Author: has written 9 posts for this blog.

Return to: Homepage | Blog Index

31 Responses

  1. Pepper
    Pepper August 30, 2010 at 11:57 am |

    Yes. Oh, in so many, many ways, yes. The amount of “invisible” labor women do to keep things running is staggering to think about. I would add another component to the caring labor– invisible emotional labor. It’s been talked about how many het/cis American men have no emotional outlet other than their SO’s, and when you really think about it, that constitutes a huge amount of emotional labor in terms of quite literally helping to manage someone’s emotions with him. Obviously, relationships are not economic transactions, and I wouldn’t want to reduce them to that. However. Being the SO of a het/cis western guy often includes being party to, and ad-hoc therapist for all his work, education, friendship, family and self issues– and not being the one who says “Why are you so emotional? Get over it!” That doesn’t even cover the emotional care that many women do for their parents, siblings, children and friends. It’s a form of work IMO.

  2. L
    L August 30, 2010 at 12:01 pm |

    It has never made sense to me that daycare workers and teachers are paid and valued so little. Jobs like these are absolutely essential to society, and I’m always saddened that the people yelling “won’t someone please think of the children????!” (ie. anti-choicers) are the same people who don’t value teachers and daycare workers, who are supposed to be helping our children and young people become more well-rounded and productive citizens. I personally believe that teaching is THE most important job in our society.

  3. Jadey
    Jadey August 30, 2010 at 12:28 pm |

    I was having a conversation the other day with a friend about the amount of un- or under-paid work is done in the name of social justice (e.g., volunteer work, unpaid internships, etc.). I haven’t looked into any stats or other reports on this, though I’m 100% certain they exist, but it seems obvious that those who are committing to this kind of volunteer labour are disproportionately marginalized (in one or multiple ways) folks – the people with the biggest stake in the cause and the greatest awareness of its importance. On one hand, I’ve always been proud of the organizations and causes I’ve volunteered with, and certainly volunteering, especially in prestigious positions or with highly regarded organizations, can have material benefits in terms of CV development (although these sorts of slots are more likely to go to those with the clout of privilege, I wager). But living in the midst of a capitalist society that so obviously does not value these kinds of work/compensation transactions, I can’t help but feel like I’ve been handed the booby prize.

  4. Clarissa
    Clarissa August 30, 2010 at 1:06 pm |

    “a woman who has a steady, male partner may find that it means having an extra person she’s expected to take care of and clean up after for no pay.”

    -Who exactly is preventing a woman from kicking out this kind of a jerk and finding a normal man who isn’t looking for a hand-maid?

  5. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers August 30, 2010 at 1:15 pm |

    He suggests that it creates a virtuous circle of gift exchange that turns the givers into indispensable people who, in the natural course of things will eventually be rewarded.

    This would be true, if the status of the people participating in the gift exchange was seen as equal in the first place.

    In fannish circles, and in volunteer work, people who do more usually get more power and more rewards (although the “reward” is nothing but social status within the group.) I’m particularly familiar with this dynamic in systems that are virtually same-sex, where 80% or more of the participants are women, and where there are powerful forces evening out the initial status of newbies so people can’t bring in privilege from another environment (ie, internet groups where no one can tell what race you are unless you say so and everyone’s class is reduced to “sufficiently well educated to have Internet access and a command of writing in English.”)

    But if there is a group who is essentially seen as entitled to the services of the other group, it will fall apart. Because the gift economy, and the gaining of status within it, absolutely relies on the notion of gratitude — when you get something from person A, you feel grateful. And entitlement doesn’t produce gratitude. Entitled people think it was your job to give them A, and if you don’t give them A they get upset with you. So you can only go *lower* in status by giving to entitled people.

    Since human society has run for thousands of years on the notion that women will do huge amounts of necessary work without burdening men with it, thus sparing men the need to even know that such work exists, whereas men will ostentatiously display the work they do such that both men and women can observe it, men feel entitled to the work of women to the point where they don’t even know it’s there. (as you said, the GDP may include pimps, but not child rearing.) Men cannot respect women or accord them higher status for giving to them, because women were supposed to give to them; the only way women’s work is noticeable is if women don’t do it, thus lowering themselves in status. Meanwhile, not only do men ostentatiously display their work to women and each other, but if a man does give to a woman, it’s not something she was entitled to (thus, gratitude), and the fact that men in general feel entitled to women’s work may make the woman in particular feel even more gratitude than if the help had been given by another woman, because it was even more unexpected and unusual. So men will get higher status than women from participating in primarily female gift economies, and women will get little to no status from participating in primarily male or equal-sex gift economies.

