Writings

Entries by Dr. Harriet Fraad (37)

Wednesday
Nov282012

The Obama Election: Lessons for a Political Movement

By Harriet Fraad | Op-Ed | First Published In Truthout

Obama was elected to arrest US fascism, not because he can deliver hope, jobs, prosperity or a fulfilling life to the majority who elected him; but that majority can become a movement that will achieve those goals.

Obama has not delivered on the economic promises of hope and change he offered in 2008. He added a new conflict in Pakistan to the other two losing imperial wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that cause thousands of senseless deaths and create millions of enemies for America. Why did Obama win? What lessons are there for us to learn from his victory?

First, I want to offer some background information about the votes in this election. In times of economic and social pain, people tend to look for different and more extreme solutions to their problems. The social status quo in their nations fails to provide adequate jobs and decent lives. In nations like Greece, France and Spain, we are watching people polarize between the Left and the Right, between anti-capitalist socialism and fascism. (These nations have long had parties socialist in name only). The US does not have a viable Left. However we do have a Right fascistic movement with a particularly American program. Romney approached that program in the primaries. His vision was characterized by a politics for the top 20 percent that throws the rest of the American people under the bus.

The American fascistic tendency has a religious face. Those who are born again in Christ, evangelicals, Orthodox Jews, fundamentalists or Mormons are worth saving. Others are condemned. Like Hitler and Mussolini, the far right extols marriage between submissive women and dominant men who have numerous submissive children. The same, "traditional family" Hitler and Mussolini endorsed, is endorsed by many Mormons, evangelicals, Southern Baptists, fundamentalists, Orthodox Jews - especially Hasidim - and Catholics. Those who question hierarchical religion, such as spiritual progressives and non-believers, are condemned. Church state separation is damned. In the words of Jerry Falwell, "The Idea that religion and politics don't mix was invented by the Devil to keep Christians from running their own country...."

Related features of a US fascistic agenda shared by other fascist movements and political parties are a mythical past of unmitigated American glory, homophobia, misogyny, extreme nationalism, anti-intellectualism and anti-multiculturalism. In a particularly strange manifestation, the US fascistic agenda includes hatred of immigrants in a nation of immigrants founded on ethnic cleansing of the only native people originally here. Throughout Romney's campaign, there emerged occasional and powerful fascistic memes such as the violent reformulation of rape, the rejection of science - climate change and conception. These offer a retreat from frightening realities down a slippery slope toward imaginary pasts that were neither inclusive nor ideal. For most, Obama's victory was built on uniting those constituencies who are condemned by the Right. It was that majority of Americans who voted to defeat a fascistic agenda. I believe they did so not because Obama will deliver the better lives his policies have thus far failed to deliver. Instead I believe that they voted for Obama to reject US fascism.

Pro-Obama constituencies are emblematic of a new America. Asians, Hispanics and African-Americans, referred to as "minorities," are the actually the new majority. Most American children are what is called "minorities."

The women who supported Obama were not part of the "gender gap" that was so widely reported. The majority of married women backed Romney. Romney garnered 53 percent of married women's votes. It was unmarried women who strongly supported Obama. Fully 68 percent of unmarried women voted for Obama, as opposed to only 30 percent for Romney. Unmarried women supported Obama by a more than 2-to-1 ratio. For the first time in recorded US history, the majority of US women are single That is not only because women grow older and live longer than men. For the first time since the census began in 1880, the majority of women in what is referred to as prime fertility ages, 18 to 34 years old, are unmarried. These women voted against what was known as Romney's "war on women." Unmarried women are another majority that is largely unrecognized as a political force.

Still another group that is unrecognized is non-believers. We have never had a US president or presidential candidate declaring himself a non-believer, even though non-believers constitute 20 percent of Americans. The Mormon religion captures only 2 percent of Americans. One in five Americans is a non-believer. Approximately 40 percent of US citizens state that they attend church. However, they do not. Because of the false impressions delivered by US media, the truth is actually distorted. In actuality, less than 20 percent of US citizens attend church. There are fewer people attending church than the number saying they are non-believers. Non-believers are off of our public radar even though they are growing as fundamentalists, evangelicals, established Christian denominations and Catholics are decreasing their numbers. Non-believers voted for Obama. Non-believers are fully 30 percent of young Americans under 34 years old. They, like unmarried women, are an unrecognized political force.

Young people are another Obama constituency. They have suffered terribly in the last four years, but three out of five of them voted for Obama. They too are a powerful and not yet organized constituency. They differ from older Americans in that a majority of young people from 18 to 29 prefer socialism to capitalism.

Gays are yet another constituency for Obama. It is estimated that one out of 10 US citizens is gay. An impressive 76 percent of gays voted for Obama.

Obama was elected as a way to hold back the tide of US fascism with its misogyny, nationalism, militarism, homophobia, anti-intellectualism, anti-multiculturalism, anti-labor, and religiosity. Obama cannot deliver hope, jobs, prosperity, or a fulfilling life to the majority who elected him. The past election cost more than $6 billion. Obama cannot desert his economic backers. He will not create the 22 million decently-paid jobs that would be the equivalent of the 11 million or more jobs FDR created during our last Depression. (Our population has doubled since the last Great Depression). FDR created those jobs because there was a mass Communist and Socialist movement that threatened the capitalist system by exposing capitalism as the source of the Great Depression. FDR raised taxes on the rich to 94 percent. Those taxes financed government jobs and programs. The mass US Communist and Socialist movements impelled many powerful capitalists to support radical changes that would stop the threat to the entire capitalist system.

It took approximately 50 years for the alliance of capitalist giants, anti-labor forces, racists, religious fundamentalists, and anti-civil rights, anti-women's rights, anti-intellectuals, anti-multiculturalists and anti-gay rights groups to tear down the protective legislation that FDR and his government put in place.

This election showed that there is a basis for a powerful movement based on toleration of difference, economic rights and equality, full civil rights, women's rights, gay rights, multiculturalism, an educated population and church state separation. That coalition lives among the constituencies that prevented a fascistic agenda. It is that coalition that reelected a president who did not deliver his promises of peace or prosperity. At least he was not a fascist.

We can do better. It is time for the US to create a democratic and socialist movement for tolerance, separation of church and state, equal opportunity and full human recognition. This time we will not be fooled into enacting regulations to protect and support our vision, while leaving the majority of the wealth and with that wealth, the power, in the same capitalist hands that brought America down. That wealth must be used for the majority, the 80 percent who own only 11 percent of America's wealth, while the top 20 percent own 89 percent of our wealth. The demographic of the movement we develop is right there in the election results. It is time to build a movement based on that strong coalition.

Saturday
Oct062012

Living Alone: The Rise of Capitalism and the Decline of Families

By Harriet Fraad | Book Review | First Published In Truthout

Three books. Three eye-opening accounts of tectonic shifts in American life. And one extraordinary analysis of the intimate connections between the new economy, the political power structure and the historic rise of one-person households.

Tectonic shifts are changes in the very foundations of the earth. The books I review illustrate these shifts in the ways that Americans manage their personal lives: how we live day to day, with whom we live and what kinds of relationships we have.

Three recent widely-acclaimed books track changes in America's personal life. They are "Going Solo," (Eric Klinenberg, New York: The Penguin Press, 2012); "The Outsourced Self," (Arlie Russell Hochschild, New York: Metropolitan Books, 2012); and "Coming Apart," (Charles Murray, New York: Crown Forum-Random House, 2012).

None of the three describe the duet danced between the changes they astutely observe and the new US economy and political power structure. I will try to do that here.

Going Solo

"Going Solo" describes the meteoric rise of people choosing to live alone. Today - for the first time since the census began counting in 1880 - more than half of American adults are single. They are tied with childless couples for the distinction of being the most predominant residential type, more numerous than nuclear families with children, multigenerational families, roommate homes or group homes. Manhattan alone is home to a million people whom Klinenberg calls "singletons," living alone in one-person dwellings. Manhattan is typical of US and European cities. The people living solo are not all old widows and widowers. For the first time in recorded US history, the majority of people that the census refers to as of "prime marriageable age" – 18 to 34 years old - are unmarried and live alone. For younger Americans this does not feel like a radical change. For older Americans it is a sea change.

