No 27 - 2017
Stages of Life, Gender and Social Timeframes
Directed by Aline Charles, Laurence Charton, David Troyansky
Life Stages, Gender and Temporalities. Historical and Sociological Reflections
Aline Charles, Laurence Charton
Research Framework: Long conducted in parallel, studies on life stages and gender have converged more in recent years, but still leave large areas uncovered. Some analyzes still treat sex as a simple variable that does not require problematization. Others lose sight of the fact that growing up and aging generate categories and trajectories that are the result of interactions of sex and age. The link between gender and age thus still needs to be tightened.
Objectives: The introductory article of the issue « Life Stages, Gender and Temporalities » proposes to explore the interactions between age and gender relations by examining the gendered constructions of ages and the life trajectories structured by gender.
Methodology: This article lists studies by sociologists and historians exploring gender/age links.
Results: The articles presented help to show to what extent gender and age relationships overlap and interact in the development of social inequalities throughout the life of individuals. They also participate in questioning the social hierarchy which is « mechanically » based on gender and certain age-related markers.
Conclusions: The joint analysis of gender and age relations is progressing, but slowly, and still remains in the blind spot of intersectional perspectives. While current research now recognizes gender and age as constantly interacting systems, it too seldom addresses the power relations and the cumulative inequalities they generate.
Contribution: This introductory article opens up new research perspectives, both with regard to the gendered processes favouring the development of sexual physical characteristics and to the dominant social codes that shape heteronormative experiences and temporalities.
Men And Women From The Eldest To The Youngest: The Recomposition Of The Status Of Helper And Intergenerational Family Unity In Senegal
Sadio Ba Gning
Research Framework: Given the setting of weak institutional unity for the elderly, intergenerational family ties are now, more than ever, being challenged by a rapidly ageing population. Men and women are living longer lives that are marked by dependence. Though these intergenerational ties remain strong, they are expressed differently depending on gender and the generation of the elders in question—as well as their helpers. Within families, women play a pivotal role as the main providers of help whereas men are perceived as being the providers of funding.
Objectives: This article re-examines the traditional roles and the changes of status which occur between the elderly and their helpers as parents and in-laws. The first aspect of our research delves into the relationship between in-laws and their children of different genders. The second looks at the relationship involving parents and children of the same gender in a helper relationship.
Methodology: Our analysis is based on cross referenced ethnographic data that compares rural and urban areas in the north and south of Senegal. The data was collected via 70 interviews, 50 of which were conducted with elderly parents and 20 adult helpers. This qualitative sample is predominantly marked by women under the age of 60 though there were also three women over the age of 80. The women were either widows, remarried widows or married in polygamous households. The men ranged in age between 60 and 75 years of age, making up a third of the overall sample (eight individuals).
Results: The study showed a persistence of gender and generational inequality in the intergenerational unity. It highlights the temporality of progressive ageing and the differences between men and women as well as the new configurations of the helper status through the models of the active wife and needful elderly men. The modes of helping elderly parents, which are negotiated on a daily basis, have a tendency to be considered as either individual or couple strategies. Through the delegation of care activities and social and financial investments in family relations, active women bear the lion’s share of help and conflicting roles (mother, wife, step daughter, etc.) which compromise their status as a helper. To be recognized as such, these roles are not limited to a single close helper relationship for their own ageing parents as well as for their in laws. Men are also being encouraged to implicate themselves more than just financially despite family expectations remaining strong in this aspect.
Conclusion: Gender and intergenerational inequalities persist despite observed changes to the roles of helper. The elderly figure, still thought of as being male, reflects the pervasiveness of social norms related to behaviour despite the significant increase of women in the workforce.
Contribution: This research contributes to a better understanding of the recomposition of family unity and ageing from the perspective of gender and generational logic, taking into account the individual trajectories of couples and families as a whole.
Through the Ages of Life: Rabindranath Tagore -- Son, Father, and Educator (1861-1941)
Swapna M. Banerjee
Research Framework: This essay attempts to reclaim Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), the “Myriad-Minded Man” from colonial India, through his “ages of life” – as a son, father, and educator – and his conceptualization of an alternate education and masculinity. Tagore’s critique of colonial education, his experiments with institutions, and his curriculum emphasizing arts and moral aesthetics over muscular nationalism challenged the dominant culture of masculinity. His paternalism embraced a “manliness” privileging moral and spiritual sustenance over economic and political considerations.
