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Moving Away from Unpaid Labor:Toward A Feminist Eco-Socialist Future

#1
Leaving Unpaid and Low-Paid Labor Behind: working toward a feminist eco-socialist system

[Below are ideas I presented at the latest Solidarity convention in Chicago Illinois. I was part of a panel devoted to ecosocialism. Some of the ideas below are actually gleaned from novels, where I often find minds resilient enough to imagine a new society whole cloth. I offer these ideas for the list's discussion.]

Three main areas of discussion in this presentation:

A. How do capitalists measure low-paid and unpaid, usually women's, work? How do their descriptions actually keep inequality in place?

B. What alternative goals and methods do feminist eco-socialists envision for the future?

C. How can feminist eco-socialists create a taste of the new world as we work to replace capitalism with an environmentally sound and socially just system?


Let's Endure Some Negative Messaging for a Moment:

Some statistics we keep hearing when capitalism describes problems around low paid and unpaid labor:

In 2015, women earned .80 for every $1.00 earned by men. The wage gap is less for younger women and much higher for women in their '50's and '60's. The earning gap in the US is greater than that in Australia, Germany, the UK and Mexico.


Feminist capitalists who want to change the system note that unpaid work adds up: "The McKinsey Global Institute found that if women’s unpaid work was compensated at a rate roughly equal to minimum wage, this would add about $10 trillion USD to global economic output, and roughly 13 percent of global GDP." "Guest Article: Unpaid work should be measured and valued, but mostly isn't" by By Elizabeth Weingarten, director of the Global Gender Parity Initiative at New America: https://ftalphaville.ft.com/2017/01...measured-and-valued-but-mostly-isnt/?mhq5j=e3. I still think these researchers utilize the wrong analytical frame.

Again placing emphasis on making women full partners in the capitalist system, a Pew Charitable Trust study in 2015 found that unpaid work affects women's ability to advance in their careers: A 42% of mothers reduced work hours to care for children and/or aging parents. 37% of them reported the needs of family negatively affected their ability to advance in the workplace. Only 28% of men reported reducing work hours to care for the family and only 16% of them claimed the choice of family over work negatively impacted their careers. Ironically, the majority of women who took the survey said they did not regret allowing family needs to affect their careers. Despite progress, women still bear heavier load than men in balancing work and family. Again, wage labor is assumed to be the desirable choice here, for both genders.

The way data is collected about work contributes to this inequity. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics' report on employed and unemployed workers in the US (2016) considers people to be unemployed unless they earn a salary. I.e. work in the home, producing food at home and caring for children or relatives is not considered work. For example: "Of the nation’s 82.1 million families, 80.4 percent had at least one employed member in 2016." https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/famee.pdf. How do we really understand what we refuse to see?

A key question: if people are engaged in work, why does the current system assign value only to wage labor? Isn't caring for homes, children and relatives labor? Shouldn't it be valued by society? Shouldn't such work bring compensation to those--usually women--who provide the labor?

Even more important underlying question: Are we ready to see how this problem is tied to capitalism's use of wage slavery to keep people from working toward a socialist alternative? Maybe the question should only temporarily be 'How do we get equal pay for women and how do we pay women for what is now called unpaid labor. Maybe what needs to happen is system change in which value and resource distribution are completely reimagined.

What concepts and strategies would I hope to see in a feminist eco-socialist society?

1) The definition of labor would expand beyond wage labor. All work performed to sustain life would be included in the concept of labor. Currently, only wage labor is measured statistically. Only it is thought by the existing capitalist power structure to have value. The hidden, ignored and stolen value of underpaid and unpaid labor must be brought to the attention of communities.

2) The needs of, and reparations for, those who have been oppressed would be considered when decisions are made about what to produce, where, how, when and why. The tyranny of production for profit would be set aside.

3) The deep understanding of local natural environments and what they need in order to remain sound would be included in any production plans.

4) A balance would develop between individual needs/goals and the needs/goals of the total community.

5) Local democratic processes, once in place, would lead to possible regional democratic planning and, eventually democratic planning that includes even larger bioregions. Eventually, the notion of competing states would be set aside.

6) Cooperation would come to assume an ever larger role in social planning. Competition would eventually best be relegated to games.

In what ways can feminist eco-socialists contribute to the race to survive climate change and the struggle to leave capitalism behind?

1) Choose a political group or goal and work hard to move it forward. There are many ways to do this. Pick one that you can support with a whole heart.

2) Become part of, or begin, cooperative and sharing efforts in your community. Truly small and local cooperative businesses, community gardens, common-ing efforts, sharing projects, free stores, skill sharing and bartering arrangements--all of these empower people and create networks to build resilience. But watch out for capitalists who will try to steer these new projects into old ways of doing things. Resist such attempts. And recognize that these actions in and of themselves will not bring the revolution.

