. For this reason, just about every familiar social encounter is gendered so that men and women interact in distinctive and unequal ways” (Macionis, 2018). Nonverbal signs that a women in poverty might use would be lack of much eye contact or confidence in conversations. People who are in a lower financial class like those in relative poverty are not respected as much and typically are ashamed. Perhaps one would say how they cannot afford this or that and drive a older beat up car or be dressed in poor quality clothes. Interactionalist would have a hard time explaining why based on the symbolism of masculinity and femininity this notion is something that should be. Masculinity automatically put men and who they are valued higher and more capable than women. Interactionalism touches on where the idea that men are valued higher because they are masculine and women less capable because they are feminine.
A feminist would explain this phenomenon using several methods but primarily through a conflict theory lens. Mainly highlighting that women are now more in poverty than ever because of the inequalities in favor of men over women. Men and women are the two power structures at odds with one another here. Financially men have more opportunities at reaching past the minimum wage number that keeps relative poverty an issue for women. For example, Lombardo says, “Almost 70% of the US employees who are making minimum wage are women, with most in this situation receiving no mandatory sick leave. That means if a woman gets sick, she doesn’t get paid” (Lombardo, 2017) This could easily point to the glass ceiling phenomenon that hold women back from promotions out of low wages and poverty altogether. Lombardo goes on to claim, “Women outnumber men in terms of having a higher education, yet men still make more money than women at entry level of educational attainment- including doctorates” (Lombardo 2018). The feminist perspective fights for equality in men and women reaching for equal union. This theory does explain the topic in a sense that it brings to light the need to equality which could bring women out of poverty.
Conflict theory explains this topic best because it underlines the fact that there is a problem with the power struggle between men and women and that it is unequal. Men are at an advantage because of who they are as men, the providers and more “powerful” sex. Job wise they are a more secure hire, pay raises and jumping up positions seems like a good choice in societies eyes because they are the “breadwinners” and are dependable since they aren’t expected to have kids or tend to them like women. Functionalism is the worst theory to explain this topic because it basically means that women being in poverty and the lesser in power gender creates a stable system of balance; It is needed. It is important to look from all perspective at this issue because the cycle will continue on and could leap to epidemic proportions someday. The sociological imagination helps because it allows one to people to view how women in poverty is not just a female issue but a human issue. It allows us to see it as whole picture apart of society outside of just ourselves and how it affects everyone.