Friday, 27 June 2008

Friday Feminist - Anne Else

Cross posted on In a Strange Land

Market Woman vs Family Man

Conflict also arises over the extent to which the boundaries marking off male and female natures and functions, the essential basis for the gendered economy, are to be blurred or emphasized. The mass entry of post-war wives and mothers into formal employment cannot be reversed; most men's earnings are insufficient or unavailable to support their 'dependants'. But women who 'choose' to enter the labour market are commonly treated as if they embodied selective aspects of both 'natures'. Thus they are assumed to lack the 'incentive' of being wholly or even partly responsible financially for the support of family members; but they are also assumed to have actual or potential family care responsibilities. These twin assumptions justify lower pay, less training, and fewer promotions for women.

The path to better pay and promotion, where it exists at all, appears to require market women to act and be treated entirely as unconnected individuals with no family - that is, as 'not-women', rather than as men, since men are tacitly acknowledged to be attached to families as earners (though not as caregivers). It also requires market-women to out-perform any domestically supported man.
At the same time they must remain 'feminine', even to the extent of accepting sexual harassment.

Given these harsh terms, the authoritarian right assets that women are better off trading their individual freedom to enter the market for financial dependence within the family, thus preserving the major 'incentives' which keep men hard at work. The libertarian right supports market equality for women, as long as they do not also try to claim any 'special privileges' (such as time off for bearing and rearing children).

Anne Else, "Gender and the New Right", in DuPleiss, Bunkle, Irwin, Laurie and Middleton (eds), Feminist Voices: Women's Studies Texts for Aotearoa/New Zealand, Oxford University Press, 1992

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