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Location: British Columbia, Canada

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Saturday, July 23, 2005

On liberal feminism, add women and stir, and why the number's won't add up.

Warning: while rereading this post, I realized it did not contain one single original thought worth reading, but I spent to much bloody time writing it to delete it. Read at risk of complete boredom. Feel free to mock me while doing so.
Recently at my favourite coffee stop at school, a debate ensued between a number of my friends and some random twit who doesn't even know what a budget is on the providing of pensions to housewives by the Italian government. No need to get into what I think of the concept, but I will anyway.
Random twit was arguing that households need two income earners these days, and that providing pensions to homemakers would be used as justification for women who should be working to stay at home. This is just a repeat of the 'any program creates a clientelle' right wing arguement.
Now, let's ignore all the points we could use for debate which are based on morality, common sense, or basic equality, and focus on why this doesn't work, from the household budget perspective, shall we? Random twit is working with the theory that the cost of living has risen to a point where households are unable to cope without a dual income. We'll give his credit for having the ability to parrot a well known statistic here, but let's now turn to reality. What random twit is forgetting about is the unpaid hours. People who do not live with their parents, at school part time while working part time for their spending money, know that it takes not just money, but time, to run a household. If children are involved, the time required increases dramatically.
Now, to simplify things, remember that time is money, and money is time. So for anything you do, you can either do it yourself, hence not earning money for those hours worked, or pay others to do it for you, hence earning money, but paying out money at the same time.
(Brief aside here, my daughter's taken up talking to me in Spanish. We're Canadian. Don't teach Spanish in daycare round these parts. No idea where she got it from, but she's decided that it's time I learn the language, and she's the right one to teach me. They do pick up some strange things, don't they?)
So the question here is not 'How much could you be earning,' but 'What, if any, is your profits after paying others for what you could do yourself?'
Seems easy, don't it? If you make $1500 a month, and pay the daycare $1000, then your take home earnings are $500. That brings an extra $500 to the household earnings (yes, we are working within the theoretical framework of the married, 1.5 kid family here). So basically, your time is worth more outside of the household than in. Except that the daycare doesn't buy your groceries. Or do your banking. Or clean the toilet. Or walk the dog. So now your left with a paid 40 hr. week, plus an unpaid ~ hr. week. (Sorry, don't remember the avg, I'll have to look that up and plug it in at a later date.)
Now we have to incorperate the economists worst enemy, those costs and benifits which do not directly translate into dollar amounts, the satisfaction and worth you get from either option. If by working 40 hrs a week, you are forced to do large amounts of unpaid overtime, in the form of household chores, the satisfaction you get out of that $500 is probably going to be minimal. The more exhausted you get, the less satisfaction you are going to get, until you reach the point that you'd bloody well pay someone $500 if you could just get a decent nights sleep. Suddenly, $500 doens't seem like that much.
For others, that $500 is non existent. If you work for minimum wage, (here), and have a child under the age of 18 months, and need to commute to work, you're looking at $1350 pay (if you can get full time, 40 hrs, every week), $900 for daycare, leaving you $450 to pay for transportation, which obviously ain't gonna cut it. Kid get's sick, day off. Work shift ends after daycare closes, need to pay a babysitter.
Okay, so I spent way to much time explaining what is pretty obvious, (to everyone except Random Twit, that is), now lets get into my questions about the pension for homemakers. What it comes down to is that who does what in a household ought to be based on who is the best person for the job. For those who are financially stable, this incorperates a hell of a lot of house hold activites. You're CEO of the company, don't take an extra day off so you can clean house. Hire a housekeeper. It's not lazy, it's efficient. You hate to cook, take the kids out for dinner. Maximize the time spent with them, rather than ignoring them while you slave over a hot stove, only to produce burnt kraft dinner.
Unpaid work is only unpaid because the person most competent for and suited to the job is the one living in the household, in that situation. (And in a perfect world.)
So now that we've agreed that the best suited person ought to do the job, why do people still laugh when I say I want a house husband? Here we get into the 'add women and stir' problem Basically, women are capable of doing anything that men are, but we still neglect the fact that what was traditionally women's work is just as important as paid work. When insisting that women get out in the work force, do what men do, we often neglect the fact that those who do what women do, whether male or female, are just as valuable as traditionally men's work. It's not just a matter of 'add women and stir,' we also need to 'add men and stir,' and maybe come up with a working balance.
And here's where it sinks in. I've just reiterated some basic feminists principles, and managed not to add originality, humour, or, well, much of anything to it. Gotta go back and add a warning, then give up all hopes of salvaging this post and hit my balcony before the pressure washers get to my floor. Yup, sometimes you just gotta realize that you've lost, and, well, just move on.


Blogger Boo! said...

(Brief aside here, my daughter's taken up talking to me in Spanish. We're Canadian. Don't teach Spanish in daycare round these parts. No idea where she got it from, but she's decided that it's time I learn the language, and she's the right one to teach me. They do pick up some strange things, don't they?

Dora the Explorer. I'm impressed she's picking it up. Al and I tried to teach Rowan spanish for a while but the only word she liked was basuda (sp?) (garbage)

8/13/2005 11:35 PM  
Blogger Impulsivecompulsive said...

Gotta be Dora. It's amazing how much is in there, though. On her Spanish days, she barely needs any English. Sentences are a hell of alot shorter, but she'd do better in Mexico than I did.

8/14/2005 6:38 AM  
Blogger Impulsivecompulsive said...

She's also learning sign language at daycare (on of the girls there is deaf). At this rate, if I can get her into french immersion, she'll be quadrilingual by the time she's in grade one.

8/14/2005 6:39 AM  
Blogger Boo! said...

I want to get the kids into french immersion too. To hell with Al and his family... how often are the kids going to need spanish anyway? And if they make an issue of it I'll also sign them up for some Farci lessons. That's two languages they'll be able to use out here.

8/14/2005 7:42 PM  

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