Objectives: By focusing on Rabindranath Tagore, an iconic figure of Indian modernity, the essay attempts to demonstrate the tangled relationship between his domestic reality and his public commitment to social justice and pedagogy.
Methodology: It deploys the method of contextualized textual analysis by examining a variety of literary sources — personal narratives, correspondence, lectures, and essays.
Results: Foregrounding the importance of family in its enabling and restrictive capacities, the essay explores connections between one family’s life and the Bengali understanding of age, gender, and class in late colonial India.
Conclusions: The essay contends that Tagore’s position as a biological father and the transference of his affective concern to a larger body of children, in whom he inculcated a new sense of freedom, were inflected with an alternate sense of masculinity.
Contribution: The essay contributes to our understanding that the role of “fathers,” biological and metaphorical, attained heightened significance among the educated, affluent community in colonial Bengal. An examination of the interminable connection between Tagore’s personal and public life disrupts the separation between the home and the world and establishes the centrality of the domestic in Indian nationalist politics. As a father and a reformer, Tagore challenged existing notions of masculinity through his reformed and secular model of education.
Trans temporality: gender identity, transitory time and media ethics
Research Framework: The notions of “queer time” and “crip time” (queer and disabled temporalities) in queer and disability studies are descriptive and normative. On one hand, these notions represent a description of dominant temporality (heterosexual and non-disabled) versus non standard temporality (queer and disabled). On the other hand, they also offer a critique of dominant temporality from a normative standpoint.
Objectives: Taking a normative and descriptive approach, this study explores a third, marginalized temporality—that of trans people.
Methodology: By taking an intersectional approach, and though the use of autoethnographic methodology, this article analyses life stages, genders (cisgender versus transgender) and marginalized social temporalities to study trans temporality and its implications on the media’s representation of trans people.
Results: I would argue that certain trans people are lead to experience an ‘overexposed’ temporality that pushes them to reveal themselves due to personal, community and social/media circumstances. Though this is a transitory moment, it is nevertheless often exploited by the media.
Conclusions: I started with a history of the notions of queer and crip time and pointed out how they are part of the trans temporality. Then I addressed the specificities of trans temporality to show how it is marked by an overexposure of time. I then exposed how this overexposure of time is the object of media exploitation. In the conclusion, I ponder over the development of a media ethics policy that is more sensitive to marginalized groups.
Contribution: This article makes an heuristic and epistemological contribution to marginalized temporalities, especially those of trans people, and on sociological reflections of time and life stages. It also contributes to gender, trans and disability studies as well as to media ethics.
Gender, Life Stages, Parenting and Family Dynamics: Intersections and Research Perspectives in the Contemporary History of Quebec and Canada
Marie-Laurence B. Beaumier
Research Framework: This article focuses on the dramatic increase in the emergence and development of the history of gender and the history of life stages following the 1960s and 70s.
Objectives: This article provides a summary of the impact that the consideration of gender relations and age have had in the research of history in Quebec and Canada over the last forty years. Through the use of a critical analysis, this work delves into the interweaving between gender and age relationships and the analytical possibilities they have to offer.
Methodology: A review of the literature and a historiographical reflection.
Results: The reflection begins by looking into recent advances then then looks into the avenues offered by research perspectives that dovetail gender and life stages revealed by the historical research. The second section of the article highlights a selection of the theoretical and conceptual paths highlighted by our analysis to better study the history of parenting and family dynamics with a more nuanced and critical perspective.
Conclusions: Our analysis sheds light on the shortcomings that persist in Quebec and Canadian historiography when it comes to harmonizing gender and age, especially in the field of family history. To avoid the shortcomings identified in our historiographical reflection, the article reiterates the importance and interest in taking an intersectional approach which takes account of the complex dynamics at work in the production of power and relationships and domination.
Contribution: Based on a review of the literature, this article draws the attention of its readers, delving into rarely researched topics and in particular to the analytical possibilities offered by the notion of parenthood and by taking a life stages approach.
Residential mobility of women in retirement: between constrained readjustment and new aspirations
Research Framework: The results presented in this article are the result of a PhD research carried out at Rennes 2 University and defended in 2015.
Objectives: This paper examines, from a gender perspective, the residential mobility of elderly women, differentiating the mobility taking place before the retirement with those occurring after.
Methodology: Based on a sample of 21 women aged 62-91, living in coastal communities in the Brittany region, analyses were carried out on life course transitions events to understand the causes associated with residential mobility: free time, widowhood, illness.
