For Scoop Review of Books, Alison McCulloch interviewed Prue Hyman about her new book, part of the BWB Texts series, Hopes Dashed? The Economics of Gender Inequality
SRB: Can you start by giving me a brief biography, with respect to your background in gender inequality issues?
Prue: I taught feminist economics and economics generally, but specialising in feminist economics, where I could, at Victoria University for many years. I worked for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs for two years on secondment. That, obviously gave me a background in feminist economics and on a couple of sabbaticals, I worked with people who were working in the field and just gradually read and wrote about it myself.
SRB: So how did this book come about now?
Prue: Bridget Williams did a book edited by Max Rashbrooke, called “Inequality” (click here for the SRB review) and it had very little gender stuff in it to my surprise, because it’s still one of the major aspects of inequality. And she got me to have a look at the small amount there was in there, and I said it was all right as far as it went, but it wasn’t detailed enough. Bridget Williams published my earlier book in 1994, “Women in Economics: A New Zealand Feminist Perspective,” and we agreed I’d do an update essentially for the Texts series.
SRB: Early in the book, you briefly mention the state of feminism today and have some positive things to say, including about the commitment of many younger women and the diverse issues they’re active in, including rape culture, body image, unionism, anti-racism and more. But I wonder, given your focus on gender inequality, do you distinguish among the kinds of feminism? In particular, between, for example, so-called “choice feminism” or “neoliberal feminism”, which is perhaps less focused on women as an oppressed class than on women’s individual identities and choices?
Prue: To me “choice feminism” or “neoliberal feminism” is almost a contradiction in terms. I think it’s an abuse of the term feminism and I think it’s unfortunate that some modern women who get prominence, that that’s all they mean by feminism, because to me, feminism is about women as a class, and not only about women as a class — I must use a broad term, but it can’t be a feminism of the type I’m writing about and keen on without also dealing with the intersections, i.e. race and class and disability and all the rest. At times, I think, ‘well, I’m less concerned with all women than I used to be.’ It’s really the women who are most disadvantaged by other facets that I care about most. Read more »