Gender, class and generation: a comparative study of working and middle class Indian women's household and work experiences in Ekuhuleni.
This study focuses on the ways in which gender, class, generation, and religion intersect to shape women’s perceptions and experiences of work and household relations. Given the minimal research conducted on Indian communities in South Africa, this research focuses on Indian women living in Benoni, Ekurhuleni, demonstrating the importance of the intersection of different axes of identity. Differences in perceptions between older and younger generations were looked at in terms of how they viewed gender relations and work. Finally the implications of religion were examined in relation to these women’s subjective experiences. The literature review unraveled the theory of intersectionality and located the dynamics of overlapping social categories within the household and in relation to work experiences. Drawing primarily from Beverley Skeggs’ notion of respectability, the research uncovered points of similarity and difference along these varying axes as they intersect at different levels and enable women to create meaningful identities for themselves. Qualitative semi-structured interviews were used to obtain the first-hand, subjective perceptions of the respondents regarding their experiences both within the home and outside. The research findings demonstrate that respectability comes to mean different things for working class and middle class women, older and younger generations, and Muslim and Hindu women. Thus for the most part, working class Muslim women derived respectability from being full-time housewives and mothers, while middle class Hindu women overall felt that respectability was achieved through establishing individuality from formal employment while simultaneously being there for their children. This study may, hopefully, contribute to the growing body of literature on intersectionality by highlighting the importance and necessity of looking at different social categories as they combine and coexist to inform and shape the identities and lived experiences of different groups of people.