Klinenberg is enthusiastic about this development. He mentions, but does not focus on, its wildly different outcomes for people who do and do not have money. For the affluent top 20 percent, living solo can be a refuge. For the employed professional, it can deliver respite from the constant demands of stressful work lives. It is now common knowledge that the 8-hour day is lost in America and folks need to escape from employers.

Cell phones and job precarity make workers available at all hours. Wealthy "singletons" can work until late at night and then go to bars or restaurants with their fellow workers and spend money and time decompressing before they return to the peace of their single dwellings. On weekends, when they have discretionary time, they can entertain themselves through their personal computers or with the thousands of opportunities a city can provide for those who can pay. Older, affluent solo dwellers who are either employed or retired can go to the theater or expensive films, dinners out, etc.

If they are at home, social media on their computers can keep them somewhat connected. In short, they can connect on their own schedules in ways that having money facilitates. If they are old and infirm and in the 10 percent to 20 percent of privileged Americans, they can hire caretakers who accompany them and make socializing and cultural events possible. They can stay more connected on their own terms.

Not so with the 80 percent of youth who also work - or try to work - long hours. They cannot afford to go out and spend money and often cannot afford computers. Younger people can find each other and hang out in less safe environments where the police may bother them for loitering. Elderly poor singletons are often stuck in isolating and dangerous single-room-occupancy hotels. They often live in poor and dangerous neighborhoods where they cannot feel safe enough to sit outside or go to a local park if there is one. They cannot afford computers or lessons in how to use them. Lines for computer access at the public library are long and library hours are cut. If seniors are in the 80 percent who cannot afford sufficient paid care, and do not have devoted local children, friends or relatives, they are isolated and often depressed. This is the poor neglected side of US single life, or death as the case may be.

Why is This Tectonic Shift Happening Now? A Question Untouched in "Going Solo"

Part of the glue that held relationships together in the past was a strict division of gender roles. Closely related was the segregation of employment opportunities. Another part was the unavailability of reliable, safe birth control and abortion, which left many women and children dependent on the male wage. Family wages were almost always unavailable for women and minority men. Their lives were considerably harder. Full or high employment in a scarce labor market reserved for white men included financial rewards for being white and being male.

That began to change in the 1970s. Advanced international communications systems, computer technology and weak unions allowed corporate outsourcing to export US jobs. Jobs at home shifted to social service jobs which are harder to outsource. Social service jobs are lower paid and tend to be female jobs. At the same time, women and minority rights movements expanded their labor opportunities. Capitalists no longer had to give white men wage supplements for jobs reserved for them. Capitalists replaced white men with both low wage people from Third World nations and cheaper minority and female labor in the US.

Without their family wages, white men could no longer support their wives' full time labor as dependent household servants, sex mates and child-care providers. Families needed more money. Millions of white women joined their minority sisters in the labor force. Some were driven by their own wish for fulfillment. Most were driven by economic necessity. With women's changed position as wage-earners, the economic backbone of gender-segregated families began to break.

The 1970s also brought the advent of the LGBTQ movement which has contributed to changes in gender stereotypes. LGBTQ relationships have their own dynamics. Gender role stereotypes have not been as rigid and limiting in LGBTQ relationships as they were, and often are, in heterosexual relationships.

LGBTQ relationships have been both benefitted and also injured by a society in which they were not given the legitimacy accorded straight relationships. On the one hand this has made it harder for LGBTQ couples to sustain long-term relationships. On the other hand, LGBTQ long-term couples tend to be happier in their relationships.

In the 1970s and thereafter, LGBTQ, feminist and civil rights ideology permeated the society and entered American homes. Women claimed more autonomy and respect. However, heterosexual couples and families did not often develop collective communal styles of relationships to match their shared roles at work. Housework and childcare were and are still overwhelmingly performed by women in hetero families.

Old-style hetero relationships consist of a now impossible level of male responsibility, an unshared financial burden and male dominance combined with an equally impossible burden of female housework, combined with childcare, and jobs outside of the home. Women had a liberation movement to help us escape from our limited lives in household labor and it is women who have dramatically reversed our role and rejected marriage.

Men did and do not have a movement to help them appreciate the new intimacy possible in egalitarian couple relationships. Traditional men often expect their wives to fulfill traditional roles and also to work outside the home. Many men demand extra emotional labor to soothe male egos wounded by lost financial dominance. Former hierarchical models of relationships are broken, and new communal models are less available, especially for blue collar heterosexual men who are the hardest hit by our changed economy. There are no measures for communal relationships. However, there is a statistical record of men opting out of shared household labor and childcare.

Living alone may seem preferable to struggles that neither partner in the relationship can understand, let alone resolve. The same kind of communal sharing and mutually empowering economic, intellectual, social and economic equality that Left movements advocated for the economy are needed in the home, where they are unavailable. Living alone looks more desirable than struggling together to achieve what neither understands. This too is relevant to the mass movement of "going solo."

There is an additional factor. Many young people cannot find mates. US society has become increasingly isolated. Putnam documents the incredible isolation of current US society.

The difficulty of finding a partner is such a fact of US life, that two new sitcoms on the subject, "The Mindy Project" and "Ben and Kate" will appear this fall on Fox TV.

Although many young people look for partners on the Internet, the Internet serves to conceal as well as reveal those who advertise themselves, and many find it painfully inadequate.

Between the difficulties in meeting a partner and the confusion and pain of changed gender expectations, many remain single.

"Outsourced"

Arlie Russell Hochschild writes about another new phenomenon, one predominantly experienced by what I would call the top 20 percent of the US population who can afford to pay for personal services Hochschild presents the wide variety of personal services one can buy if one has the means. She points out that this is indeed a capitalist phenomenon happening in the context of frantic work schedules and market solutions. People hire children's birthday party coordinators, and professional baby naming services. They go to baby farms in India to hire baby bearers who carry US parents' fertilized eggs to maturity.

Employed, educated, well-paid couples pay for substitutes in personal arenas of life. Turning to "professionals" who manage and fulfill their personal obligations - manage and decorate and clean their homes, birth their babies, etc. - has negative consequences that are not factored into the equation.
Wealthier Americans lose touch with their families and with their ability to provide meaningful services for themselves and those they love. It is unfair to Arlie's excellent work to fault her for not writing a different book, however another book needs to be written about the consequences for those whose work schedules are crippling their personal lives and who cannot afford to outsource what were the labors of love. They are suffering terribly. They have no recourse to trained, paid professionals to clean their homes, make their meals, provide quality care and afterschool educational opportunities for their children, take care of their aging parents, etc. While the 80 percent are overworked, their old parents and their children suffer without help.

Hochschild's book implicitly and explicitly criticizes the capitalist idea that money can and will not only replace, but provide a better alternative to personal time and effort and the thousand knowledges that can come with caring for children, creating a birthday party on which children work with parents, going through a pregnancy, creating a meal together -- ad infinitum.

This excellent book points the way to crucial research that needs to be done. An important question is: What are the knowledges that come from personal care around intimate moments and shared time and experience? What is learned is often in the realm of women's emotional labor in the home. Hochschild is the founder and a primary explorer of the term "emotional labor," a huge contribution.

In spite of her pioneering, and crucial work, the skills and powerful knowledges learned by both the givers and receivers of emotional labor have never been delineated. They are part of what has been women's labor, but since that labor is neither defined nor explicitly valued, they are not financially rewarded. The overwhelming majority of women's paid labor is in low pay, pink collar jobs as servers, receptionists, secretaries, child care workers, nurses, nurses' aides - jobs that require emotional labor.

Perhaps if the skills employed in emotional labor were enumerated and compensated, all work that requires emotional labor, including the unpaid work of mothers, might be rewarded by our economy instead of punished with lower salaries and less job mobility.

The implicit message of Hochschild's book is a critique of capitalist values that largely ignore the fundamental work of sustaining people's lives in favor of work that directly produces profit. The drive for profit produces endless personal services sold to wealthier over-committed people. At the same time I must point out that those services for pay are not there for the majority of Americans who cannot pay. Low income, hardworking parents and their families cannot afford the basic services that would allow their families to enjoy a decent quality of life. The drive for profit, combined with the least time off in the industrial world, robs all of the American people of time off to care for, and fully enjoy, their families. Although poor working families suffer most, all economic strata are deprived.

