22 April 2012

Women, Work, and Why Conservatives are Wrong

 Remember all the outrage among right-wingers when someone dared point out Ann Romney's role as helpmate and stay-at-home mom? Conservatives fell over themselves proclaiming that stay-at-home moms "do too" work! Well, here is a typically incisive assessment from Katha Pollitt at The Nation:
"So there it is: the difference between a stay-home mother and a welfare mother is money and a wedding ring. Unlike any other kind of labor I can think of, domestic labor is productive or not, depending on who performs it. For a college-educated married woman, it is the most valuable thing she could possibly do, totally off the scale of human endeavor. What is curing malaria compared with raising a couple of Ivy Leaguers? For these women, being supported by a man is good—the one exception to our American creed of self-reliance. Taking paid work, after all, poses all sorts of risks to the kids. (Watch out, though, ladies: if you expect the father of your children to underwrite your homemaking after divorce, you go straight from saint to gold-digger.) But for a low-income single woman, forgoing a job to raise children is an evasion of responsibility, which is to marry and/or support herself. For her children, staying home sets a bad example, breeding the next generation of criminals and layabouts."
Of course, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics inconveniently points out - setting aside the matter of whether we consider it "productive" or not - nearly all labor in the U.S. is differentially valued depending on who does it.

 And, of course, this is true too within sectors of the economy, not just across them; so the standard conservative canard about how persistent, pervasive pay disparities are just a symptom of women "choosing" poorly paying jobs/careers is just that, a canard. Moreover, just as Pollitt points out regarding judgements regarding whether any given work is productive, pay differentials too are inflected by race. The world is just way too complex for conservative nostrums.

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