Spent by Mammy as Earned by Daddy: Rethinking Household Consumption as a Foundation of Gender Egalitarianism
Earning has been traditionally prescribed to male identity, while housekeeping management to the female. The opening of the labor market for women partly weakened gender inequality and the connection between gender and economic performance. However, that decision only opened a “male” economic role for all and kept the “female”-governing household expenditures underestimated. Based on the data of 37 in-depth interviews with middle-class housewives from Moscow, Russia, carried out between 2014-2019 using grounded theory methodology, the chapter reconstructs two lines of argumentation used by women to justify that management of household expenditures can be chosen as a main economic activity without the shame of failing modern gender standards. The first one is denoted as a “consumptive thrift” or “frugal approach.” It explains expenditures of a household as a form of saving and a way to obtain control over the family’s budget and needs. This approach uses economic rationality to suppress impulsive decisions and emphasize the similarity with actions of earning. The second logic is described as “consumption as social reproduction” or “abundant approach.” It points to the dissimilarity between female-driven spending to male earning. In this view, household expenditures make the family a domain of recovery, satisfaction, and relational work that is impossible without the satisfaction of desires.