"Coming Apart"

Murray's book, "Coming Apart," is very much like Patrick Moynihan's famous study of the African-American family, "The Negro Family: The Case For National Action," (1965) - often referred to as the "Moynihan Report."

Moynihan blamed the dysfunction and male absence in the African-American family on poor work habits, immorality and pathology. In parallel fashion, Murray blames the disintegration of the white working class family on its immorality, loss of religious belief, laziness and lack of discipline. Murray does not imagine any social, economic or political development that may have contributed to causing this behavior, which is a mass social phenomenon.

"Coming Apart" has received accolades from the media and the press. It shifts the problems of US capitalism on to the shoulders of its victims. Murray and his fans disregard the fact that just as African-American men in the US were denied family wages, which made it near impossible to support families, now white working class men in parallel fashion have lost the family wages that supported their families. Blue collar males now join their minority brothers and suffer low wages, mass precarity, unemployment or under-employment and the ego wounds that accompany the inability to support a family.

What has changed is not the sudden laziness or immorality of blue collar men, but US capitalism. Our economy has radically shifted since the 1970s when the majority of white families consisted of wage-earning males and dependent wives and children.

That was not a family form recommended by this author. Its stability was paid for with women's economic dependence and subordination and men's onerous financial burden. Its logic often led to marriages built on the financial dependency of women and the guilt of men, marriages which were often resigned and bitter. It polarized male and female gender roles and obstructed the deep, respectful, intimate friendship between men and women that can happen among sharing equals.

What Happened: A Summary

Beginning in the 1970s, computers reached a level of sophistication that allowed them to accomplish several goals favorable to large capitalist firms. Computers could and did replace millions of jobs. In just one of infinite examples, computer scanners replaced jobs in taking inventory in retail establishments. Bar codes knocked out millions of jobs.

Advanced telecommunications allowed capitalists to outsource US jobs to Third World workers from China, Bangladesh, etc., whose meager salaries and frightening working conditions were reinforced by police states (see also article here).

Our compromised unions did not organize to prevent outsourcing. US middle class prosperity was based on wages that were raised in tandem with profits. Capitalists froze wages. Capitalists no longer had to pay extra for American workers in general, and white male workers in particular. They exported jobs abroad, and hired lower paid women and minorities at home.

Financial necessity forced the mass of US women into the labor force. That in turn created extra expenditures for prepared food, cleaning, child care, etc. to substitute for what had been women's unpaid labors at home. Americans did not enjoy the vacation time, free child care, free university education and free medical care that their socialist compatriots had fought for and won in Europe. All were additional costs borne by individual families.

Men could not bear those costs and support their families on frozen wages. The hegemony of white men was struck a blow. The white middle class was decimated.

The economic model of the wage-earning male and dependent wife and children was finished.

New egalitarian models of relationships were present in family therapy ideology and feminism, however they did not and do not dominate the US romantic landscape.

The social and economic conditions of existence that might have supported egalitarian relationships of equal partners were, and are, not in place. There was and is no free universal child care, health care, maternity and paternity leave, family leave, job security or guaranteed vacation time. Women struggle with double shifts of work in both the marketplace and at home.

Men feel belittled, angry and entitled to more emotional succor to compensate for the financial blows they receive in their work lives. Children are neglected and needy. They demand more time and energy, primarily from their exhausted mothers. Women are deserting men who can no longer provide for their families and yet expect double shifts from their wives. Blue collar marriages blow apart at an unprecedented rate.
The people whose marriages last longer are in the privileged and professional sectors - people who can outsource tasks of domestic and personal life to maids, nannies, daycare and after school programs, summer and vacation camps, restaurants, takeout food, professional laundries, etc.

Outsourcing of tasks deprives well-to-do families of intimate family activities and leaves the majority, who cannot afford such extensive services, both deprived and wanting.

Living solo appeals to millions. The demands of relationships, the rules and expectations of which have changed, are too much to manage. Living alone is the fastest-growing form of household.

Millions of men who have been denied their family wages find refuge for male domination in right-wing anti-woman politics and fundamentalist and Catholic religions with their emphasis on denying women's independence through anti-abortion and anti-birth control movements, opposing equal wages for women and denying support for raped and battered women.

Other men seek to take back their male power through guns. (None of the explosion of mass killings have been committed by women.) Millions more seek power in heterosexual pornography in which women are portrayed as inviting sexual degradation.

On the other side, millions endorse more support for expanding public services that support families, from schools, food stamps and school lunches to daycare or universal health care.

Each of the three books I discuss, "Living Solo," "Outsourced" and "Coming Apart," attests to tectonic shifts in US personal life. All three are silent on the apparition of the looming elephant in the room.

The elephant in the room is the capitalist colossus that has replaced and outsourced decent jobs, cut wages, denied family supports and decimated the US family. Within this disaster, living solo seems preferable. Emotional life is outsourced or neglected and families come apart.

Right-wing ideology has captured Americans who feel that their family lives are looted. The right is the only sector that explicitly, verbally supports the work of raising a family, even though it simultaneously denies financial support to every aspect of family well-being.

The Left has ignored the bleeding US family to our detriment. We have stood outside the personal arena too long. Capitalism and intimate life are intimately interconnected. All three of the popular books I discuss engage the crucial topic of changed personal life, a topic which the Left largely ignores. We will need to address both capitalist plunder and personal life if we want a chance to win.

Wednesday
Jun132012

Capitalist Profit and Intimate life - Pornography Enters the Picture

By Harriet Fraad and Tess Fraad-Wolff. To appear in The Journal of Psychohistory Volume 40 Winter 2013.

Psychohistorians need to look at the psychological consequences which are coupled with the America’s economic conditions. This article focuses on the interaction between the US economy and American’s intimate personal lives.

Massive social changes in the US labor force and in commerce have transformed the economy and powerfully affected personal relationships. Since 1970 we have changed from being a society of people connected in groups of every kind, to a society of people who are too often disconnected, detached, and alienated from one another (Putnam, R. 2000, Fraad, 2006, Fraad, 2010).

One is the loneliest number, and in their personal lives, Americans are increasingly alone (http://www.unmarried.org/statistics.html#living-single).

What has happened to us?

In the 1970s, the American dream of 150 years duration ground to a halt. From 1820 to 1970, every US generation did better than the one that preceded it. The economic progress of every generation of white Americans was at the heart of the American dream. In the 1970s, computers began to replace millions of US jobs. International communication systems became so sophisticated that factories could be profitably moved overseas where labor was cheap and labor conditions were unregulated. The livelihoods of millions of decently paid Americans were outsourced. Civil rights and feminist gains had given women and minorities access to a depleted job market. Militant left, trade union movements or political parties were not there to protest. After 1989, the USSR was no longer present as an alternative albeit a compromised one. It was no longer as necessary to build a decidedly capitalist prosperity for the mass of Americans. Wages flattened. Profits continued to rise as did productivity. Since productivity gains were no longer shared with wages earners, the share distributed to the top continued to rise (Fraad, 2006). Wealthy banks issued credit cards with high interest rates that allowed them to profit by loaning people the money that had formerly been salaries.

Men were no longer paid a family wage. Families suffered. Women poured into the labor force to make up for lost male wages (Fraad, 2006, 2009, 2010). Until this point, most women’s work was primarily labor in the home: creating domestic order and cleanliness, performing childcare and providing social and emotional services for the family. After the 1970s, the majority of women worked outside of the home as well as within it. Now, practically all women work outside the home, currently constituting half of the labor force (Evans, 2009).

Before the movements for racial and gender equality, the best jobs were reserved for white males who were an overwhelming majority. Within our racist and sexist labor force, white men had what ultimately amounted to two wage bonuses: one for being white and another for being male. Beginning in the 1970s it became less necessary to pay higher wages to any workers in the US labor force. Workers’ salaries flattened even as workers increased their efficiency. This meant that ever more profit was made and accumulated at the top.
American white men lost a good deal of the male hegemony that accompanied steady jobs and wages that could support a family. When millions of manufacturing jobs were outsourced, our economy became a service economy. Neither the greater physical strength nor the higher levels of aggression associated with males are particularly welcome in a service economy. Heterosexual personal relationships that had developed on the basis of a male provider income could not hold. Those gendered roles were sexist and limiting. They could have been transformed politically without economically and psychologically traumatizing the American people. A movement was needed that united men and women in appreciating  and appropriating the skills that had been primarily associated with the female gender role. Those are skills involved in the emotional labor that works to create people’s happiness as well as the skills of nurturing people physically and psychologically together as one sustains vulnerable lives.

