Feminism as Capital: Gender, Class and Mobility for Women in Paid Care Work
This paper draws on an empirical study of thirty-nine Australian women who work and study in the field of paid care work in order to explore the contemporary relevance of feminism. In particular, this paper draws on the narratives of ‘successful’ women in the field to dispute the claim that feminism has ‘failed’ and to propose that feminisms’ contemporary value might, to a certain extent, be better understood with the assistance of the concept of female cultural capital. Although there are limited situations in which a feminist disposition in itself may be traded for material reward, I propose that when feminism is embodied or lived it is a tactical asset that may positively inform a woman’s practice. Hence, building on the work of contemporary Bourdieusian feminists, I suggest a feminist disposition may operate as a kind of embodied cultural capital that may enable a woman to gain mobility and power. However, this paper also presents the narratives of women in the field who have had little access to feminism or see it as irrelevant. This paper looks at the impact of women’s educational and class backgrounds on access to this capital and comments on how feminist knowledge might become more widely available.
Keywords: Feminism, Gender, Class, Paid Care Work, Bourdieu
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Faculty of Education and Social Work, Sydney University