Tuesday, December 13, 2011

a career because I love it; a job because I must

I've benefited from feminism in my lifetime. Institutional barriers have been removed. As a woman, I can sign contracts, open a bank or credit account, start a business. Birth control options allowed me to attend college and have a career, without the responsibility of children during those years. Socially, people are more free to express themselves outside of traditional gender roles.

But I think feminism has gone off the rails. The following excerpts from Jenny Turner's essay [which is WAY too long] bring up interesting questions. Would well-to-do pale-skinned women enjoy the same range of choices if we did not have dark-skinned women to clean our houses and take care of our children? Do women in developing worlds really benefit from entering the marketplace? If I had the choice, would I stay home?

From the London Review of Books

Forty years [of feminism], and the changes are in some ways astonishing: ...– it’s quite common to see men caring for children, waged, in schools and nurseries, and, unwaged, in the home. Part-time work is common, as is flexi-time, homeworking, freelancing, multi-tasking. Equality is regulated by statute. There’s a state-funded nursery and a Sure Start children’s centre in the primary school across the road; there are two libraries in easy walking distance, four playgrounds, two parks.

Domestic work, while not recognised as work because not paid for, is as necessary to the economy as the waged sort. The workforce needs to be fed, clothed, cleaned for, comforted, as does its progeny, the workforce of the future...

any politics worth having has to start with the nuclear family: its impossibility, its wastefulness, its historical contingency. Children are the messages a family, a society, a culture, a civilisation, sends into the future, and yet every day there comes more evidence that child-rearing as currently practised among the people with all the choices doesn’t seem to be working out.

The point ... was not to reduce politics to dirty dishes, but the opposite: dirty dishes became one index of a job, a role, a domestic ballet that included ‘managing the tensions of and servicing in every other way those – women and men – who do waged work, school work, housework ... doing the volunteer stuff no one else has time to bother with, ‘from church societies to library support groups, from food co-ops to disaster appeals’ and all this going on constantly, ceaselessly, even more in peasant economies than in richer ones. ‘The major part of unseen and uncounted housework,’ she added, ‘is done in the non-industrial world.’

What options really await [poor women in poor countries] when they get a job? According to research cited by Eisenstein, there are basically four alternatives: factory work in export-zone sweatshops, migration, sex work or microcredit.

Across the world, according to UK Feminista, women perform 66 per cent of the work and earn 10 per cent of the income. In the UK two-thirds of low-paid workers are women, and women working full-time earn 16 per cent less than men. ... In a piece in Prospect in 2006 the British economist Alison Wolf showed that the 16 per cent pay-gap masks a much harsher divide, between the younger professional women – around 13 per cent of the workforce – who have ‘careers’ and earn just as much as men, and the other 87 per cent who just have ‘jobs’, organised often around the needs of their families, and earn an awful lot less. Feminism overwhelmingly was and is a movement of that 13 per cent – mostly white, mostly middle-class, speaking from, of, to themselves within a reflecting bubble.

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