New roles

US women adjusted to their new roles in the marketplace for which the Women’s movement prepared us. Unfortunately, men were not prepared, nor did they make comparable changes. They held on to the privileges that came with men’s provider roles and women’s full time service in the household. The average unemployed man currently does less housework than his fully employed wife (Fraad 2009, 63-64)
Most US men can longer support dependent wives. However, many want extra domestic, sexual, and emotional services to compensate them for the emasculation they experience when they lose provider jobs and salaries. There is conflict in the household on a whole new level. Our divorce rate has become the highest in the world. It is highest among less educated less prosperous couples (new-economy-of-marriage-pdf-pew-socialtrends.org). Only better educated and more prosperous couples can afford to hire the labor of other, poorer women to provide nanny care, maid service, take out food, professionally cleaned clothes, etc. Unfortunately, men and women did not mobilize to force the government to provide free or subsidized childcare, eldercare, or any other direly necessary social services that could ease women’s “second shift” at home.

In 2008, the recession struck, plunging millions of Americans into precarity and loss. Male jobs were hit hardest. Most of the jobs lost were in disproportionately-stereotypically male fields like construction, heavy machinery, finance and aggressive big-ticket sales. 75% of the more than 5 million jobs lost in our recession have been traditionally men’s jobs (www.tikkun.org/article.php/jan10_depressions, (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/job-losses-breach-5-million-mark).

Men have fallen behind. Women’s earnings grew 44% from 1970 to 2007 compared with 6% growth for men’s jobs (new-economy-of-marriage-pdf-pew-socialtrends.org). Women now occupy nearly half of the nations’ jobs, more than half of management positions, and most of the seats in higher education (www.americanprogress.org/issues/2009/.../womans_nation.html - Cached - Similar 2009).

Men’s traditional roles in both the marketplace and the home are becoming obsolete. Only two of the fifteen most rapidly increasing US jobs are usually male jobs: janitor and computer engineer (http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_7622/is_201110/ai_n58254921/). All the rest of the job growth areas are in traditionally feminine work in social services of all kinds. Social service jobs are lower paid, but cannot easily be outsourced. Qualities traditionally associated with women like the abilities to nurture, cooperate, and socially connect are those most often required in America’s new service economy.

Women have responded to men’s financial incapacity and refusal to share equally in housework and childcare. Women will no longer bear the extra work in caring for men who can neither support them nor compensate for women’s quadruple shifts in domestic labor, emotional labor, childcare and jobs outside of the home. US women increasingly refuse to marry men who cannot provide economic support and still want full personal services. Women currently initiate most US divorces and, increasingly, refuse to marry in the first place. Women can now afford to live in single households, and they do (http://christina-gregoire.suite101.com/more-single-women-than-married-women-in-us-a139290#ixzz1GrxILvCq). For the first since these figures were calculated in 1880, the majority of Americans of prime marriage and child bearing age (18-34 years old), remain unmarried and live alone.

These changes have drastically altered the pattern of intimate relationships. Shifts in gender roles and employment required women to adjust by taking on career and job responsibilities and living alone or alone with children. Most men have not adjusted. Their former workforce and gender roles allowed men to grow accustomed to outsourcing their emotional needs and life maintenance activities to women who are now far less available. American women had a vital feminist movement for support. US men had and have no social, political, or labor movement to explore what they missed by avoiding tasks in maintaining life, or in emotional intimate personal connections outside of sex. Single women continue to maintain close emotional connections with their women friends and children. Men have become increasingly emotionally disconnected and lonely. They respond to capitalist ads selling market based solutions to their felt loss of manliness. They buy testosterone cream to enhance the sense of manhood that changed social conditions erodes for them. Testosterone products are one of the biggest growth areas for the pharmaceutical industry (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/18/opinion/sunday/are-we-not-man-enough.html?pagewanted=all).

Men have now become afraid of heterosexual love relationships in which the rules have changed. Often those heterosexual relationships were the only emotionally intimacy men had. The biggest growth area in the sex trades is the “GFE”, the girl friend experience in which a man purchases the affectionate emotional as well as sexual companionship of a women for a day, or weekend in which there is intense emotional connection for the purchased time period. Sadly, most US men do not know how to function as equal partners and they often fear learning. Heterosexual women too may be afraid because they too have no guidance in maintaining an intimate relationship between equals. They fear losing their autonomy. However they maintain intense close relationships with friends and family. Women are also more willing to try and maintain emotional connection with men. Emotional labor has, after all, been a part of women’s traditional gender role.

The position of men

Lost and lonely men may work on transforming their lives through 12 step programs or therapies. However, needing and reaching for help has traditionally been associated with femininity, not machismo. There are 4 main streamed refuges left for men who cling to male hegemony and stereotyped masculinity. They are: the NRA and gun culture, the military, the Christian Right, and pornography. Of these 4 misogynist refuges, pornography is the most prevalent, profitable and expanding. The heterosexual internet pornography industry has exploited heterosexual men’s loneliness and contributed to changing the face of the most intimate connections.

Possibilities for meaningful and egalitarian heterosexual personal relationships now seem bleak. Women’s current disappointment with men and men’s increasing withdrawal from authentic communication and relationships are now reflected in popular culture. Trendy films like "Knocked Up," have birthed a new genre. In "Knocked Up," the female lead has a good job. She is attractive and professional-looking while the male lead lives with a handful of unemployed, slovenly, male roommates who spend the majority of their time playing videogames, smoking pot, and watching pornography in a filthy apartment covered in pizza boxes and overall inertia. Their biggest aspiration, which remains to be accomplished, is launching their own pornography site.

A New York Times article describing 2 state-of-the-art sitcoms is called “Downsized and Downtrodden, Men are the New Women on TV” (Stanley, October 10, 2011).

Images of high-functioning women and slacker-style, adolescent men have also come up in a study conducted by contributing author Tess Fraad Wolff. Fraad-Wolff interviewed 48 heterosexual women of 4 different races and socioeconomic groups ranging in age from 22-40 years old. She asked questions that concern women’s emotional and sexual experiences during the dating process. An overwhelming majority, 46 of the 48 women interviewed, responded with descriptions of the problems below.

  • Men often refuse to plan ahead, and can only accept spur-of the-moment arrangements.
  • Men show fears of commitment after first dates by failing to make or attend second dates. They reschedule and cancel frequently.
  • Too many men fail to bring sufficient funds to even share the cost of possible activities on dates.
  • Men introduce sex and sexually related material into conversations instantly and inappropriately, yet many cannot perform.

The last complaints about inserting sexual material into the most initial of conversations may relate to an issue that powerfully impacts relationships and illustrates a profound connection between capitalism and loneliness. It is the mainstreaming of heterosexual pornography.

The impact of pornography

Pornography precedes capitalism. However capitalists have now marketed pornography on a whole new level. Pornography has now become a pastime for billions of men and an addiction for millions. Forty million adults in the United States regularly visit pornography sites. Of those 40 million, 87% are men (http://reliableanswers.com/med/pornography_addiction.asp).

Capitalism and pornography

The explosion of heterosexual internet pornography in the early 1990s yielded huge profits. Pornography is a capitalist dream machine. The industry has larger revenues than Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo, Apple and Netflix combined. By 2006, Worldwide Pornography Revenues ballooned to $97.06 billion (http://internet-filter-review.toptenreviews.com/internet, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3050060/#CIT6-, Dines, 2010)

Because of its extreme profitability, pornography producers each strive to capture a greater market share. They produce more violent pornography and more degrading and assaultive acts upon younger and younger woman (thepriceofpleasure.com/, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19862768). Capitalism values profit above all, thus de-prioritizing consideration for equal rights, morality, child abuse, or damage to personal relationships (Cohen, 2006).

How do the mainstreaming of pornography, and the increasing number of viewers and addicts affect relationships and the psychology of Americans?

