DE! Question One

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The issue of responsibility is big in American life today; scapegoats and blame games are being played in the political arena as I type, two examples: the funding for national health care and Planned Parenthood. Whose fault is it that some people are rich and some are poor? Whose responsibility is it to fund education? Whose job is it to decide how much education costs in the first place? Is education the reason or the fix for homelessness? These are all questions of responsibility, but the bottom line is that they are just questions--not answers. Concerning the welfare of nannies and housekeepers, who's to say that people can't choose to clean on their own (because who in their right mind would choose to do that...right)? Why can't people choose to monopolize on the things that other people choose not to do themselves? We all sell ourselves in some way to make a living, don't we? We are all prostitutes. Maybe the issue is better stated as an issue of awareness of the fact that, "Almost everything we buy is a product of some other person's suffering, and miserably underpaid labor" (Ehrenrich 51). Is it human nature to shy away from hard physical labor and lean towards intellectual labor (hence college)? And if that is so, then why do people degrade those choosing a physical vocation when they reach the pinnacle of their intellectual careers?

The constructed gender roles in the home seem to be the root cause of a new problem "that cannot be named," women who work full time jobs, take full time care of their children and their home with little to no help from their spouses (Friedan). The nanny, housekeeper, or maid seems to stand in this chasm picking up the slack for one or both partners, essentially as the ideal "wife." With awareness, and not only awareness but also a name or names for the problem at hand, people might be able to delve into the socio/economics of happiness and responsibility while stepping outside themselves, and evaluating how they divvy out value in a world that seems to devalue physical labor involved in the very things that make the rich's livelihoods run more smoothly (waiters and waitresses, janitors, maids, taxi drivers, stewardesses, cashiers, migrant workers, farmers, field hands...). The world would not run so well without them.

6 Comments

I find your DE to be really interesting and engaging of a lot of complex and intriguing concepts. For one, I must point out that I at first struggled with the notion that we are all prostitutes but once I thought about it, it made absolute sense to me. There is an absolute solicitation of ourselves that occurs in life, on a daily basis, whether we acknowledge it or not. However, I see the absolute validity. We have to "prostitute ourselves" out to others in order to be chosen for a variety of different things (significant others, employers, universities, friends, etc), much like a prostitute would be hand chosen by a client/customer. Therefore, I find this point to be very important, especially in relation to the way we degrade others for their professions, way of life, and generally any other aspect that we find worth criticizing. Yet, we all go through this same process. So, do we justify degrading individuals, such as those whose work requires physical labor, because of what they sold themselves to? We find the job less valuable, and thus cannot understand someone voluntarily soliciting themselves for such work?

As for the question raised about how natural it is or isn't for humans to try to separate themselves from physical labor, I have to argue that it is not necessarily natural but certainly a characteristic of Americans. For humans on a grand scale, I feel as though there are many instances in which physical labor is applauded, even in the United States, football is the most popular sport, clearly a physical source of employment for some individuals, and yet attitudes towards it are quite different than those towards a housekeeper. I feel too that leads to a more fraught situation of ideals for manliness and the dismissal of feminized jobs, however physically straining they may be. I similarly think that those who find intellectual labor to be more valuable than physical labor is because they find such labor to be easy. Someone whose profession is intellectually laborious may degrade physically demanding/service professions because they see it as something that anyone can do, they themselves just having the drive (and yes, I feel that most view their position as a personal choice, one that all are faced with, not a testament to their resources and privilege) to seek more intellectually stimulating careers through higher education. Thus, in conclusion, I think you highlighted something very important: those that help make the world function more smoothly are the quickest to be degraded, and unfortunately very often by those that heavily rely on them. There's nothing wrong with making an honest living, despite how undesirable of a living that may be to those that it's a reality for and those that just exploit those in such positions.

Both of you have brought up some really good point and Kate, your DE was really interesting and got me thinking about a couple thing. Labor and housework is a feminist issue and there is a lot of stigmas on the gender roles of these issues. With a huge increase on women in the work force there is a need to fill the gap that many of these women once occupied. A woman can still have children as well as a career, the issue is that while she is at work someone has to take care of those children. In this was a nanny or housekeeper is picking up the slack for those parents. And it is also very true that at times these people are taken for granted. The world would not run with people that were willing to do every job. I agree with both of you in that people who do the less then ideal jobs in society are the quickest to be forgotten and degraded. For example waiters, janitors, maid, farmers, cashiers, and migrant workers. Hopefully we can move forward in the feminist movement and try to work toward a less degraded labor force, because after all these people make the world fun.

Yes, of course that nanny, housekeeper, or maid will be helping the mothers who work full time jobs to taken care their children. But is it the good idea to hiring nanny. For me, hiring nanny instead of parent being take care of their own children is not good for the kids. The female nanny maybe beat and hit their children. In addition, male nannies maybe sexually abuse the kids. In my opinion, if i have children in the future, i will take care my children in my own. if i and my husband are at work time, i will ask my parents to take care them. If i need to hiring nanny, i think i will choose the one i know them.