    This is really tragic when you think about the fact that the earliest versions of “chiefs”, rulers of tribes or clans, were what anthropologists call the “big men” — men who got power and status in the community by being incredibly generous. Humans are actually wired to respond to another person’s giving to them by offering up respect, gratitude, and even obedience. And that wiring probably exists, on an evolutionary basis, to help us respect, love and pay attention to our *mothers* — because mammalian fathers don’t do jack for the babies, generally (humans, actually, are weird in this regard). But as soon as women’s work was defined as an entitlement that men just deserve to have, women were cut out of the oldest means humanity has for acquiring power and status, even though it’s the means we are demonstrably best at. (It’s a very clever trick, when you think about it — humans gain power through giving, so in order to establish patriarchy and male domination, men had to discount the value of what women give. Thus, women can’t win at the giving game, because whatever they give, men were entitled to — and women are worse than men at the “killing your rivals” strategy for gaining power, if the rivals in question include men, who are generally stronger than women — so the only way left for women to acquire power was to form a household alliance with a man who had it.)

    This is why I feel that all of the social sciences, and especially economics, suffer and suffer hard for the fact that they are dominated by men and men are trained not to empathize with women or look at women’s issues as anything other than “not my problem.” Consistently, male scientists come up with ideas that are clearly refuted by what’s actually going on in the real world, except that to understand that, you’d need to pay attention to women… and in general, only women pay attention to women. Feminism and “women’s studies” should be an integrated part of the social science curriculum and you shouldn’t be able to get a degree in *any* social science without having studied how the world is experienced differently by gender.

  6. Lasciel
    Lasciel August 30, 2010 at 1:41 pm |

    “It has never made sense to me that daycare workers and teachers are paid and valued so little.”

    Maybe because they’re getting paid to do pretty much nothing? Any child that is real work or trouble can easily be bounced out of most daycares at their discretion; not to mention their actual value is questionable. Most daycares aren’t some happy, nurturing place. They’re even more machine like-than school.

    Like the way many dog breeders treat their dogs. It’s in their best interest to keep them fed, healthy, but they do that for dozens or hundreds of dogs. Feed the kids. Let the kids out for exercise. Keep them from running into the road.

    Maybe if I could laud teachers more if they weren’t upholding a broken system that is designed for the white middle-class, and is pretty much a joke for other people. Maybe I could consider them under-appreciated if most of them did more than read and assign from the teacher’s version textbook; and if more of them were willing to work with student’s different needs.

    “But a woman who spent all day turning wild children into productive citizens,”

    And while you’re adding up all the hours of unpaid caring and the valuable lifelong contribution of raising children… are you going to deduct the cost on society of the children damaged by the abuse of some of these unpaid mommies and teachers?

  7. Manic Monday Link Roundup « Smart Angry Women

    […] On Generosity. Part Three of a series based on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s bizarre notions of […]

  8. L
    L August 30, 2010 at 3:27 pm |

    Um, ok, I guess I should have mentioned that maybe if we valued teachers more, “women’s work” more, childcare more, the system wouldn’t be so broken. You can’t blame individual teachers for problems the system creates. The issues of teachers only reading to class and assigning work and not paying enough attention to individual child needs are problems that system creates, not that individual teachers create. Teachers are overworked, underpaid and undervalued, and the system does not allow them to just create their own cirriculum, decide what they teach or pay more attention to individual students. They don’t choose to uphold a broken system, everyone needs a job/career and teachers don’t have the power to change the system that employs them.

    It all starts with motherhood being way undervalued. A broken school/daycare system is a product of that.

    I had about twice as many bad teachers as good ones, and I still would not be where I am today if I hadn’t had the few and far between great ones who gave me confidence in my abilities.

    Also, how is making sure several children are fed, safe, healthy, rested and entertained not hard work?? If it’s so easy why doesn’t everyone do it, then?

