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March 31, 2009

Blog 6 - Family Values

The mothers in Pardo's article took a new stance on the traditional family values. They were/are Latino mothers that stay at home to take care of their children and the home. They then turned into this militant type of group that not only were advocating on behalf of others, but also fighting for their community and against other political governing bodies. They over took this 'traditional' view that people had and revamped its meaning. They 'allowed' the men to continue to be the 'highest' in the patriarchal order, however, women were starting to become the bread winners.

I think that within families, it doesn't matter who the parental figures spend their time with or who they love of the opposite sex. If children are brought up in positive, stable enviorments, then there is no need to descriminate against same sex families. There is a need to understand and recognize that the different roles men and women play are contingent upon how they are not only privately but public as well. The different tensions noted by Lehr about a male's masculinity and being a good family man are interrelated and not seen by all.

There are intense challenges that Lehr pointed out regarding traditional family politics that revolve around the seperation of sexuality from reproduction. The fact that a gay or lesbian couple are 'favored' when being chosen by adoption agencies is appaling. I like that Lehr touched on some of the more hardcore topics within family values and how society views men and women.


One feminist family value that is articulated in Feminist Family Values Forum through the piece by Glora Steinem is the idea that children should be raised by both of their parents; not in the sense that the father brings home the money and the mother is the care - taker and nurterer; both parents equally partake in the daily duties of the child. This can also be translated into homosexual relationships, and single families where there is a lot of outside support from relatives and friends. The reason that this family value is explicitly feminine is because it tosses out gender as simply a culturally created norm and treats all human beings the same; it allows people to get in touch with the human qualities that are put into feminine/masculine categories and therefore be equal partners in raising children. This type of family value draws upon a view where there is no "typical family"; it accepts all types of families as a functional family where each person has something to bring to the table as far as raising children goes. This differs from the traditional view of "family" where the household is headed by "the male - headed patriarchal nuclear household" (Steinem, 47). In ths traditional family the woman is the homemaker and the man is the breadwinner, and cannot be seen as weak by showing his feelings that would be considered "feminine" and unmanly. This type of family value allows people to become whole people as Gloria puts it, because they toss out cultural norms where we categorize feelings according to sex and connect with their whole family.

Blog 6: Family Values

I feel that the family value Gloria Steinem conveyed in her speech in “Feminist Family Values Forum” was that all families are different and unique and that to try to make a prototype of a “family” to define how all other families should be, is impossible and incorrect. Steinem also states is that in defining “family” as singular only describes a patriarchal household while being unique in having a family that is not patriarchal is not wrong, just another kind of family. The family value of “human nature” in my opinion means forming the family that ally works an individual feels safe and secure in, regardless if it is nuclear or extended, and regardless of the gender and sexual orientation.

This is a feminist/queer value because it accepts and encompasses all different kinds of households; ones with women, men, both, or either. Steinem’s definition of family is inclusive and looks beyond the traditional patriarchal household and redefines “family” as not being a single model, but as “families” indicating the collection of all different types of families contributing to the definition of “family”. I have yet to come across two identical families and a unique family is not an incorrect family and should not be labeled as such, it is just different: representing the needs of the individuals and what contributions they donate to their group.

Maternity Leave Laws

I figured I would post this in case anyone was interested in the actual Minnesota laws concerning maternity leave:

Subdivision 1.Six-week leave; birth or adoption.

An employer must grant an unpaid leave of absence to an employee who is a natural or adoptive parent in conjunction with the birth or adoption of a child. The length of the leave shall be determined by the employee, but may not exceed six weeks, unless agreed to by the employer.
Subd. 2.Start of leave.

The leave shall begin at a time requested by the employee. The employer may adopt reasonable policies governing the timing of requests for unpaid leave. The leave may begin not more than six weeks after the birth or adoption; except that, in the case where the child must remain in the hospital longer than the mother, the leave may not begin more than six weeks after the child leaves the hospital.
Subd. 3.No employer retribution.

An employer shall not retaliate against an employee for requesting or obtaining a leave of absence as provided by this section.
Subd. 4.Continued insurance.

The employer must continue to make coverage available to the employee while on leave of absence under any group insurance policy, group subscriber contract, or health care plan for the employee and any dependents. Nothing in this section requires the employer to pay the costs of the insurance or health care while the employee is on leave of absence.

a response

I understand Alex M’s trepidation to equate inherent feminine qualities to the organization of women around community issues. In order to effectively uproot patriarchal family systems and social spheres it is imperative that the health and wellbeing of a community is the responsibility of all community members. Lehr’s article articulates many of the underlying beliefs that pose problems for forming a well balanced and equally balanced power dynamic within a family and a community.

Raising children in a two parent household is an ideal that does not account for the roles single parents, gay and lesbian families, or any variation on kin ties that ‘alternative’ households must take on. Where do these types of families factor into Pardo’s ethnographic account of the environmental justice work in East LA? Further, tying femininity to the grassroots work of the Mothers of East Los Angeles and putting father’s in the position of president when they were not nearly as involved in the group’s work merely reproduces patriarchal family values that, as Lehr points out, perpetuates the gender division of labor. Keeping men in the breadwinning position and women performing their work in the margins belittles the work that these women were actually doing, and does not allow for women or men to take on gender deviant roles.
Tying any kind of behavior to nature is always something that I find to be problematic, even when it seems to make sense, as in the case of women and their children. I enjoyed Lehr’s article in particular because it did a good job of questioning upstanding notions of power and family, and lends itself to a deeper reading of Pardo’s paper.

A response

In reading the piece in Feminist Family Values Forum, I totally agree with Gloria Steinem in her notion of a child being raised in a two parent household. I also agree that the roles of the parents are not necessarily limited by the sex of the parent, i.e., the mother being the nurturer. Thus this article can be seen from the queer perspective. Obviously families come in all shapes and sizes and it would be limiting to define a family as wife, husband, child(ren), but there still needs to be certain norms that a the word 'family' implies. For example, nurturing a child is a big part of raising one. This does not have to be limited by gender roles, but if there is a single mother or single father, that parent must now play all roles. Not to play devils advocate, but I would be curious to see data on the children raised in two heterosexual parents vs two homosexual parents vs single parents. Our definition of family is based on our patriarchal system of the man being the bread winner and center of the nuclear household. The feminist/queer interpretation of family is a much larger definition involving all genders and sexual orientations. I have yet, in my twenty-two years, to see a family is exactly like another. Therefore there is not one singular way to raise children.


