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Sex Roles

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Narratives of Israeli Women in Retirement: Rewriting the Gender Contract

  • Nitza Berkovitch
  • Shlomit Manor
Original Article

Abstract

In the present study, we analyze how older Israeli women narrate, make sense of, and negotiate their lives after retirement. By center-staging women in their life periods of after-care work and paid work, we join emerging feminist research that aims at correcting the middle-age bias in gender studies and the gender bias in retirement studies. We conducted semi-structured in-depth interviews with 20 Israeli Jewish heterosexual women of varied class backgrounds who retired in the last 10 years. Conceptualizing retirement as an embedded experience and using the concept of gender contract as an analytical tool, we highlight how retired women employed two contradictory discourses, familial and individualistic, both prominent in the Israeli context, to renegotiate and rewrite the gender contract. They did so by constituting themselves as autonomous and independent subjects whose past devotion to others alongside their arduous labor has granted them the right to space and time of their own. They also redefine their maternal role so they keep their motherly duties to help “as much as needed” but on their own terms. Our study shows that putting older women at the center requires rethinking existing concepts. It reveals that individualism as a meaning system is not relevant to all equally, rather it depends on the intersection of a person’s gender with stage in life, and that the gender contract varies not only by geographical and social location but also across the life-course.

Keywords

Retirement Individualism Marital relations Gender contract Israel Grandmothers, motherhood 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We would like to thank Catherine Rottenberg for her thorough reading and insightful comments on the various versions of the present paper.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

The research involved human participants. We complied with all ethical standards and ensured that accepted principles of ethical and professional conduct have been followed.

We have obtained informed consent from the participants. At the start of each interview, it was emphasized that the interview was solely for the purpose of research; the aim of the research was explained to the interviewees, and they were promised that their anonymity and privacy would be diligently protected. In addition, they were told that they could stop the interview at any point, and that if they regretted their decision during or at the end of the interview, no use would be made of the recorded materials.

The research has been approved by the Collegiate Ethics Committee.

All participants were given pseudonyms to protect their identity.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest

Supplementary material

11199_2018_918_MOESM1_ESM.doc (38 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 37.5 kb)

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and AnthropologyBen-Gurion University of the NegevBeer ShevaIsrael
  2. 2.Department of SociologyWestern Galilee CollegeAkkoIsrael

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