  9. emjaybee
    emjaybee August 30, 2010 at 4:02 pm |

    Yes Lasciel. The presence of bad teachers/caregivers means that they all suck and don’t deserve to be paid decently, and that their work is meaningless.

    If it’s so easy, why don’t you give it a try? Never mind, I wouldn’t want a person like you in charge of children! Because clearly you’ve never met any.

  10. Lasciel
    Lasciel August 30, 2010 at 4:21 pm |

    Yes, teachers are completely helpless and can make no decisions of their own and are not responsible for doing anything outside the curriculum.

    If you get $30,000 a year for standing and doing nothing but reading from a teacher’s textbook and handing out worksheets, you are SO much more underpaid than say, factory workers that makes less than you and stand for 10 hours doing difficult and wearying physical labor.

    “I had about twice as many bad teachers as good ones, and I still would not be where I am today if I hadn’t had the few and far between great ones who gave me confidence in my abilities.”

    Now I”m really curious. If teachers are forced to be bad because of an evil system, which they cannot buck, than how did you get these good teachers?

    “Also, how is making sure several children are fed, safe, healthy, rested and entertained not hard work?? If it’s so easy why doesn’t everyone do it, then? ”

    Here’s the secret to that: it’s much easier to take care of children if you care nothing for their happiness or mental well-being. If you are willing to threaten them, lie to them, punish them for little reason, or beat them and abuse them, it’s a much easier job.

  11. Alison
    Alison August 30, 2010 at 4:47 pm |

    Lasciel, for one thing, stop making bad arguments:

    If you get $30,000 a year for standing and doing nothing but reading from a teacher’s textbook and handing out worksheets, you are SO much more underpaid than say, factory workers that makes less than you and stand for 10 hours doing difficult and wearying physical labor.

    No one here is saying or would say that factory workers who do arduous physical labor are not also underpaid. But the key word there is “also”. Just because one group experiences troubles does not mean no other group possibly can. Lots and lots of important fields of work are underpaid and undervalued. To cite one does not mean the author was totally disregarding the existence of all others.

    Also, you seem to be extrapolating from your own experience and applying that with an extremely broad brush. The majority of the teachers I had were decent – not amazing, not terrible, just decent, and decent is pretty good when you consider the low pay, the long hours (because trust me, a teacher’s day is not solely the hours he or she spends in the classroom – how about the hours planning curriculum, grading papers and tests, etc etc), the troubles with, for example, teenagers who love nothing more than the sound of their own voices…it is a very hard and often thankless job.

    And yeah, they are working within a crappy system. Politicians whine about “the children” when it suits them and then cut education budgets. Kids are being sent home with lists of school supplies that parents needs to buy which now includes fucking toilet paper and soap! My nieces have textbooks that are literally falling apart in their hands. Class sizes at most public schools keep getting bigger and bigger. It is NOT an easy job, but it is an integral one, and it should be treated accordingly.

    Teachers who behave badly – who yell at children, who punish them indiscriminately, and ESPECIALLY any who lay a hand on a child other than to maybe keep them from touching broken glass – should absolutely be held accountable and punished. Unfortunately, another element of how awful our education system can be is that that doesn’t always happen when it should. So yes, we end up with some people in teaching positions who should not be there. But you seem to think that’s pretty much all of them. And as long as that’s your standpoint and you refuse to accept that you just might be exaggerating and being too general, your arguments aren’t going to hold a lot of weight.

  12. Miss S
    Miss S August 30, 2010 at 4:55 pm |

    Maybe I could consider them under-appreciated if most of them did more than read and assign from the teacher’s version textbook
    I have yet to meet a teacher (and I know plenty) who don’t absolutely hate teaching to the test. Government bureaucracy put that in place- not teachers.
    Here’s the secret to that: it’s much easier to take care of children if you care nothing for their happiness or mental well-being. If you are willing to threaten them, lie to them, punish them for little reason, or beat them and abuse them, it’s a much easier job.
    If this is really your opinion, you have much bigger problems than the education system. This isn’t a blog for child abusers to share their secrets and tips.

    Back on topic: I read that women with 3 or more children do an average of 28 hours of housework per week. Men with 3 children or more do 10. That’s a huge difference.

