To truly be ‘pro-family,’ you have to be pro-worker

Kathleen Geier asks “Why have family-friendly work policies fallen off the national agenda?

A big part of the answer is that the category of “family-friendly” has been replaced by the category of “pro-family,” which is, in turn, a euphemism for anti-feminist and anti-gay.

And since family-friendly work policies would increase the options, choices, freedom and quality of life for women, they tend to be opposed by pro-family groups.

Those “pro-family” groups — and the religious leaders who support them — have also demonstrated for decades now that the value they place on “family values” is always secondary to the value they place on unfettered corporate freedom. Hence, for example, their utter lack of support for Title IX or for the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act — two measures that ought to have the enthusiastic support of anyone who values families and dislikes abortion.

This is a two-part problem. The first part is that we have surrendered the necessary task of advocating on behalf of families to “pro-family” clerics and lobbyists who are more anti-modern than actually pro-family, meaning families do not now have any effective advocates for their interests and for what Geier calls “policies that promote work-family balance.”

The second part is that these “pro-family” clerics and lobbyists have been pushing an anti-feminist, anti-woman agenda that winds up hurting families.

Bryce Covert has a smart discussion of this in a post titled, “We’re All Women Workers Now: How the Floor of the Economy Has Dropped for Everyone“:

Our workforce, once dominated by men, is now pretty much equally split between the genders. But a funny thing has happened since women entered it in droves: rather than all workers enjoying the stable, unionized, blue collar jobs men typically held until the latter part of the 20th century, the jobs held by all workers look more and more like stereotypical “women’s work.” These jobs expect workers not just to make a product, but to do it with a warm attitude. They are less likely to be full-time, but instead modeled after part-time work for “pin money.” And an increasing number of jobs are low-pay, low-benefit work in the service sector, once the purview of women workers. We’re all women workers now, and we’re all suffering for it.

… Even full-time employment looks increasingly like the service sector jobs that were once thought to provide women “pin money,” not the sole source of income for a family. A report from the National Employment Law Project found that mid-wage jobs have been all but replaced by low-wage jobs in the recovery period. Retail has led the pack in creating jobs — about a third of the people who got a job in November, for example, got it in retail. The sector added over 140,000 jobs between September and November. Food service and other service sector jobs also lead the pack. These have traditionally been dominated by women, but now if you want a job, both genders have to take a look at working jobs that offer little pay, few benefits and barely any stability.

There’s a general principle at work here. It’s what Martin Luther King Jr. described in his Letter From a Birmingham Jail:

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

Privilege can’t be preserved by keeping others down — that will only lead to everyone being kept down with them. If you want to preserve your privileges, insist that they are not privileges at all, but rights — and that they are the right of everyone.

One way or the other everyone will eventually wind up in the same situation — rights for all or rights for none.

  • http://leftcheek.blogspot.com Jas-nDye

    You would think that these so-called Family groups would be promoting sick days, paid maternity leave, healthier work environments, less toxins, more workers’ rights, health care for all (at LEAST children), and safety for undocumented families…

    Nope. Not gay enough, I guess.

  • Eric B.

    Well if you are really “pro-family” then you know the mother will stay home so no need for maternity leave.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dan.k.hetrick Dan Hetrick

    Thanks for this post!  You’ve articulated some of the things I’ve been feeling about this subject rather neatly.

    Off subject, but I got a pop-up ad when I clicked on the link for this article.  Anybody else get this problem?

  • SergeantHeretic

    The problem as Fred has oft pointed out is that they do not like and will never support anything that helps families because they support “The Family” a mythical fanasy ideal created by decades of insipid sitcoms and their own nostalgiac delusions.

    The people and I use the term loosely support “The Family” as an agency of control i nthe creation of a hoped-for static state system in which the majority conditions always favor the continued wealth and power of those who already have most if not all of the wealth and the power.

    Nothing else is acceptable, nothing else wil lbe tolerated.

  • Ennid

    The trouble is, if you point this out to an anti-feminist conservative their story will be that all our current economic woes are due to those damn women entering the workforce. If they hadn’t done that, then incomes for men would’ve remained high and families would be making as much on 1 income as they now actually make on 2.

    And it actually is true that having women enter the workforce did increase competition for jobs and thus probably did contribute to driving down wages. It’s just that the women finally entering the workforce is not the actual *problem* in this situation.

    Dan, I also get a pop-up when I click on that link, after I disabled my ad blocker.