Sexual connection can motivate people to find and maintain relationships and build on those connections to create families. Heterosexual internet pornography has dramatically altered images of sexuality. Heterosexual US men are experiencing increasing difficulty performing sexually, from maintaining erections, to focusing on partners during sex, to having orgasms at all. Many men have grown so accustomed to the breakneck pace with which pornography offers hundreds of images that they can no longer maintain arousal or concentration during the comparatively slow interactive process of actual sex (ttp://nymag.com/news/features/70976/index2.html). Additionally, many viewers have unconsciously associated anonymity with arousal, resulting in a failure to either engage in or appreciate the intimacy that often accompanies real sex. Men in record numbers confess to being unable to complete sexual acts that involve another live person. A recent University of Kansas study found that 25 percent of college-age men said they’d faked orgasms with women because they could not have orgasms without pornography (http://www.livescience.com/8919-study-men-fake-orgasm.html).

Why is pornography addictive?

The act of watching pornography involves bonding between the brain and the images and acts. This neural bonding process entails the immediate mental imitation that occurs when people watch representations of any behavior, particularly behavior that possesses arousing qualities. The chemicals released from the firing of neurotransmitters create pleasurable sensations. Viewers want to get more of sensations. Viewers are all potential addicts because they not only achieve orgasm with pornography, but potentially develop a neurological attachment to it (Struthers, 2009), http://www.fightthenewdrug.org/Science/physical/?blog_post_id=1055). They often do not realize the ways in which their relationships with pornography have begun to replace those with one another.

Many men reject actual sex in favor of the synthetic version even when they have partners with whom the opportunities for sex are present. They turn off to the connectedness and intimacy that actual sex can offer. They retreat into pornography to escape from the challenge of changed and challenging relationships with women. Many avoid even trying to form a relationship in favor of a seemingly safe, isolated, anonymous bond with artificial images on computer screens. Although the fraction of women who view and are addicted to pornography mainly do not cite decreased desire to experience real sex with partners, they do share inabilities to masturbate or orgasm without pornography or pornographic images. Initially, larger numbers of women reported feeling perpetually upset and sexually rejected by their male partners. Men too have now grown disturbed by their increasing sexual dysfunction and reliance on pornography (http://www.throughtheflame.org/forum/content/men-worried-about-heavy-internet-porn-use-166/).
Immersion in pornography is both a cause and a result of the bleak loneliness of trying to relate in a profit-driven America with an altered gender landscape. Family life is increasingly difficult as male and  female roles change and our government does not help families to survive. It could help by providing quality child-care, home help, after school care and help with quality meals. Those options are only open to the privileged who are the Americans who tend to remain in intact relationships (new-economy-of-marriage-pdf-pew-socialtrends.org). In our time of dislocation and misery for men, the capitalist market place provides an escape. Pornography provides a lucrative market that sells its wares to mask heterosexual men’s fear of changed gender expectations. The way in which capitalism and loneliness feed one another is present as rising numbers of men and women forego countless opportunities for intimacy and family in favor of the experience of sitting alone with manufactured, profit -driven images that often contain polarizing and divisive messages about gender relationships and sexuality. They select solitary, purchased degraded and humiliating, vicarious experiences over mutual ones - even in sexual acts that are, by their very nature and description, about merging, physically, psychologically, symbolically, and perhaps spiritually.

The hegemonic position of heterosexual males has been destroyed as the relentless capitalist search for profit eliminated and outsourced jobs and lowered wages. Men and women might have reached a desired mutual respect and equality without the capitalist profit-driven destruction of our economic and personal lives. There are non-capitalist ways such as uniting together to force the US to provide services that permit women and men to work together as equals outside and inside of the home. The destruction of the US economy and the absence of help leaves women with the burden of doing it alone, and men dispossessed, dysfunctional and lonely. The marketing of pornography offers a profitable refuge from the wreckage that capitalism helped to create. Family life is abandoned as collateral damage. The plight of children and our future is grim.

We must now face the eerie trumping of profit over shared experience. Capitalism has polluted the experience of reciprocal connection in our very bedrooms and bodies. The failure of capitalism to provide sufficient jobs, possibilities for prosperity, decent wages and social services, has led masses to grab at lonely pseudo-solutions that ultimately worsen their quality of life. Pornography is one of them.

Conclusion

Psychohistory casts a unique beam of light on the crucial interaction between human psychology and our economic system. The US was the most egalitarian Western developed nation in 1970. Now we are the least egalitarian among all of the developed nations (Wilkinson and Pickett 2009). Media is largely funded and owned by the 1%. Our elected officials’ campaigns are increasingly financed by that same 1%. The lobbyists who represent the 1% increase their influence on our laws and so it goes. The supports we understood as legitimate sustenance for of the mass of US tax paying people are now presented as “entitlements” that we hardly deserve. Our social right to unemployment insurance, quality public education for the young and quality eldercare are now commodified. Quality service, once considered a human right is now often available only to those who can afford it. In just one of infinite examples in just one of an infinite number of areas, public school funds are slashed (Lewin and Dillon, April 20, 2010). Elite families pay between $30,000 and $45,000 a year for quality primary and secondary education (9http://www.cnbc.com/id/43390303/Countries_With_the_Most_Expensive_Private_Schools).

Extreme inequality effects the connection between all of us. The haves lead radically different lives from the 99%. We are divided by radical disconnections based on wealth and all that it buys. As we become a nation providing services to those who can afford them, people may see those who work for them as a service to be bought and sold.

The basic capitalist principle is to accumulate more and give less. It does not pay to hire anyone unless you are getting more for yourself or your corporation than you give to the human who works for you. That same principle increasingly finds its way into interpersonal relationships. We use the services of others not as relatives in interconnected human family, but as service commodities to be used without human connection. A glaring example is in heterosexual pornography in which women commodify their sexuality to be used by male viewers. Those male viewers are themselves alienated from the women they routinely see as service commodities for male arousal. The routine humiliation of women is a stock feature of heterosexual pornography (Hedges, 2009) These viewers have distanced themselves from human connection in an intimate personal, sexual experience. The women who become pornography actors separate themselves from all but the money they collect from the job. Human connection is lost even in the most intimate act. Disconnection and alienation from one another starves both parties.

It is only such disconnected beings who could become inured to the deaths of between 450,000 and 600,000 Iraqi civilians who are the “collateral damage” in just one of our wars (Tirman, 2012). Naturally it is not just from “foreigners” we can become disconnected. Americans seem similarly detached from the numbers of US soldiers who return from combat with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/99981.php), or do not return because they have committed suicide. In 2010 as in 2009 there have been more suicides than combat fatalities in our wars,462 combat deaths and 468 suicides (www.good.is/.../more-us-soldiers-killed-themselves-than-died-in-com...Jan 27, 2011).  As we need to consider the whole range of psychological adjustments to our economic conditions with their powerful psychohistorical impact on all relevant aspects of our lives from the national one, to the most personal and intimate.

References
Cohen, J. 2006. “Freedom, Equality, Pornography.” In Spector, J. Ed. Prostitution and Pornography. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Dines, G., Jensen, B. and Russo, A. 1998. Pornography. New York: Routledge.

_______. 2010. Pornland. Boston: Beacon Press.

Evans, K. Nov. 12, 2009. “In Downturn’s Wake, Women Hold Half of US Jobs.” Wall Street Journal.A21.

Fraad, H. Resnick, S and Wolff, R. 2009. “For Every Knight in Shining Armor, There’s a Castle Waiting to be Cleaned.” In Class Struggle on the Home Front. G. Cassano, Ed. New York: Palgrave.

Fraad, H. 2006. “Intimate Life and Social Change.” The Journal of Psychohistory. Vol. 34. No. 2. 100-110.

_______. 2008. “American Children-Who Cares.” The Journal of Psychohistory. Vol35, No.4394-399.

_______. 2009 “What Happened to the American Dream?” The Journal of Psychohistory.Vol.37,No.2.130-139.

_______ 2010. “Two Depressions.” Tikkun. Jan/Feb.

Hedges, C. “Illusion of Love.” In Empire of Illusions. New York: Nation Books.


Lewin, T. and Dillon, S. April 20, 2010. “Districts Warn of Even Deeper Teacher Cuts.” The New York Times.

Maltz, W, and Maltz, l. 2009.The Porn Trap. New York; Harper Collins.

Paul, P. 2005, Pornified. New York: Henry Holt.

