Wednesday, November 24, 2010

An economy based on feminized labor?

Feminism has been played by the corporate elites of the world to power their neoliberal, capitalist economic and political systems.

And what's worse -- most feminists don't even realize it.

That's the message of Hester Eisenstein's book, "Feminism Seduced: How Global Elites Use Women's Labor and Ideas to Exploit the World" (2009)

Eisenstein is a Professor of Sociology at Queens College and the CUNY Graduate Center. She explains the title of her book:

"I entitled this book "Feminism Seduced," because I felt that in the process of selling globalization, corporate leaders and other elites have been systematically trying to seduce women into embracing the expansion of capitalism ... corporate media publicize the achievements of women in high places. All of this has seemed to me to be an overall effort to smoothly fold feminism and feminist ideas into the corporate embrace."

It is indeed a seductive economic, social and gender-based tango on the domestic and international stage.

Here at home, Eisenstein traces the changes in the United States as the economy was radically restructured away from manufacturing and towards a low-wage, unorganized service sector where big corporations take advantage of a vast pool of predominantly female labor.

Need proof?

As of May 2009, statistics show fifteen jobs accounted for more than 25% of U.S. employment, but only three of those had mean wages above the U.S. average of $20.90 per hour, or $43,460 annually*.

Of those 14 jobs, nine would be considered feminized labor, or woman's work. I've ranked them by annual pay, highest to lowest:

Bookkeeper, accounting, auditing clerk, $34,750
Customer service rep., $32,410
Secretary, except legal/medical, executive, $31,060
Office clerk, general , $27,700
Retail Sales Person, $24,300
Stock clerk/order filler, $23,460
Waitperson, $20,300
Cashier, $19,030
Food preparation, fast food, $18,120

There are two feminized exceptions*:

Registered nurse, $66,530
Elementary school teacher, except special ed., $53,150

What Eisenstein refers to as mainstream feminism -- basically the liberal feminism of the 1960s and 1970s has affected gains for women, but it's a good news/bad news scenario. Eisenstein says:

" ... the good news for women as the result of the long and hard struggles by unions and by anti-discrimination lawsuits, was the opening up of access to virtually all areas of work. The bad news was that with overall economic restructuring, wage levels stagnated for decades.

"... government officials were quick to use feminist ideology, interpreted as women's rights to paid employment, as a way to gut the welfare legislation of 1935, thereby removing a crucial safety net that had helped to provide a floor for wages."

How clever was that?

We see a similar perpetuation of this same mindset around the nation today as more states -- including Michigan -- continue to overturn parts of their affirmative action laws.

The latest hot spot is Utah -- where a proposal would overturn affirmative action laws, not just as they apply to universities, but to public contracts and state employment as well.

You'll want to listen to this segment from "The Takeaway."

"So Long to Affirmative Action in Utah?"

*Sources (courtesy of the Detroit Free Press:) U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Michigan Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives. The third job exception is General operations manager, $110,550.

1 comment:

  1. Cherie: What a pleasure to come across this smart and informed commentary on my book! Thank you for not only getting my argument but building upon it. Wishing you well with your career in journalism. Let me know if there is anything I can do to assist you. All best,

    Hester Eisenstein