3) Be a noisy citizen and a vocal activist. Demand that your viewpoint be part of the local power dynamic: show up at local government meetings and make your views known, write letters to electeds and to newspapers, attend local marches and public gatherings, participate in on-line discussion listserves and group calls. White male voices will dominate the discussions unless we insist otherwise. No offense intended, but we can't let that happen. Also, learn how to be an ally in addition to aspiring to leadership. The ally/supporter experience is profoundly educational, especially for those who have traditionally led.

4) Contribute your time and work to local social justice, ecological and environmental efforts.

5) Grow some of your own food, learn how to preserve it, join a local CSA and work there, trade what you grow and how you do so with other gardeners.

6) Don't work like an industrial machine, which only supports the capitalist system. Pay attention to your own health and nurture yourself. Though present crises are imminent, each of us needs to work in a way that allows us to contribute over a long period of time. It is more effective to recruit new supporters and to get them started, than it is to work oneself to the point of burnout. Even if the world is going to end--and I am not convinced that the imminent end is as near as some would argue--, we have choices about how we will travel down such a road.

7) Resist being atomized--in your home, or your neighborhood. Isolated and divided people, even with the best intentions, cannot change the world. Together we can work much more powerfully to move beyond a system that is threatening an entire planet.

Now I hope to hear from many of you about the actions you are taking, or would like to take, in your communities. I've presented a personal take on these issues. What am I missing? I need to keep learning.

Thanks to Vandana Shiva and Maria Mies, as well as so many others for the ideas I offer here.
 
#2
Leaving Unpaid and Low-Paid Labor Behind: working toward a feminist eco-socialist system

[Below are ideas I presented at the latest Solidarity convention in Chicago Illinois. I was part of a panel devoted to ecosocialism. Some of the ideas below are actually gleaned from novels, where I often find minds resilient enough to imagine a new society whole cloth. I offer these ideas for the list's discussion.]

Three main areas of discussion in this presentation:

A. How do capitalists measure low-paid and unpaid, usually women's, work? How do their descriptions actually keep inequality in place?

B. What alternative goals and methods do feminist eco-socialists envision for the future?

C. How can feminist eco-socialists create a taste of the new world as we work to replace capitalism with an environmentally sound and socially just system?


Let's Endure Some Negative Messaging for a Moment:

Some statistics we keep hearing when capitalism describes problems around low paid and unpaid labor:

In 2015, women earned .80 for every $1.00 earned by men. The wage gap is less for younger women and much higher for women in their '50's and '60's. The earning gap in the US is greater than that in Australia, Germany, the UK and Mexico.


Feminist capitalists who want to change the system note that unpaid work adds up: "The McKinsey Global Institute found that if women’s unpaid work was compensated at a rate roughly equal to minimum wage, this would add about $10 trillion USD to global economic output, and roughly 13 percent of global GDP." "Guest Article: Unpaid work should be measured and valued, but mostly isn't" by By Elizabeth Weingarten, director of the Global Gender Parity Initiative at New America: https://ftalphaville.ft.com/2017/01...measured-and-valued-but-mostly-isnt/?mhq5j=e3. I still think these researchers utilize the wrong analytical frame.

Again placing emphasis on making women full partners in the capitalist system, a Pew Charitable Trust study in 2015 found that unpaid work affects women's ability to advance in their careers: A 42% of mothers reduced work hours to care for children and/or aging parents. 37% of them reported the needs of family negatively affected their ability to advance in the workplace. Only 28% of men reported reducing work hours to care for the family and only 16% of them claimed the choice of family over work negatively impacted their careers. Ironically, the majority of women who took the survey said they did not regret allowing family needs to affect their careers. Despite progress, women still bear heavier load than men in balancing work and family. Again, wage labor is assumed to be the desirable choice here, for both genders.

The way data is collected about work contributes to this inequity. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics' report on employed and unemployed workers in the US (2016) considers people to be unemployed unless they earn a salary. I.e. work in the home, producing food at home and caring for children or relatives is not considered work. For example: "Of the nation’s 82.1 million families, 80.4 percent had at least one employed member in 2016." https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/famee.pdf. How do we really understand what we refuse to see?

A key question: if people are engaged in work, why does the current system assign value only to wage labor? Isn't caring for homes, children and relatives labor? Shouldn't it be valued by society? Shouldn't such work bring compensation to those--usually women--who provide the labor?

Even more important underlying question: Are we ready to see how this problem is tied to capitalism's use of wage slavery to keep people from working toward a socialist alternative? Maybe the question should only temporarily be 'How do we get equal pay for women and how do we pay women for what is now called unpaid labor. Maybe what needs to happen is system change in which value and resource distribution are completely reimagined.

