I’m Guilty

April 2, 2009 § 5 Comments

Get ready for a slightly nonsensical and very therapeutic rant.

High school students are under a lot of pressure. But that’s not why I feel guilty almost all the time.

My mom works really hard. She works, providing for me and all, and she is a mom. I respect her, and women like her, so much because I know the shit she has to put up with on a daily basis. We all know the kind of guilt society places on women, particularly working mothers. My mom gets guilt from our family for not staying home, she gets guilt from the people she works with for leaving work early on parent-teacher conference night. If she works, which most of us need to do, she’s a bad mom, but if she doesn’t…well, that’s not really an option for her. It’s a pretty pervasive lose-lose situation.

Sometimes I feel so stressed that it feels like my body is breaking. A big part of this stress is because of the guilt I constantly feel. I feel guilty if I’m not doing my homework. I feel guilty if I’m running late to a rehearsal. I feel guilty if I don’t go visit my grandmother one Sunday. Almost every girl I know has expressed similar feelings to me. Of course, there are plenty of guys that are also constantly juggling three thousand things. It’s just that lately I’ve become really aware of how big a factor guilt is in running my life. What am I so guilty about?

There is constant pressure to be flawless. But what does that even mean? Sorry if this sounds like a whiny self-pity session, but it’s true, and it’s true for all of us. There are these unattainable standards that all women are expected to live up to, that just don’t make sense. I’m supposed to be smart, but not too smart or else boys won’t like me. I’m supposed to be pretty, but not too pretty, or else girls won’t like me. I’m supposed to be innocent, but naughty.

We’re faced with these unattainable standards and expectations to be flawless everyday. Obviously no one can live up to them, and yet the way they’re presented, it seems like you’re the only one who can’t. So many of the girls in the movies and on t.v. seem to fit this definition of what we’re all supposed to be. No wonder I, along with so many young women, constantly feel guilty.

Women’s Work In The New Economy

March 31, 2009 § 5 Comments

Another guest post by Joel, cross-posted at Citizen Obie.

I’ve been thinking about the issue of women work trends since I saw an earlier post here a while back about how feminists were reacting to the stimulus package, and what they thought it offered to support industries with greater representation of women (social work, education, health.) My concern was not so much with the sectors the stimulus emphasized, I believe that fomenting green manufacturing, construction, transportation, and agriculture is going to be fundamental to getting ourselves out of this economic mess we’re in and moving us towards an era of sustainable prosperity and equity. But where do women fit in this agenda? Green-collar jobs, the premier jobs of the new economy, are in construction and manufacturing (and I pray also urban agriculture,) sectors with little female representation. I’m going to assume that construction and manufacturing will remain important and vibrant for years to come, in which case my concern is how do we promote gender equity in those fields? How do we make sure that women share in the vision of the new economy, how do we de-stratify the sectors with the greatest potential for growth?

I thought about it even more when the news got out that the White House vegetable garden is Michelle Obama’s initiative. I love Michelle Obama, I love organic vegetable gardens, and I love children’s health and nutrition, but I was intrigued by the historic association between first ladies and health (specifically children’s health) advocacy. I wouldn’t call it anything as strong as a major concern, but what does it mean for powerful, fiercely intelligent women (in Michelle Obama’s case, a lawyer) to be relegated to work with overtones of domesticity? On the other hand, maybe I ought to rethink my own gendered assumptions about what it means to work with children and health. Maybe it is my own male bias and set of assumptions that I imply above that children and health issues might be ‘beneath’ a fiercely intelligent woman. In this case, how will we encourage (assuming we want to) the disassociation of particular fields with the different genders? And if such associations remain tenacious, what opportunities are available to women in the revolutionary restructuring of the educational and health care systems, as called for in Barack Obama’s agenda? Energy, education, and health are the major focuses of Obama’s agenda. Is it okay for energy to be a primarily masculine field, with education and (to a lesser degree) health to be primarily feminine?

Finally, here are a few articles on the immediate effects of the recession on women’s economic lives. The first is on the likely increase of domestic disputes as a result of male unemployment. It suggests that recessions, with major job loss for male-bodied individuals, breeds resentment as males fail to fulfill their ‘breadwinner’ roles, compounding the other stresses of over-worked women struggling to fulfill their roles as double-time workers and mothers. The second is on women losing their jobs and moving into the sex entertainment industry. And here’s one on the unfortunate likelihood that pregnant women and new mothers may be more likely to face unemployment, despite the illegality of discriminating against mothers. Overall, it looks as though the recession and the vast restructuring of the economy (I hope) will have major effects on perceptions of domesticity and women’s work roles. I hope some of you are as interested in these broad trends as I am. I think they definitely point to a very particular landscape in the contemporary feminist movement.