This entry, to me, is a bit clean cut. I also think it goes back to our previous topic of 'choices'. The whole concept of the rich getting richer and the poor only poorer is definitely an observable phenomenon. And I think you're right, where does responsibility lie? And for how long is asking questions beneficial without any answers? However, going so far as to say that 'we are all prostitutes' in our capitalist world is a bit strong. Prostitution consists of the lack of choices; or rather, a joke of choices. Being manipulated, abused, beaten, bought and sold, with the 'choice' of leaving only to face endangering her or her family’s life. Another choice, necessarily involving the money being seized, would be to flee; and find a job. Except what job? Most prostitutes are taken when they are young, robbed of the opportunity for an education, and now have no work experience.

The reason that I bring this up, besides that I feel that the comparison was a bit extreme, is because we know that many low-paying, long hour jobs are filled by immigrants, and often illegal immigrants. These people too have been fed the lie that American will provide for them and keep them safe. Yet, we exploit these people with an excuse of either, someone's gotta do it, or, they can go work somewhere else if they really want to. But can they? being an illegal immigrant greatly limits your choices of employment to those that are willing to look away or pay under the table. Not being able to speak English well only feeds off of the prejudice against foreigners, regardless of their immigration status, limiting their 'choices' even more. Obviously, not all nanny's or housekeeper are immigrants, but it is no secret that these women do make up a large part of that workforce.

I do like your comments on responsibility. This is a situation that seems to be, seen in many forms throughout the years, 'just the way it is'. And for many of us, 'the way it is' does not negatively impact our life. But it's funny how when situations like this become personal, through someone we know perhaps or affects us personally, we are all ready to point fingers and for someone to take responsibility. I think that whenever we're able to talk about a 'them' there's a problem. The simple fact is that there are jobs filled by a group of women with strikingly similar characteristics within race, education, ses, relationship status etc. 'They' are also doing jobs that most people would not choose to do. If there wasn't a problem, if this was solely 'they way it is', that there is simply an inevitable ses hierarchy, why are these workers women? Why are many of these people already on the low end up the ses? Why are these people most often women of color? To me, the most troubling question is, why does this all seem so normal?

The fact is, we are reading, writing, and asking questions about our thoughts and feelings on this topic; is it a problem, isn't it, whose fault is it, what can be done. Yet, are we not doing exactly what we accuse others of, just as we discussed a few weeks ago? Where are these women's voices? What entitles us to assume anything? At the very least (and is it not better to err on the side of caution?) why shouldn't we take responsibility? Not for speaking for them or trying to name the un-nameable problem, but to ask these questions to the very women we're speaking of. This could actually answer some of our questions. Or, it could very well be that we're not even asking the right questions.

Kate, I think you’re entry is very insightful. Your last line is what I want to comment on because I agree. The jobs no one really wants to do are the jobs that make everyone’s lives easier, and with what cost to those workers? I think that the people that actually matter and make people’s lives more convenient are the people facing the highest amount of oppression and mistreatment. My question is why?...
Another idea you bring up is the fact that in today’s society people tend to stay in college longer thinking, in the long run, they will be more successful and couldn’t possibly do labor intensive work with a masters degree. For me…I feel like my college decisions have been a mistake because I am going to college to be a teacher. Education is now on the front line, and losing more money than ever, and what is going to happen? Education is becoming less and less important in this economy and at what cost? Going into college I thought I would have job security in the end, but that’s not the case anymore. Are education cuts occurring because it’s a female dominated profession? Labor and women have never meshed well; the value of women’s labor and professions has been questionable all along. You bring up a lot of great points in your entry that make me question numerous injustices occurring in today’s world.

*I would just like to add that when I say, "We are all prostitutes," it was the dramatic journalist/writer in me. I think using words, especially words the evoke controversy and specific feeling, can be extremely powerful in the starting of conversation. Conversation, that can many times led to the uncovering of more questions and eye opening opinions than one started with bland observations and comments. But in addition to that, I used the term prostitutes because like Katie said, Prostitution consists of the lack of choices; or rather, a joke of choices. Being manipulated, abused, beaten, bought and sold, with the 'choice' of leaving only to face endangering her or her family’s life..." I truly do believe that the lack of choices manifests itself in the everyday life of every critically thinking and curious person out there, and the use of the word prostitute creates a personalization (especially since many people are incapable of putting themselves in another's shoes so to speak, and showing empathy and the will to change someone else's circumstances, unless they can somehow personally identify). I think Kayla truly understood why I used the word choice I used, and dissected my more metaphorical rather than literal meaning.

As far as my entry being clean cut, I tried to be more vague and open to give people the opportunity to discuss these issues that arose in class. I also think that so many issues are too complicated, and to be honest it's hard to know the right questions to ask unless you start with the basics and work your way into the rabbit hole so to speak, in my opinion.

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