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Is There Room for Feminism in Global Economics?

mbeale's picture



Watch Who’s Counting?: Marilyn Waring on Sex, Lies, and Economics Here :


At the spectacle of rapidly expanding, nation interlacing sphere of globalism, the concept of an inclusive worldwide economy hardly seems like a digestible one. According to Marilyn Waring, however, because it specifically seeks not to be.

About Waring— 

  Marilyn Waring , a well-known feminist figure from New Zealand has sought to bring crucial awareness to the one-dimensional globalizing world, especially of the monetary facet. At the age of 22, she was elected to the New Zealand Parliament, making her the only woman serving at the time and the youngest member in parliamentary history. Being a young woman, some New Zealanders, colleagues even, voiced apprehensiveness to her “radical feminist” image, but Marilyn, looking at her rural, white, conservative, propertied, majorly male constituency rebutted, “There’s nothing radical about what I’m saying.” She simply professed to take instruction from the landscape of her jurisdiction “…and the values that [that] land teaches.” Called the “conscience for the less fortunate,” her main mission during her office was to represent the young and women. Soon revered for her “no nonsense approach” to politics, Waring went on to serve as Chair of the Public Expenditure Committee during her time in the General Assembly and in was that period that she found herself most perplexed. Shocked by the dangerously incomprehensible jargon that was supposed to apply to the whole of New Zealand, Waring was further disquieted by the senior members of the board who told that this mucked set of economic guidelines were commonplace.  But she decided, at the realization that the “But those are the rules” mantra of an economic system was present in countries all over the world,  to pursue a change.

Waring’s Search—

     Waring’s feminism in economics seeks to make the intervention of inclusion. This population cannot afford to have the economic system represent a resource that is felt to be out of reach, because it is so directly and completely affects the expanse of the globe. Gloria Steinem comments, “Marilyn’s goal is to be understood” and to “impute value” and that she does indeed. Waring strives to bring economics back to its root meaning of “care and protection of a househould” and specify value at its original “strong or worthy” definition, severing it with its capital obsession.

    Seeking truth of actual palpable improvement on a large scale, Waring criticizes current proposals for extending progress such as NAFTA and GDP scales:

“GDP is utterly unrelated to a well-being of a community it tells nothing about the levels of poverty…distribution of poverty…primary healthcare…educational standards…environmental cleanliness…and folks have realized this unidimensional economic fabrication just doesn’t bear any relation to their lives.”

   What is stake here is the issue of visibility—and what is valued as visible by the larger world market. The problem is that the vastness of human efforts—child rearing, sustenance cooking and farming, securing of basic resources, and the feat of reproduction itself—are not recognized as “active” by the dominating trends of the global economy kept in place by male-minded international institutions such as The World Bank, The UN, and the Security Council (“Sustenance production and the consumption of their own produce by non-primary producers is of little or no importance”-UN Libraries.) She argues the tendency of economies is to take monetary “causes mass poverty, illness, and death” observing the  5 leading members UN’s  Security Council are also the 5 largest exporters of arms, thus the interest of security is to make sure there is always a war going on somewhere.  

“War is marketable, literally,” and this plain devastation is our economic system.

This is how the world is designed to work.

Marilyn’s Feminist Intervention—

    In alternative to the economic philosophy currently in place, Marilyn Waring stresses a personal more technique.  As a part of her study, she goes from country to country, studying their economies not only by trying to meet with officially recognized representatives but also by put into contact with a women her age and spending the day following and taking photos from day to night, particularly noting observation of time spent and on what activities.

   In Zimbabwe women under 14 worked 16-18 hours in unrecorded schedules of production, a supposedly highly prohibited practice.

In Pakistan, women worked longer much longer than men and up to approximately 5 hours out of that day was spent on food preparation and cooking, from the implementation of time use surveys, it was revealed that this was due to highly inefficient tools, something the current indicators of world development would not have picked up on. Similar is the case in Kenya, in which the women she spoke with revealed the need to efficient water pumps observing that the majority of their days were spent fetching and managing water that was located about 5 miles away from their actual homes.

Need For More Voices—

   By Marilyn’s work, it becomes clear that a feminist intervention is needed if we truly wish to call ourselves a globalized, progressing world.  This is not to say that by her work alone, the economy is to be equal. If the continuity of humanity is to be a part of the future, women such as Waring and others must be represented and valued for their livelihood. Instead of passively “go from being invisible to being a problem” rural women in  Bangladesh  or the Philippines as well as  women in  our own constituency must be able to recreate the economic system that they currently must sacrifice their humanity to participate in. Economics cries out for a feminist future and the world’s institutions must be made to heed to its call.




Works Cited

Who's Counting? Marilyn Waring on Sex, Lies and Global Economics (1995). Directed by Terre Nash and produced by the National Film Board of Canada. The film can be viewed at


mbeale's picture

A Place to Start


I'm glad to have shared Marilyn's work and perspective with you! I decided to focus on feminist economics for this particular web event in an attempt to diversify my understanding of the reach of feminism considering our previous class discussions that have for the most part veered towards the the arts and humanities. To get a sense of where we are today as women in the modern world, knowledge of our origins as women of the world are essential. To obtain a full understanding of origins, getting as many vantage points, such as the economist vantage point, would certainly be beneficial to the understanding of a woman's "place" within society and therefore my own starting point within that society.

Anne Dalke's picture

Re-imagining Economics

your project, last month, was about the (non?) manifestation of black feminism in the American experience; this time, you are looking around the world at the manifestation of women's work, and time, in the global economy. I had never heard of the work of Marilyn Waring, and want to thank you for the introduction; having just watched the video, I've now ordered her book; because feminist economic re-imaginings are so linked up w/ green re-envisionings, I think Waring's work will be of great good use to me in the new course I'm designing on Ecological Imaginings.

My questions for you resemble those I asked about your last web event: where are you in relation to the material you review here? How does the intervention of Marilyn Waring into economic discourse translate into an intervention in our current class discussions about critical feminist studies? Are you using her work to mark the sharp edges of our own? Or do you see links between her reimaginings and those we are studying together?