  • SergeantHeretic

    This is so the problem is not women entering the workforce, the problem s manegment seeking out any and every exuse to underpay and underemploy their workers.

  • Jessica_R

    I just worry because there’s something in our national character that would rather saw off the branch you’re sitting on rather than scooch over a tad to share. And in this case, it’s the branch you’re sitting on to save yourself from the rising flood waters of economic and ecological collapse to boot.

  • Lliira

    The second part is that these “pro-family” clerics and lobbyists have
    been pushing an anti-feminist, anti-woman agenda that winds up hurting families.

    This is blatantly obvious on the face of it, unless one goes into this thinking families do not consist of 1/2 (more, actually) girls and women. Being anti-woman is being anti-family, just as it is being anti-person.

    So-called “pro-family” advocates are really just advocates for middle class or higher straight white males who don’t care much about their mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters.

  • Lliira

    Oh, and you’re not all women workers now. Women still make less than men and have to contend with more sexual harassment and other issues related to being a woman in the workplace. Just… no.

  • SergeantHeretic

    Lliira, oh sister YES! YELL IT! I have seen what you say and it is reality. I grew up in such a family and it was a super deal for my dad and my brothers, for me and mom, not so much.

  • fraser

     But that would encourage women to work instead of doing their duty to stay home and breed.
    And if white women don’t breed, then white people will lose control of this country.
    Or a new take: If liberal women don’t devote themselves to breeding, conservative religious types will pop out enough babies to take over and MAKE women stay home! So you’d better quit those jobs and have some babies feminists!

  • Kirala

    Or a new take: If liberal women don’t devote themselves to breeding,
    conservative religious types will pop out enough babies to take over and
    MAKE women stay home!

    In my experience, conservative religious types breed liberals about as well as they raise conservatives.

  • esmerelda_ogg

     I always get pop-up ads when I click on the actual articles. It seems to be universal on Patheos or on Disqus – I’m not sure which, but it’s not just a Slacktivist thing.

  • Becca Stareyes

    Well if you are really “pro-family” then you know the mother will stay home so no need for maternity leave.

    And never mind those (different-sex, two parent*) families for which that’s simply not an option: if one parent stays home, the family will starve/be unable to pay rent.  Or the cases where the father has lost his job so if the mother can work, that’s what’s keeping the family afloat. 
    Ideological purity doesn’t pay the rent or put food on the table. * I already know that so-called ‘pro-family’ groups don’t give a fig about anything that doesn’t look like Mom, Dad and kids/plans of kids, or maybe the brave widow(er) raising the kids until they can get hitched again. 

  • Ursula L

    This is blatantly obvious on the face of it, unless one goes into this thinking families do not consist of 1/2 (more, actually) girls and women. Being anti-woman is being anti-family, just as it is being anti-person.

    I suspect that they don’t think of families as being half women and girls, or even of families as a group of people.

    Rather, to their way of thinking, a family is a possession of a straight white male.  You promote The Family by doing things to enhance the privileges that a straight white male has in possessing a family.  

  • Tofu_Killer

    But a funny thing has happened since women entered it in droves: rather
    than all workers enjoying the stable, unionized, blue collar jobs men
    typically held until the latter part of the 20th century, the jobs held
    by all workers look more and more like stereotypical “women’s work.” 

    I think we have forgotten how new that stable High Wage/Union labor model was. The “typical” job that Bryce Covert mentions here as the gold standard is a distinct anomaly in the history of wage labor. While it is true that members of elite trade unions could demand higher wages and aspire to middle class affluence before WWII, the majority of unskilled labor (organized or not) suffered low wages and terrible working conditions.

    What we are seeing is a regression to the mean in wages and work conditions that progress throughout the 19th and early 20th century made seem a relic of the past. 30 years of general affluence is a shaky foundation under the edifice of what was “typical” at the time women began entering the workforce en mass.
    This matters because ignoring how untypical that affluent era was, and the tremendous sacrifices made among labor organizers created the conditions for that era, refuses them the honor they deserve and models for us to follow in recovering better work conditions.Bryce Covert’s argument also shifts blame to women for the loss of high wage jobs, rather than keeping the focus on the employers who used women as a low labor pool that they could draw upon to undercut general wages. I hope he doesn’t mean to shift the blame like that, but the equation of “pin-money” and women’s work to the modern workplace is not the uncomplicated and neat analogy that he thinks it is.

