Monday, March 31, 2008

Not 'Just'; a Homemaker -- Gloria Steinem Pay Equity Day

From Ruth Wahtera:

April 2nd is Gloria Steinem Pay Equity Day in Albany. I've been bothered lately by several discussions where younger women devalue 'cranky old feminists' like me. I've felt that we haven't done well in transferring our experience, our views, or our agenda.

I came across this blog posting which I think proves my point.
The moms that read this blog were amazed and delighted that Gloria Steinem had this to say about stay-at-home moms. They thought that 'cranky old feminists' took the position that all women should work outside the home.

I guess we have some work to do.

Mom-101: Ask (Gloria Steinem) and Ye Shall Receive
How does a stay-at-home mother espouse feminist values to her own children without diminishing the legitimacy of her own decision?

Her [Gloria Steinem's] answer, verbatim:

The goal of feminism is to honor and value all productive human work and open it up to everyone -- including work that has been devalued because women, the de-valued half of the species, do it. To say that homemakers “don’t work” is a form of semantic slavery.

Actually, homemakers work longer hours, for less pay, under worse conditions (more violence, depression, drug and alcohol addiction etc.) -- and less security (more probability of being replaced by a younger worker!) -- than any other class of workers in the country. So we can help a lot if
  1. we never say “I don’t work,” but rather “I work at home;”
  2. never put “just” in front of homemaker;
  3. expect and require men to be homemakers and nurturers, too, whether that means husbands who cook, or sons who do their own laundry, or single moms who find male baby sitters and “mannies” so their kids grow up knowing that males can be as loving and nurturing as females -- just as women can be as accomplished outside the home as men.
If you decide to go back or into the paid labor force after your kids are more on their own, you could turn your homemaking life into a business-style resume: for example, you contracted for services, ran a budget, socialized new humans, did volunteer work that was a job in itself – whatever. We can do all that as individuals.

As a movement, we can also pass legislation to attribute an economic value to care giving at replacement level (whether care giving is raising children, talking care of elderly parents, AIDS patients; whatever), make this amount tax deductible in a household that pays taxes, or tax refundable in households too poor to pay taxes (thus substituting for the disaster of welfare reform). This Caregivers Tax Credit unifies the so-called soccer mom and the welfare mom because both benefit. You can find out more about this legislation, which just expands the refundability principle we won in the Child Tax Credit – though a lot of people don’t know they’re eligible; you should publicize that – to care giving. The website for the tax-credit campaign is

For the global and economic implications of valuing what women do – a third of the productive work in developed countries and 2/3 in agricultural countries where women also grow much of the food their families eat – plus attributing economic value to the environment, you can see “Revaluing Economics,” an essay I wrote in Moving Beyond Words. Or you can find still more in If Women Counted by Marilyn Waring.

This post isn't about passing the pay equity legislation, but I think it captures the spirit of the issue. I encourage you to share it with young women you know.

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