  13. Jill
    Jill August 30, 2010 at 4:56 pm | *

    If you get $30,000 a year for standing and doing nothing but reading from a teacher’s textbook and handing out worksheets, you are SO much more underpaid than say, factory workers that makes less than you and stand for 10 hours doing difficult and wearying physical labor.

    Do you really think that most teachers do that? I mean, maybe I’m biased, but my teachers growing up always had really dynamic and ever-evolving lessons to fit our particular class and our interests. My room mate right now is a teacher, and she makes all of her own lesson plans, designs her own curriculum, and re-vamps the whole thing every year to keep what works and replace what doesn’t. It is an ENORMOUS time commitment — she works 12 hour days 5 days a week, and at least one day on the weekend.

    Certainly there are some terrible teachers, just like there are terrible people in any profession. But your characterization of teachers is wholly inaccurate and deeply insulting.

  14. L
    L August 30, 2010 at 5:12 pm |

    Sorry about the derail, everyone.

  15. La Lubu
    La Lubu August 30, 2010 at 7:18 pm |

    And while you’re adding up all the hours of unpaid caring and the valuable lifelong contribution of raising children… are you going to deduct the cost on society of the children damaged by the abuse of some of these unpaid mommies and teachers?

    Now, why would anyone want to do that? The deferred costs of environmental degradation and environmental racism aren’t deducted from the GDP. The deferred costs of the destruction of communities isn’t, either. The deferred costs of cancer and other illnesses isn’t figured in. Shit, even the negative consequences of pimping and drug dealing aren’t considered, though those forms of income are considered worthy of inclusion.

    No, only damage done by women is to be considered. Women who apparently give birth via parthenogenesis, I presume?

    Why the hell do women have to be excruciatingly perfect paragons of virtue, while the male Captains of Industry can basically do whatever the fuck they want, with the rest of us to bail them out no matter the cost of their failures? Elementary school teachers (whose curriculum is controlled by the local school board—why yes, they can be fired for not following the curriculum, as that would be a violation of their labor contract and is a fireable offense) deserve low pay, but the thieves at Goldman Sachs don’t?

    I have yet to hear the argument that cops should receive a cut in pay (to say, bring them down to the level of elementary school teachers—basically, cutting their pay in half) to account for police brutality. Gee, wonder why not?

  16. Lasciel
    Lasciel August 30, 2010 at 8:37 pm |

    “I have yet to hear the argument that cops should receive a cut in pay (to say, bring them down to the level of elementary school teachers—basically, cutting their pay in half) to account for police brutality. Gee, wonder why not?”

    Are you at all familiar with the US median salary for police officers? It’s almost the same as what a teacher makes. And if you look at the salaries for the entire US over 25 years of age… it’s still only $32,000… which is lower than the average teacher salary. I mentioned $30,000 as a lowball figure, since some states pay significantly lower than others.

    “Your ingratitude is a disgrace to the people who taught you to dress yourself and stop screaming in public.”

    You’re right. Sorry mom, I should be more grateful for that time you busted me in the face for asking for some bubblebath when we didn’t have the money.

    You can say that I am painting all teachers by the negative experiences I received… but don’t paint all teachers by the positive ones you experienced, especially if you lived in a nice area. Did you find all of these pleasant, wonderful teachers at one of the so-called drop-out factories? Of course, all the wonderful experiences middle-class kids have totally negates the idea that the public school system is disproportionally harder on POC and poor people!

    “If this is really your opinion, you have much bigger problems than the education system. This isn’t a blog for child abusers to share their secrets and tips.”

    Nice. Now I’m a child abuser? And since I question how teachers are more overpaid than other people, I’m a troll? You say teaching isn’t “remotely easy” well… what job is? You can say teachers are overworked and underpaid, and that sounds true, until you compare it to any other job.

    Being a doctor? Easy. Mining Uranium? Easy (and so much safer than teaching). Going into burning houses? Easy. Passing out tests… woo boy!

  17. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. August 30, 2010 at 9:08 pm |

    Alara Rogers: This would be true, if the status of the people participating in the gift exchange was seen as equal in the first place.

    Yeah, or even valuable at all.

