Writings

Entries by Dr. Harriet Fraad (37)

Wednesday
Jun132012

A Better World?

First published in Tikkun Daily, October 11, 2010.

Psychohistorians believe in De Mause’s theory of the psychogenic pump. If children’s primary nurturers are given kindness, acknowledgement and support, they will usually treat their children well and the human race will flourish. When young brains and hearts are nurtured, children grow up without the terror that leads to pathologically frightened adults who dare not take the risks of inventing anything new or thinking outside of the strictures of their parent’s world. Petrified children become closed minded obedient, terrorized, and often pathologically uncreative adults. Support and respect for caretakers acts as a pump of progress improving the conditions for all of us.

If we look at the nations that most oppress women we will find that they bear this out. The norms of misogynistic societies are some or all of the following: early marriage and childbearing, rape, physical abuse, genital mutilation, HIV, infection gross inequality of educational opportunity for girls and the tight grip of orthodox fundamentalist religion. We also find on going wars. The most misogynistic nations currently are, according to UN statistics: Afghanistan, The Congo, Nepal, Sudan, Iraq, Guatemala Mali, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Somalia. Though many within these nations strive to make a better world they have been held back because they are stymied by appalling social conditions. In order to understand why people allow appalling social conditions to exist, we may look at a nation’s treatment of women and mothers and in turn mother’s treatment of their children which does yield clues. In studies of people who became rescuers of Jews rather than passive bystanders to Nazi atrocities, compassion and kind mothering were cited as reasons for compassion rather than conformity to cruelty. See here and here.

If we look at one nation among these nations, Iraq, we will notice that their psychogenic pump broke down in recent history. Iraq used to be the most advanced nation in the Middle East. Before the US invasion, 40% of professional jobs were held by women. The dictator, Saddam Hussein who kept the Mullahs in check and maintained a secular despotism, broke the iron grip of fundamentalist Islam. Women enjoyed greater equality of access to education than their neighbors. Now Iraq is in the toxic grip of a US-initiated war, with its omnipresent violence. Fundamentalist religion enabled by US support has forced girls to stay home from school in terror of rape and violence. Gains are erased.

The same forces that have ruined the future of Iraqis also operate at home. The US is retreating from our former leadership in innovation as our nation instigates endless wars whose funds flow while opportunities are cut because of “insufficient funds.” We have lost our edge on education and innovation. US women must work to survive. We work without the free quality childcare, health care, maternity benefits, paid family time, paid family vacations, and the other guaranteed supports that all other Western industrialized nations provide. US infants are placed in unsafe, unregulated childcare centers or in the temporary custody of whoever will baby-sit cheaply while mother’s at work, and three quarters of US women work outside of the home. Fully 75% of our young children of 11 years old are left all alone after school until their tired parents -usually mothers- return from work. In another dangerous development, according to the Bertelsmann Foundation’s Religion Monitor, the US is the most religious of the advanced industrial nations of the world. Our religious growth is not in religions that reach out to all in a shared spirit of peace, but fundamentalist religions and prosperity gospels that turn a deaf ear to a spirit of peace, tolerance or kindness. We are also, not coincidentally, the least economically egalitarian nation in the Western industrialized world.

North American dreams of advancement and possibility in work and in marriage have broken down in the light of massive cuts in job possibilities. People turn to the irrational when the world of reason and possibility are no longer reasonable. Many North Americans are turning against other groups such as immigrants, or African Americans, or homosexuals, rather than uniting to reclaim our nation for all of us. Every other Western industrialized nation enjoys basic protection for mothers and children. We are alone in so seriously neglecting parents and children.

I believe that our only hope is a new political formation, a movement to create equality of opportunity and an ethical commitment to respect for all. A primary commitment for such a movement is to ensure the family protections that allow the next generation to imagine and create a better world for every facet of our existence.

Wednesday
Jun132012

Book Review: The War on Moms: On Life in a Family-Unfriendly Nation

Sharon Lerner Hoboken NJ: John Wley & Sons 2010. Reviewed by Harriet Fraad - first publish in The Journal of Psychohistory Fall 2010.

Sharon Lerner’s The War on Mom’s is required reading for psychohistorians. It describes and documents the high stress misery endured by the majority of US families. As psychohistorians, we fear for America’s future when our families are in trouble. Lerner revels 1,000 reasons why family values are the furthest thing from our national social or economic or political agenda. How come? Why the discrepancy between our rhetoric as a family friendly, child oriented society and the reality of family suffering? The first ingredient in the foul stew is poverty. The second toxic ingredient addresses us as a “free country “in which choices are cruelly limited. The third ingredient is the lack of social, economic and political family support. Lerner points out that we are alone in not providing the family supports that all other Western nations take for granted. The three are, of course, intimately linked. However, I like Lerner, will address them separately for the purpose of clarity.