Feministing’s Fire in the Belly Series

March 24, 2009 § 2 Comments

I just wanted to take a few minutes to highlight Feministing‘s Fire in the Belly series, a response to the Times asking if young women should be passed the reproductive rights torch and us replying that we are more than up to the task. From Feministing:

Sally Burgess, executive director of the Hope clinic, who is also chairwoman of the National Abortion Federation, said [in the article]: “What I observe for women in their 20s and 30s — there are fewer who really have the fire in the belly for this.” Then it devolved from there with Debra Dickersen over at MotherJones.com, demanding “Tell me exactly what today’s feminists are doing for the struggle.”

As young feminists, we’re unfortunately all too familiar with this blatant ageism. The pervasive stereotype of youth as apathetic, lazy people who take the struggles of those before us for granted is unproductive and destructive to the feminist movement. The time we spend bickering amongst ourselves about who does more for the cause is time we should be spending fighting the good fight.

Here are just a few things that myself, the rest of the Women’s Glib crew, and other young’uns are doing to keep the fire in our own bellies alive:

  1. We are spending election season talking to our friends and relatives and calling voters in support of pro-choice candidates nationwide.
  2. We are distributing condoms and information about emergency contraception at subway stops all over the city as part of NARAL Pro-Choice New York’s Back Up Your Birth Control Day of Action (keep an eye out for pictures later in the week!).
  3. We are starting clubs (Shira and I created Feminist Focus this year at our school; Silvia spearheaded The F-Word at hers) – and blogs! – to make feminism accessible to youth and to amplify our too-often-silenced voices.
  4. We are talking back to doctors who ask, “What’s the rush?” when we confide that we’re sexually active.
  5. We are speaking out in support of comprehensive sex education and against manipulative abstinence-only rhetoric.
  6. We are buying condoms, taking birth control, having sex, and making our own reproductive decisions without shame.

 With all that pro-choice goodness in mind, Feministing is bringing us wisdom from five young women working in reproductive justice fields throughout the week. Links and tidbits from the first two women are below; check back with Feministing for the rest.

Part I: Liza Fuentes.

I had never really questioned before that having an abortion was something that I shouldn’t talk about. But then I thought about what I went though trying to get the abortion–being shunned by my doctor and figuring out how to pay for it. And I saw that the whole process was made to ensure that women are ashamed of themselves no matter how they go about it. And I decided that I didn’t want to stand for it anymore.

Part II: Alma Avila Pilchman

While it may be true that some of us haven’t gotten the message that we are under attack in the U.S. –that our rights are being taking away with laws like “parental notification” and “24-hour waiting periods”–there are many of us who are dedicating ourselves to this issue. I think that mainstream reproductive rights organizations are still in the process of recognizing that, and are only now beginning to accept young women, and especially women of color, as strong activist leaders.

Also, it is imperative to redefine what being pro-choice means. Young people are seeing abortion rights differently than those who were part of Roe. For us, abortion is only a piece of the huge puzzle of women’s rights, and ultimately human rights.

Women in the Work Force: Quit or Throw a Shit Fit?

March 9, 2009 § 2 Comments

Today, I found myself reading a puzzling article about women in the work force. The author, Laurie Ruettimann, claims that the best way for women to make a statement about sexual harassment in the work force is to quit if they’ve been subjected to inappropriate behaviors. Raising a fuss, she says, will only expose the abused woman to damaging and insulting inquiries from HR:

Your HR representative is tasked with moving quickly to protect the organization’s image, and the system for investigating the claim of harassment is callous. The goal of a harassment investigation is to establish blame and shift liability away from your employer. The burden of proof falls on your shoulders. Rather than asking how you want the situation to be resolved, Human Resources is primarily concerned with determining if you are lying or telling the truth. Even though you are a victim and your HR rep may sympathize, your feelings will only be addressed to the extent that it protects the company.

Yeah, you’re right, victim blaming does really suck, and it must be really, really hard to face that kind of bullshit when you’re just trying to do the right thing and get a creepy person out of your life. But just because HR can be big and scary does not mean that you should just give up on the situation if you feel in your heart that it’s worth the fight. 

Ruettimann claims that quitting the job is the most courageous and active move a woman can make, which I have a hard time believing. It seems like it would reinforce the terrible trend of women not reporting abuse, but perhaps more importantly, it’s not a viable option for a woman who is struggling to support herself or a family. People need to hold tight to their jobs in this economy, and I think it’s important for abused women to know that they don’t have to move jobs OR put up with abuse in the workplace. Pushing for that middle ground — a sensitive, productive HR inquiry –is the most active thing we can do. 