    Of course female labor isn’t a “gift” its an entitlement…

  18. Miss S
    Miss S August 30, 2010 at 9:32 pm |

    Lasciel, what the hell are you even talking about? No one said being a firefighter or cop or uranium miner was easy. You asked
    And while you’re adding up all the hours of unpaid caring and the valuable lifelong contribution of raising children… are you going to deduct the cost on society of the children damaged by the abuse of some of these unpaid mommies and teachers?
    And La Lubu answered you.

    Saying teachers are underpaid doesn’t mean that it’s the only field that’s underpaid. Just one of them.

    What child in the world doesn’t need a care provider and teacher? What baby changes their own diaper, cooks their own dinner, and teaches themself how to read? NONE. The work that is literally vital for sustaining life is done by mostly women and it’s mostly undervalued and therefore underpaid.

    You also said that the secret to raising children is
    care nothing for their happiness or mental well-being. If you are willing to threaten them, lie to them, punish them for little reason, or beat them and abuse them, it’s a much easier job.

    Is that a joke? Because frankly, it’s disturbing and creepy.

  19. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers August 30, 2010 at 9:43 pm |

    Are you at all familiar with the US median salary for police officers? It’s almost the same as what a teacher makes.

    Are you at all familiar with the fact that you need a master’s degree to teach? Whereas I think many places let you train to be a cop if you have a GED?

    In general, we assume that a job that requires a higher education deserves higher pay. Child care workers, who do not need a degree, don’t make anywhere near $30K. Teachers’ pay should be compared to other people with graduate degrees, not people who are not always even required to complete college.

    And as others have pointed out, the fact that you are singling out child care workers, elementary school teachers and mothers as people who don’t do any work, or do more harm than good, in a world where prison guards’ salaries are counted in the GDP, implies that you think that women need to be perfect before they should get the consideration that men performing the most vile, evil jobs the economy has get — that their efforts should be counted as *work.*

    Sorry your childhood sucked, but this doesn’t change the fact that mothers’ work isn’t counted into the economy at all and the work of pimps and drug dealers is.

  20. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub August 30, 2010 at 9:47 pm |

    Jesus Fucking Christ.

    Look, I am sorry that your mom was abusive and you had crappy teachers. But I am disgusted with your ignorant rant that ignores who’s really in power. If teachers can only “pass out a test,” (which is bullshit BTW, they plan curriculum, take shit from parents who don’t want to hear about the fact that their kid isn’t doing so well in school, make sure the kids are actually learning. . .) it’s because policymakers have decided that the test is the be-all, end all, and that teaching kids critical thinking skills is just so much new-age bullshit.

    There are crappy daycares out there. There are also excellent daycares. My niece and nephew were fortunate enough to go to a very good daycare and, you know, actually learned stuff. They were treated well and made friends and oh, hey! They were supervised. That’s the thing about kids–you do have to watch them and nurture them. They aren’t fucking houseplants, and if you think that someone who teaches, minds, or raises kids is just sitting on their ass all day, then you aren’t in touch with the reality of those jobs–your experience with your mother notwithstanding. Because here’s the thing–there are shitty people in every. fucking. field. Again–as La Lubu pointed out, there are cops who brutalize supects, take bribes, and engage in criminal activity (my town is quite rife with it, and the cops here aren’t exactly getting shot at here). There are lawyers who engage in unethical behavior and steal from clients. There are politicians who take bribes and fuck people over. There are doctors who assault patients and leave in the middle of operations to cash checks and are grossly negligent to the point of harming more patients than they help. Yet you save your ire for the people who do traditionally female jobs, and don’t hold people who do traditionally male jobs to the same standards.

    And not for nothing, but the douchebags at Goldman Sachs? Aren’t exactly mining for uranium, getting shot at, or, dare I say it, teaching children. Yet you aim your ire at teachers, daycare providers, and stay at home parents. Again–if you’re so goddamn concerned with being accurate re: the damage, then count in all of the damage shitty people in every profession/job cause.

    Your hypocrisy is breathtaking.

  21. Alison
    Alison August 30, 2010 at 9:49 pm |

    but don’t paint all teachers by the positive ones you experienced, especially if you lived in a nice area. Did you find all of these pleasant, wonderful teachers at one of the so-called drop-out factories? Of course, all the wonderful experiences middle-class kids have totally negates the idea that the public school system is disproportionally harder on POC and poor people!

