Narratives of Israeli Women in Retirement: Rewriting the Gender Contract

Nitza Berkovitch, Shlomit Manor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


In the present study, we analyze how older Israeli women narrate, make sense of, and negotiate their lives after retirement. By center-staging women in their life periods of after-care work and paid work, we join emerging feminist research that aims at correcting the middle-age bias in gender studies and the gender bias in retirement studies. We conducted semi-structured in-depth interviews with 20 Israeli Jewish heterosexual women of varied class backgrounds who retired in the last 10 years. Conceptualizing retirement as an embedded experience and using the concept of gender contract as an analytical tool, we highlight how retired women employed two contradictory discourses, familial and individualistic, both prominent in the Israeli context, to renegotiate and rewrite the gender contract. They did so by constituting themselves as autonomous and independent subjects whose past devotion to others alongside their arduous labor has granted them the right to space and time of their own. They also redefine their maternal role so they keep their motherly duties to help “as much as needed” but on their own terms. Our study shows that putting older women at the center requires rethinking existing concepts. It reveals that individualism as a meaning system is not relevant to all equally, rather it depends on the intersection of a person’s gender with stage in life, and that the gender contract varies not only by geographical and social location but also across the life-course.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)200-217
Number of pages18
JournalSex Roles
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2019


  • Gender contract
  • Grandmothers, motherhood
  • Individualism
  • Israel
  • Marital relations
  • Retirement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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