Youth Privilege: Doing Age and Gender in Russia’s Single-Mother Families
Gender & Society
Sociology & Anthropology
Relative to gender, race, and class, age relations are undertheorized. Yet age, like gender, is routinely accomplished in daily life. Grandmothers and adult daughters simultaneously do age and gender as they support one another in managing paid work and domestic responsibilities. Drawing on ethnographic data and interviews with 90 single mothers and 30 grandmothers (babushki) in Russia, I explore intergenerational negotiations for support. Both single mothers and grandmothers are held accountable for doing gendered age, but labor and marriage markets tip the balance in favor of single mothers. Single mothers re-create youth privilege, finding their lives simpler with a babushka. Some grandmothers embrace newer discourses of femininity, challenging assumptions about age and family status that oblige them to perform care work. But most grandmothers do whatever they can to help daughters, feeling more dependent than ever on them because of the uncertainties of capitalism and the state’s retrenchment. I contribute to theories of age and gender intersectionality by making visible both single mothers’ youth privilege and grandmothers’ unpaid, often devalued, care work.
“Youth Privilege: Doing Age and Gender in Russia’s Single-Mother Families,” Gender & Society 25: 616–41, October 2011.