What jumped out to me about both Lehr and Pardo’s commentary was their emphasis on community as an essential element of the family. I think this a really important point. Lehr lays out the dangers of an isolating, individualistic definition of family—defining a healthy family unit as one that is completely self-sustaining excludes many American families who need assistance, for whatever reason. Just because a family needs help, does that mean they do not have the ability to be healthy? And, on the other side, does a family’s ability to be insularly sustainable automatically equate health?
We’ve all heard the old adage: It takes a village to raise a child. But do we ever really consider the weight of these words? The MELA are a good example of this message manifested. These women have used their communal power to fight for the quality of life that is consistent with their values. We always hear that the “family” is the strongest unit in life—but I think our definition of ‘family’ has gotten too specific. What if ‘family’ was broadened to include community? (as it used to be not so many centuries ago). The health of the ‘family’ would not be dependent on self-sustaining units, but on greater cooperation and collaboration.

blog 06

I think that this analysis of family life, and furthermore, definite family roles, by Valerie Lehr provides a great case for reconstruction of the family. Her discussion on lesbian and gay roles, as well as the environment those roles create for children, is especially convincing. As she went over all of the injustices that confine individuals, particularly masculinity and the conundrum of heterosexuality, it became more and more apparent to me that nothing short of a complete revolution of social strata will suffice. She faced the tradition family by displaying each level of the corruption that comprises it. Family, that is, as the structure of raising a child. She attacked the division of labor in the family, and hence the entire role of femininity and masculinity as normal. It should not be “possible” for lesbian women to be fathers and gay men to be mothers. Parenting has been sectionalized and damaged by gender applications. People should be able to create homes, and raise families, for the love of children and of eachother. By scaling how the traditional family demeans man and woman, heterosexual and homosexual alike, Lehr applied her ethics of equality and morality. This is what makes her work both feminist and queer.

My Sixth Blog

In the Pardo article shows how MELA came together to ensure better and safer community for their children. Because they are women working towards a goal of bettering life for everyone that is a way that it become a feminist issue. I think that just by becoming involved in the policies of the community it differs from traditional family values. By advocating for the for more help in the community they became feminists and acted outside of the traditional caretakers In traditional family issues the male would be the one dealing with any kind of conflicts or political issues. The male voice would be heard and taken into account over the female voice. But these women wanted changes to happen in their community so they worked together to make their issues known. They stayed in the traditional roles because they knew that without a male presence they would not be heard. The women also kept the traditional “family” by doing their work in the community but making sure the house was clean, there was food on the table and did all the responsibilities that are traditionally for women not men. They made sure to still find into their caretaker roles even though they would step out of that role through the community activism

March 30, 2009

Blog 6

From the Family Values Forum, Gloria Steinem discusses how “family” is a term that reinforces the idea that there is a “right” type of family and a “wrong” type of family. Her definition is based off our society’s mindset that a “family” is normal or right when it is headed by a male and follows a patriarchal nuclear family pattern. When a family differs from the norm, it suddenly becomes an issue that is un-fundable or a something to be rid of. She places the utmost importance on having “respect, democracy, nurturing and compassion,” rather than the structure highlighted as normal in our society, which places the male figure in the power roll with a wife and a couple kids. Her feminist view of family values takes the focus away from the overall appearance of the family and the structure seen within it to one that looks primarily at the values taught and emotional situation the children are placed in. Her idea behind this transformation is that our society changes based on how our children are raised. Our current system doesn’t look at the kind of families we have beyond a cursory glance at overall structure. The “family values” must change to focus on the emotional and physical situation and actions taught rather than the structural component.

Blog #6

In Mary Pardo’s article, she discusses how women in East Los Angeles organized for political action based on their roles as mothers. She discusses how the women started out by advocating change in arenas that are typically associated with traditional motherhood, such as the issue of children’s safety, as Pardo brings up in the example of mothers advocating playground safety from drug dealers and so on. The mothers then moved on to advocating a more inclusive definition of family: the community as family. This differs from traditional family values, which idolizes the small, heterosexual family model. Instead, the women of MELA considered “family” to be anyone at all. The article discusses how single women, while not “mothers”, were encouraged to participate in the organization, since as women they had a vested interest in the community. This is exemplified in the issues of the prison and waste incinerator proposed to be built in their community. The entire community banded together, fronted in large part by the women to fight for a better standard of living for everyone. MELA also incorporated the help of men to incorporate the community as a whole into the efforts, which opens up issues that encompass all individuals but are based on a goal towards a better community environment.

Blog #6

Mary Pardo gave an interesting perspective of community activism in "Mothers of East Los Angelos." She described how the women of East Los Angelos became involved in their community through school programs that their children were involved in. Their involvement in the community grew when certain members learned that their community was going to be taken advantage of by the government. Those members told the others of what was going on, and a movement began. Community activism is a feminist value; it allows people to decide what is going to happen in their community, to have a voice where they live. However, it is also a very "traditional" family value. These women were going out in their communities, along with their husbands, in an effort to make the community a better place to raise their families. They were still expected to come home, clean the house, make dinner, raise the children, in addition to their protesting.156 The value draws upon the traditional definition of family. The traditional definition is a male and female couple, with children, where the male is in charge with the final say and is the breadwinner, and where the female is the caring and helpful one.

Blog 6

In Valerie Lehr’s article, she argues that there is no reason why a lesbian cannot be a father or a gay man cannot be a mother.

In Valerie Lehr’s article, she argues that there is no reason why a lesbian cannot be a father or a gay man cannot be a mother. When most people think of this value, they picture it as explicitly queer based for obvious reasons. In heterosexual couples, the woman plays the mother role and the man plays the father role. When we look at the big picture, however, is a woman limited to the role of a mother strictly due to her gender and if so, what exactly is this role? In “traditional” family values, women are thought of as the nurturing mother figure who cares for her family by cooking, cleaning, washing clothes, etc. In this same context, men are viewed as the hardworking father figure who brings in the money in order for his family to meet their necessities including food, clothing, and shelter. However, as Lehr points out, in gay and lesbian families these roles are carried out even though they cannot be associated to certain gender. This proves that preparing a meal or doing the laundry, which are motherly roles in a traditional family setting, cannot be classified as a singled-out parental role if two men are capable of carrying out these same functions in their everyday queer family. Therefore there is no argument. As Lehr states, “men can be ‘good enough mothers’ and women can be ‘good enough fathers.’”

Assissted Reproduction Conference

We are pleased to invite you to attend Contested Contours in Assisted Reproduction: Interrogating Law, Race, Class & Sex, on Friday, April 10, 2009 at the University of Minnesota Law School.
Check out our website for more information and to register. The event is free, lunch will be provided.

The conference features an all-star cast of panelists. Professor Michele Bratcher Goodwin, Everett Fraser Professor of Law and Professor of Medicine at the University of Minnesota will be joined by Debora L. Spar, President of Barnard College, and other renowned scholars in the field including Harriet Washington, Paul Lombardo, Susan Wolf, Lisa Ikemoto, José Gabilondo, and others.
The controversial case of Nadya Suleman, mother of fourteen children conceived with the help of assisted reproductive technology ("ART")—including only the second set of octuplets born in the United States—has captured the attention of mainstream media and ignited public debate. Called into question are the permissible uses of reproductive technology and the role of law in regulating or promoting reproductive choice. Over 50,000 children are born annually in the United States through the use of ART. The Suleman case captures only a fragment of debates within the larger domain of ART. This symposium will attempt to unpack ART from the margins to its center. In particular, it will interrogate race, class, and sexuality.
Complimentary breakfast and lunch are provided to early registrants.

