Sarah Kendzior’s latest piece on poverty and workers’ rights is, as always, full of truth. The whole thing is a must-read–seriously, I’ll wait, go read it and then come back–but one part in particular resonated with me:
Teaching, nursing, social work, childcare and other “pink collar” professions do not pay poorly because, as Slate’s Hanna Rosin argues, women “flock to less prestigious jobs”, but because jobs are considered less prestigious when they are worked by women. The jobs are not worth less – but the people who work them are supposed to be.
I’ve been ranting about this for so many years.
So many of the men in my life have high-paying computer programming jobs, and so many of the women in my life have low-paying teaching and childcare jobs. I’ve worked in childcare myself, and let me tell you, it’s hard.
Having conversations at the toddler level all day is a special kind of mind-numbing. Spending all day in a room full of crying infants is a special kind of nerve-jangling. And sometimes you get peed on. (I learned the hard way to keep everything covered when changing baby boys’ diapers.)
There are the good moments too: when four toddlers are trying to fit in your lap for story time, when you’re out on a walk with the kids and one of them makes an observation and you see so much intelligence, so much creativity, so much promise just beginning to blossom. There are fun times with bubbles and balls and finger paint. There’s a playfulness you don’t get in the average office job.
But overall, it’s incredibly hard work–and vital to a well-functioning society, and laughably underpaid. Or it would be laughable, if it weren’t so serious an indictment of our nation’s priorities.