It has become the norm to talk about millennials and boomers as if they are sworn enemies. Millennials are caricatured as hating boomers for hoarding wealth and destroying the planet. Conversely, boomers are characterised as finding millennials to be trivial, vapid snowflakes.
Gender Unites Generations
Tiny house residents offer a line of allegiance and solidarity between these intergenerational groups because both are united by their gendered experience.
Research suggests that more tiny house residents are women than men. We already know that women continue to be paid less than their male counterparts and that by retirement age women’s pension pots are worth approximately 39% less than men’s.
Despite the popular rhetoric of girl-boss empowerment and women who really can have it all, data shows that gendered wage inequality is actually increasing in hundreds of UK companies and that this disparity is the worst for older women.
The State of Gendered Play
We also know that women continue to take on the lions share of unpaid labour, and that women are still considered to be the primary caregivers for both children and older or ill adults. This means that women’s careers are harmed and their time and energy for extracurricular enrichment is diminished.
To compound this situation, men continue to violate and murder women in their droves. In the last hour, six women have been murdered by men. Mostly by men in their own family or their partners. The UN has described this as a global pandemic of femicide.
So, it is easy to understand why some women want to live on their own. It also makes sense that many women will struggle to afford to do this conventionally. The specific experiences of living as a woman connect tiny house residents across generations.
Betty, a lively woman in her 60’s explained to me that she lost her business and her house in the 2008 financial crash. After she left an unhappy marriage, she had no savings and nowhere to live. She drove around the USA for some months, sleeping in her car until she was able to find a tiny house to live in for a small monthly rent.
“I had no money at the time. I had gone from the top in a successful career, to crashing with my partner to having no money… I became homeless for six months. I was on the road. I couch surfed and during that time I came across a book on recycled materials for tiny houses. So, I looked at it and I went that’s it. Yeah, I’m gonna build a tiny house because I don’t know how else to get a roof over my head.”
Is This Becoming The Norm?
Betty’s situation might sound extreme but this is not an uncommon story. The recent and well-deserved success of the book Nomadland by Jessica Bruder highlights how much these stories strike a chord with readers around the world.
In Nomadland, Bruder shares stories of older Americans ruined by the financial crisis. The book documents their transient lifestyles living in their vans chasing poorly paid seasonal work.
I have just started the data analysis phase of my thesis and am honestly feeling bowled over by the openness and generosity of the women I have spoken with over the last year.
Looking forward to sharing my thoughts with you as we go.