Response #1

Mary Pardo talked about the Latino women as heterosexual who is active on behalf of her family when there is going to be a freeway bulid on their property. Homosexual couple is relate in a way that their family are made up of children as well. They are fighting for the rights of gay or lesbian couple so that thier children would not have to endure injustice like being discriminate for having gay or lesbian parents. This shows that whether heterosexual or homosexual children are the purpose of fighting for justice in order the children in our community to live in a safe environment. It showed that parents do not have to be defined by heterosexual or patriarchy, but someone who is responsible to take action to make a positive change. The reading by Mary Pardo where the women followed the priest to protest. Valarie Lehre showed us that the gay and lesbian has fought for these different methods such as surrogacy, foster parent, adoption, or co-parenting which is very different from the traditional heterosexual family values to be legal so that they could have a family and become parents. Both couples have contributed to the responsiblity of becoming parents.

Feminist Values

Lardo’s article explains the devotion of a group of Latina women known as the “Mothers of East L.A” or MELA. MELA sought to protect themselves and their families from governmental exploitation and they refused to allow the governor to build a prison in their neighborhood. The feminist/queer value that the MELA exemplified is how they transformed the definition of “mother” to include militant political opposition to state proposed projects that they saw as adverse to the quality of life in the community. The women of MELA have defied “traditional” family values in many ways; they do not follow the “traditional” meaning of mother. A member of MELA Erlinda Robles said, “When you are fighting for a better life for children and “doing” form them, isn’t that what mothers do? So we’re all mothers. You don’t have to have children to be a “mother.”” They have also expanded the boundaries of “motherhood” to included social and political community activism. MELA definition of “family” is a revision of the nuclear family they view the community as “family” and seek to protect the well-being of everyone within their community. Aurora Castillo said, “Mothers are for children’s interest, not for self interest.”

:) blog

As I read all of the articles for this week, I was not surprised to see females use their motherly instincts in order to get things done. In Mary Pardo’s article, it was not surprising to see women organize around the traditional culture of a family – men being the breadwinners (President) and females being the behind the scenes gals. Although I do not agree that this is the way women in America ought to be doing things, it seems relatively naïve to think that women will take on Presidential roles in groups in poorer communities when women aren’t being treated fairly in many normal situations. These women wanted their viewpoints to be heard. They wanted to get stuff accomplished. In their specific situation, it was for their best interest to put a male in charge. It was to their benefit to have women do the dirty work. I agree, this is not the way things should be happening in the 21st century; however, until upper and middle classes change things, it is unfair of us to think that the lower class is going to be able to do it. They needed things to be heard, and if upper class and middle class women aren’t being heard, how are they supposed to think they are going to be heard? This system of patriarchy throughout many levels of society is unfair and must be changed . . . . we must be that change.

Response to Erika

While I agree with Erika that the queering of motherhood into activism seems to be a re-invention of a cherished family value I don’t think that it is necessarily a good idea that we position activism as a direct result of nurturing feelings. In Gloria Steinem's portion of the Feminist Values Forum she discusses the extension of family to include fatherhood and the tribe of people in the Kalahari who extend the nurturing role to men as well as women and especially to older people rather than just the birth-parents. All of our readings for this week helped build upon the idea that motherhood and activism are linked through an extension of personal feelings of protecting and nurturing one’s own family. When a community needs nurturing, the mothers of the community step in to help in alignment with their identity as mothers and nurturers. The example of the Kalahari women demands we stop for a moment and question how naturally we assume nurturing to be the role of women and exclusively of mothers. So although the organizing in the United States can include non-mothers, the philosophy at base of this organizing seems flawed to me, and in the end may hurt those movements founded on an identification with the inherent qualities of motherhood.

March 27, 2009

Blog 6: hetersexual motherhood

Mary Pardo’s article on the activism of the Mother’s of East Los Angeles illustrates how the traditional family value of heteronormative motherhood becomes feminist when used as a vehicle for community activism. The members of MELA drew on their roles as mothers when deciding which issues to organize around and how to organize. For instance, many of the women involved in MELA got their start in activism because they were concerned about the conditions of the schools their kids were going to. Traditional notions of motherhood also imply some degree of subordination to the family patriarch, who is often the breadwinner. MELA used this notion to their advantage by granting a man the presidency (but keeping the true decision making power in the hands of women) in order to garner more support and greater membership in the group.
The value of heteronormative motherhood depends very much on a heterosexual model of family (mother, father, and children), but members of MELA have confronted and divorced themselves from this model, as evidenced by their reassurance of one member without children that a mother is anyone who works on behalf of children. Thus, a heterosexual relationship and family are not necessary for effective participation in the group. I would argue that this constitutes a queering of the traditional notion of motherhood; co-opting the values of caring, nurturing, and protection while removing the strict requirements of heterosexuality and reproduction/childbirth/childrearing.

Check out this great event on Saturday April 4...

Centro Campesino

~ fé ~ esperanza ~ unión ~ justicia ~

Estimada gente, friends of farmworkers, Chicano Studies and Centro

Every year, students in colleges and universities across the country take a lead in organizing with farmworker groups, organizations and unions, a Call to Action through the National Farmworker Awareness Week, which annually is held the week of March 31st-commemorating the birth of Cesar Chavez). The Department of Chicano Studies is proud to participate in this effort in large part through the spring class, Migrant Farmworkers: Family, Work and Advocacy taught by Lisa Sass Zaragoza. This year, students for their group project have organized an exciting multi-media and spoken word event at the Parkway Theater in south Minneapolis. Farmworkers and former farmworkers will have the mic-poetry, comedy and spoken word while the students are putting together a zine and slide show on farmworker issues. Come hear Eden Torres read some her poetry and Joe Minjares will do some of his famous stand-up, to name a few!

There is a suggested donation of $5.00 with proceeds going to Centro Campesino, the only organization in the upper midwest started by farmworkers for farmworkers. Please help us also in spreading the word-tell your friends and family, students, colleagues and co-workers! Family friendly, no charge for kids and youth in K-12. Also available will be awesome buttons, bumper stickers and t-shirts for sale with the National Farmworker Awareness Week logo: Got Food? Thank a Farmworker.

We hope you can join us-Sat. April 4, 1-3 pm Parkway Theater
(directions below)

Lisa Sass Zaragoza and students of Chicano Studies class, Migrant
Farmworkers: Family, Work and Advocacy
A huge Gracias to Parkway Theater owner Joe Minjares for letting the
students use the space for this important event!
Parkway Theater
The Parkway Theater is located at 4814 Chicago Ave South, MPLS 55417

March 26, 2009

Blog 6: Family Values

Blog Question #6:

In a 200-word post, list and describe a feminist/queer family value that is articulated in one of the readings (Feminist Family Values Forum, Lehr, Pardo). Your entry should address the following:

• What makes your family value explicitly feminist/queer?
• How does it differ from some of the “traditional” family values?
• What definition of “family” does it draw upon?

March 25, 2009

Law and Inequality Symposium

Here is a link to the Law and Inequality Symposium that Rebecca mentioned in class last night. It takes place at the Law School on April 10th (next Friday).

