glitzfrau: (executive lesbian from sinsense)
[personal profile] glitzfrau
A propos of this excellent post on the Anti-Room about motherhood and careers, but also in response to many, many debates in the media about the choice between motherhood and careers. You know the way these debates play out: some point out, rightly, that it is never a choice between fatherhood and careers, now is it? some that most women cannot financially afford the choice not to work, some that the idea of a choice is laughable, because a working mother is still a mother, she doesn't choose not to be one. Some argue that motherhood often involves a profound shift in priorities, and that women often gladly embrace a meaningful existence with their children that they felt was denied them in the cold world of paid work, some that small children are best taken care of by their mothers, some that women are stealing jobs that rightfully belong to male breadwinners, some that money isn't everything.

What infuriates me about all of these motherhood v. career debates is that no-one ever, ever suggests that women’s paid work has some inherent actual value. No, it’s always the woman’s selfish, or rightful, desire to have an activity outside the home, or her desperate need to earn money, that motivates her. No-one ever suggests that a woman’s journalism might have value to society, that being a cleaner, an engineer, an administrator, a politician, an entrepreneur, a nanny is actually contributing to society and the economy in a profoundly important way. A woman with a career is either a juggling marvel or a hard-hearted harridan; in either case, her work affects only herself, her children and her husband. (In these debates, it seems that the mother is almost inevitably allied to a man, though I'd be delighted to be pointed in the direction of lesbian-themed counter-examples.) At the very best, she is a wonderful role model for us all.

But she is never someone who does something that is essential to our lives, such as providing us with higher education, writing novels that entrance us, providing us with efficient service at supermarkets, driving us home at night safely, writing software to help us maximise our profit margins, fighting for our rights in an NGO. No. And because a woman's work is essentially valueless in monetary terms, except to herself, there's another good reason to pay women less and dismiss their work.

(Increasingly, as I get older, while I have solidarity with the debates about female representations in the media, about sexual harassment, about the beauty myth, and most certainly with debates about rape and about access to abortion - all the issues that exercise younger feminists - I feel, profoundly, that in European countries with largely equal legal rights for women, female poverty is the massive, the most important feminist issue. I am in awe with Yvette Cooper and the UK Fawcett Society for campaigning on
his unglamorous issue, because it needs to be fought for, hard.)

(Women's Work is Worthless, part I)
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