Poverty

The birth of a baby is one of the leading causes of poverty in the US (p. 13 & 197). That is hardly surprising in the one Western Industrialized nation without universal healthcare insurance. Out of the 21 wealthiest nations in the world the United States was last, 21st out of 21 in health care for women and children. ([PDF] THE STATE OF THE WORLD'S CHILDREN 2007 Women and Children).  Medical bills are a prime reason for bankruptcy (Tyagi and Warren 2003). Naturally most US families would be jeopardized by the birth of a child combined with any complication in the birth or any other illness. Illness and infancy combine to create poverty (p. 13 &197). Other prime causes of poverty are the absence of paid maternity and or paternity leave, the necessity for women to work outside of the home, and the failure to provide subsidized or free daycare. We are one of 5 nations rich or poor not to provide paid time off for new mothers (P. 98 & 202). We now have 12 weeks of unpaid leave. A minority of poor mothers are covered by the law and millions more cannot afford to take unpaid leave (p. 98-99 & 2005). Child care, even the inadequate child care to which the majority of our children are subjected, is terribly expensive (p.133-135). Thus, between health expenses and childcare expenses parents are forced closer to or deep within poverty with the birth of a child.

Freedom

American women who need to work, which is about 75% of women, are free to choose between either poverty and hardship or having a family. The US has more women working full time than any other nation in the world (p.149). With their “free” choices it is no wonder that one out of five US women, even women who are between 40 and 44 years old, have no children or plans to have them. It is also no wonder that parents are more depressed, sad, lonely, afraid and angry than their childless peers (p.168 & 208).

Lack of Social, Economic, and Political Support. For Families

Sadly, we lack supports for parenting across the board.  France and Belgium have free universal child-care plans that enroll 99% of their 3, 4, and 5 year olds (166 & 2080. These are programs with masters degree level head teacher and experienced associate degree assistant teachers. They are paid well. Their centers include full pediatric medical care, rooms for sick children etc. They are behind Sweden with its superb childcare at all levels. Although every other of the 21 wealthiest nations is ahead of us, Sweden is most outstanding. In addition to their superb daycare centers, the vast majority of mothers have 18 months off with partial pay. Both parents, can take 60 paid days for the care of a sick child, and subsidized leisure time care which parents can enjoy before or after school until their children are 12 years old. Then there is a “daddy leave” of 4 weeks for fathers to take with their children (166). Quality subsidized or free childcare arrangements combine with the health care benefits in all other wealthy nations to vastly improve parent’s freedom to relax and enjoy their lives and their children. They can both be parents and enjoy the pursuit of family happiness. Sweden spends about double what America does on social programs per citizen. The book The War On Mom’s points us to the way untaken, the way we need to go.

Wednesday
Jun132012

Suffer the Children to Come Unto Me: the Pope, Pedophilia and Authoritarian Religion, Families, & Schools

First published in Tikkun Daily, March 30th, 2010.

The newspapers are full of the latest priestly sex abuses. This is an on going story. Within the last year, mass scandals have erupted in Brazil, Australia, Canada, Ireland, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria. and the United States. Figures from the John Jay School of Criminal Justice estimate that since 1950, an estimated 280,000 children have been sexually abused by Catholic Clergy and deacons.

How has this happened? Why does it continue?

Pedophilia certainly is a familiar problem for the Catholic Church. Father Thomas Doyle, a priest, and Richard Sipes and Patrick Wall, former monks, wrote that the Catholic Church has recognized the problem of abuse by priests for 2,000 years. Their acclaimed book, Sex, Priests and Secret Codes (2006), was based on the Church’s own documents.

Now the scandal is at the Pope’s door in Germany. After all, he was the Cardinal in charge of approving a known pedophile, Father Hullerman, who had been convicted in court where he admitted getting young boys drunk, watching pornography with the boys and then molesting them. The priest was released from court in the care of the Church. He was sent to a psychiatrist for treatment. The treating psychiatrist reported that Father Hullerman was an unrepentant alcoholic pedophile who showed no willingness to change his alcoholism or his pedophilia. Within five days of the beginning of Hullerman’s treatment, the Pope approved moving Father Hullerman to a new parish with access to children There he molested more boys. He retired in peace without serving time for his documented crimes. He is no exception.

