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Guest Lecture - Heidi Hartmann

Hartmann, Heidi.  “Men, Women, the Recession and the Recovery.”  Greater Philadelphia Women’s Studies Consortium.  Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, PA.  12 November 2013.  Guest lecture.


Attending Hartmann’s lecture, “Men, Women, the Recession and the Recovery,” was for me an introduction into how the patriarchy intersects with economics.  I have only taken one course in economics – ECON 105 – and most of the feminism I have studied touches on economics on a much more generic level – noting the disparity in pay, the way various jobs are dominated by one gender or the other, etc.  I had never before been as clearly presented with the statistical reality of women’s economic disadvantage; and even more so, I had not been cognizant of the details of patriarchal normativity within the discipline of economics itself (it was not surprising that this was so; I simply hadn’t been aware of how it played out).

The patriarchal dominance of the field of economics was what I found most interesting about Hartmann’s lecture.  For instance, she mentioned the consistent failure of mainstream economic agencies and thinktanks to differentiate economic disparities within the category “women.”  By treating women as a blanket category and rarely acknowledging the intersections of race, class, etc. that also impact women’s economic situations, economic organizations do a massive disservice to the populations that most need widespread cognizance of the structural inequalities they face.

Furthermore, Hartmann’s account of how male-dominated the personnel of economic organizations tend to be was also not surprising even as it was disparaging to hear.  Attending a female-dominated institution like Bryn Mawr and working in an exclusively female office, I am in many ways saved the harsh reality of male-dominated spaces.  I absolutely stand by Bryn Mawr and the feminist space it provides as a female-centric (though not female-exclusive) space, but there are times when I regret the unfortunate reality I will experience when I leave Bryn Mawr, and I am no longer in such a clearly constituted female space.  I don’t imagine I will lack such spaces wherever I go – my current work and the ambitions it is reflective of are such that I don’t imagine my work post-graduation will take me to male-dominated organizations or work – but the majority of the spaces I exist in and move through will not be so. 

To return to Hartmann’s lecture…I think her closing statement is worth repeating: poverty rates would fall by half if women earned the same as men.  That such a simple fact is ignored by much of society and that the structural change required to remedy it is resisted in so many ways is a travesty.  The work I do with my organization is not usually focused in this area – though it may be more so in the future, depending on whether we adopt a new issue area – I am supremely pleased and thankful to have the opportunity to work with women’s issues at all, such that what I can contribute to the cause complements the multiplicity of structural impediments that reinforce such economic problems and inequalities.


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