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Céline Bessière | The Gender of Capital

June 4, 2024

Why do women of all socio-economic backgrounds accumulate less wealth than men? Why do marital separations impoverish women while they do not prevent men from remaining or becoming wealthy? In her new book co-authored with Sibylle Gollac, The Gender of Capital: How Families Perpetuate Wealth Inequalities (Harvard University Press, 2023), Céline Bessière answers these questions, drawing from ethnographic observations and statistical analysis. The Gender of Capital shows that formal legal equality has not eliminated economic inequality between men and women. It illustrates the mechanisms through which women of all social classes lose financially when they divorce or inherit. Examples as diverse as those of the single mothers who joined the French “Yellow Vest” movement, the high-profile divorce of Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos, and the division of the estate of the Trump family demonstrate that capital is gendered. Bessière will discuss how class divisions and the patriarchal appropriation of capital reinforce one another.

A professor of sociology at Paris–Dauphine University, visiting professor at NYU, senior member of the Institut Universitaire de France, Céline Bessière studies the material, economic, and legal dimensions of the family. In France, The Gender of Capital was also adapted into a graphic novel.