Here's a blurb about it:
The controversial case of Nadya Suleman, mother of fourteen children conceived with the help of ART; including only the second set of octuplets born in the United States; has captured the attention of mainstream media and ignited public debate. Called into question are the permissible uses of reproductive technology and the role of law in regulating or promoting reproductive choice. Over 50,000 children are born annually in the United States through the use of assisted reproductive technology (ART). The Suleman case captures only a fragment of the larger debates within the larger domain of ART. This symposium will attempt to unpack ART from the margins to its center. In particular, interrogating race, class, and sexuality.

*If you attend one of the panels, you can earn extra credit on your blog grade by posting an entry (200 words or so) describing the panel, key issues at stake and/or questions that the panel raised for you.

2009 Symposium Agenda
8:30-9:00 Registration (Law School Subplaza)
Coffee and rolls served
9:00-9:15 Introduction
Michele Goodwin
9:15-10:40 Panel: Selective Parenting: Whose Choice Matters?
Paul Lombardo
Confronting ART: History, Rhetoric, and the Spectre of Eugenics
Sonu Bedi
Sex-Selective Abortions and the Nature of Rights
Russell Korobkin
Selling Eggs for Biomedical Research and Reproduction
10:45-12:15 Panel: Selective Birthing: Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis
Kimberly Mutcherson
Making Mommies: Law, Preimplantation Diagnosis and the Complication of Pre-Motherhood
Susan Wolf
Revolutionizing ART: Children First
12:30-1:30 Lunch and Keynote (Robins-Kaplan Concourse)
Debora Spar
As You Like It: Exploring the Limits of Parental Choice in Assisted Reproduction
1:40-3:40 Panel: What’s Love Got To Do With It: Markets, Race, Class, and Sexuality Dynamics
Lisa Ikemoto
Reproductive Tourism: Equality and Identity Concerns in the Global Market for Fertility Services
Jose Gabilondo
Reproduction By Same-Sex Couples: Some Social Costs of Privatizing Affectional Ties
Harriet Washington
Reluctant Immortals: Race, Class and Tissue "Ownership"
Dorothy A. Brown
The Tax Treatment of "Making" Babies: A Race and Class Analysis
3:40-3:55 Closing Commentary
June Carbone

March 24, 2009

Check out the Web Vista site for our class

We have just added some content to the Web Vista site for our course. Some of the readings for the remainder of the semester and your grades are available now. Also, I just posted an article that I found written by Margaret Sanger's grandson. In this article he defends her against the charge that she was racist and that she promoted the eugenics agenda.

Blog #5

Political issues are any issues that affect a group of people, but I think that this definition should be more specific in saying that they are any issues that affect the rights of a group of people. When you ask someone what they identify as political issues they will generally tell you something like abortion or gay marriage, which are fights for people’s rights. The women in the feminist family values speeches had a general message of rights which is why I think most political issues circle around rights. I think the biggest feminist issues that need to be talked about are gender discrimination, and people’s right to live as the person they want to be without the influence of gender stereotyping. The right way to change the way that we treat gender roles may be to look away from the traditional European views on gender and sexuality and look to other cultures. One of the speakers talked about the bush people who were seen as primitive because their children were allowed to play sexually with both girls and boys. Also, there was an African culture where the grandparents raised the children because anyone who was young enough to have a child was not wise enough to raise it. I think that embracing these other views as modern possibilities it would allows more people to live the life they want without the constraints of the traditional gender role.

March 23, 2009

Revised Syllabus

Here is the revised syllabus. I will also distribute it in class tomorrow.

Peer Review Groups reminder

I originally posted a message about peer review papers on March 5. In case you missed it, here it is.

On March 31, you will spend some time in peer review groups discussing your feminism reflection papers. This week, you do not have to bring in copies of your original paper for your groups (as the syllabus states). Instead, I want you to do the following in preparation for your peer review group discussions on 3.31:

1. Type up your 1-2 sentence definition of feminism.
2. Think (and be prepared to talk) about how your definition is changing as you read/study/debate about feminism.
3. Type up a preliminary thesis statement for your revised paper and three brief sketches of arguments/examples that support that statement.

You do not have to prepare this for tomorrow's class. Instead, bring it in to class next Tuesday (3.31).

March 20, 2009

Some thoughts about the position papers...

I have enjoyed reading the position papers on reproductive rights and work that many of you have turned in. As you think about writing your second position paper (or, for some of you, your first paper), here are some general things to remember:

Have a clear position and articulate that position at the beginning of the paper. The assignment requires you to have a specific (and clear) position on a contentious issue within feminism. Make sure that you clearly articulate what your position is and how you will explain/defend/present it at the beginning of your paper.

How is this a contentious issue within feminism? Your position should be articulated in relation to feminism and other feminist claims about the same contentious issue. In your paper you should be addressing: why is this a contentious issue within feminism? How have feminists approached this position differently? How is my approach/my position more effective than other approaches within feminism?

Use the readings. Avoid broad and over-generalized statements. Be as specific in your claims as possible. You should use the class readings to help you do this. The work readings provide ample evidence to support the idea that the workplace discriminates against women—think about how the Ledbetter brief discusses it or the Williams article. Instead of making broad statements about how men are favored over women in the workplace, talk about which workplaces (see Williams or Hondagneu-Sotelo) and how (again, Williams, Amicus brief). While you can use outside sources, you should focus your arguments on the class readings. Not only does this strengthen your argument by grounding it in specific evidence/examples, but also it demonstrates to me that you have read the material.

Follow directions. Read over the guidelines for the position paper carefully. I distributed the handout earlier in the semester. You may download it here if you misplaced it.

March 10, 2009

Class cancelled for tonight (3.10)

Due to the bad weather expected for tonight, I have decided to cancel class. All presentations are postponed until the week after spring break (3.23). If you were planning to hand in a paper on the work section, please email it to me or drop it off at the main GWSS office by this Friday.

Please email me (puot0002@umn.edu) to let me know that you have received this message.

in response to steel168

I like how you reason that everything has the potential to be political. If a problem is articulated and demanded action and attention towards, then it is political. I also feel that politics is the want of improvement and the steady progress towards betterment of society (“politics coming from the Greek root polis meaning city or state). I do feel that one person can make an issue political and it doesn’t necessarily need a group of people to begin, but from the vocalization of one person’s grievances can spark realization and empowerment of other people to agree and bind together towards action.

I also seem to associate political issues as issues having opposing viewpoints and opinions. Like mentioned previously, I feel politics are a continuous progress towards betterment, but I also feel it is a continuous struggle between opposing viewpoints. I can’t think of a single issue (for example, all court cases are _____ vs. _____ or political party differences) where there hasn’t been an opposing party. It seems that no matter then injustice and the banding of people together to make their lives better, like domestic workers, there are always employers and industries that are trying to minimize domestic workers rights and continue the exploitation. It is a sad thing that although the idea of having an opinion and being able to participate in politics is positive, when I think of politics I think of injustice, inequality, and a painful, time consuming, inefficient, corrupt process.