Putnam, R. 2000. Bowling Alone. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Skinner, K. 2005. Treating Porn Addiction. Provo Utah: Growth Climate Inc.

Stanley, A. Oct. 10, 2011. “Downsized and Downtrodden, Men are the New Women on TV.” The New York Times, Television.

Struthers, W. 2009. Wired for Intimacy. Downers Grove, IL. InterVarsity Press.

Tirman, J. Jan. 4, 2012. “The Forgotten Wages of War”. The New York Times. P. A23.

________.2011. The Deaths of Others. New York: Oxford University Press.

Wilkinson, R. Pickett, K. 2009. The Spirit Level. New York: Bloomsbury Press.

Wednesday
Jun132012

Some Relationship Counseling for Feminism and the Left

From The Socialist Webzine, April 2012.

First marriages, sometimes cynically called "starter marriages" often don't work. Second and third marriages work out even less. Americans marry and also divorce more than any other people on earth. I believe that a prime reason for our remarkable remarriage rate is Americans' loneliness in our time of disconnection from each other.

According to Cacioppo and Patrick's brilliant book, "Loneliness," our basic sense of self is built on three legs of support. Each leg is a way of connecting to others. One basic support is personal, individual, intimate connection to a person who puts us at the center of her or his emotional life. The second is a relational connection to a wider circle of friends and/or family whom we trust and with whom we share personal bonds. The third leg of support is collective connection to a wider group. This can be a political group, a work-related group, a religious group, a sports group or any other social group with which we identify and with whom we are active. Americans have lost two of the three legs that hold up our sense of self. We have become isolated and separate from relational and collective supports.

Countless studies agree that Americans are disconnected from one another. The most thorough is Robert Putnam's book, "Bowling Alone." In one dramatic example, Putnam points out that in spite of the increase in the US population since 1970, there are fewer members in active groups in America now than were in bowling leagues alone in 1970. One out of four Americans has no one to talk to even in a crisis. Americans may marry more than other people because they have lost two of the three basic constructs for a human self. A vast number of Americans has neither a circle of friends nor trusted family members nor collective connection to and membership in a wider social group. People may look to marriage to support them on every level.

Marriage is the only form of deep connection our society enthusiastically endorses. People seek marriages for the same reason they are so hard to sustain. People need marriage to do the impossible job of compensating for social loneliness and collective disconnection. When marriages work, they can be a basis of deep, lasting and productive partnership in which people connect around collective actions, deeply held beliefs, shared trusted friends and family members, and intimate relational bonds. Although some marriage partnerships help people profoundly, most fail. Marriage was never, nor could it ever be, a substitute for a wider relational circle or social collectivity. Traditional marriage was, historically, in law and in practice, a relationship of male dominance and female and child subordination. It is not something the left needs to celebrate. However, the left and feminism both need to address the breakdown of the one cooperative and non-capitalist form of connection that Americans counted on.

The left was a pioneer in questioning traditional marriage, with its confining gender roles and till-death-do-we-part life sentences. As Delores Hayden illustrates at the turn of the 20th century, America had over 200 thriving collective communities which were living alternatives to traditional marriage. It is recent and sad that the left abandoned personal terrain to the right wing. The current right-wing focus on traditional marriage is a necrophiliac romance with a dying or dead institution. We need the left and feminism to create alternative models of personal egalitarian partnership. The problem is, feminism and the left are suffering their own estrangement from one another.

In order to understand and combine the personal and political spheres of life, we need to understand why the left/feminist breakup happened and how to create a successful marriage or partnership on different terms. This short work tries to facilitate a necessary truce and a new partnership.

What Went Wrong

There are two parties in a marriage or partnership. Here I look at heterosexual marriage, because although gay partnerships are an enduring part of the human landscape, gay marriage is a right only recently won. The first thing I will explore is what might have gone off course from the side of feminism. Then I will look at what spoiled the marriage from the left's side of the partnership. I will conclude by exploring some possibilities for healing and a possible reunion.

What Went Wrong: A View From the Side of the Women's Movement

The founding mothers of what was called the women's liberation movement were socialist activists. Most of us believed that since we, as women, were at the bottom of economic and political hierarchies, if we demanded economic and political equality for women, we would bring everyone with us to create an America with equal opportunity for all. Although the early women's liberation movement was a mass movement of distinct and differing groups, all of the feminist foremothers were leftists. We were multiracial and multi-ethnic. The first significant publication of the women's liberation movement in 1968 was "Notes from the Second Year: Women's Liberation" edited by Shulamith Firestone and Anna Koedt. The first anthology of women's liberation statements, "Sisterhood Is Powerful," was edited by Robin Morgan and published in 1970. Both were written within an avowedly left, class-conscious perspective. Both included multi-ethnic and African American women's liberation pieces. In addition, there were groups of minority women who had their own feminist groups. The Third World Women's Alliance was formed in New York City in 1968. Their revolutionary statement is published in "Dear Sisters," a collection of writings from the women's liberation movement. The women's liberation movement lost its class focus and left-connectedness. One reason for this loss was our naiveté.

The naiveté of many of our hopes came in part from the times we lived in. The 1960s were a time of promise, prosperity and optimism. Unemployment was about 3 percent. Job opportunities for white men were omnipresent. White men were paid a family wage whether they had a family or not. Jobs for women and people of color were available, albeit at lower wages and in fewer sectors. Men of all races earned more than women did. Education guaranteed a job, even though a lesser one for women or people of color. There was a mass and largely successful civil rights movement and a powerful mass movement to stop the war in Vietnam. There was a sense of hope. The United States and the US dollar were the kings of the world. In prosperous 1960s and early 1970s America, women were paid fifty-nine cents for every dollar of men's pay, even when women supported their families alone or worked side by side with men on the same job. That was the historical context of early feminism.

The early women's liberation movement was unsophisticated. We, like most of the new left at the time, were class conscious, but we were neither immersed nor much interested in leftist history or theory. Early feminists formed our agenda through a radical technique called consciousness raising. We talked together about the struggles in our own lives and found a platform built upon our personal experiences. That was a powerful and effective method. However, if we had been more knowledgeable of and grounded within foiled attempts at gender justice or class equality, we may have done better. Had we seriously studied the way wealth and power operate, we would have had a far greater appreciation of the resources, resilience and manipulation that threatened our dreams. Perhaps, we would have been better able to forge common cause with the left had we anticipated right-wing determination to expunge the demand for class justice from our new feminist agenda.

We felt that we could do it all. We could change capitalism, racism and sexism through our demand for equal opportunity for all women, the secondary citizens at the bottom of every institution, from the family to the political system to the economy. We did not know the forces arrayed against our vision of a better future. Funding from and manipulation by the FBI and CIA combined with our naiveté to blunt the impact of our class awareness. In just one example, Gloria Steinem quickly rose to prominence. She seemed to have magical access to money and press. We did not imagine that she was financed by and connected to press and other resources by the CIA and the FBI. [1] With the prominence of capitalist liberal leaders such as Steinem, the voice of class in the women's movement diminished to a whisper. The mainstream feminist movement became a movement for gender equality within the American system of class inequality. Because the women's movement focused almost exclusively on gender issues, it lost the mass of American women whose struggles for economic survival grow harder each year. Feminism also lost most women of color for whom race and class were as relevant as gender.

As an almost entirely gender-based movement, the women's movement excluded men and blamed men for a gender system in which men and women both unwittingly participated. Uniting for common class-based struggles moved outside of the feminist purview. Unity was impossible within a discourse that designated men as the enemy. Once separated, growth for all of us was slower, harder and more easily opposed.

The feminist movement became a set of gender-based projects and institutions, such as groups for abortion rights and legislation for equal wages. Each gender-based institution competed against the others. Each found its way to cooperate with powerful patrons in order to obtain institutional resources. Larger women's groups such as the National Organization for Women (NOW) worked to pass legislation protective of women. They lobbied for pro-female legislation within our highly unrepresentative two-capitalist-party system. Thus, what was a unified women's liberation movement became a series of projects working for equality without systemic change.

Better treatment for women and more opportunities for women were won. However, we lost our vision of a just society for all. There is no longer a central, militant, powerful, unifying movement to demand support for universal, high-quality, free child care, medical care or elder care – all cares that fall disproportionately on women. A marriage of the left and feminism might have demanded those services as rights the way most of Socialist Europe does. Our divorce from a left, socialist, class-justice movement was destructive to the ideals of equality that inspired us to create a movement in the first place.

