During election cycles, we hear much about the "angry white men" who will tip the scales for some lucky fellow.We don't hear as much from pundits about the angry white women.
Admittedly those women aren't all white, but they do exist.
How can political analysts eavesdrop on voters who don't use talk radio? They could ask to hear the letters women craft secretly to their bosses. A word of caution. Analysts should disregard the short ones. "Dear Employer, You can take this job and shove it" could be about anything.Insight lies in the wordier ones.The following is only one hypothetical sample of a rich field available for those politicos who want to listen.
(Imsande teaches history and women's studies at Central Lakes College in Brainerd.)
I love my job, so much that I voluntarily work weekends and nights. But I'm just so tired. My children deserve Mom's energy, but they get Mom's exhaustion.
I recognized the symptoms of what one scholar calls the "time famine" enervating American families. I resigned from committees, commissions and boards. I keep my head down at work and avoid eye contact when Pastor needs volunteers.
But all that avoidance is making me tired. So I asked to work part time. You then explained that paying workers full benefits for part-time work is bad business in bad times. I volunteered to work half-time. Substantially reduced benefits and salary was the ugly price my spouse and I agreed to pay for a ticket out of the time famine. Surely, I added, this helps you cut costs.
Neither was this acceptable. Finding a similarly qualified replacement for the one-half job I would vacate would tax management. My shoes, I learned, are big ones to fill.
Here's the problem. We're all so tired. Americans work 140 hours more each year than we did 20 years ago. That's nearly one month more spent at work and one month less spent with children, homes, spouses, churches, communities.
For women workers the problem is acute. Over 90 percent of women will become mothers at some point in their life. At that point, researchers tell us, women's income (and time) starts to swirl down the tank. Although the income gap is closing between men and unmarried and childless women, it grows between mothers and others.
Wonder how that could be? Look in the mirror. The rationale that you used to deny my request is used by every other employer denying similar requests. Such rationales seem natural. They sound natural. But they are funded by an unnatural and irrational market norm: an image of the ideal worker as someone who can work 40 plus hours every week year-round (and make it to 7 a.m. meetings) and never take time off for care-giving responsibilities.
That image can't include mothers. Research shows that women still do 80 percent of the child care and 65 percent of the housework. If women follow the ideal worker norm, who will pack the lunches and wash the socks? Who will care for the healthy or sick children or the aging or dependent adults?
The amount of child care and housework that men do is increasing, but so are men's hours. The average American male works 49 hours each week. Employers who expect men to work extensive overtime and forego child-rearing responsibilities ensure that fathers don't see children and mothers wash the socks.
We often hear that full-time work is normal and ideal from male employers who have an unemployed or underemployed spouse at home, no caregiving responsibilities, and a secretary who protects his time at work.
Whether employers who deny alternative work arrangements are discriminating against caregivers or simply making wise budget decisions, aren't the consequences the same? Caregivers get a tough choice: they can maintain their workload and bear the price, or they can seek a job with reduced hours (and benefits) and bear that price.
Most say that this is a private choice negotiated within the family. But if the choice to opt out of the best jobs is still usually made by caregivers, and if caregivers are still largely female, then is it really a choice?
Already, 40 percent of workers are caring for children under the age of 18. Twenty percent of workers have elder-care responsibilities, a number sure to grow as baby boomers age. If you think that all these caregivers would 'choose' to surrender health insurance, salary, pensions, seniority and advancement opportunities, then you probably also believe that I chose my Volkswagen over the BMW.
Does the emphasis on 'choice' hide a filter that keeps women out of the best jobs? Many employers would not consider discriminating against a mother with young children. But when employers structure job requirements around men's lives (circa 1920), they become co-author of a system in which working moms today earn 60 cents for each dollar earned by working dads.
I guess I have to quit.
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