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Volume 17, No. 1 (March 1999)

    Special Issue

    WOMEN AND DISASTERS

    Betty Hearn Morrow and Brenda D. Phillips
    Guest Editors

    Introduction by:

      Betty Hearn Morrow and Brenda D. Phillips, "What's Gender 'Got to Do With It'?" pp. 5-11.

        Disaster researchers are accumulating clear evidence that, as a group, women are likely to respond, experience, and be affected by disasters in ways that are qualitatively different. At the same time it is important to recognize and document women's diversity. Clearly, not all women experience disasters uniformly. It is our privilege to work with a growing cadre of disaster researchers and responders who are dedicated to documenting the experiences of women-their proactions and contributions, as well as reactions and needs. To this end we are pleased to serve as editors for this special collection on women and disaster as viewed from a variety of disciplines, professions, and perspectives, both theoretical and practical. As the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction concludes, we offer the articles that follow as a new step into the next century. All of us associated with this special issue on women and disasters hope the collection will interest you and will have relevance to your work. May you find the arguments compelling and the commitment to a better understanding of the disaster-related vulnerabilities and capacities of women contagious. (Edited from the introduction)

    Articles by:

      Maureen Fordham, "The Intersection of Gender and Social Class in Disaster: Balancing Resilience and Vulnerability," pp. 15-37.

        Those who experience disaster are widely regarded as an undifferentiated group, labeled "victims." In the immediate crisis period, it is difficult for professionals to differentiate, except crudely, between varying levels of need and still carry out urgent duties and responsibilities. However, it soon becomes apparent that some are hit harder than others and that disasters are not the great levelers they are sometimes considered to be. Close examination reveals complex variations within, and not just between, social groups broadly understood as middle- and working-class. This paper examines the intersection of gender and social class in two major flood events and argues for a more nuanced appreciation of these factors, at both the conceptual and the practical level, to be incorporated throughout the disaster process. (AA)

      Elaine Enarson, "Women and Housing Issues in Two U.S. Disasters: Case Studies from Hurricane Andrew and the Red River Valley Flood," pp. 39-63.

        This paper examines housing as part of a larger project to illuminate "shadow risks and hidden damages" and to specify root causes reproducing women's disaster vulnerability in developed nations, among them the gendered division of labor, economic dependency, male violence, and housing insecurity. I begin with a theoretical grounding of disaster housing in gender relations and global development patterns and then focus on United States, drawing on Census data and qualitative field studies to address two key questions. First, what structural trends and patterns suggest women's housing insecurity in this context? Second, what emergency management issues emerge from empirical investigations of women's disaster housing experiences? I draw examples from two U.S. case studies to illustrate how housing in the disaster context is a highly gendered issue. The final section outlines women's housing needs and strategic interests and offers guidelines to practitioners. (Edited from the author's introduction)

      Jane C. Ollenburger and Graham Tobin, "Women, Aging and Post-Disaster Stress: Risk Factors for Psychological Morbidity," pp. 65-78.

        The goal of this research was to model the relationship between stress and natural disasters, with a view to explaining levels of stress among women. Following flooding in Iowa in 1993, two in-depth questionnaire surveys were administered, one to residents in high flood exposure areas and another to the general population as a control. Results indicated that gender plays a significant role in interpreting stress responses to natural hazards, with women consistently exhibiting greater stress than men. However, it was evident that a complex web of factors influenced stress levels including marital status, structure of the family unit, age, socio-economic status, health, levels of social involvement, and degree of hazard experience. These findings suggest that more research should focus on determining structural constraints that exacerbate stress levels for women. (AA)

      Alice Fothergill, "An Exploratory Study of Woman Battering in the Grand Forks Flood Disaster: Implications for Community Responses and Policies," pp. 79-98.

        This paper presents an exploratory study of woman battering in the Grand Forks, North Dakota, flood of April 1997. Based on my qualitative research of women's experiences in this flood, I present two case studies of battered women to enhance understanding of what intimate partner violence means to women in the face of a natural disaster. The case studies illustrate how battered women make sense of their situations and how factors such as class and disability play a role in how women experience domestic violence. The case studies also show why services for battered women, such as emergency shelters and crisis counseling, are crucial during a disaster period. Even though we do not know if domestic violence rates increase in a disaster, we do have evidence that the demand for domestic violence services increases during disaster times. In light of this, I argue that there is a need to prepare for that situation. (AA)

      Cheryl D. Childers, "Elderly Female-Headed Households in the Disaster Loan Process," pp. 99-110.

        The purpose of this exploratory research was to compare the income and approval rates of elderly single-female households and other types of households applying for disaster aid. Households from two parishes involved in the flooding in and around New Orleans, Louisiana, in May 1995 who applied for federal loans via the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) National Teleregistration Center were compared on demographics and outcomes. Data analysis showed that elderly single-female households were over-represented in the population applying to FEMA; two and one-half times as likely as other elderly households or non-elderly households to have incomes of $11,000 or lower; and three times less likely than other elderly households to receive a low-interest loan. This study indicates that the current federal low-interest loan program does not adequately address the needs of poor elderly women. Special initiatives are needed that target this population. (AA)

      Jennifer Wilson, "Women and Local Emergency Management," pp. 111-122.

        There is no doubt that women are in short supply as emergency managers at the local level. In many parts in our society women still do not hold positions of leadership, authority, or management. Emergency response agencies are no exception. Indeed, contemporary county offices of emergency management evolved from the traditional local offices of civil defense which were predominately occupied and operated by men. Thus there is a long history of emergency management being considered a male domain. Although the number of women involved in the process of local emergency management is increasing, there has been little research on women's and men's different experiences in this environment. This exploratory study examines women in local emergency management by looking at how gendered expectations, roles, and relationships might affect local offices of emergency management. (AA)

    Feedback From The Field

      Richard L. Krajeski and Kristina J. Peterson, "'But She's a Woman and This is a Man's Job': Lessons for Participatory Research and Participatory Recovery," pp. 123-130.



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