Conservatives’ War on Women

Refuting conservatives’ War on Moms (war on social reproduction):

“According to a 1995 U.N. Human Development Report, ‘If more human activities were treated as market transactions at the prevailing wages, they would yield huge monetary valuations–a staggering $16 trillion… Of this $16 trillion, $11 trillion is the non-monetized, ‘invisible’ contribution of women.’ The work of moms–both of moms who are in the labor force and those who are not–is significant

…with equal resumes and job experiences, mothers (today are) offered $11,000 lower starting salaries than non-mothers (Fathers, on the other hand, (are) offered $6,000 more in starting salaries than non-fathers). Since over 80 percent of women in our nation have children by the time they’re 44 years old, this means the majority of women in our nation are disadvantaged by discrimination at some point in their lives…(W)ith the cost of raising children so high, three-quarters of moms are now in the labor force. And many moms go in and out of the labor force at different times in their lives, sequencing their careers, thus making the distinction between moms who are in the labor force, and moms who are outside of the labor force nearly irrelevant. Many moms have been both”
(K. Rowe Finkbeiner, April 2012).

Finkbeiner points out that 50% of the workforce is now female (Coincidentally, 50% of the population is female.), in major part because the economy has been structured, via the asset-price / cost of living increases and consumer debt that capital depends on, to induce all adults to work to live within the constraints of capitalism. No, it’s not the abject slavery of having no access to money within capitalism (the classic middleclass dependent housewife fate); but (with all due respect to Gertrude,) coercion is coercion is unfreedom is vulnerable to exploitative manipulation by despots.

“But the brouhaha over Hilary Rosen’s injudicious remarks is not really about whether what stay-home mothers do is work. Because we know the answer to that: it depends. When performed by married women in their own homes, domestic labor is work—difficult, sacred, noble work. Ann says Mitt called it more important work than his own, which does make you wonder why he didn’t stay home with the boys himself. 

When performed for pay, however, this supremely important, difficult job becomes low-wage labor that almost anyone can do—teenagers, elderly women, even despised illegal immigrants. 

But here’s the real magic: when performed by low-income single mothers in their own homes, those same exact tasks—changing diapers, going to the playground and the store, making dinner, washing the dishes, giving a bath—are not only not work; they are idleness itself. … 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 (reproductive) labor is productive or not, depending on who performs it” —Katha Pollitt, quoted by Corey Robin (April 2012). 

Temma Kaplan argues that capitalists are in some historical periods, such as the present, confident about the supply of labor. When confident about the supply of labor, capitalists dismantle welfare, that is, they destroy reproductive social supports as well as democratic supports, and privately pocket “the savings” (the surplus). As the wealth surplus is hoarded and destroyed, most people are impoverished, and these extreme conditions force particular adaptive relational strategies. Conservatives not only withhold the massive build-up of wealth; they buy popular support for their rule by paying off men with Little King privileges–abuse of women. Hey, it’s free. The poor consequently cannot build cohesive, productive, developmental cross-gender relationships; they cannot build supportive families and communities. It’s a wonderfully self-replicating hierarchical system for the elite. And it means poor women raise kids alone.

“Single women raising children alone or with other women who were not necessarily blood relatives became one of the possible working class family forms back to the 16th century…(P)oor women raising children alone or with kin and friends has been the model for one kind of proletarian family in certain places around the globe for centuries. It has been the family structure of poverty under capitalism.” –Kaplan, Temma. 2002. “The Disappearing Fathers Under Global Capitalism,” pp. 152-157 in Holmstrom, Nancy, ed. The Socialist-feminist Project. NY: MR.)  

Decreeing– legislating!–that by submitting to patriarchy, by any means necessary, women will solve poverty = shooting the fish you stuck in your own poverty barrel. It preserves and champions inequality, surplus hoarding and capitals destruction, the sociopathic freedoms of the elite, and poverty, while playing with poor, disrupted, radically-constrained  women’s miseries. It solves no problems. It’s nothing more than bullying. It is conservatism.

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Arabia & the West: Painful Lessons from Media History

In the solid “The Arab Spring and the West: Seven Lessons from History,” The Guardian‘s Seamus Milne reaches into the British Pathe News Video Archive to recall the oil-dependent fundamentals of West-Middle East Relations.

1) The West never gives up its drive to control the Middle East, whatever the setbacks.

2) Imperial powers can usually be relied on to delude themselves about what Arabs actually think.