March 9, 2009

Blog #5

As we have discussed and seen in class, the definition of “political” is flexible. But at the least, we decided that an issue that is political is something that i public and affects many women. In this way, feminists fight to make what is “personal,” or not public, political. Issues that women deal with everyday, but that may not be openly talked about, must be brought to the forefront in order to be dealt with and changed. Things like the functions of a marriage, relationships with men and/or other women, sex, the home, and so on are things that many women deal with but, traditionally, are not talked about publicly or politically. Making the personal political draws critical attention to them and forces society to realize what is not right about how they are functioning, etc. So the term “political,” or anything public that many women deal with, can obviously be a broad term and cover a lot of ground.

The readings we have read thus far, have focused on women’s equality in relation to men as well as other women and the various “cast systems” employed in the U.S. Thus far, the readings have defined political, as issues that affect the lives of multiple women. I feel what is meant by the feminist idea, “the personal is political” are the issues which women face in regards to sexism and other various forms of inequality. An example of the “personal is political” is one of the main topics currently being covered in the media, Rihanna and Chris Brown. What were once personal issues between these two individuals (domestic abuse) are now political, because the personal issues in their relationship have been exposed and are now public, making them political. What makes an issue a feminist issue, is when it involves oppression of any group. The core principle of feminism is equality for all not just women, but I feel many feminist issues are centered on equality for women; such as female genital mutilation, sex trafficking and domestic abuse. Politics are very broad, practically any issue can be considered political no matter how narrow we would like to make the political scope.

Question #5

I think the articles we’ve read seem to articulate that not everything is political, but rather that everything has the potential to be political. For example, we discussed the issue of domestic work in several of our readings. Today, while many domestic workers do not have access to fair pay or benefits, many have access to co-ops and advocacy groups. However, there was once a time when domestic workers were alone to deal with the hardships of the industry. In this case, the personal struggle of domestic work became a political issue when the individuals got together and decided that something needed to change. I think we see this in almost every other political debate. No situation is created innately political; instead, individuals realize the necessity for change and make the situation political. In this sense, I think the term “political” can be interpreted in any capacity: no issue is too broad, too narrow, too personal, or too public to affect individuals in a way that causes them to seek change. In the same way, I believe all issues can be feminist issues. This is especially true with the idea that “the personal is political”, meaning that all issues have the capability of being politicized.

Blog Five

The term "the personal is the political" was popularized in the late '60s. It was basically the idea that all of the personal problems women had and were discussing in consciousness raising groups were much bigger problems than any one women realized. These problems were the problems of most women in this period, and by coming together and voicing their concerns they realized that their personal lives were collectively a political issue. The way I understand it, it means that the personal issue of one women doing most of the housework becomes a political issue when being saddled with the majority of domestic work disadvantages millions of women.

Following along with this definition, I would say that for an issue to be a political issue, it would have to affect a large number of people similarly. A corollary of this definition is that the issue would also have to have negative consequences and require social change. Once awareness of the undesirable situation is raised, organizations and politicians can push for a change in the situation. If so many women hadn't voiced their similar concerns about birth control, sexual harassment, and domestic work, social change wouldn't have happened as quickly. A feminist issue is one that affects a large group of women. Feminist issues may involve only women of a certain age, socioeconomic class, or race, or they may encompass all women. What is important to remember about feminist issues is that they are not restricted to the women who are the face of the feminist movement (white middle-class women), nor are they restricted to women who identify as feminists at all. Any issue, even if perceived as personal, that affects many women similarly and negatively must be considered a political one.

personal politics

It seems to me that the fact feminism has evolved in a fashion that makes the personal political is what makes it so difficult to define or unify in a cohesive voice. In this class specifically I have heard people talking about their struggle to understand what feminism actually is, or what makes an issue a feminist one.

Topics like equality in the work place, or equal work for equal pay are fairly easily understood, and issues surrounding the body like abortion and birth control are no longer taboo. But even within these seemingly straightforward topics there is dissonance within the feminist movement. As Cobble points out there is history within the women’s movement that pins advocates of the ERA against feminists who want the differences in their bodies and working conditions realized within regulations surrounding work. Here are two feminists perspectives directly tied to a political agenda. Then there was the reading about Sanger and her use of eugenics to further the promotion of the pill. This brings issues of race and sex into a political framework. The working conditions of Latina women within the US tie together race, class, work, nationality and gender/sex politically stemming from the seemingly simple issue of housework.

The list of feminist issues that are made political are incredible, ranging from hip-hop to farming, and everything and anything in between. And not only are they political issues, but issue debated between feminists. There is no separation between feminism and race, gender, religion, ability, class, so on and so forth. These realities are tied intrinsically to the people who debate them; they are tied intrinsically to the political atmosphere in which we live. When the lives of individuals are sanctioned by the state, there is no limit to what is political. The inclusion of the personal also makes feminism difficult to understand and difficult to align with on a larger scale, but I think that it is because feminism realizes this fact. What is not personal/political about a visit to a nutritionist, or a doctor, or a court system, or science, or an environmental issue? Race, class, sex, gender, place, ability, and religion are all a part of the way we situate ourselves and have constructed a society; the personal is political in our little part of the world.

I hope this made some sense.

Blog 5 "Politic"

Someone in class says something about the personal things is "political' in the sense that the personal issue is something that needs or can be pass to be a political issue. I agree. For example the personal issue does not have to be personal in a sense of one's private matter, but like one's culture vs. mainstream culture such as getting marry early. It is an individual choice to get marry early or whenever he/she is ready, which is a personal matter, but this problem has become political when there are restriction to age marriage such as at least the individuals has to be at least 16 years old. It is political when the government gets involve in someone or an individuals relation with others. It is something of small matter that government makes it big such as making it into a court case where everything has to be documented and where the husband or male is being put to jail for marrying someone of not the legal age because the government has set an age limit for us to get marry. The way governement setting restriction for some personal matter like this is like going about seeing new things that does not have a name to name it such as weird potteries or rocks or anything. For personal matter where there has never been set a limit to an age where one can marry, in the modern time the government has to name this personal matter as the "legal age" for "marriage".

Blog 5

Political. Who gets what, when and why? Politics is typically stereotyped as something bigger than it really is. “The political” is usually considered to be the movements of larger groups or something that is legislative and involved in the governing of people. However, who is to say that political doesn’t involve the actions of every person every day. Thus the idea that the personal is political. Politics is a broad term with an idea that can be cyclical. Every group of people that is organized has politics. It is argued that people’s personal lives should be kept out of politics. Within our society politics in unavoidable, however. From a high school sports team to our government’s legislation the idea behind politics is extremely personal. Who gets what, when and why? Politics revolves around the individual wants and needs, the issues arise when those wants and needs are fulfilled for just one specific side of the matter. The political is personal because it means something to everyone and it affects everyone in some way. No matter what the scale of the political issue, it has an individual consequence one way or the other. Ideally, we would like to believe that we keep politics out of our personal lives, but realistically politics shape how we live every day.

