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Academic Feminists and Work
July 24, 2008, 10:06 am
Filed under: Culture | Tags: ,

Given the choice between  (1) pushing paper in a tiny cubicle in some impersonal office, (2) mindlessly pushing a button at a factory for 11 hrs a day, (3) getting paid peanuts to be a cashier at Wall-mart, or (4) raising kids and running a household, wouldn’t you obviously pick the 4th?  Sure it would be great to be a lawyer or to work in community development or something like that, but most of the jobs women have (and men too, right?) are not very fulfilling.  They can be down right terrible.

Read this article:  

The fruits of the feminist revolution? Sisterhood, empowerment, and eight hours a day in a cubicle

Here’s an excerpt:


“According to Gilbert, the debate over the value of women’s work has been framed by those with a too-rosy view of employment,


 mainly because the vast majority of those who publicly talk, think, and write about questions of gender equality, motherhood, and work in modern society are people who talk, think, and write for a living. And they tend to associate with other people who, like themselves, do not have “real” jobs—professors, journalists, authors, artists, politicos, pundits, foundation program officers, think-tank scholars, and media personalities.


Many of them can set their own hours, choose their own workspace, get paid for thinking about issues that interest them, and, as a bonus, get to feel, by virtue of their career, important in the world. The professor admits that his own job in “university teaching is by and large divorced from the normal discipline of everyday life in the marketplace. It bears only the faintest resemblance to most work in the real world.” In other words, for the “occupational elite” (as Gilbert calls this group), unlike for most people, going to work is not a drag.

Indeed, what does Linda Hirshman know about “work”? (It’s a veritable WWE Smackdown of Academics!) Parries Gilbert:


 Linda Hirshman claims that “the family—with its repetitious, socially invisible, physical tasks—is a necessary part of life, but allows fewer opportunities for full human flourishing than public spheres like the market or the government.” Many people would no doubt find unpaid household chores less interesting than Professor Hirshman’s job … But walking up and down the super market aisle selecting food for a family dinner is a job that has more variety and autonomy than the paid work being done by the supermarket employees who stack the same shelves with the same food day after day, and those who stand in a narrow corner at the checkout counter all day tallying up the costs of purchases, and the workers next to them who pack the purchases into paper or plastic bags. That space in the market is a bit cramped for human flourishing.


To be sure, attacking feminist criticism as being the extended whine of a privileged, educated upper class is as old as … well, as bell hooks’s 1984 critique of Friedan’s Feminine Mystique: “[Friedan] did not tell readers whether it was more fulfilling to be a maid, a babysitter, a factory worker, a clerk, or a prostitute than to be a leisure-class housewife.” It’s a point that keeps having to be made, though. And hooks’s list doesn’t even include the legions of colorless office jobs that most women endure, “real” jobs that trap them from eight to five in a cramped cubicle under hideous lighting. During the course of a Sex and the City workday you’re likely to encounter Mr. Big, but at a “real” job you’re far more likely to be thrown in with the pimply, fright-wigged characters of Dilbert or with Dwight Shrute from The Office, the show whose name is synonymous with tedium, idiocy, and despair.”


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