3) The Big Powers are old hands at prettifying client regimes to keep the oil flowing.

4) People in the Middle East don’t forget their history – even when the US and Europe (conveniently) does.

5) The West has always presented Arabs who insist on running their own affairs as fanatics.

6) Foreign military intervention in the Middle East brings death, destruction, and divide and rule.

7) Western sponsorship of Palestine’s colonisation is a permanent block on normal relations with the Arab world.

recommended reproduction reading

I have been through a hell of a lot of pregnancy and childbirth books. If you have already gotten pregnant, I recommend the following books:

1) England, Pam and Rob Horowitz. 1998. Birthing from within. Albuquerque: Partera Press.
2) Greenberg, Gary and Jeannie Hayden. 2004. Be prepared: A practical handbook for new dads. New York: Simon & Schuster.

I recommend these two books for both parents. The England book is good for birth preparation, but I would skip the end parenting chapter, where the author gets crusty and mean all of a sudden. England’s a midwife and her strength is preparing for and giving birth. The second book’s more about parenting. Even though the Greenberg book says it’s for dads, if you’re female and it’s been decades since you’ve last babysat, it’ll be helpful. I’ll update this entry when I find a good guide to breastfeeding. However, there are a million classes on breastfeeding.

If you are an American considering getting pregnant, I strongly recommend you read Naomi Wolf’s myth-busting Misconceptions: Truth, Lies, and the Unexpected on the Journey to Motherhood (2001). It’s essential reading for improving your ability to make thoughtful, informed decisions, and to recognize masked structural imperatives in the American system of reproduction that lead to hidden experiential and behavioral patterns.

The caveats to this recommendation are three. (1) Some sections of Wolf’s book are bound by a heavy uppermiddleclass persepctive, such as where women get isolated out in suburbs while the husbands are ensconced in upper-management tracks. It’s not that similar dynamics don’t operate for other classes, but you get a feeling that the circumstances are different, and they’re not really explored here. Many of us are not uppermiddleclass, and we’re still concerned about how American motherhood inexorably ends up slaving away for patriarchy and capital. But Wolf does at least work to explicitly point out class and race dynamics.

(2) A few of Wolf’s experiences are the result of her being an author, and more inclined toward neurotic, artistic, highly imaginative reveries than you might be, such as where she falls into obsessing on misogyny and death in a swimming pool aerobics session.

(3) In the end, Wolf has some social movement suggestions for improving health care and mothers’ and childrens’ welfare. But here Wolf is missing a big gaping problem in her proposed social movement program. She clearly possesses an insufficient understanding of American society, history, and politics. There have been Mother’s Movements in American history. These impassioned, organized movements resulted in weak and temporary social improvements, and thus fail to catch Wolf’s eye. But Ian Gough trenchantly observed in 1979: Social movements through history and around the world “have sought to substitute conscious allocation of resources to meet social needs for the unplanned operation of unregulated market forces. Behind these social movements, in turn, lies the strength of the organized labor movement. The example of the United States shows how powerful organizations of blacks, women, welfare clients and so on will fail to achieve lasting improvements in social policies in the absence of this bulwark against the power of the dominant classes”–a labor movement.

It is crucial that we remember that it is not just rational actor men or the state or human resources departments that need to be won over or overcome. There is a more salient force behind American society formation that we can never overlook. We need to study history to come to terms with capitalism.

What Wolf can’t see clearly enough from her study of contemporary uppermiddleclass women’s painful experiences in a suburb is that capital has for centuries fought viciously in the U.S. to destroy any institutions that threaten its tools of division and control.

Short of a profound social movement that incorporates an understanding not just of patriarchy and racism, but of class conflict and capitalism, and short of a structural weakening of capital’s class and state institutions of coordination, there will be no further improvements in the welfare of women, children, and families, there will be no development of the American welfare state, and corporations will not sponsor practices that give working people more control over their lives–even if these practices are only described as improving health care or women’s careers.

Capital is highly organized and employs legions of analysts, strategists, managers, publicists, lawyers, and a whole range of militarized police. It is only once in a blue moon that capital is temporarily fooled on the margins by a partial movement of reformists, and relying on that ephemeral improbability is not a social movement strategy. It’s been fairly futile for working people to stump for better working and living conditions in fractured, pro-capitalist bands of interest. Even when the elites give us a nice, compensatory library or museum, they do it for the tax break and only after an alarming bout of labor agitation.