Results: For some, retirement is an opportunity to renegotiate the power relations within the couple, when marital life imposed spousal mobilities. For some women, living alone means residential mobility in retirement as a mobility that is free of wages and family constraints. However, residential mobility is not always chosen. On the contrary, it may be forced upon them due to a lack of financial resources during widowhood, the need to get closer to services, or by a necessary rearrangement of the interior architecture of housing.
Conclusions: The analysis of the residential mobility of women in retirement reveals that social sex relations are strong in the choice of residential choice and that the characteristics of the city, in addition to those of the seaside, are largely structural in the choice of residence.
Contribution: By crossing gender and age-related issues, this social geographical research focuses on how new living spaces, in old age, can become a resource or even offer the possibility of emancipation.
Aging masculinity — facing prostate cancer
Research Framework: Prostate cancer is an older man’s disease. In France, it is most commonly diagnosed among men of 70 years of age. Very often, this type of cancer involves invasive procedures and affects the lives of many patients.
Objectives: This article studies the lives of men dealing with prostate cancer and aims, more precisely, to examine the intersections between gender, sexuality and aging as related to the experience of having this illness.
Methodology: The study is based on a qualitative research that combines ethnographic fieldwork in hospitals and semi-structured interviews with patients, relatives and professionals.
Results: The results detail two dimensions of prostate cancer experience. The first concerns how men diagnosed with prostate cancer deal with biomedical discourses and practices. The care relationship is described as structured by age and gender. The second dimension of the prostate cancer experience studied in this article looks into the effects of the illness on identity and personal biography. The repercussions affecting the subjective definition of aging as well as gender relations and identifications are presented in their plurality.
Conclusions: Our methodological approach used the intersectionnality of age, gender and sexual norms in the study of the prostate cancer experience. This helped to uncover a better understanding of the tensions involved in this delicate subject.
Contribution: The adoption of intersectionality as a theoretical framework shed a new light on how aging men cope with illness.
Moments of alternating residences Age, Gender and Temporality in Shared Custody
Research Framework: The temporal organization of shared custody is a configuration of alternating residences following marital separation where parents divide their time with the children at separate residences—with the implication that their homes are near to each other.
Objectives: Investigating how age and gender affect the temporal organization of shared custody. The temporalites in question include the daily experience of alternating residences as well as biographical temporalities. We look into the moments that found shared custodyincluding implementation, transformations in the temporal framework and their duration as well as the exits of this organization by using the age and gender of the children and their parents.
Methodology: The analysis is based on 45 semi-structured interviews with separated parents. This is equivalent to 34 situations of shared custody. Participants recruited for the interviews came from across all of France.
Results: When the children were young, the gendered difference in parental skills affected shared custody. As the children aged, the weight of the transformation of temporal organisations and the gender relations between parents and their children influenced this change. As the parents aged, their “sphere of possibility” reduced, making it more difficult to support the spatio-temporal constraints of shared custody.
Conclusions: Gender differences between parents affect this organization when their children are young. Gender differences between parents and their children seem to be more significant when the children are older.
Contribution: This article highlights the necessity of rethinking gender relations between estranged spouses or between the parents and their children in a dynamic manner as they change over time.
Occupational Pension reforms for improved equality and its ambivalent consequences on gender relations upon retirement: the Swiss Model
Research Framework: Inspired by European debates on the individualization of social rights, the AVS (assurance-vieillesse et survivant suisse [Federal Old-age, Survivors’ and Invalidity Insurance]) introduced individual and universal access to pensions. This system is now less dependent on salary and marriage, which in a country where the majority of women work part time, was seen as advancement in equality.
Objectives: The objective of this article is to pursue this statement.
Methodology: This work is based on statistics and nearly thirty interviews conducted with retirees to analyze the strategies used to implement this revision and to measure its effects.
Results: It shows that this reform struggles to implement equality. Our interpretation is that this attempt to implement measures to create an equal standard and marriage solidarity, contributes to perpetuating economic inequality between the genders upon retirement. On the household level, this change simply bolsters a domestic economy founded on the complementarity of gender roles. Through individual policies, some women may benefit from a new economic independence, though they nevertheless continue to use it in accordance with the logic of care in which they were socialized. However, they are better empowered while working for the well-being of their loved ones. This gain is, at best, a ‘marginal’ empowerment as the gendered use of money does not call into question the power relationships that exist between couples.
Conclusions: Simply put, a policy that promotes equal treatment is insufficient for the attainment of equality if it does not introduce measures to correct the effects of heavily gendered life courses.
