Of the anthropological perspectives listed for this activity the feminist theory works best with my topic on gender equity and the impact on fertility in Italy. The feminist theory lecture from week one discusses how feminist theorists ask about the role of gender in all situations including the inequalities that exist because of gender. The feminist theory, as defined by “The Feminist Standpoint Theory Reader: Intellectual and Political Controversies”, is the “relations between the production of knowledge and practices of power” of women (Harding 2003). Studying the “relations” applies to my topic because more and more women in Italy want to be full time employees with equal benefits offered to men, but also want to be a mother. I mentioned in last week’s activity that if women are given the same opportunities as men in education and market employment those opportunities will be cut down when a woman gives birth (McDonald 2000).
The feminist theory from week one begins with the big question: how does gender impact the situation? Here, the situation is low fertility and the impact can start in the beginning of adulthood. In this day women going to college has become a commonality in Italy (Del Boca, Pasqua, Pronzato 2004). College can offer them more career opportunities and higher wage rates once graduated. However, a woman is typically in her “childbearing years” while in college and education “induces fertility postponement,” (Del Boca, Pasqua, Pronzato 2004). Because the woman wants to make something of herself, she’ll start a career soon after college which adds more time to the “fertility postponement”. Some will work for multiple years before having children (Conforti 2007). By the time the woman has children, she might not have many “childbearing years” left which is one reason to such few children.
When an Italian woman has a baby, she is already losing benefits that were available before the birth, but she isn’t offered as much opportunity compared to a French woman. The French woman is given longer parental leave and greater healthcare and childcare systems for children under three years old (Del Boca, Pasqua, Pronzato 2004). Italian child care systems are scarce and have relatively high costs for what is available and limited hours. The Italian woman needs to depend more on family (her and/or his parents and grandparents) to care for her children (Del Boca, Pasqua, Pronzato 2004). The Del Boda et al. article (2004) measured only 6% of Italian parents with a child three years old or younger using formal childcare and compared it to 29% of French parents (The article also showed 64% of parents in Denmark use formal childcare! Come on Italian government…be more pro-feminism!). Another comparison to note is “Italian husbands contribute less to housework and childcare than their European counterparts,” (Del Boca, Pasqua, Pronzato 2004). One country to note is Sweden. Sweden heavily contrasts Italy when it comes to gender equality (Conforti 2007). Swedish women have “considerable social support and corresponding self-confidence” on keeping her job and the job’s benefits. Japan and Italy, together with their cultural and geographic differences, have low fertility rates (Conforti 2007). One reason to this is the commonality of postponing marriage, if they marry, and both countries having a very low level of premarital fertility.
The way gender has an effect on fertility in Italy, from a feminist standpoint, is the wanting of equality. For Italy, this makes things much more complicated, such as low availability of childcare, which discourages women to have more than one or two children. As mentioned above, Japan also has a low fertility rate (about 1.3 for both countries) creating the prediction that the populations in both countries will “rapidly age within a few decades” (Conforti 2007). But that’s a whole other topic to discuss.
Conforti, Joseph. “Low Birth Rates in Japan and Italy.” International Review of Modern Sociology 33.3 (2007): 245-268. Web. 5 Aug. 2015.
Del Boca, Daniela. Pasqua, Silvia. Prozato, Chiara. “Why are Fertility and Women’s Employment Rate So Low in Italy? Lessons from France and the U.K.” IZA Discussion Paper 1274 (2004) Web. 5 Aug. 2015.
Harding, Sandra. The Feminist Standpoint Theory Reader: Intellectual and Political Controversies. New York: Routledge, 2004. Print.
McDonald, Peter. “Gender Equity, Social Institutions and the Future of Fertility.” Journal of Population Research 17.1 (2000): 1-16. Web. 29 Jul. 2015.