It’s not the power behind the throne, it’s the housekeeping behind the throne

Our system is built on unpaid labor

We do it because we like it, right?
Source

A VP (a male VP) sent out a piece about allyship the other day where he talked about how important it is to bring women into the workforce. Something about economic development.

And I wanted to yell, “Because women’s work counts towards GDP only when it’s for an employer. But that doesn’t mean they’re not working when they’re at home!”

If a woman cleans an office, she’s paid. If she cleans her house, she’s not. If she works at a child care center, she’s paid. If she takes care of her own children, she’s not.

That’s a huge issue by itself and bigger than what I want to talk about.


Let’s narrow it down.

As if male executives could reach their positions without someone at home handling the details. For free.

There was a famous divorce case years ago. A GE exec didn’t think his stay at home wife deserved half his money.

Spoiler: SHE DID. She did deserve it.

He claimed his wife she hadn’t helped his career. As if he could have gone to work every day and worked late hours and taken business trips with a minute’s notice without someone at home cooking his food and washing his clothes and raising his children.

Some men are such jerks.

She had also managed his social life and his work social life. She had attended work parties with him and whispered, “That’s John and Jane Doe. Kids are Karen and Chad. Chad just won the sailing regatta.”

She deserved the money for attending his work parties alone.

She also deserved it for supporting him at home alone.


A CEO talking about everyone returning to the office 100% of the time was annoyed that everyone didn’t want to return to the office 100% of the time.

He made a snarky comment about how he didn’t want to commute, either, but that it was part of the job. Another exec made a comment about having to leave the laundry for the weekend.

They are so out of touch. It’s not about the commute. It’s not about the laundry.

It’s about the tiny details of everyday life – helping a first grader log onto the computer and find her class. Helping an elderly parent connect with a doctor online. Watching the kids because daycares are not accepting new customers because daycares cannot find employees.


This thought is not original to me, of course. Helen Lewis wrote a piece for the Times about unpaid labor – why were previous generations more productive than this one?

Because there was unpaid labor taking care of all the details at home.


Our system depends on people – mostly women but more and more, it’s men – dads – doing the work as well.

But the system doesn’t want to acknowledge it.

The System – let’s give it a name – wants to deny that it exists. It wants to pull everyone back into the office and work everyone to death.

Hmmmm. I can’t decide if I am more angry about women being exploited – if I am angry at The Patriarchy – or at the workers being exploited – if I am angry at Management.

Wait.

Why choose?

I am angry at both.

But mostly at The Patriarchy.


An author I follow – I can’t remember if it’s Caroline Criado Perez or Katrine Marcal (who wrote, “Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner?”) or someone else – found this story, “Why making women retire later comes with hidden cost: State picks up £5,600 bill for the caring of elderly relatives that could have been covered by women if they were not still working.”

Note that the title is not, “Why making MEN retire later comes with hidden cost: State picks up £5,600 bill for the caring of elderly relatives that could have been covered by MEN if they were not still working.”

  • Reforms which raised retirement age for women have not saved taxpayer money
  • For every woman working 30 hours a week in sixties, it costs £5,600 in lost care
  • Women who continue working reduce care they provide for parents, study found
  • A study of 7,000 women by King’s College London was published yesterday

And then there’s this: https://www.rent-a-daughter.com/, a home health care agency.

The assumption under everything, it seems, is that women will take care of everyone.

And when they don’t take care of everyone, then everyone gets cranky because now it’s women’s fault that taxpayers have to pay more money to take care of the old people that women should be taking care of for free.

It’s not The Patriarchy’s fault for assuming that women will work for free.

I hate The Patriarchy.

Source

I used to be a history denier

In my defense, they lied to me

A suffragette being arrested. I didn’t know that women had gone on hunger strikes and had been force fed – which is horrible – to get the right to vote. I didn’t know because I was not taught in school and I didn’t look for more information because I didn’t know that I didn’t know.

I used to scoff at the idea of “Women’s history.”

What a stupid thing to study in college, I thought.

And doesn’t calling it, “Women’s history” make everything else, “Men’s history” by default?”

What a stupid thing to major in! What kind of job do you even get with that?

That’s an odd question for an English major to ask, but whatever.

I didn’t think about witches and Bad Women. I thought it was a Bad Thing to burn witches at the stake, but I didn’t think about the story behind witches – what made a woman a witch? Who decided what a witch was? Why were witches always women? Why weren’t men declared bad and worthy of burning?

(Hahahahaha! Because men had the power and women didn’t is why!)

I didn’t think about the Bad Women in mythology. They were just Bad, right? They had done bad things – I assumed – and hence people were scared of them.

Wait.

Men were scared of them. Men were scared of these women.

Why?