  • AnonymousSam

    Not just blue collar jobs. Teaching used to be considered an honorable position — when teachers were exclusively men. As women began teaching, suddenly keeping schools funded just wasn’t a priority anymore~

  • EllieMurasaki

    Computer programming used to be a tedious, underpaid, female-dominated job. Tedious might not have changed, but the pay scale and how the career is gendered did, and at about the same time too.

  • P J Evans

    I think the pop-up is from ‘The  Nation’. Some publications run them automatically.

  • P J Evans

     Data entry was, and is, a tedious, underpaid, female-dominated job. Programming was once a male-dominated job.

  • smrnda

     Excellent point. Do men get fired for being pregnant because, to the boss, being nauseous and throwing up *without permission* is grounds for dismissal?

  • P J Evans

    Teaching used to be considered an honorable position — when teachers were exclusively men.

    At the college level, usually. At the primary level, teachers, even a hundred years ago, were frequently female. (My father’s mother taught school before she married.)

  • AnonymousSam

    Makes one wonder how many examples of this are out there. Did nurses start getting paid more when men entered the profession? Are firefighters and police paid less now? (Well, they are regardless thanks to budget cuts, but…)

    Reminds me of what one of my English instructors said. He told us that every school he had ever worked at had always made a point to hire women as teachers, even if they didn’t have the qualifications for the subject they’d be teaching (so it wasn’t unusual for a woman with a degree in American History to wind up teaching Science). Meanwhile, a man, no matter how competent as a teacher or how clean his record, would always be encouraged to move into positions that weren’t directly dealing with students, such as principal or school board (but, of course, never office assistance).

    No way of verifying this, but I wonder if there’s any truth to it.

  • AnonymousSam

    Further back, in the 1600 and 1700′s, apparently it was different at the lower levels too. Of course, back then, girls weren’t allowed to attend many of the schools either, so maybe I’m getting wires crossed.

  • Tofu_Killer

     Both nursing and teaching were relatively high paid and respectable professions that allowed women into their ranks as a method of cutting costs.
    Really, it was a decision and there is documentary proof.
    Once women were allowed in there was a male flight from those jobs to avoid the taint of doing work women could do, and so wages fell rapidly everywhere.

    What men did remain in those professions were administrators.

  • AnonymousSam

    In related news, “Screw France and America, we’re going to hire some cheap Chinese slaves,” says Titan International CEO.

    http://www.mining.com/how-stupid-do-think-we-are-tire-ceos-epic-letter-to-a-french-minister-77806/

  • LL

    Women didn’t just enter the workforce in the 1960s or whenever these people think it happened. MOST women throughout history have always worked at something. They just didn’t get paid for a lot of it. And of course, the female slaves in America didn’t get paid for any of it. Only rich women could afford to not work. 

    Women have always worked. This fantasy that women just sat around and planned meals and greeted their husband at the door at the end of the day with a martini and that women working “outside the home” is some awful dictate of the women’s movement is some 1950s-era bullshit that didn’t describe most women’s lives in the 1950s. 

    Try that the next time someone opens their gaping piehole about women entering the workforce. Women entered the workforce the same time men did. It started back in the earliest days of humanity. 

  • LL

    This. All this. Many people who write about work vis a vis history seem to not know much about  history. 

    I guess people didn’t pay attention in history class or have any exposure whatsoever to the reality of typical working conditions for most people for the majority of America’s history. If they did, maybe they’d appreciate government intervention and unions more, since most of the things they enjoy and take for granted today regarding working conditions would not exist if not for government intervention and unions. 

    And let’s not forget the role of prison labor throughout American history, which continues to today. It’s very depressing. 

  • LL

    Well, one (“pro-family”) only requires you to yap about abortion and marriage and taxes. The other one requires you to actually advocate in favor of helping people, which might cost money. 

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Labor force participation rates in the USA, see attached image.
     

  • EllieMurasaki

    Define ‘labor force’. I bet your graphic refers specifically to people who get paid for their work.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Google the journal article, the PDF is not behind a paywall.

    Yes, I’m aware of the issues surrounding the fact that economists haven’t “backed-in” unpaid work by women which would boost historical participation rates. That said, the baseline from 1890-1930 clearly shows an inflection point in the 1940s and a continuing increase. This indicates that there is increasing official recognition of the fact that women are capable of working as well as men, IMV.

  • smrnda

     Women have always worked, very true. Somehow it only became *news* when it was affluent women working.