That does not mean that we accomplished nothing. Significant inroads in all areas of economic, political and social life were achieved by the feminist movement. The women's movement won the abortion rights that are now contested. Equal opportunity became the law, if not the practice. Although one in three women still suffer physical violence at the hands of their husbands or partners, domestic abuse is outlawed. Women are now paid 77 cents out of every male dollar, 23 percent more than we were paid before the movement. Job possibilities for women have expanded in every direction. Educated women now enter previously male-dominated prestigious and lucrative professions. Women are more economically and politically empowered. However, paid work outside the home is added to primary domestic responsibilities and emotional labor within the home. Emotional labor is the psychological work of figuring out what emotional support people need and providing that support. It is the kind of labor that exhausts people in caring professions such as nurses, nurse's aides, therapists, early childhood educators, and daycare and elder care workers.

We did not address or try to redress the burden of the unacknowledged and unpaid labor women expend in sustaining family life and maintaining homes. Our neglect of class led to wealthier, more privileged women being able to purchase household help: expensive, quality child care, hired domestic labor and costly services such as nutritious takeout food, restaurant food or professional laundry and shopping services. Those services were and are unaffordable for the mass of women who work a "second shift" at home, where many less privileged women provide domestic labor for their supposed "sisters." In spite of the many real gender gains feminists achieved, 43 percent of women's work remains in pink collar, lower-paid and less prestigious jobs. [2]

Because we did not sufficiently struggle for quality domestic relief and free, quality child care, afterschool care and day care, mothers particularly suffer. Mothers suffer more discrimination than other women. US mothers earn 30 percent less than men earn. Fathers do not suffer wage discrimination as fathers. We are simultaneously counted on and financially penalized for our work in the home caring for men and children. As if to illustrate the cost of women's domestic and emotional responsibilities, the latest reports from scholarly books and a recent article in Time Magazine state that young college graduate women who are unmarried and childless earn more money than their male peers. It is marriage and child care that hold women back.[3]

We Failed to Value the Skills We Acquired as Caregivers and Sustainers of Personal Life

The women's movement made a second grave mistake that hurt the feminist/left partnership. We ignored the strengths, the knowledge and the considerable emotional power that we had. There is a great deal of strength in understanding other's emotional dynamics. Such understandings taken into the workforce are one reason that the majority of managers are now women. Women's traditional gender training includes the power and skill to understand the perspectives of other people and negotiate and compromise. Emotional power can be used to manipulate people. In the workplace, it is a strong component of advertising and sales. In the home, it is most often used to meet people's needs, negotiate problems and soothe family members. Emotional labor given to infants is the interactive communication and soothing without which infants literally fail to thrive and cannot develop normally.

We focused solely on the economic and political power we did not have. We learned too well to devalue our traditional invaluable and invisible contributions to life as caregivers and sustainers of personal life. Understandably, women wanted to be included in the valued, rewarded, economically powerful areas of life from which we were excluded. We wanted jobs, careers, political power, economic independence, and professional and intellectual recognition. We wanted to be in the sectors that are rewarded, recognized and funded in American culture. Of course, those are worthy goals.

We shared society's devaluation of the knowledge and wisdom learned from sustaining vulnerable lives and maintaining the conditions for life, creating order, aesthetic environments, cleanliness, and emotional and physical comfort. We neither recognized nor valued emotional labor, which is the labor to build others' psychological well being and sanity. We did not understand the power that can come from recognizing our subjectivity and the shared fragility of all humans. It may sound peculiar to claim power in fragility; however, individuals and political groups that understand that we are only human and can make mistakes are much more like to form egalitarian relationships and democratic movements without any one human assuming excessive, unchecked authority. In my long experience in left movements, I have seen more organizations fail because of assertions of inappropriate authority and personal intransigence than I have seen fail because of ideological differences. There is, therefore, power in humility and acknowledgment of human frailty. Even though our movement formed in large part through consciousness-raising personal discussion of our struggles, we did not recognize and celebrate the power of a movement based on both shared strengths and our common human fragility.

Women perform most of the world's domestic labor of nurturing children and men. We who performed that labor would have been in the best position to explore its importance and share our discoveries. Our method of consciousness-raising would have been an excellent tool. Since we neither developed our knowledge nor valued it, we could not teach our male partners to value and share our domestic labor or emotional labor as a source of strength. We therefore did not develop together with left men the necessary respect for the power and meaning of domestic and emotional labor in all of our lives. Powerful, life-affirming areas of knowledge were unspecified, unexplored and depreciated then as they are today. An important source of bonding was lost. We fought only for the set of powers denied to us instead of fighting together to change the conditions that held us all back and separated heterosexual men from women and the left from feminism.

Ironically, the Christian right became the only voice championing traditional female labor. They celebrate traditional women's work while they provide no financial support or relief for exhausted women. They fight against crucial family support in subsidized or free family and child care programs. They define women's household labor as a divine, biologically mandated duty. In spite of its actual destructiveness to women, the right is the only place where women's traditional labor is, at least verbally, celebrated. Those are mistakes from the woman's side of the divorce. Feminists failed to appreciate the full importance of our traditional work or to share it with our partners, or to struggle to make that work a recognized remunerated and socialized part of society.

Mistakes of the US Left

The left devalued women's traditional work just as the rest of the society did. Rigid dismissal of a partner's value hurts any relationship. Most of the left considered the economic sphere as the base, "the motor of history." Although personal life was sometimes mentioned, it was of lesser import. Class analysis applied to the economy, state and industry, not to human relationships, family or the household. Because personal life was relatively less important, the left ignored consciousness raising, the successful organizing principle of the original women's liberation movement. The early women's movement's vitality came in large part from our method of consciousness-raising, from learning about our personal life experience as women by sharing that experience and finding respect, recognition, unity and a set of political issues that came from our shared experience. The left had little place for our personally relevant methods or organizational principles. A good partnership requires mutual respect. That was missing on both sides.

What Can Be Done Now

There were and are allies for a new left and feminist movement. In the interests of space, I will focus only on those allies which directly offer a path to reconnection. I want to think that my life partnership with Richard Wolff and my close political connection to Stephen Resnick influenced their way to connect left and Marxian class analysis with feminism. Wolff and Resnick and their school of Marxian analysis of which I am a part have a way to extend left and feminist analyses from the boardroom right into the bedroom. That left analysis is devoid of hierarchies of analytic importance. Every aspect of life is a valid left focus. That includes the spheres of home, emotional work and domestic labor. They ask three basic class questions at all sites:

Is there an extra or "surplus" produced?
Who does the work to produce it?
Who gets the goods and services that are produced?

They and I ask and answer those questions in the household, where it is usually women who labor to produce goods and services such as cooked food, cleanliness, order, mended clothing and emotional care. Men and children usually reap the benefit of the majority of women's household labor.

Women's production in the household becomes more visible when left analysis and feminism puts these services on the map of class consciousness, where they are every bit as important and worthy as labor for industry or the government.

Once we recognize the value of labor to produce crucial domestic and emotional goods and services, we can repair the ugly rift that has weakened the left and feminism. We can unite to reward all work, particularly labor that has been devalued. Other nations provide a model for how governments can help. The United States is the only nation in the Western industrialized world that does not have paid maternity leave. The Scandinavian nations mandate both maternity and paternity leaves. France, Finland, Sweden, Austria, Portugal, Italy and Spain all guarantee more than three and a half weeks of paid vacation time. Every other nation in the EU as well as the UK guarantees more than two and a half weeks of paid vacation time. The United States guarantees none. France, like many other countries, offers low cost daycare, after school and summer care and free education from three years old on. Other nations create subsidies in housing and child care for single parents. Free sports facilities are available for children. Elder care is subsidized. Medical care and counseling are free. Together, we can follow their example and demand that our government and employers provide the wide array of home services we need. In that way, we could support families in ways that facilitate gender equality and chances for both men and women to fully participate in, learn from and value all parts of life whether economic, political, social, personal or domestic. We can respect the contributions of both partners and share their valuable skills. We can create thousands, if not millions, of well-paid jobs in child care, elder care, counseling, production of quality, low-cost restaurant food, cleaning, household organizing and so much more. In order to achieve the benefits that so many others take for granted, we would, of course, need to reject the right-wing propaganda that tells us America has no money to spend while billions are spent on unjust wars and billions more are forfeited because the wealthy escape taxation.