    For one thing, no one painted all teachers as wonderful and perfect. What we said, in response to YOU painting all teachers as freakish demonic monsters, is that some of our own experiences and the experiences of those we know totally belie what you’re saying. No one said that any of those good experiences belie your bad ones, though.

    And way to make the assumption that everyone else in the thread is 1) middle-class and 2) non-POC.

    And again, you and your damn comparisons. NO ONE SAID TEACHING IS THE ONLY UNDERPAID AND DIFFICULT JOB. Drop that fucking straw argument, seriously. Just because there are other jobs that are also underpaid or really difficult or really stressful does not mean teaching is therefore fucking super easy and perfect and teachers should not make a dime more than they do. It is a non sequitur, so give it up.

    And – “passing out tests…woo boy”. You know – you’re being a jerk, plain and simple. People have related what it is to be a teacher, I have two family members and about half a dozen good friends who are teachers at various levels in a variety of places. They work their asses off. YOU do not get to say otherwise until you’ve done the job for a few years. You had some awful experiences with bad teachers, and that sucks, and I’m sorry for that. But that doesn’t give you a free pass to label them all as lazy good-for-nothing monsters with pathetically easy loser jobs. Unless, of course, you like behaving like a rude and offensive jerk.

  22. Auguste
    Auguste August 30, 2010 at 11:53 pm |

    Being a doctor? Easy

    I know teachers, and I know doctors. Dollar for dollar, teaching is a harder job than being a doctor. (Surgeon, maybe not. Doctor, most definitely.) You’re just flat wrong.

  23. natasha
    natasha August 31, 2010 at 5:11 am |

    @Lasciel I’m pretty sure that if I’d decided that all men were scum because I had an abusive ex, people would be all too happy to point out that I was making false generalizations about people I didn’t even know who didn’t deserve it. If I’d decided such a thing, I wouldn’t have found my husband, and that would have been a loss to me in addition to being wrong on principle.

    I’m sorry you were abused.

    I also came from a spanking, smacking, swatting household myself. My mom favored wooden spoons for ordinary occasions, belts for special ones, and my dad wielding the belt if I’d been really obnoxious. You think I’m grateful for what she did do for me, including cooking for me, washing up after me, teaching me to read, or any of the rest of it, because she was some kind of paragon of perfect humanity according to child-rearing theories that weren’t even widely accepted when I was a teenager?

    Having been smacked as a child isn’t really a reason to perpetuate misogynist disregard for the phenomenal amounts of crap work and disrespect women have to put up with. It isn’t a reason to ignore the way women often have to do crap work that men want done, but can’t be bothered to do themselves, like quieting complaining children in public or private, no matter how that gets accomplished.

    When my older sister was a toddler, for example, my mother was publicly humiliated in front of her entire congregation for having let my sister wriggle away and run down the aisle of the church during a sermon. Her job was to shut us the f* up, sit us the f* down and keep us presentable at the appointed hours, no matter what, or everyone would be on her @ss. She did what was expected of her and I don’t have to agree with how she did it in order to understand the kind of pressure she was under, or the social norms she felt bound by.

    So no, I don’t agree that a bad personal experience is a good reason to add to the usual sexist background noise that holds every woman accountable for the misbehavior of others.

    And I don’t agree, based on observations of other families in action, other caregivers interacting with children, that it makes it easier to manage children not to care about them. People who like children and care about their needs find it much more rewarding, find much more compensation for the stress of dealing with children than people who don’t like them. A person who likes a child and can keep them happy is bound to find time with the child more pleasant and less stressful. Laughing, cheery kids can even be oodles of fun.

    It’s interesting that you think you’re the only person who ever got smacked, had a bad teacher, or, as another poster pointed out, experiences with poverty. Or abusive relationships exacerbated by poverty.

    Perpetuating the economic oppression of women by discounting their work doesn’t fix any of those problems, it makes them worse. It means they’re going to continue to multiply instead of begin to decline. It means the ongoing feminization of poverty, it means more children raised in poverty, it means a politics governed by an economically privileged and predominantly male group of actors who don’t take the needs of people unlike themselves into much account.

