Parasitism and phallocentrism in social provisions for the aged

Diane Gibson, Judith Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Aging is a sexed issue. Women are the majority of the aged population, the majority of informal carers, the majority of service providers and the majority of recipients of formal care. Yet traditional gerontology accorded sex the status of a descriptive variable, rather than a central category of analysis and explanation. For its own part, feminism remained largely preoccupied with the first forty years of the female cycle. Recent years have, however, seen a growing awareness of the peculiar and particular problems confronting women in an aging society, and a range of empirical studies have emerged which canvass aspects of those debates. This article draws together a wide-ranging but fragmented literature from a number of countries. The first part of the argument concerns the extent to which and the ways in which the care of the aged is parasitic upon the unpaid and poorly paid labor of women in general, and old women in particular. The second part characterizes existing social provisions for the aged as phallocentric, in that they privilege and correspond with the interests, experiences and preferences of men, advantaging them in relation to women.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-98
Number of pages20
JournalPolicy Sciences
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 1993
Externally publishedYes


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