The economy, crisis, violence—crises that did not emerge with the pandemic two years ago; violence that deepens as the situation deteriorates. All components of the same system. We asked Flora Partenio to tell us how feminist economics analyzes this unequal and violent economic system within the context of the pandemic.
Feminist economics alludes to two worlds: the world of finance, which contemplates debt, and the world of everyday life and what it produces. Feminist economics tries to bring these two worlds together. What happens in our households, in our homes, has a lot to do with what happens in high finance and in debt processes. Indeed, there are threads that are weaved together and reveal that the world of production and the world of reproduction are inextricably intertwined”.Flora Partenio
This perspective is not new; it emerged in the 1970s when women such as Mariarosa Dalla Costa and Silvia Federici began to debate and highlight the importance of domestic work. They argued that we needed to recognize domestic tasks, which include caring for and raising children, as unpaid work and as another form of exploitation that targets women.
Feminist economics pushes us to ask ourselves, whose bodies have been assigned the responsibility of care work? It challenges us to question what appears to be normal under the patriarchal, capitalist system. It is a tool that allows us to claim our rights and take to the streets.
When we think about the economy, the word “crisis” likely pops into our heads, and we often associate “crisis” with widening inequality gaps and other forms of economic violence.
“What do we mean when we say ‘economic violence’? Might it have something to do, for example, with the lack of access to housing or to a healthy environment? Might it have something to do with being excluded from the labor market or being unable to hold on to a job? How does that impact our bodies? How does it impact our day-to-day lives, our relationships, our ability to sustain ourselves day-to-day? Thinking about the crisis from a feminist perspective requires that we explore how economic violence is linked to other forms of violence, such as patriarchal, sexist, colonial, patrimonial violence,” says Flora Partenio.
Challenge the economic recovery agenda
To question the economic recovery agenda from a feminist perspective means we must challenge its capacity to ensure a sustainable life for all. This is what feminist economics is primarily after: find a way out of this pandemic crisis, this pandemic economy. Partenio adds:
- To exit this crisis we must take collective and feminist action
- The compañeras who struggled the most during the pandemic have to be at the forefront of the agenda, making their demands. Migrant compañeras, compañeras in precarious work situations, compañeras who work in private homes, compañeras doing labor rights advocacy. We must have an eye out for those countries that want to enter into a discussion about labor reform.
Economic justice for women is not just about integrating them into a certain economic model but about strengthening their capacity to control economic resources, to access to decent work, and to manage their own time”.Challenging Corporate Power, AWID 2016
Activism that is committed to sustainability
The diversity of contexts we inhabit is very complex and weaved from possibilities made of seemingly invisible threads. We have to find strategies that allow us to reevaluate our relationship with money, philanthropy, and other resources. Let's not lose sight of the fact that our struggle is marathon, not a sprint, and this is why we must commit to feminist sustainability.
Feminist sustainability allows us to ask ourselves, what do we do with the money? The answer to that question, and the process by which we arrive to that answer, has to do with pleasure, rest, income, self-care, safety, dignity, and healing. After all, feminist sustainability is rooted in hope!
These are some of the practices feminist economics has recovered:
- Ancestral knowledge
- Fair and sustainable trade
- Creation of alliances and coordination with local organizations
- Political advocacy
- Knowledge of our rights as women
- Support born of solidarity
*Flora Partenio (San Miguel, Buenos Aires province, Argentina) is a feminist and lesbian activist, who is a member of Red de Feministas del Sur Global, DAWN. She is who specializes in labor studies and holds a PhD in Social Sciences.
This article brings together the reflections and materials produced from two economic justice presentations that were broadcast through La Bola de Cristal, “We want ourselves alive, free and debtless, Pt. 1, with Emilia Reyes, and Pt. 2, with Flora Partenio. The illustrations that accompany this article were created by FLORESROSX (@Floresrosx on IG). The article also draws from the We want ourselves alive, free and debtless part podcast which is produced by Eloisa Diez from La Sandia Digital.