  24. Samantha b.
    Samantha b. August 31, 2010 at 5:36 am |

    Pepper, I really feel like you’re reiterating a lot of sexist tropes there. While my partner was alive, I didn’t do any more emotional labor for him than he did for me. My male friends act as ad hoc emotional therapists for me every single damn day. There may be male-female relationships that you’re describing accurately, but I would say it’s untrue of the majority of relationships with which I’m personally familiar. So please let’s not normalize problematic myths.

  25. Kaz
    Kaz August 31, 2010 at 5:46 am |

    @Alara Rogers – just wanted to second your comment further up there. I’m also fannish and that, to me, is an example of a gift economy that actually works. Unpaid labour by women is *not* an example of a gift economy (except possibly a fatally flawed one) to me for exactly the reasons you mention.

    I do want to disagree with this bit:

    where there are powerful forces evening out the initial status of newbies so people can’t bring in privilege from another environment (ie, internet groups where no one can tell what race you are unless you say so and everyone’s class is reduced to “sufficiently well educated to have Internet access and a command of writing in English.”)

    People can be pretty good at sussing out various privilege/disprivilege issues even online, in my experience, if they’re not simply assuming everyone is privileged (which has its own problems). I can’t speak to how this works for class or race, but I’ve had… interesting experiences when it comes to disability in fandom. My speech disorder is completely invisible unless I talk about it, but my mental health issues are another matter and don’t get me started on the autism.

  26. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers August 31, 2010 at 1:07 pm |

    My speech disorder is completely invisible unless I talk about it, but my mental health issues are another matter and don’t get me started on the autism.

    Mmm, yeah, I can see how that would work — because mental health issues and autism can affect how you are able to interact socially, and much of what drives the gift economy is social interaction, and it works in part because there’s a shared cultural expectation of *how* to interact with one another… which falls apart if you’re coming from a very different culture, or if you’re not neurotypical and therefore have a hard time being social in the same ways the culture dictates.

    I’d say it also creates problems if you’re male, because male behavior doesn’t fit female culture and men do *not* expect to have to modify their behavior to fit in with women… except that women cut men enormous amounts of slack because it’s men! and they’re writing fanfic! oh my god, they’re so awesome! In my experience in fandom, men actually have to cross the line from “acting like men generally do in their own fannish communities” to “acting like a complete entitled asshole” before the cultural differences between men and women trip them up in fanfic circles. Though I understand that straight men do face some discomfort in dealing in female-dominated fannish circles because in those communities, we overtly objectify fictional men, write about men as if they behaved like women, and talk a lot about homosexual love between men, and men don’t expect to deal with any of that (and have been trained by our society to be bothered by some of it). But that’s more that the men themselves feel uncomfortable than that the women in the culture are pushing them out, and I see very active participation from gay men and trans men, so I think it has a lot more to do with the privilege factor and the discomfort that comes from not being the majority everyone caters to when you’re used to being the majority that everyone caters to.

    Also, as soon as some kind of privilege comes up in the conversation, all kinds of nastiness may ensue. How many rounds of RaceFail have exploded on LiveJournal in the past two years?

    But I think that, for the most part, there’s overall much less striation by class, race, physical ableism (mental is another story), ethnicity, or religion in shared fannish culture than there is in the larger culture as a whole, and that that’s part of why gaining status by giving gifts works there.

  27. kloncke
    kloncke September 1, 2010 at 10:48 pm |

    Feelin the post overall, thanks Natasha, but also want to add one more vote to the notion that just because much of women’s work is unpaid doesn’t make it a gift. Just exploitation.

    Seems to me that a key foundation for a gift economy is non-obligation: regardless of whether you choose to give the gift, your own basic needs will be met. Impossible under a “scarcity” model that says unless you’re a property owner, you either work or starve.

  28. Links of Great Interest: "We are human??" | The Hathor Legacy

    […] post on generosity and labor at […]

  29. Emily W.
    Emily W. September 27, 2010 at 11:50 am |

    Thank you for this post. What a silly idea to expect an economy will work that is based on getting people to like you enough to give you money. As Adam Smith noted long ago, the best we can expect from each other morally and economically is that they will give up their resources in exchange for some kind of immediate benefit to themselves. A giving economy will never work on a large scale.

Comments are closed.

The commenting period has expired for this post. If you wish to re-open the discussion, please do so in the latest Open Thread.