I. Can’t. Even.

What America Lost As Women Entered the Work Force” has to be one of my least favorite articles in a long, long, looong time.

But read it. Maybe I misinterpreted. Maybe I’m reacting to what I think is the overall theme, which is that women leaving the private sphere (home and such) hurt the public sphere (society at large) — with a hint that maybe we all should just go back home. Maybe I think this is something more than a dog whistle in a publication I actually respect, and I’m reacting accordingly.

But: The piece, written by Emma Green, Georgetown College Class of ’12, starts with a bow to the newly-departed Phyllis Schlafly and then goes into this:

Women have long formed collective organizations intended to improve American society. They volunteered their time, waged political campaigns, and advocated for the poor and elderly. They organized voters, patronized the arts, and protested the government. In the years since women’s liberation, this kind of civic engagement has dropped precipitously. The kind of community involvement that has replaced it, where it has been replaced at all, is a weak substitute: When women advocate, it’s often on behalf of their own kids or families. And when they get involved in causes, they tend to cut checks rather than gather in protest. The most vulnerable members of society have lost their best allies—women—partly because those women are too busy working.

Bless your heart, Ms. Green. Some of us are working and doing all of those things, at the same time. Can you imagine?? We are either choosing jobs that allow us to pursue those interests, or we are working other kinds of jobs and then protesting, lifting up, and watching out for the people who can’t watch out for themselves even while existing in the work force FFS.

(You know what else frosts my cupcakes? The article is, as pointed out by Leftover, who sent the link in the first place, written from a completely privileged (read: white) viewpoint. Some women have been doing it all because they have been forced to by dint of all kinds of ugly factors not explored in the article.)

If we’re going to talk about the need for propping up, why don’t we talk about why the society needs propping up by an army of (female) volunteers?

Given the length of this piece, I can smell a book in the offing. If so, I will not buy it. It’s based on the false belief that a woman can be in the public or the private sphere, but not both. I thought that kind of thinking went out with Catharine Beecher. If not, it should have.


12 responses to “I. Can’t. Even.

  1. “Many of Green’s undergraduate studies focused on religion in public life, which she now feels helped to prepare her for her current role.”  As elitist, privileged, willfully ignorant, self-serving resident bourgeois bullshit artist at The Atlantic.

  2. What Leftover said. When I think of all the women I know who work, volunteer and do countless other things, I would like to spit. Preferably on Emma Green.

  3. I love you too, Susan!

  4. Thanks for writing this – this woman is a nit wit and a privileged one at that

  5. Wasn’t there a similar argument made post-abolition? People will get upset when you have to pay for labor that was once free. They will make excuses and say things were better for all of us (really just them) when that group of people over there had no choice.

    Why not just shift to an all volunteer society and give everyone their fair share of what they need? Oh, yeah, when it involves white males, it’s anti-capitalism.

    On another note, as one who shifted from corporate America work, to volunteer work to raise a couple of kids (sure, it was privilege to be able to swing it financially). The thing is, it was the only kind of work I could do because there were no real options to work part time in my field. And, though raising kids is rewarding, having other purpose is important, too. So, I learned other things as a volunteer and got to do things I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise. If your labor is free, they don’t care that you may not have advanced degrees or a decade of experience. And guess what? The job gets done just the same.
    I gained knowledge and experience in teaching, counseling, case management, project management, management of teams, health navigation…the list goes on. The crappy thing is, that volunteer work means squat when looking for paid work and trying to reenter the work force. And paid work experience from years ago is discounted. There is value in what I do, but not enough to gain a paid position. All that personal story stuff to say: America values volunteer work only when it stays free, and that’s really wrong. That, or I just needed to vent about how volunteer work should be valued by potential employers.

    • What about this: Volunteer work for a 501(c)(3), or any qualified internship, (those arranged through an academic institution as part of a course of study), that is unpaid, (according to labor market standards), should be deductible from one’s income taxes, or awarded tax credits, at a fair market rate.

      I can see some potential difficulty with such organizations that are “church exempt.”

      I don’t understand why volunteer work, especially the kind in your experience, would not be considered valuable to potential employers.

    • Well done, ma’am. Why didn’t I draw that correlation, I wonder?

      • On top of being pissed about paying for female labor that was once free, in my experience, they make it difficult to transition from volunteer positions to paid positions at a decent wage. So, despite women entering the work force, there are still obstacles for women who wish to reenter the workforce after raising children etc. which is a way they are able to hold onto a free, female dominated, volunteer labor force.

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