The Myth of the Male Breadwinner: Women and Industrialization in the Caribbean by Helen I. Safa
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The Myth of the Male Breadwinner: Women and Industrialization in the Caribbean by Helen I. Safa

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Abstract

What are the implications of women's entry into the industrial workforce for their empowerment at the level of the household, workplace, and political arena? Helen Safa's book compares the experiences of women in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba to provide an insightful commentary on the gendered dimensions of the international division of labor. She documents changes in women's status as Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic moved from import-substitution to export-led industrialization, and as Cuba adopted "material incentives" and market reforms. The book is based on survey data supplemented by interviews with women garment and textile workers. In all three countries, Safa finds that the primary locus of women's subordination has shifted from the "private patriarchy" of husbands and fathers, to the "public patriarchy" of the workplace and political arena where the "myth of the male breadwinner" continues to dictate factory and state policy. The experience of wage work has given women new authority in their homes. While this newfound voice has not translated itself into successful political action, it has provided women with a sense of self-worth in increasingly trying economic times. As one woman remarked, "a person who works has rights" (pp. 84-85).

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