What concepts and strategies would I hope to see in a feminist eco-socialist society?

1) The definition of labor would expand beyond wage labor. All work performed to sustain life would be included in the concept of labor. Currently, only wage labor is measured statistically. Only it is thought by the existing capitalist power structure to have value. The hidden, ignored and stolen value of underpaid and unpaid labor must be brought to the attention of communities.

2) The needs of, and reparations for, those who have been oppressed would be considered when decisions are made about what to produce, where, how, when and why. The tyranny of production for profit would be set aside.

3) The deep understanding of local natural environments and what they need in order to remain sound would be included in any production plans.

4) A balance would develop between individual needs/goals and the needs/goals of the total community.

5) Local democratic processes, once in place, would lead to possible regional democratic planning and, eventually democratic planning that includes even larger bioregions. Eventually, the notion of competing states would be set aside.

6) Cooperation would come to assume an ever larger role in social planning. Competition would eventually best be relegated to games.

In what ways can feminist eco-socialists contribute to the race to survive climate change and the struggle to leave capitalism behind?

1) Choose a political group or goal and work hard to move it forward. There are many ways to do this. Pick one that you can support with a whole heart.

2) Become part of, or begin, cooperative and sharing efforts in your community. Truly small and local cooperative businesses, community gardens, common-ing efforts, sharing projects, free stores, skill sharing and bartering arrangements--all of these empower people and create networks to build resilience. But watch out for capitalists who will try to steer these new projects into old ways of doing things. Resist such attempts. And recognize that these actions in and of themselves will not bring the revolution.

3) Be a noisy citizen and a vocal activist. Demand that your viewpoint be part of the local power dynamic: show up at local government meetings and make your views known, write letters to electeds and to newspapers, attend local marches and public gatherings, participate in on-line discussion listserves and group calls. White male voices will dominate the discussions unless we insist otherwise. No offense intended, but we can't let that happen. Also, learn how to be an ally in addition to aspiring to leadership. The ally/supporter experience is profoundly educational, especially for those who have traditionally led.

4) Contribute your time and work to local social justice, ecological and environmental efforts.

5) Grow some of your own food, learn how to preserve it, join a local CSA and work there, trade what you grow and how you do so with other gardeners.

6) Don't work like an industrial machine, which only supports the capitalist system. Pay attention to your own health and nurture yourself. Though present crises are imminent, each of us needs to work in a way that allows us to contribute over a long period of time. It is more effective to recruit new supporters and to get them started, than it is to work oneself to the point of burnout. Even if the world is going to end--and I am not convinced that the imminent end is as near as some would argue--, we have choices about how we will travel down such a road.

7) Resist being atomized--in your home, or your neighborhood. Isolated and divided people, even with the best intentions, cannot change the world. Together we can work much more powerfully to move beyond a system that is threatening an entire planet.

Now I hope to hear from many of you about the actions you are taking, or would like to take, in your communities. I've presented a personal take on these issues. What am I missing? I need to keep learning.

Thanks to Vandana Shiva and Maria Mies, as well as so many others for the ideas I offer here.
 
#3
Sandra,
I am a follower of the women of the "Wages for Housework" movement, coming mainly out of Italy in the 1970s. Of course they are still active and writing and organizing. Sylvia Federici is one of them and featured in the article I will try to link below.
Wages for Housework is commonly misunderstood but it is a very deep analysis of the economy. You have mentioned a couple of women who are the newest contributors to the analysis. But an article in the magazine, n + 1, is very useful for the followers of this thread.
DAYNA TORTORICI

More Smiles? More Money

Published in Issue 17: The Evil Issue

n+1

Publication date Fall 2013

Tags

American Politics Feminism Reviews


Silvia Federici. Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle.PM Press, 2012.

Martha Rosler. Meta-Monumental Garage Sale.The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2012.

I think this link will take you to the n+1 article:
More Smiles? More Money

Gene
 
#4
Sandra,
I am a follower of the women of the "Wages for Housework" movement, coming mainly out of Italy in the 1970s. Of course they are still active and writing and organizing. Sylvia Federici is one of them and featured in the article I will try to link below.
Wages for Housework is commonly misunderstood but it is a very deep analysis of the economy. You have mentioned a couple of women who are the newest contributors to the analysis. But an article in the magazine, n + 1, is very useful for the followers of this thread.
DAYNA TORTORICI

More Smiles? More Money

Published in Issue 17: The Evil Issue

n+1

Publication date Fall 2013

Tags

American Politics Feminism Reviews


Silvia Federici. Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle.PM Press, 2012.

Martha Rosler. Meta-Monumental Garage Sale.The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2012.

I think this link will take you to the n+1 article:
More Smiles? More Money

Gene
Additional resources and articles always welcome! Thanks, Gene.

Sandra
 
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