There are practical reasons why Catholic Bishops and the Pope have not been disciplined for moving accused priest molesters who work with children to different parishes where they continue to molest. Two-thirds of sitting US Bishops have been accused of moving pedophile priests to new assignments. There would be a dearth of Church fathers if they were held accountable for their crimes. We could ask why are so many of the priests pedophiles? Why don’t they abuse adult men and women who also trust them and are vulnerable? Why do they particularly abuse male children? However, since sexual abuse as well as most other kinds of abuse seem to flourish within hierarchical religious communities of all kinds, we might ask why abuse should happen within orthodox hierarchical religions? That question would yield answers beyond questioning only one hierarchical religion, albeit one in the news. (See The Journal of Religion and Abuse, which unlike the myriad excellent books on the subject covers abuse in all hierarchical religions. Further reading here and here)

If we are willing to ask the deeper question: What is it about hierarchical orthodox religions which is so conducive to abuse?” We have expert guidance in solving that mystery .

We have help from Louis Althusser, one of France’s great philosophers. Althusser discovered subtle forms of influence that keep people subordinated to unjust authority. They influence people even more deeply than the police, the law, and the army. They inspire people to discipline themselves from the inside, as if their subordination is the way things have to be. The serfs in medieval Europe toiled for the Lord of the manner because they deeply believed that toiling for the Lord was their ordained, God impelled destiny. People obey their parents and their church or temple because they learn to obey before they even know what they are learning. They usually follow directions at school because they learn that the teacher and the principal are to be obeyed without question. They internalize discipline that therefore, does not have to be externally enforced. They learn the lines of dominance and subordination before they know that there could be any choice. Althusser names the biggest three types of internal disciplinary forces ” ideological state apparatuses”. They prepare citizens for unquestioned obedience. The three primary ideological state apparatuses are: the authoritarian family, hierarchical authoritarian religions, and authoritarian hierarchical educational systems.

In this post, I am looking at a patriarchal, orthodox, hierarchical religion. Of course, the Catholic Church is not the only one. In Orthodox Judaism there are strict rules of what is, and is never acceptable to God. For example, Jewish Orthodoxy does not permit women to be rabbis. Orthodox Jewish and Hasidic males congratulate themselves in their prayers that God decided that they be not born women. Fundamentalists like the Southern Baptists or Mormons, explicitly require wives’ submission to their husband’s authority in God’s name. They, like Catholics, exclude women from hierarchical Church leadership positions. Muslims exclude women from temple leadership and positions as Imams. Like their orthodox Jewish brothers, they segregate worshiping women during religious services. Scientologists require strict obedience to their Church hierarchy as religious duty and part of the mission to serve God.

With that said, we can return to the Catholic Church whose vast abuses are now regularly exposed. In the latest revelations of abuse the patriarchal hierarchy itself is implicated from nuns and priests to Cardinals and Monsignors, to the Pope himself. The system of secrecy in a Church responsive to its hierarchy from the top down rather than its parishioners is now on trial. The cases of hundreds of thousands of abused children were ignored. In one recently publicized case, young representatives of the 200 deaf boys abused by Father Murphy told everyone they could. Some signed affidavits and sent them to the Bishop. Some plastered wanted posters around their cathedral. They told priests and nuns. They petitioned the Archbishop, the district attorney and the newspaper. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published a story in 2006 covering the abuses since 1965. The victims were consistently reassured that the Church would take care of it. Complaints were sent up the hierarchy to Archbishop Weakland who sent them to Rome, addressed to the Pope. Nothing was done until the victims filed a lawsuit. Only then, Father Murphy was retired to spend his last days in comfort at his parents’ summer home in Northern California. The plaintiffs under pressure withdrew their lawsuit. There were at minimum 44 years since their first ignored allegations. The Pope honored Father Murphy’s petition to spend his last days in honor, peace and comfort. The hellish lives of his petitioning victims were not honored with the truth or with action.

The three institutions that Althusser named as ideological state apparatuses (authoritarian religions, the authoritarian family and authoritarian educational systems) are closed systems. They are accountable only to the man at the head of the hierarchy, not to the people they ostensibly serve. In both the cases of the authoritarian family and authoritarian religion, evaluations of behavior are a one way street from top to bottom. Power is exercised as if God given and natural. In authoritarian schools authority is exercised in the same manner, from the top down. Those schools that are unionized give teachers some voice. Children are silenced. In this way the lines of social dominance are drawn early before children know what is happening to them.

