Globalization and Women

Globalization can be likened to an interconnected web of social, economic, political, cultural, and technological processes. In this article, another metaphor is applied to globalization: that of a flow.  This connection is then applied to how globalization affects women both in the Global North and South.

Globalization can be thought of as a continuous transnational flow: a flow of people, capital, goods, and ideas (Moreno).  This flow is in many ways “a gendered process” (Moreno) because of the institutions and corporations which regulate globalization.  Globalization has affected women in several ways: it has increased women’s migration for economic motives as well as their employment in transnational factories.  This cultural contact between the Global North and the Global South or between the West and the East has several consequences, both good and bad, for every sphere of globalization.

Globalization, as a flow of people, has led “to dramatic increases in women’s migration to other countries for work” (Burn 154).  Because women of the West have become increasingly involved in the workforce since World War II, a ‘care deficit’ (Moreno) has emerged.  With this crisis of social reproduction (Moreno) in which traditional gender roles are compromised, the need for full-time caregivers is growing.  Migrant women are thus hired to assume these household duties.  Women in the Global South migrate for many reasons, including to escape poverty, to postpone marriage, and to provide a better life for their children.  However, these reasons are not always fulfilled for migrant women because of cultural and social barriers.

Globalization is also a flow of capital, which “moves globally in search of the lowest-cost location” (Moreno).  In this “race to the bottom” (Rivoli 22), many transnational factories employ primarily women for their “manual dexterity and docility” (Burn 155).  To maximize profit for the multinational corporations, these factory women receive low wages and poor working conditions.  Additionally, many of the jobs created for women are not secure: “their availability depends on consumption patterns in northern countries” (Burn 154).  The flow of capital, in most cases, is a flow of capitalism: the poor remain poor while the rich become richer.

Globalization also entails a flow of goods both from the Global North and South.  Agriculture in the United States, for example, is subsidized by the government so that it can compete in a global market.  Export processing zones, another example, are placed in low-cost locations where goods are produced.  Thus, globalization creates jobs for women in their own countries, “particularly low-paid jobs in the fresh export produce sector, the export clothing sector, and the outsourced service sector” (Burn 151).  As with each other example, despite the newly-created jobs for women, there are several drawbacks to the progress.

However, globalization as a flow of ideas may be a shimmer of light in the darkness.  The spread of democracy, the media attention, and the non-governmental organizations all positively impact the battle for women’s rights.  Even though women’s initial entrance into the paid workforces complicated hegemonic masculinity, women continue to fight for their right to be safe, equal, and respected in this continually globalizing world.

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