A solid partnership between feminism and the left may undo our costly mistakes. We can take back the family agenda from the right and relate to all people in the United States who struggle at work and at home.

In a successful partnership, each partner learns from the other. Both benefit from the other's perspective. Learning from the mistakes of the feminist movement and the left movement allows the left and feminism to reunite. Here's to a long and happy reunion.

Endnotes

1. See also: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601088&sid=a1M9EAly2hog&refer=hom; http://www.amazon.com/Mighty-Wurlitzer-How-Played-America/dp/0674026810; http://www.amazon.com/World-Split-Open-Movement-Changed/dp/0140097198; http://www.mail-archive.com/ ctrl@listserv.aol.com/msg02217.html.

2. See also: http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2010/03/18/are-we-there-yet.html.

3. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2109140,00.html; http://www.amazon.com/Creating-Life-Professional-WomenChildren/dp/0786867663; http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2032116-4,00.html; http://www.amazon.com/Why-Men-Earn-More-Startling/dp/0814472109.

Wednesday
Jun132012

Family

First published in The Socialist Webzine 2012.

The family is like religion, a heartless haven in a heartless capitalist world. Family is America’s grand romance. US candidates sport their families as evidence that they are moral and upstanding. What they claim is family is a mother, father, and children who share a home. That kind of marriage and family are invoked by the religious right as the reason for crushing the rights of homosexuals and women. Those married political men caught with their literal and figurative pants down have extra work to do to qualify as “moral” men.

Looking closely at family in the US we have to face that family is a heartless haven indeed. Over the last 10 years, 20,000 US children have been killed by their families, and that is a conservative estimate. Three quarters of them are under four years old (Petit Oct. 11, 2011). Child abuse goes down dramatically at age 6 when children leave home and family to go to school for the day. Fully 85% of child abuse is perpetrated by and in the family (Fraad  2001, 2008, 2012).

What we thought of as family, mother, father, children, is disappearing fast. The majority of US marriages end in separation or divorce. For the first time in US history the majority of women are single. The majority of people from 18-34 years, who are considered in the prime years for marriage are now single. Fully 40% of children are born outside of a marriage and the numbers are rapidly rising (Fraad 2011). These erosions of what we thought of as family have been presented by the Right as moral decay. For socialists they present an opportunity for true democracy from childhood on.

The great Marxian philosopher, Louis Althusser wrote a crucial essay and a book on family ( Althusser 1977, 1992). Althusser was concerned about the forces that shaped people’s collusion with their own subordination. He wanted to explore the forces that kept people in submission as if by their own will. Althusser showed that in addition to the external forces of repression like the police, and the army, there are three forces that teach people to police themselves and keep themselves submissive to authority. They are the family, orthodox religion, and authoritarian education. These are forces that build relationships of dominance and subordination from birth onward (Althusser 1977).  Children grow up with the absolute authority of their parents. They transfer that authority to their priests and then the state. Children grow up in a literal dictatorship. Their lives are hostages to the arbitrary decisions of one or two people with absolute authority and control over them. The qualification for the job of total controller of infant destiny is biological conception. Let’s check the logic in which the biological process of conception qualifies people to be the guardians of a totally vulnerable infant life for 24 hours a day. That holds no matter who the “parents” are, what kind violence they practice and what state they were in when the child was conceived. Looking at that, we might decide that the current dissolution of what was “the family” may create room for vast improvements in the lives of both children and parents. The social ramifications could be amazing.
What would such socialist improvement look like?

The first step would be to share the costly and difficult responsibility for infant and child care. That would spare parents and children as well. That step is taken in every other of the 21 wealthy nations in the world (UNICEF, 2010) The US is currently the only nation in the Western world to have no universal, free supports for mothers, infants, and young children.

A first step we might take would be to adopt the French system of childcare. That would be a first step since France, like the US is a nation plagued by racism and inequality of income. The US is now the most unequal of the wealthy nations. US and France now have about one quarter of their children born into poverty or near poverty. Inequality of income is the biggest determinant of child abuse and maltreatment (Wilkinsen and Pickett 2009). In the French system, quality child care centers for children from zero to two years old cost $1.00 an hour. There, children are nurtured physically and psychologically by well educated, well paid, professionals. All medical care is free. Maternity medical care is free. If a child is born to a teen aged mother or parents with histories of child abuse, a social worker is assigned to the family for the first 5 years of the child’s life. Maternity helpers are provided for all new mothers to help them with both the infant and household chores. After 3 years of age education is free and full free pediatric care is provided at child care centers. Children’s problems are spotted and addressed whether they are physical or psychological (Fraad 2008). Naturally, child abuse and death in France is far lower, actually half of what it is the US even though child poverty rates are the same (UNICEF, 2003). Since child maltreatment and family violation decreases when parents are no longer exclusively responsible for children and when children are outside of the home, a child care system of the French kind, would be a beginning.

The next step would be to create alternative institutions so that when families fail which they so often do, there could be safe kind alternatives. Alternatives to the nuclear family have been successful in the Israeli Kibbutz cooperatives (Aviezer,  et. al. 1994) and the model infants children’s orphanages in Hungary and what was The Soviet Union after World War 2 (Swain 2008, Makarenko 1951). In the case of infants, a limited number of caring, trained child nurturers, 5 or less were assigned to each infant child in order to help him/her to bond and become empowered. In the case of older children, they lived in democratic empowering communities. The results were impressive. Children grew up to be independent kind highly productive people.

Eventually people may choose to create whatever hybrid between private family and public care works for them and their children. These suggestions open a door to endless creative possibilities.The kinds of families we have are not eternal or natural and of course, they can be changed. Family is still the place where children learn how to live before they have any idea of what is happening. Patterns of relationships to oneself and society form in the unconscious child and are hard to change. As socialists we believe that people need empowerment. They should learn lessons of equality and curiosity rather than blind obedience and submission. Lives should not be shaped in dictatorships. As socialists we believe that all people deserve to be nurtured and given kind and expert care. The family we have known is failing. Of course we can do better.


BIBLIOGRAPHY
Althusser, Louis. “ 1977. “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses.” In LENIN AND PHILOSOPHY. London: New Left Books.
_____________. 1992. THE FUTURE LASTS FOREVER. New York: The New Press.
Aviezer, M., Van Uzendoorn, A., Schuengel, S. & C. 1994. “Children of the Dream Revisited: 70 Years of Collective Early Child Care in Israeli Kibbutzim.”Psychological Bulletin.V.116, N.1. American Psychological Association.
Fraad, H. 2001. “Whither (wither) the Family.” The Journal of Psychohistory, V.      28, N. 3.
_______________. 2008. “American Children-Who Cares?” The Journal of Psychohistory, V.35, N 4.
_______________. 2009. “What Happened to America?” The Journal of Psychohistory, V.37, N2.
_______________. 2011. “A Marriage in Trouble.” The Journal of Psychohistory, V.38, N.3.
_______________. 2012. “Village Abuse:It Takes a Village.” The Journal of Psychohistory, V.39, N.3.
 ________. 2011. The Great Recession and Gender Marriage Transformation
rdwolff.com/.../great-recession-and-gender-marriage-transformation

Makarenko, A. S. 1951. THE ROAD TO LIFE. V.1-3. Moscow: Foreign Languages Press.
Michael Petit: BBC News - Why child abuse is so acute in the US
www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-15193530

Swain, J. 2008. A Warm and Gentle Welcome: Nurturing Children from Birth to Age Three—a compilation of articles from the Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America’s RIE/PIKLER Working Group. http://www.consciousparentingguide.com/Jane_Swain_-_Pikler%E2%80%99s_Trust_in_the_Wise_Infant.html
UNICEF. 2010. “The Children Left Behind: A League Table of Inequality in Child Well-being in the World’s Rich Countries.” In the INNOCENTI REPORT CARD 9.  Florence, Italy: UNICEF Research Centre.
________. 2003. “A League Table of Child Maltreatment Deaths in Rich Nations.” In the INNOCENTI REPORT CARD 5.  Florence, Italy: UNICEF Research Centre.