Then I read Circe, by Madeline Miller. And my view of one of the Bad Women in Greek mythology changed.

Amazing what happens when women are the center of the story and we see things from their point of view.

Then I saw this story.

Remember how Medusa is bad?

No. She was not bad. She was sinned against. She was raped and she got her revenge. I am now totally Team Medusa.

Medusa With The Head of Perseus by Argentine-Italian artist Luciano Garbati

A 7-foot tall statue of Medusa holding the severed head of Perseus will be installed in Manhattan, across from the NY County Criminal Court, the location of high profile abuse cases including the recent Harvey Weinstein trial. I never knew this before but Medusa was stalked & raped by Poseidon and then blamed for it, and cursed by Athena with the snake hair & turning people to stone thing. She was banished and then Perseus killed & beheaded her. This statue “inverts the narrative” as a commentary on the Me Too movement. It will stand there until April. Look how badass this statue is.

Rafferty Funksmith

And there was Ophelia.

Ophelia was not crazy. (I wrote a whole thing about it here.)

That was always the narrative I had heard – Ophelia was a nutter who killed herself because – why? We don’t know? We don’t know!

Well guess what there is probably more to the story.

If I had written a paper about this in college, I would have called it, “On the Apparently Stupid, Pointless, Senseless Suicide of a Female Character Who Once Again, Exists Only In Relation To A Male Protagonist.”

But now, researchers have figured out that she was probably pregnant. The flowers she was handing out? She had rue in that bundle. Rue causes abortions. It’s illegal to sell it in the US.

Theory is she killed herself because Hamlet got her pregnant and then blew her off. It was probably the same old story – come on baby baby yeah I promise I’ll pull out but hey if anything happens it’s cool we’re getting married anyhow right?

(I am looking for the meaning of rue in her bouquet and so many of the interpretations online are that it was about adultery, repentance, or regret. I cannot understand how someone cannot read that rue was used for abortions and not jump immediately to the obvious conclusion. Perhaps it’s men writing the pieces I am finding?)


In school, I learned about the men – but I didn’t learn about the women.

Part of this, of course, is because of this phenomenon:

“Historians are men who write history.”

(This line really should be “Historians are white men who write history,” but that part is understood.)

(I am sad to say this image is from a book called, Christ the King, Lord of History, A Catholic World History from Ancient to Modern Times.)

It hasn’t been until recently that I have learned about the women artists and scientists and composers and mathematicians.

They were always there.

But we were not taught about them.

(In the same way that we were not taught about the internment camps in WWII. And how we stole – not peacefully acquired land – from the Native Americans. And about the lynchings. And the sundown towns.

I had dinner with a friend — YES! I HAD DINNER WITH A FRIEND LAST NIGHT AND IT WAS AMAZING! and discovered she had never heard of a sundown town before. She also did not know that it used to be illegal to sell houses to Black people. We are so ignorant.

And how Black people are twice as likely as white people to be killed by the police. Etc. Etc. Etc. Funny how the people in power tell the stories that keep them in power.)

But women were behind the technology of GPS and discovering the double helix of DNA and the technology of the internet. Women were behind sending humans into space. Hybrid car batteries. The discovery of pulsars (something about stars that is important – I am not sure exactly what).

These are only a few examples – there must be hundreds of other cases where the women were behind the research and were not given credit.

And who knows how many more there could have been if women hadn’t been the ones taking care of children and doing all the housework. It’s not like women choose this. The men in power – their fathers, whoever – didn’t let them go to school. Married them off young to men who kept them pregnant until they died.

I scoff no longer at women’s history.

Wait.

I scoff no longer at history.

Instead, I am strengthening and focusing my wrath on those who have hidden history from me.

When all you want to do volunteer for literacy and racial justice causes but you can’t get Medicare until you are 65 and can’t afford to buy health insurance on the open market so you are stuck working for The Man

This is how corporate America traps you

Yesterday, I got to see my former boss and two of my former co-workers. I hadn’t seen them since December 2019, when I lost my job at that company.

I loved that boss and those co-workers. When that job was good, it was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had.

That boss is one of the best bosses I’ve ever had. We will be friends forever. It was wonderful to work for someone really smart (trust me – or maybe you already know this?) it is really rare to have an intelligent boss. It is also rare to have a collaborative boss who says, Yeah, that might not work but let’s try it! And if it doesn’t work, we’ll try something else!

Boss and I had so much fun. I miss working with him. I miss it so much. He spoiled me for all bosses who might ever follow him.

And my co-workers were equally lovely. Honestly, once you get used to working with super bright people, it’s hard to go back.

After I had been at that job a few weeks – it was in the R&D group of an engineering company, one of the engineers asked me how it was going.

Me: OMG I am the stupidest person in this group!

Engineer:

Engineer:

Engineer: You seem bright enough to me.

