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27.1.14

work and experience, part 1




Currently all roads are leading to ideas about work. probably because i'm spending all my days looking for it.

As a treat, I started writing a post about all the interconnecting ideas I was having about work and earning and experience. Then it became a bit of a thesis.  So, in the interest of public safety, I've broken it into a few separate posts about work and mothering, earning, work experience and about the concept of 'hard work'.

Work and mothering

Until the point I left it on a bus, I was reading Lynne Segal's first book 'is the future female?' and within it, revisiting the journey of feminist ideas about work:
- mothering-as-work,
- sexual harrassment at work,
- the disproportionate amount of women in the areas of work that are unstable and underpaid
(especially women of colour)
- and the focus of parity in the workplace
(which i have decided needs to be reworded as parity in the workforce - a difference i'll cover).

That book was published 30 years ago and it reminded me that even though many things have improved for women (especially white western women like me) - there are some more women in better jobs, we are more present in parliament and policy-making, in higher management and still rattling at the parity cage. However, many things are still unenequal, oppressive and unjust for so many.

One of the ongoing areas of change and challenge is the link between women's role as mothers, as primary child-raisers and the unpaid, unacknowledged and assumptions about that role - a role that cuts across all the sections of women's experience.

Not to mention the public's expectations of certain mothers (like I mentioned here), it is still largely assumed women will be the primary care-givers, rather than it being a considered choice between the two people responsible for raising children.

Many of my friends and family are having children at the moment and I only know one couple for whom the man is the conscious primary care giver. And another couple for whom it has turned out that way, but wasn't necessarily discussed in those terms. Those woman have gone back to work or to running their businesses, but are still expected to keep the foot on the gas. None of the male partners  have been given parental leave longer than the first three weeks of intense newborn time - some haven't even thought about it, others have, but structurally it's likeā€¦ what?

I overheard a conversation on the tube the other day that highlighted how we still have a long way to go about the relationship between work and child raising and expectations of who does that. There were three (white) lawyers - two men and a women. Both the men have young children and they 'do their best' to get up, get to work early, so they can leave at 5pm and be home in time to spend an hour with their children before they go to bed, another couple of hours with their partner before starting all over again.

The sound of melancholy and sense of 'stuckness' in those stories was awful. We're continuing to go with the idea that a man being entitled to just an hour a day in the rearing of new people as enough - it's just not right. How can the men be OK with that too? Part of it is because the rest of their good lives are enabled by this imbalance and that 'good life' is based on the old role of 'provider', etc.


I am not a mother. Or even a potential one. So I have a slightly biased and theoretical view about this issue, but it did remind me that it's still something that is very much a problem. We are still raising people to have particular gender skews towards who needs to be raising those people.

And it means that women's 'choices' about mothering - using their skills to raise children, etc, are still in response to expectation. This is not to judge the role of women in mothering. It's just to point out that having a choice about it adds value and agency to it (something i'll cover more in the next post)


As an aside, in looking for that image above, here's what came up. not even stock photography is helping us here:





Interestingly, in looking for work at the moment, I have had my first interaction with this assumption about women's roles with my own parental status.

There are probably loads of other reasons why I'm not being interviewed, but in some situations, I have became aware that, due to my particular age and gender - that winning combination -  it puts me into 'mother' or 'potential mother' range and can influence decisions about hiring. Especially in relation to my perceived commitment to a role vs my other perceived 'priorities', not to mention an expectation about working with youth.

That had never occurred to me before.

That's how much privilege I have. I've just hit my first thought of real discrimation towards work - something that is outside of my control and an assumption made without even meeting me.



Naturally, it's an opportunity for me to clarify these things in my applications but damn I've never had to include my youthful appearance, attitude and empty uterus in a cover letter before. 

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