December 30, 2009

Great Analysis, Mixed Feelings

Women in the workforce: Female power | The Economist

I like this article because it gives a wide-ranging view of women workers in Western societies. On the other hand, the section describing the challenges posed by and to working mothers gives me mixed feelings. It avoids unpleasant language like "woman problem," but I can't shake the feeling that those old ugly attitudes underlie the analysis. For example:
Many children have paid a price for the rise of the two-income household. Many women—and indeed many men—feel that they are caught in an ever-tightening tangle of commitments. If the empowerment of women was one of the great changes of the past 50 years, dealing with its social consequences will be one of the great challenges of the next 50. [Emphasis mine]
Granted, this is the Economist. Hardly a bastion of progressive, let alone feminist, thought. And the final section, describing innovations meant to help women and men balance work and family life, rings full of optimism.

We're a child-free family, so my perspective is limited. Any moms out there want to put two cents in?


  1. Fucking bullshit. What about the dads? THAT'S the problem. Because even if wages had kept pace with production, and it was possible to raise a family comfortably on a single salary (for MOST Americans), there would still be "the problem with no name" that Freidan so brilliantly named.

    If we want to fix these so called "social consequences" then we need to fix the daycare system. Companies should HAVE to have onsite daycare. Period. Daycare workers should be well trained and well paid. Family leave policies should be, um, family friendly. These "problems" cannot become the private work of private families-- that's what has happened to elder care, and it;s a fucking mess. We need to structure and compensate the work of care.

  2. So I am not a mom. But I want to talk as usual. I am pretty sure I read this. (I have subscription to The Economist...jealous or disgusted?) And as I remember women workers may now make up the majority of the work force. Or course they are more likely to be part time, etc. Something tells me we have created a system of privelege for men so that they think they can't accept part time or low paying work, so they get laid off and go to unemployment or just don't work rather than work but take home less than working wife/spouse/partner/girlfriend.

  3. I've been putting off responding to this because Sarah's smarts intimidate me! :)

    Still, there's a pseudo-Marxist rant just begging to be ranted. To me, the issue is how we value -- I'll use the gender non-specific phrase "household work" (i.e. cooking meals, washing clothes, scrubbing floors, etc.)

    Household work only creates use value. Food gets eaten, clothes get worn, floors get walked on. Contemporary society privileges labor that creates surplus value. A paycheck, for example, which the family can spend to keep the wheels of the GDP spinning.

    We have so downgraded use-value work that even professionals suffer. Think about workers who don't get make a decent living: child and elder caregivers, house cleaners, and food preparers/servers (the glaring exception of elite chefs aside: that's a cult-of-expertise rant for another day).

    I'm eternally impressed by SAHM's. It's like being the CEO of a company! Except, try staying at home for a while and then re-entering the workforce. Not too many bosses respect, or even recognize, the professionalism and commitment it takes to run a household.

    @Casey -- save your $$ and subscribe to the Economist via Google Reader. Now who's jealous?


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