Response to Erika's post

I completely agree with Erika’s assessment of the political/personal debate as presented in most of our readings so far this semester. The discourse surrounding women’s role in work and their role in family reflects a much older conception of women’s needs and limitations and yet our society continues to replicate these ideas and expectations. I agree, Erika, that every issue is both personal and political. But are some issues more political than personal or visa versa? Is it our duty as feminists to change public perceptions of problems that are seen exclusively as one or the other? As feminist I feel we must attack issues that do not seem on the surface to be feminist issues because they are so tied to the personal issues that effect women’s lives. As feminist, however, we fall into a trap of using a personal example to make a political statement but then do not necessarily take personal experiences and demand they be translated into political discourse. There are many issues we are addressing successfully, but there are still many more issues that need airing in public debates and especially in public elections and on major party platforms. The personal is political but we must make those experiences more important within a political landscape that still denies importance to women and their issues.

March 6, 2009

The political...

I think that most of the pieces we've read thus far indicate that the distinction between personal and political is artificial - the personal is always political. Even the smallest issue, like what clothes we put on in the morning, becomes political when you consider who made the clothes (most likely someone who was not being paid a livable wage, or did not have the power to unionize, or who works in a developing country with which the US has an exploitative relationship) and what the clothes mean (baggy jeans don't send the same message as skinny jeans). I was particularly struck by the pieces on abortion. The legal justification for the right to choose is privacy, but no abortion is ever private, by virtue of women's place in society, the color of the woman's skin, the relationship she has or does not have with her partner, etc. Women with disabilities must contend with a long history of eugenics and dominant notions of the "valued" life (which for women includes not just being a mother, but being a "good" mother). Housework is another good example - not only must one consider not only if the work itself is valued, but if the person doing the work is valued (this, i would say, is the difference between paying your kid $10 per week to do the laundry and take out the trash versus paying a domestic worker that wage: it means something entirely different to deny adult women who have families and must support themselves, and who have a history of being denied proper compensation in America, a living wage, and it speaks to the value we assign them as people, as women, and as women of color). For these reasons, I think pretty much every issue is political, and every political issue is a feminist issue, and that's how it should be. When you live in a society that has been so thoroughly permeated by patriarchy, as ours have, it's impossible for any significant issue to have been shielded from it. But once we recognize that an issue is both political and a feminist issue, then resistance can be articulated (a la Betty Friedan).


Hey Guys,

The Department of African American & African Studies has 3 mentor spots left in their new Future Scholars Program. If anybody needs some resume padding, wants to help kids make college a possibility, or is interested in doing some personal research about education I would highly recommend this program. The time commitment is minimal (only a couple hours a week) and the program is structured so you really get to see the results of your work over the semester.

The program will provide transportation for mentors to visit Arlington High School every Wednesday from 2:15-3:15, where each UofM student mentor will meet with their two mentees from the high school. The group will discuss and examine the difficulties that many African American students encounter in considering college, and attempt to find solutions together. Currently, about 50% or Arlington students are African American, but of the approx. 60 Arlington students admitted to the U in each of the past few years only about 9 have been black. This program primarily hopes to increase the number of African American students for whom college is a possibility.

more info and applications is available here

feel free to email me (lynch245@umn.edu) or scott redd, the program coordinator (redd0002@umn.edu) if you might be interested or have questions

March 5, 2009

Peer Review Groups for March 24

On March 24, you will spend some time in peer review groups discussing your feminism reflection papers. Next week, you do not have to bring in copies of your original paper for your groups (as the syllabus states). Instead, I want you to do the following in preparation for your peer review group discussions the Tuesday after spring break:

1. Type up your 1-2 sentence definition of feminism.
2. Think (and be prepared to talk) about how your definition is changing as you read/study/debate about feminism.
3. Type up a preliminary thesis statement for your revised paper and three brief sketches of arguments/examples that support that statement.

This brief assignment is due on Tuesday, March 24. You are required to hand it in to Sara or Rebecca. Here is the Feminist Revision Paper Assignment. It is due on April 21.

Blog #5

Term: the Political

Since we don’t have any readings for this week, I thought you all could respond to some more open-ended questions that are central to our discussion of feminism, feminist debates, and feminist strategies for social justice.

How have the feminists that we have read so far defined the political?
What is meant by the feminist idea, "the personal is political"?
How broad (or narrow) of a term should “the political” be?
What makes an issue a political issue?
What makes an issue a feminist issue?

March 4, 2009

Women's Day

Just wanted to remind everyone that March 8th is WOMEN'S DAY!

March 3, 2009


The readings this week shifted in focus from the rights of domestic laborers to the issue of what quantifies women’s work in the greater public sphere. Pink collar jobs dominated by women are often viewed as easy or lesser jobs than those traditionally held by men. Williams points out that it is the invisibility of the female body and lifestyle in blue and white collar jobs that needs to be reevaluated. A social space dominated by men leaves no room for the realities of what women are facing. But these realities are rooted in gender and social norms that none of these readings have discussed.

The assumption in some of the arguments we read, and visible in the film we watched last week in the family who hired Theresa as a nanny, is that if I am a woman I will have a child. This means that not only are all women maternal in some way, but that they are heterosexual, or that they have a vagina and a uterus and have the ability/desire to birth children. This means that there is no need to pass laws or create a work space that allows for men or anyone with kinship ties to care for a child. Gender is work, we are performing our gender every day, and we are forced to in the jobs we hold as men and women and all of the invisible bodies in between. There is no way to blanket the needs of one female laborer/group across the whole spectrum of jobs, but there is no way to do that for a man either.

I personally feel that it is the working world in general that needs to be reevaluated. I have no desire whatsoever to spend eight hours a day thinking about any one thing or in any one place. Why do we work such long hours? Is it to pay for cable, or a car, a house, an education, a personal computer, food, tradition, class status, power? I don’t want anything to do with it. The world of work needs to allow for all different kinds of existence, and ensure a living wage at that.

But I digress.
And possibly didn’t even answer the question.

Addendum to Ledbetter!

In one of my other classes (that just took place tonight) our teacher brought up that many of the jobs that will be created by the stimulus package are in male dominated fields - construction, engineering, etc., while female-dominated fields, such as nursing, won't see much money (they may get some money from appropriations, but not from the stimulus). Whether or not this is indicative of a desire to put money in the hands of "heads of families," or if those jobs are just easier to create, I'm not sure.

Blog 4

The readings this week address the issues surrounding women’s place in the workforce. They bring to light what is valued by certain employers, and what types of workers encompass those values. A good example of this is right at the beginning of Joan Williams’ “Why Family and Work Conflict and What to Do About It”, where a woman is being interviewed for a job and is hired only after “dropping” the idea of having children. Worker norms are tied to gender norms in the concept of work scheduling. Employers value workers that will be consistently available—it is economically wise for them to hire someone that they know will not need to take a maternity leave, i.e. men. Or is it? Williams brings up a wonderful point that it is currently economically wise to not hire women if there is a risk of having to work around family life and child bearing, but what if this job scheduling was redesigned? The article states that a redesigning of work in workplaces will actually make for a more successful business. So why not change? What is holding back employers? People in general resist change and our businesses are currently comfortable working in the “masculine norm”. This disparity disables the idea of equal opportunity. Gender discrimination is disabling women from positions that they are just as qualified as men to receive.