The rigid Catholic hierarchy is maintaining its dominance and the subordination of all those under the Pope, from the children who complained, to the priests and nuns who reported the abuse, to the Bishops to the Archbishop who reported the abuse to the Pope. His decision was to protect the priest in power and the Catholic hierarchy thus reinforcing the authoritarian structure of the Church.

Why do so many people remain in such authoritarian structures?

In the late 1920s and early 1930s, the Frankfurt School, a psychologically and socially active socialist group of German thinkers, predicted the rule of fascism in Germany. They found that about 60% of Germans had what they called “authoritarian personalities.” They obeyed their leader, whoever was in power. They followed orders, no matter how sadistic. About 20% of Germans were actively sadistic and eager to do a torturer’s bidding. About 20% of Germans were opposed to all totalitarianism and would defy sadistic orders no matter who dictated them. Those who tolerated sadism if authorities commanded it and those who actively sought opportunities for torture were reared in authoritarian families. Those who defied sadistic totalitarianism were not raised in totalitarian structures. They were reared in democratic families. Robert Altemeyer elaborated those studies in Canada and the United States (1997). He found that they are still true. Authoritarian families raise children to know their place, which is at the bottom of the family and other social hierarchies. Authoritarian parents prepare their children for servitude to a powerful leader.

The Catholic Church scandals raise basic ethical issues. If there is any absolute that an ethical human can have, it is that a human being is never a thing. The 280,000 children abused by Catholic priests were reduced to things, things for the priests pleasure, things that were poison containers for the priests self loathing at their own pedophilia and things who might hurt the church if their painful truth was revealed. Secrecy was managed by protecting abusers and reducing their young victims to silence.

John Cory’s discussion of the Catholic Church scandal cites Khaled Hosseini’s novel The Kite Runner in which a father, Baba tells his son Amir, “There is only one sin and that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft… When you kill a man, you steal a life. When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth.” To extend that metaphor when you, a trusted father, a church father, molest a child you steal a child’s sense of his or her soul as pure and good. When you lie, you steal peoples’ right to the truth.

In authoritarian families or religions or schools children are things to be managed. Compassion and judgment operate from the top down. Threats to the authoritarian hierarchy are eliminated by whatever means are necessary. It is these authoritarian structures which are the enemies of freedom and kindness, They steal people’s right to the truth and to respect and dignity. That is why authoritarian hierarchies must be transformed.

Attempts to transform the repressive authoritarian hierarchy of the Catholic Church have not received publicity. There are such attempts in every authoritarian hierarchy from authoritarian families to religions to educational systems. Since I am writing about a specific authoritarian hierarchy, the Catholic Church, I want to mention one of the many groups working to transform that hierarchy. This group does not limit itself to one particular manifestation of the hierarchy such as their homophobia or their secrecy on issues of predator priests and colluding Church superiors. The group, the Roman Catholic Women Priests (RCWP), is committed to transforming more than the Church’s discrimination against women. RWCP calls on women and qualified men to become priests together and transform the Church’s authoritarian hierarchy into a ministry united with the people they serve. They want an inclusive spirit and commitment to a democratic Church of equals. In 2002 they ordained women as priests committed to a democratic Church. In 2008 the current Pope, Benedict XVI excommunicated the women priests and the Bishops who ordained them. They posed a threat to the authoritarian hierarchy that the Pope was quick to address in escalating steps that culminated in excommunication. The women and their Bishops did not accept the Pope’s authoritarian pronouncement. They continue to lead democratic congregations. They have their counterparts urging the transformation of all authoritarian hierarchical institutions. They affirm the morality of the deepest respect for people who can never be treated as things or robbed of the truth and respect they deserve.

Wednesday
Jun132012

Post-Bush America: A Site of Family Disintegration and Revolutionary Personal Change

First published in The Socialist March 2010 Issue 2.

Post-Bush America is a land of personal suffering, family disintegration, and desperation for women and children. The US family has experienced a class revolution in family and personal life. In fact, that revolution in family and personal life is the only class revolution happening now. It is not recognized as such because class is the most repressed discourse in America. Race, gender and ethnicity are recognized, class is repressed.

What Happened?

