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Obstacles and Opportunities to Women's Empowerment under Neoliberal Reform

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Although neoliberal economics purports to be "gender neutral" and focused on "individuals" and "markets," ample evidence exists that it is gender biased both in its outcomes and in its implicit assumptions about gender roles. However, in spite of the gender bias in reforms and - conversely - the attention given to gender issues in some compensatory social policies, the specific nature of their impacts are variable. Their impacts may be negative under some conditions and positive under others. Even the negative impacts of reforms can have a positive side; women may be empowered personally, socially and politically even as (or because) their workload and poverty increases. Moreover, some researchers argue that under neoliberal economic restructuring women's roles as shock absorbers lead to a breakdown in patriarchal norms, and thereby increase the opportunities for women to empower themselves. This article reviews the arguments and evidence for these different perspectives.

Affiliations: 1: Women's Studies and Rural Sociology, Ohio State University, 2120 Fyffe Rd., Columbus, Ohio 43210-1067, U.S.A.


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