Feminist Hulk smash the devaluation of pink collar work: on gender, value, and opportunity

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.

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Why is Generation Y unhappy? It’s the economy, stupid.

At the Energy Exodus earlier this summer

If I read one more piece like this, I’m going to scream.

No, my generation isn’t unhappy because we’re entitled special snowflakes who want rainbow-barfing unicorns on our lawns. We’re unhappy because we’re facing crushing student debt, a terrible job market, the downgrading of most stable jobs to contingent work, falling wages, and widening inequality. We’re unhappy because we’re working longer hours for less pay–or getting our hours cut to the point where we can barely survive. We’re unhappy because so few of us have health insurance or paid sick days.

We’re unhappy because we’re coming face to face with the reality that we might never be able to afford to own a home, or have children, or many of the other things we want to do. We’re unhappy because we see our dreams and opportunities vanishing before our eyes. We’re unhappy because we look around and see so many of our friends struggling–so many bright, talented people faced with shitty options. We’re unhappy because we’ve learned first- or secondhand that intelligence and hard work don’t guarantee being able to pay the bills, let alone personal fulfillment.

Not to mention that we live in a world where our government shamelessly spies on us, where corporations have more rights than people, where there’s a mass shooting every few months, where the environment is being destroyed at a stunning and possibly irreversible rate.

Of course, this isn’t to say we’re all unhappy. Happiness is a lot more complicated than jobs and money and ambition. Happiness is also about friends, family, community, art, music, dance, nature. It is entirely possible to find happiness in the midst of suffering and injustice–people always have. There is so much love in our world, so much beauty, so much connection and fierce resistance and hope.

Generational divides, too, are more complicated than many make them out to be. Millenials aren’t a stereotype, and nor are our Boomer parents or our Greatest Generation grandparents–or our Gen X friends, or anyone else who doesn’t fall into the millenial/boomer/gg taxonomy.  We are all shaped by our times, by our opportunities, by the social and economic landscapes we navigate–but we’re also so much more than the sum of our years. We’re all human. We all have our struggles and our passions. We all have our stories.

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Some updates on life and stuff

1.) My birthday party on Sunday was amazing! I’ll put up some pictures from it eventually. We went to the beach, which was beautiful and full of shallows and shifting landscapes; then to one of my favorite restaurants for dinner; and then back to my apartment for general merriment.

One of my friends baked me a pink cake that was intended to look like Kaylee’s dress from the Firefly episode Shindig; another gave me three pins featuring My Little Pony, an angry cupcake, and Hello Kitty.  My friends know and love me, and they are wonderful.

I am so grateful for my friends, for this community that I have.

2.) I am tired. I’m working long hours at my current temp job, which is also physically exhausting, and leaves me with little energy to do anything but crash when I come home. I miss yoga and running errands and generally having a life.

3.) Due to aforementioned exhaustion and long hours, I won’t be able to make it to the Energy Exodus next week.

I barely have the emotional energy to care that Yosemite is burning. I’m mostly just trying to get through the day, put one foot in front of the other.

I hate feeling like I’ve flaked out on all the people I started connecting with in the climate movement.

I hate that there are so many things I want to do, for both myself and the world; so many ways I want to contribute to building a stronger, more equal, more durable society. There are posts I want to write, projects I want to collaborate on, actions I want to attend, art I want to make, places I want to see. Instead, I just have to survive.

4.) This is how unjust systems perpetuate themselves: by making people too tired to act up and change things.

5.) I could write a million posts ranting about the economy, the job market, the insecurity and instability that’s being sold to us as normal. It’s not normal.  It’s not ok. It’s chronic, life-force-sucking, soul-grinding stress.

6.) At the same time, I’m aware that I have a lot of privilege. I’m luckier, economically and otherwise, than a lot of people. I know that what seems like a new, harsh reality for middle-class people like me is nothing new to those who grew up poor and working class.  I know that having shitty options is nothing new to people who never expected anything better. I know that even when the economy was “good,” a lot of people were hurting.

7.) I want that to change. There is so much promising work being done to work toward a better and fairer society (and oh yeah, to ward off planetary destruction).  I wish I had the energy to plug into it.  I wish that there were jobs that addressed all the work that needs doing. Hell, I wish there were jobs.

8.) I’m tired.

Quote of the day: on unemployment and work

“If you’re unemployed, it’s not because there isn’t any work.

Just look around: A housing shortage, crime, pollution; we need better schools and parks. Whatever our needs, they all require work. And as long as we have unsatisfied needs, there’s work to be done.

So ask yourself, what kind of world has work but no jobs? It’s a world where work is not related to satisfying our needs, a world where work is only related to satisfying the profit needs of business.

This country was not built by the huge corporations or government bureaucracies. It was built by people who work. And, it is working people who should control the work to be done. Yet, as long as employment is tied to somebody else’s profits, the work won’t get done.”

This poster from the New American Movement (which existed from 1971-1982, so that gives you a sense of how old this quote is…and how very relevant it still is today!)