Me: Hahahahaha!

Old friend, later, after I told him the story: Yeah, he didn’t understand that what you were really saying was, I am so relieved that I am no longer working with complete idiots.


Which – was the case.

I had left a toxic job for the new job with the R&D engineers.

I started looking for a new job the week after I started at toxic job. Toxic job was an internal move that they had known about for a month and yet, when I got there, they didn’t have a space or a computer for me. That was one of many prompts for me to start looking for a new job.

The board fired the toxic job CEO a few months after I quit, so I am not making this up. The CEO was awful – some people quit by not coming back from lunch.

And, understandably, with such awful leadership, people were not invested in the work and put in no extra effort. Even more understandably, the company did not retain good people. The people who remained were not particularly motivated and although there were a few bright lights, there were also some that were – not.


So anyway. Good Boss and Good Co-workers and I had lunch and it was so fun to see them.

I explained that I had taken a huge pay cut with my new job. (Although I don’t know if it counts as a pay cut if you go from unemployed to employed.)

Me: It’s OK, though. I knew that’s what the job paid and I took it. It has health insurance. I have a job. I am very fortunate. It’s a good problem to have. But – I am being paid a low salary but am doing high-level work. That’s what I don’t like. I don’t want all that responsibility and stress.

Good Boss: Maybe there’s a path for growth? Maybe they’ll see how great you are and raise your pay?

Me: I don’t want my pay to increase to match my responsibilities! I want my responsibilities to go down to match my pay!

And that, my friends, is the dream.

None of us are happy with our jobs now, all for different reasons.

But we all want the same thing: as little work as possible plus health insurance.

Work that we turn off as soon as we walk out of the office.

We are all done. DONE.

Good Boss: Yeah, I’ve looked into working at Home Depot.

Co-worker: I think the mistake many people make is asking, “How much do I need to survive?” The real question is, “How little do I need to survive?”

(They are both very smart engineers, making very good money.)

Like I said. We are DONE.

These are My People.

I’d rather switch than fight

I don’t mind fighting The Man, but – a nice woman who has cut my hair? – that’s completely different

Those are not blonde highlights. That’s red plus the gray that I come by naturally. This is not a good way to look at a person’s hair, I don’t think.

I finally got my hair done.

Finally.

I found a new hairdresser – vaxxed, close to my house, very very reasonable prices.

Nice.

She’s really nice.

I like her.

I asked for blonde highlights.

I didn’t think I needed to get any more specific than that because – blonde is blonde, right?

We all agree on the definition of “blonde?”

I thought so.

But then she did my foils – and left me in the chair for 30 minutes.

She didn’t put me under a hairdryer.

Which was weird.

Because I have never not been put under the hairdryer after I’ve been foiled.

Perhaps the technology has changed? After all, it’s been a year and a half since the last time I had my hair highlighted.

But then after she washed out the chemicals and cut my hair and dried it, I looked in the mirror.

“It looks – red,” I said.

She nodded. “The lighting is kind of weird in here. I was trying to match the blonde that was left at the ends of your hair.”

But the cut – the cut was great.

Maybe the color would look different at home.

The color did not look different at home.

I thought, I’ll just make another appointment for next month and this time, we will discuss what “blonde” means.

I thought, I don’t want to wait another month.

I thought, I don’t think she knows how to do color.

I thought, But she does a great cut.

I thought, I could just go to SuperCuts tomorrow and get the highlights there.

I thought, But SuperCuts won’t tell me if the stylists are vaxxed.

I thought, But they know how to do highlights.

And this was where Texan faced her moral dilemma.

I thought, But the CDC says as long as I’m vaxxed, it’s OK.

I thought, What if it’s an anti-vaxxer cutting my hair?

I thought, I WANT HIGHLIGHTS.

I thought, But – what if it’s an anti-vaxxer?

Then we got the male perspective.

And then Mr T asked, “Why don’t you tell the stylist who did it wrong that you want your money back?

And I had no answer except that I hadn’t even considered that option.

He said, “When the new stylist I saw accidentally cut too much off, I protested and she evened it out but it was much shorter than I wanted so she told me she would NOT charge me so I tipped her anyhow but a lot more than I would have tipped otherwise.”

He asked, “When you saw it wasn’t what you wanted, why didn’t you just refuse to pay?”

And I thought, “Men and women are so different.”

And I thought, “Or maybe it’s just me – maybe I’m the big chicken here. Maybe I’m the one with the problem. Maybe every other woman in the world would have said, ‘Nope. Nope. No way. I wanted blonde and that’s not blonde. I’m not paying.'”

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe every other woman in the world could tell the stylist who had just spent two hours on her hair – including a really good cut – that the color was bad and she refused to pay.

But I don’t know how to do that.