Blog #4: Inequality in the workplace

The readings address the different values placed on different types of workers by addressing the "ideal" worker. In our society, the ideal worker is a full - time employee who goes the extra mile; he/she works overtime more often than not, and gets ahead because they are recognized for the number of hours they put in on the job. However, this vision of the ideal worker is unrealistic because of employees who have families. Since it is traditionally the role of the mother who takes care of the children, it is most often women who suffer the most from this vision of the perfect worker. If full - time is expected for advancement, then the part-time status that most women and some men need at least some time in their lives is considered the anti - worker, someone who works to make some extra money but is content with never moving up. The alternative to this is women taking "women's" jobs where they can have kids and still be looked upon favorably while doing it. This expectation leads to discontent, obviously, and some of the solutions that feminists have come up to correct these skewed norms include deconstrusting work traditionally viewed as "men's" work to allow women to have jobs in the area, using the political system to fight agaisnt unfair discrimination in salary, and also changing schedules to allow both men and women to spend more time at home. I think that there will always be someone who is partially left out by proposed changes of action, because the changes are thought up by the people who have the biggest voice. However, there may be some people who would like to be a part of these changes but cannot, such as single parents who have to support their family alone and can't cut hours to part - time due to the lower paycheck. Also, workers who don't work in a business setting and can't necessarily work less, like people who are employed in entry - level jobs. To me, the idea that if we change schedules we can change the way people look at part - time and full - time employees by assessing the amount of work they get done, not the amount of hours, and I know that this can't work for everybody, but employers must try to get a system suitable to their unique work situation.

Blog 4

The reading gave many good examples of the strategies that the feminist movement has used in the past relating to the fight for equality in the workplace. I was given the impression that simply making the issue known and spreading knowledge about movement for rights is where it all begins, and women were able to start doing this when the number of women labor unionists rose to hundreds of thousands in the 1950's. Women were able to gain ground through this, and even though it did take a significant amount of time and effort, we have seen a change in gender expectations for the workplace even though it might not be complete as of yet. The incompleteness of the act really does frustrate me, however. Dorothy Cobble made wonderfully logical and statistical observations about the issues of gender discrimination, and it really just made me all the more sure that the fact that this discrimination is allowed is absurd. Another strategy she introduced, the concept of flexible working hours in order to maximize work productivity, loyalty, and convenience was actually fairly new to me. I really think that our workforce could benefit greatly if this idea was more widespread. Not only would women and men have the benefits of a more convenient schedule in relation to the family, but this reconstruction would create more available jobs to the general public, which reaches the population of unemployed persons, a group who was absent in Dorothy's discussion of our economic structure.

Comment of "4" posted by Abbie Engelstad

I absolutely love how you question the masculine work values. I have also been thinking things like this and wonder if this is “the way things should be done” then why are things so horrible right now! You many of the nation’s pitfalls and I also feel you could add to it the nation’s horrible reputation internationally. I feel that the previous “macho man” approach to foreign policy and the plan of action in Iraq has obviously not worked (excuse my oversimplification as well). I look forward to the next several years and the reevaluating I feel is to come, regardless of where anyone sits politically. I feel that after the last eight years that change is obviously necessary because if our economy, environment, unemployment, and social programs aren’t addressed, as much as we think things couldn’t get worse, they can and they will.

I do wonder how things would be different if the masculine work values would have been addressed years ago, if politics wouldn’t have been clouded by any alternative motives, and how the “feminine work values” would have handled present situations and past problems that have led our country to where we are now…overall, regrets are never beneficial and if we believe that as a country we can learn from our mistakes, to waste time wondering “what if” is trivial and our true goal should be what you said about rebuilding our system with new values and contemporary thinking.

Blog 4

I agree and disagree with many aforesaid items. First off, I do realize that “women’s work” is devalued and is not paid to its full extent. I also agree that many women are facing difficult challenges when it comes to having a career and being a mom. As a future business woman, I have had to challenge myself to think about what I would rather do: stay at home and raise my children or try to achieve a top level status. As I’ve been reading more and more articles and everyone’s blogs, I’ve come across a point that I think must be made. At home work is simply not paid a lot because it does not require extensive education or thought. How many 3rd graders can clean their rooms? A lot. How many high school students can do laundry and cook a meal? A lot. How many middle school adolescents babysit on the weekend for extra change? A lot. As a woman, I feel that paying someone to do simple work around the house so I can accomplish one of my many dreams is not hurting anyone – in fact, its beneficial to many. Growing up, many of my friends had full time nannies and operes. These relationships were beneficial to working mothers, the hired help, and the kids. Everyone was pleased with the arrangement and, quite frankly, it ended up being for the best. I know I want a few things in life – kids and a career. Hired help is one easy way to take a few of the simple things in life and get that off my back. If someone else doesn’t have a job, being a maid or a nanny sure beats working at McDonalds flipping burgers. As I look at different companies to be hired by, I’m impressed by how far they have come with maternity leave and benefits for working mothers. Yes, blue-collar and pink-collar workers are not as highly valued in society as white-collar workers; however, we’ve seen how well socialism in history works. And quite frankly, there will always be a stepping stone, no matter how hard we try to fix it. There is a difference in jobs and education and amount of work and responsibility. It may not be totally fair, but, as we’ve learned, life isn’t fair. This may sound harsh, but, hey, its what we've been told since we were little. You've got to make the best of what life throws at you. My mother always told me God never gives people more than they can handle. Thats a rule to live by.

Blog 4

Both Cobble and Williams came to the conclusion that blue-collared workers in our country are not highly valued. Furthermore, those few women who work as blue-collared workers are even less valued. One of the authors also mentioned how pink-collared workers (women in so-called "women's work") are considered less valuable then even the female blue-collared workers. This devaluation can be seen from the wages the pink-collared workers make in comparison to the wages that blue-collared workers (male or female) make;80 pink-collared workers make considerably less than blue- or white-collared workers.

What Williams was saying about flexible scheduling being more beneficial for corporations than non flexible scheduling really made sense. Those women with families are going to be unable to work for businesses that refuse to work around their families. Williams went further into saying how businesses need to make it alright for men to have flexible schedules as well as women. I agree with this idea; men might be more willing to help raise children and take care of the house if they are allowed to take time off or work part-time for the same wage. Also, allowing part-time workers to make the same amount as full-time workers would help to even out how women are viewed in the house; if women are able to significantly contribute to the household income, they might have more respect.

March 2, 2009

Blog Four

The Cobble reading informs us of the labor movement that existed during the period between first- and second-wave feminism. This movement was distinct from feminist ideals in that it addressed class differences in the labor struggle; it championed the pink- and blue-collared workers. Where feminism mainly concentrated on securing equal pay for equal work and upward job mobility for women, those in this “missing wave” realized that job differences in the work place can only be reconciled by addressing the social issues that relegate women to their secondary status.

In “Unbending Gender,” Williams addresses the challenges women face in the workplace. As women are relatively new to many fields of work, the employee norms that exist in those positions are very male-centric. A woman is less likely than a man to relocate her family for her job, have child-care and other domestic help from her spouse, or possess the physique required for many blue-collar jobs involving manual labor.

