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“I have female vanity in me, because I’m a woman after all”: The self-image of homeless women

2022/1 | #female image #female self-image #gender identity #homeless women | DOI: 10.31287/FT.hu.2022.1.2

The study presents the results of a qualitative research done among homeless women about their female selfimage. Women and men live through becoming homeless differently. For women it is a more traumatic experience to lose their social connections, to be deprived of their parental and marital roles, to feel vulnerable or afraid of being attacked, and also the biological factors of their sex are a greater burden during their life without a home. The female self-image of homeless women is made up of external and internal traits. The former include, for example, hairstyle, fashion and makeup, but most importantly grooming and cleanliness. Some of the internal traits, like intelligence and good manners, don’t disappear with homelessness, while others, like the loss of previous roles, pose a great deficiency. Having or lacking non-peer support, a peer support network, and the similarity of the care institution to one’s former home are among others the most important factors that influence how homelessness and gender identity is experienced, as well as they determine how these experience shape women’s self-image. Although only 20% of the homeless population are women, an important task of social work and of the care system is to offer gender specific services, and to support strengthening homeless women’s gender identity and overwriting the stigmatized homeless identity.