  • Tofu_Killer

     Disquis is losing my comments today, I apologize if you got the message that never posted:
    There is a way to track wages and it has been done.
    http://web.mit.edu/wgs/prize/eb04.html

  • AnonaMiss

    Programming was once a male-dominated job.

    What?

    1) Programming is still a male-dominated job and is one of the very few professions in which the ratio of female participation has declined over the past 2 decades.

    2) Early computer programming was extremely female-dominated, though this was largely because the field arose during WWII.

    Please avoid mansplaining the history of my industry to someone who clearly knows more about it than you do.

  • Carstonio

    Yes. Part of that injustice was that women were locked out of most professions that had money and prestige. The typical salaried jobs for women had poor conditions and low salaries. At one time in the US public schools, only single women could serve as teachers.

  • Daughter

    Or who work outside the home. In the past (and still today in the U.S. and in many other parts of the world), women often worked from home, growing vdegetables or raising chickens and selling the food at markets; taking in laundry or doing seamstress jobs, caring for other people’schildren; etc. And they got paid for it. But no, they weren’t always going out each day to a job at a company or factory that might appear on such statistics.

  • rizzo

    Well, to counter:  There were far FAR too many middle management positions before the crash.  People were making middle class income doing work that was completely unnecessary.  Cutting out these middle men was good, but replacing those jobs with low paying retail jobs is bad but not surprising in our modern profits driven, continual profit growth style of neoliberal economy.

  • WalterC

     That’s kind of the rub though, isn’t it? The fact that feminists have been successful in fighting for women’s rights is what makes it easy to insist that feminism is no longer needed. I meet people — many of them younger women — who say things like, “I’m not a feminist” in the same tone that you would say, “I’m not a neo-Nazi”; and a large portion of those people often finish that sentence with things like “but I believe that women should be paid fairly for their work”, which is ironic for several reasons.

    It’s the same thing with unions. The benefits conferred through union activity are so ingrained, such a natural part of everyday life, that most people take them for granted. Even if your industry is not currently unionized, the pressures that unions have placed on all employers as well as on the government to improve standards benefits you directly. But if you grew up with those protections already in place, it’s easy to say, ‘I don’t need unions, what have they ever done for me?’

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    Women have always worked. This fantasy that women just sat around and planned meals and greeted their husband at the door at the end of the
    day with a martini and that women working “outside the home” is some awful dictate of the women’s movement is some 1950s-era bullshit that didn’t describe most women’s lives in the 1950s.

    Specifically, 1950s-era bullshit intended to get all those women who started working “men’s jobs” during WWII to get back into “their place.”

  • Daughter

    That seems like a huge generalization.

  • stlweb

     I am proud to be one of those liberals bred by conservative religious types.  I agree strongly with Kirala.  We are raising our children to be liberal religious types.  That will stick, won’t it?  No way they could become conservatives!  Is there?

  • Carstonio

    Oh, hell yes. I usually hear “I’m not a feminist, but” followed by a declaration of support for legal and social equality for the sexes. Which is kind of like saying, “I’m not a lawyer but I practice law.” When I point out that what they support is indeed feminism, they usually parrot the sexist myth about feminists being butch lesbians who hate men, motherhood and family.

    I groaned in frustration when I read the same old claim that feminism opposed “stay-at-home” wifedom and motherhood. For the hundredth time, feminism is about women and men having the freedom to make choices for their lives, instead of society shoehorning the sexes into restrictive roles. Nothing wrong with motherhood, it just shouldn’t be a requirement.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    If only women were people… then we could simply talk about how many working people the workforce has room for, once all the work that needs doing is being done, rather than having to separate workers into one group that is entitled to work and a different group that “floods the workforce.”

    That would be so much simpler. Perhaps we’ll manage it some day.

  • P J Evans

     WW2 was a turning point – a lot of women worked in factories and other places. (My mother was a lab tech for a major oil company. Her not-yet-parents-in-law worked in aircraft plants – they were in their 60s.)

  • P J Evans

     No, it was my reaction to being told it’s a female-dominated job. (I wrote my first program in 1970. And took engineering classes, too. Tell me about male-dominated fields.)

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     No, no.  They support The Family, not actual families of peasants.

  • EllieMurasaki

    So what happened is I wrote ‘used to be’ and you read ‘is’. Got it.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Dude, are you for real? I can’t tell if you’re parodying the Straw Feminist trotted out by conservative types or you think you’re mocking the feminists in this here blog.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Troll. Nothing worth engaging, and you know how I enjoy sparring with trolls.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X