In addressing inequality in the workplace, feminists have concentrated on problems like pay differences and the glass ceiling. These emphases completely ignore the problems of women in low-paying, traditionally feminine professions, or the reasons why women choose those fields at all. Women who are secretaries, waitresses, or librarians have no glass ceiling to crash against, and the scarcity of men in these professions make the issue of equal pay less pressing. Women choose these conditions because of the flexible work schedules and leaves of absence they offer. They don’t have to work overtime in order to keep their job, and they don’t have to face serious consequences for taking maternity leaves. Also, as women constitute the majority of the workforce in these professions, they don’t face the sexual harassment or physical challenges that arise in blue-collar jobs. The pink-collar jobs are not desirable, but they are more desirable than trying to make it in the cutthroat white-collar world or the hostile environment of blue-collar jobs. To fully address the problems women face in the latter two professions, feminism needs to consider the social environment that systematically disadvantages the female worker model.


Williams taught us that huge segments of the work force are permeated with masculine norms--and women are forced to adapt to these norms if they wish to become successful.

I think, even in the last few months, this debate has gotten much more interesting. There is another layer we should be thinking about when we phrase these arguments:

How well are these masculine work values actually WORKING for us? Our economy is in shambles; every day we learn about new ways in which big business is corrupt to its core; blue-collar workers are being laid off in mass numbers; the environment is on the brink (which corporate pollution has a major hand in); Americans work more hours than anywhere else in the industrialized world (UN International Labor Organization), and what do we have to show for it? A struggling education system and a whole lot of debt. [Excuse the oversimplification]

Suddenly, in the wake of economic crisis, environmental instability, the highest unemployment we've seen in 16 years, and staggering rates of corporate consolidation both domestically and globally--this issue no longer stands solely in the category of social justice, it is now a necessity that we reevaluate the way we think about work, who participates, and what values we are promoting.
Our system as it stands is floundering, maybe even failing, which means we will have to rebuild it--which means we should start thinking now about how to create a model that includes new values, new definitions of an 'ideal worker', and new opportunities for those who have marginalized by this system in the past.

Week 4: Ledbetter!

This week’s readings showed how women have been met with, and dealt with, discrimination in the workforce. The Williams piece showed how “the mommy track,” equipment built for men’s bodies, devaluation of part-time work, and inflexible scheduling make it nearly impossible for women to thrive in many fields. The Cobble article detailed parts of the labor feminist movement – women’s (lack of) presence in the leadership of the labor movement, the equality vs. difference debate, and the struggle to include race and class concerns. But the reading that was most interesting to me was the Ledbetter brief. Challenging discrimination through legal channels seems not to have been completely successful. The Ledbetter legislation (which, as I understand it, made moot the decision of the Supreme Court, which upheld the 180 statute of limitations) was of course a huge step forward, I was pleased to read that the legislation finally acknowledged what the brief said: that pay discrimination is compounded over time, that there must be a reasonable amount of time for a plaintiff to become aware of the discrimination and decide to challenge it (it’s almost always going to be incredibly difficult to enter a lawsuit with children, or when the plaintiff is working class, which is exactly when the wages are needed the most), and that each paycheck is a sort of symbolic assault that becomes ongoing and never-ending. But there are still ways that the law cannot address pay discrimination, or even gets in the way. For instance, laws that don’t allow employees to fully unionize keep ALL employees from their potential agency and power. And laws that privilege business interests above all else will almost always come at the cost of employees. But as the Williams piece points out, accommodated employees are productive employees. Instead of measuring people’s (and I’m talking about Americans in general here) happiness or ability to thrive based on the number of businesses in the country, or state, or city, maybe more humanity-based indicators should be considered, such as whether or not wages are livable, or the ability to have meaningful work and a meaningful home life.

cool interactive graph of wage gaps


Blog #4

Equipment design is around men's body. This is where women are devalue. For example in my family I have a lot of sisters so there are a lot of daughters, which it takes more time to move into a new house moving furniture and other heavy equipments. We made four or five trips going back and forth, but for one of our relatives who have three sons it only took them two make two or three trips. I am always worry about moving because equipment is always design around men's body. There are a few times when I tell my mom that since we have a lot of heavy equipment I think if we move to another state I may plan to leave it and start all over again. My mom suggest that if you have money you can hire men to move all those heavy equipment. I guess this is a solution to moving, but I am not satisfy why would not these equipment design in a way that women can move those heavy equipment by themselves when there is no men around. This would only promote the image to family that has a lot of daugther to be "less civilize" vs. family that has more sons to be seen as "more civilize."

I don't know if there is a way...

Dorothy Cobble’s article pointed out some of the lost history of women’s labor organizing. Joan Williams’s article focuses on the giant hurdles women historically and currently have in achieving workplace equality. Both authors discuss mechanisms that keep generations of women blocked from advancement because of their gender and inability to participate in the mentality of “boys clubs.” The readings do highlight the different arenas that workplace struggles take place. Within blue-collar work, unions and location within worker-friendly companies determine the quality of life for workers. In a white collar position quality of life depends more on respect between colleagues and management and potential for advancement. However, both types of work are structured around the myth of the male worker. This becomes a difficult issue to address among feminists because we (feminists) have become so divided by the difference in levels of prosperity and privileges between classes of women. Women need to not follow a party line on these issues, but no matter what their position their mobilization should come from a common understanding that no matter what other factors are at play, women are never considered to be the de facto worker. Women are never the standard by which quality of work and quality of life are measured. After comparing the readings for this week, I come to the conclusion that no matter what kind of work is involved, the fight still comes down to man versus woman. Until machinery is designed for a variety of body types and sizes and until membership in a male brotherhood is irrelevant to job performance, we will all need to engage in the same fight. I don’t know that within the current politics of labor struggles and feminism that is going to be easy to accomplish.

question 4

Despite the many advances of women in the workforce, one basic underlying assumption has remained basically unchanged. Even today, “women’s work” (or housework and child-rearing) are regarded as less valuable than “real work” in the business or public world. Because these acts are not accorded a monetary value, our society does not see them as work but as something natural. It is simply accepted that women will have and raise children, because it is in their nature to do so. This understanding of the many different types of hard work that women do is problematic on a number of levels. First, it invalidates the assertion that women’s work is hard work, by transforming the various strenuous and challenging tasks mothers perform into something that is second nature, old hat, or matter of fact. Second, it forces women who want careers to carry a double burden of both their professional work and “natural,” or assumed work. This is because employers are discouraged from attempting to assist women workers, whose “natural” duties are made to seem minor and as if they should not interfere with a good worker’s productivity. Third, by regarding this work as womanly or as a part of a women’s essential nature, it makes solutions where men assume part of the responsibility difficult imagine (even counter-intuitive). There is nothing inherently male or female about the vast majority of household chores, including lawn mowing, dish washing, sweeping, toilet cleaning, going to the bank, making dinner, etc. What is true is that all of these activities have a cost- either in time, or labor, or materials. Our culture needs to stop associating certain chores and responsibilities with a certain gender and start acknowledging that all tasks have some cost in order for women to truly become equals in the workforce.