Contribution: This article contributes to research into gender, life stages and public policy by discussing the effects felt by a specific group of retirees by revealing the individual and institutional mechanisms of resistance to change and the perpetuation of inequality—despite the best intentions of the legislator.
Figures of Problematic Dependence Framed by Social Policy: The Influence of Gender and Age
Research Framework: This article seeks to capture the categorization and hierarchization processes embedded in specific social policies.
Objectives: Political authorities in the canton of Vaud have been working to develop a number of social policies related to unemployed adults that focus on three key phases of adulthood in particular: youth, founding families, and ageing. This article shows that these social policies rely on a naturalization of ageing that produces “figures of problematic dependence” which ignore the intersecting relations of gender and age.
Methodology: This research, conducted within the NCCR LIVES, draws on discourse analysis of two categories of social agents: elected representatives in charge of establishing laws and social workers applying these laws in their professional practices. Interviewees were asked to describe three situations that they consider to be emblematic of their work. The advantage of this methodology is that it has the capacity to reveal invisible social categories.
Results: Discourse analysis shows that state dependencies are not always perceived as problematic. Some have even become normalized in terms of their conformity with traditional life course norms produced by the triad of education-employment-retirement.
Conclusions: This article shows that the meanings given to notions of autonomy and independence vary according to age and gender.
Contribution: The originality of this article lies in the fact that three categories of age are brought together and were compared in our analysis.
Youthful commentary on a growth economy : soundings from New Zealand 1884-1914
Sherry Olson, Peter Holland
Research Framework : Over the thirty years before World War I, expansion of the world economy occasioned new opportunities and new constraints for children and adolescents as well as adults; but experiences and responses of minors are understated in print sources.
Objectives : To discover what societal changes young people noticed and talked about, we examined the « children’s page » of a weekly newspaper available for a rural setting in the South Island of New Zealand. The perspective of youth is essential to interpret trajectories inferred from the more conventional sources available in a North American urban setting (Montreal, Quebec).
Methodology : From the internet archive PapersPast we collected 12,000 letters of young people aged six through nineteen years, 1886-1909, and extracted their comments on two popular topics : the work they reported (paid or unpaid) and their accounts of toothache.
Results : The letters inform us about tasks of young people by age, gender, season, daily routine and household structure. Changes in work assignments at ages 12 to 14, coincident with a spurt of growth and, for most, the end of formal schooling, evoked discussion among them about gender roles and, among girls, protest of the scheduling of their growing up.
Conclusion : The seasonality of tasks assigned to children still in school indicates an unrecognized contribution to the elasticity of the rural economy on a global frontier of the industrial food supply. Reallocation of the labour of young people was an ongoing process, subject to negotiation.
Contribution : The wealth of information and opinion accessed in the letters invites further experiment with newspaper content analysis for recognizing the participation of segments of the population whose contributions to economic growth have been underestimated.
Expectations of Aging as Gendered Political Discourse in 19th-century France
Stacey Renee Davis
Research framework: In 1881 the French Third Republic allocated yearly pensions to nearly 25,000 elderly citizens as reparations for political oppression suffered thirty years earlier during the previous regime. To receive a pension, each former political prisoner (proscrit), their widows or children, wrote letters describing their punishment and the wider multi-generational impact of that oppression.
Objectives: This article uncovers understandings shared by Republican administrators and a particular group of their staunch working-class supporters – artisans, rural laborers, and small-town shopkeepers – of the definitions of old age, expectations for life trajectories, and how gender affected both expectations and experiences.
Methodology: Historical, qualitative analysis of archival documents at the French National Archives and departments of the Ain, Allier, Drôme, Hérault, Rhône, Saône-et-Loire, Vaucluse and Yonne, France.
Results: Analysis demonstrates pension applicants drew upon common understandings of gender and age-based roles to strengthen their claims to pensions both as erstwhile heroes of the newly democratic regime and as members of an indigent, elderly poor worthy of government aid.
Conclusions: Former proscrits, their families and Republican administrators shared assumptions about the definition of the onset of old age as linked to gender; about expectations that elderly men would work indefinitely in old age until physically unable to do so but that the specter of elderly working women was shameful and a blot on Republican values; and about an understanding that pensions allowed a dignified old-age for both male and female applicants by undoing dangerous shifts in gender roles perceived as triggered by the political oppression decades earlier.
Contribution: The article contributes to scholarship on changing European understandings of the gendered dimensions of old age in the late 19th century, just before decades of social welfare legislation.