I also have an issue with how Ruettimann characterizes perps. “If your employer hires…someone who thinks it’s okay to treat you like a second-class citizen, that means your company is already broken,” she says. I think it’s problematic to assume that all perps are clearly creepy people. Brilliant, Harvard grads can be abusive co-workers. Men, women, and transpeople can be perps. Black, white, Hispanic, and Asian people can participate in inappropriate behaviors. And unless someone has a criminal record from previous instances of reported abuse, the employer simply won’t know that they have an asshole on staff. That is, until someone reports their abusive behaviors. Perps don’t walk around with their privates hanging out (well, mostly). It would be great if it were that easy to recognize a creeper, but that’s not the way things work, especially in the corporate workforce. 

My two cents on abuse in the workforce: throw a fucking shit fit. If your company doesn’t pull out all the stops to make you feel safe on company time, THAT’s when you quit. When it’s clear that you’re working for, not just with, fucking pigs. But I also recognize that abuse can change your whole mindset. I don’t wish to criticize women who have left their unsafe workplaces, I just want to point out that there is a feasible course of action that, in my opinion, would really expel abusive behavior from the workplace. 

But what do you think?

Some Thoughts on the Stimulus Package

February 8, 2009 § 5 Comments

Hello! 

For my FIRST EVER POST ON WOMEN’S GLIB (wooohoooo), I wanted to get some information up about Obama’s $825 billion stimulus package and what it will do for us ladyfolk. I snooped around some blogs and newspapers, and here’s what I’ve come up with. Feel free to add anything you’ve noticed about the plan in a comment! 

Joan Entmacher, VP of family economic security at the National Women’s Law Center, says that the package will work on “Expanding health for them [women], child care, unemployment insurance, direct help in higher food stamps and energy assistance.” Additionally, the package “protects a lot of jobs for women in education, early education and social work services.” 

This all sounds pretty sweet, but I do have to wonder about the job protection detailed by Entmacher. Education and social work? Those sound like ‘typical woman’ jobs to me. I am all for protecting positions in these fields, but what about women with jobs closely tied to the manufacturing industries, agriculture, etc? Lindsay Beyerstein from the Washington Independent says that the stimulus is “expected to create or sustain significant numbers of jobs in female-dominated sectors of the economy, like teaching, nursing, and social work.” Again, that sounds really awesome, but what about women who already have a hard time in the work-force because they belong to male-dominated labor sectors? Will they be overlooked because they’re pursuing careers that aren’t considered feminine? 

My suspicions are somewhat confirmed by Linda Hirshman from the New York Times, who stated in an article that ran this past December that a package primarily aimed at building automatically excludes women because women make up such a small part of construction labor forces (9%, to be exact). To make the plan more woman-friendly, she suggested that it also include money for human capital jobs (social workers, educators, librarians, etc.), because these are the kinds of jobs that women are more likely to hold. Hirshman ends the article by saying that “maybe it would be a better world if more women became engineers and construction workers, but programs encouraging women to pursue engineering have existed for decades without having much success.”

For some reason, this seemingly pragmatic sentiment makes me really nervous and uncomfortable. I just don’t like the idea that we should give up on eradicating the idea that women, if they are working, must be doing something that is directly nurturing. And maybe all of the construction work proposed by Obama’s plan could help break down some of the barriers that women face in the manual labor industries!

In short, I’m glad that Hirshman got her wish and that Obama’s plan will protect woman-heavy industries, but I am worried about the women in the male-dominated sectors. And I’m worried about how this might all reinforce the idea that if a woman is ballsy enough to leave the home, she must be doing some sort of caretaking.

Stimulus?

February 2, 2009 § Leave a comment

President Obama’s stimulus package has been all over the news lately. There have been many debates about the plan, especially from the conservative side. One of the biggest issues that had many conservatives crazy was the family planning aid. This program did not become part of the package that passed the House last Wednesday with no Republican votes. Now the stimulus has made its way to the Senate, where it’s being debated over and poked and prodded by Republicans and Democrats. I’ve found myself somewhat lost in the midst of the media coverage of the stimulus package and I want to know how the stimulus package will affect young women. The family planning aid would probably have directly affected the lives of young women the most out of all the programs in the stimulus package. From what I understand about the stimulus, which, granted, is not a lot, I haven’t seen any other programs meant to directly affect the lives of young women.

The goal of the stimulus plan is to save and create jobs which are being lost rapidly, in fact, Obama predicts that about 3.7 million jobs will be created. However, the Republicans are finding fault with almost every single part of the stimulus plan. One major issue they see is that there is not enough attention being paid to the housing market. At this point it’s difficult to tell how the stimulus package will affect the lives of young women, but if programs as important as the family planning aid are not going to be included, we are going to be in trouble. I hope that as the Senators of both parties work on the stimulus package in the next couple of weeks, they think of groups whose interests seem to have fallen by the wayside.

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