Conditions for US women and families began deteriorating in 1970 when real wages froze for the first time in more than a century. For the previous 150 years, between 1820 and 1970, even in the Great Depression, every generation benefitted from higher wages than the previous generation. That was the basis of the “American Dream.” That stopped in 1970. From that time forward, workers’ productivity kept rising while real wages froze (1). The American family wage for white male workers had basically supported dependent wives and children until 1970 (2). Before 1970, every generation was able to increase their consumption. Americans sense of self-worth was, in large part, dependent on their increased ability to consume. By the time Bush took over in the year 2000, Americans had become increasingly desperate. Their sense of personal value was cut along with their salaries. Consumption was undermined and with it self worth.

What Produced the Crisis in Personal and Family Life?

Family desperation pushed women into the labor force to increase money for the household. Adolescents began to work to afford the ever increasing consumption pushed by American culture. In 1970, 40% of US women were in the labor force, many part time (3). By the year 2000, 77 % of US women were in the labor force, mostly full-time, with dwindling governmental supports for daycare, after school programs, elder care social programs (4).

Women’s work outside of the home helped, but it could not make up for what was lost. Women’s work has its own costs, not only the obvious expense of additional clothing and transportation, but also the costs of purchasing some of the goods and services that women had produced at home, free of charge, The latest figures indicate that if a stay at home mother in the US were replaced by paid services the cost would be $116,805 a year. The domestic services provided by a mom who works outside of the home would cost $68,406 per year (CNN, 2008, CBC News, 2008). Families were still financially hurting. Many families became dependent on credit card debt in order to live.

Since productivity increased sharply while wages froze, the wealthiest Americans were appropriating vast amounts of surplus labor for themselves. As one illustration of what that means, Americans went from being the Western nation with the most equal distribution of wealth in 1970 to the Western nation with the least equal distribution of wealth in 2008 (5). The wealthy then issued credit cards in order to loan to the workers the money appropriated from their surplus labor (6).

By the time Bush took power in 2000 there was a crisis of the volatile combination of reduced salaries and accelerated debt. Bush won the elections of 2000 and 2004 in part by selling the fantasy that the US was king of the world and the US male was king of his household. This fantasy was offered when the US economy was no longer singularly dominant and the family was already falling apart. These fantasies are more difficult to sustain after many of the already hobbled social programs that allowed families to survive were cut.

Now, families are in trouble. US family life depended on women’s full time domestic labor to physically maintain home life and on women’s emotional labor to emotionally sustain family security and emotional well being. Women return from work in the paid labor force to work a “second shift” of emotional and domestic labor (7). Sixty percent of American women with children under two are in the paid labor force. Women with children under one who work full time are twice the number of those working part time (US Department of Labor, Bureau of labor Statistics, 2005). Almost 80 percent of mothers with children from 6 to 11 years old are in the labor force.

Because there is no governmental support for American working mothers, 85% of US infants are in substandard daycare while their mothers work. During these formative years the children may spend their days crowded into small spaces sitting in front of televisions in soiled diapers. They may have neither adequate toys nor play space nor supervision. The years from 0 to 2 are crucial years for brain formation (8). Despite this, there is no federal regulation of US daycare centers. Only 15% of US children receive quality childcare. Quality care is very expensive.

Eighty-two percent of childcare and 70% of housework is still done by women alone. Because of their work at home, married women’s work week is 7 hours longer than their husbands. Married women who are employed outside of the home do, on average, more household labor than their unemployed husbands (9). Married women are now the most depressed people in America (10).

The family as we knew it is over. American men cannot and do not sufficiently support their wives and children. Women are overworked and miserable. In a new development US women are now rejecting marriage. For the first time in American history, the majority of women are single (11). Two thirds of divorces are now initiated by women (12). Half of first marriages and 60% of second marriages end in legal separation or divorce. This does not take into account all of the people who end their marriages outside of the legal system. Now 44% of US children are born outside of a marriage (13).

In fact, now women are willing to take a financial hit in order to escape exploitation in the home. US women without children earn as much or more money than their husbands. They can and do leave marriages without financial privation. Women with children suffer financially. Alimony payments are rarely granted and full child support payments are not delivered in full.

What Does This Have to Do With A Class Revolution?

Such changes in households and family life represent a class revolution in the US, the only class revolution that is currently underway. The celebrated and ostensibly “traditional” nuclear family consisted of a feudal arrangement. The woman produced domestic use values, cooked food, order, cleanliness, and use value services such as childcare, care for the sick, emotional services, and sexual services. Her husband, by virtue of his birth right as a male, had the obligation to financially support his wife and children in this feudal household. The man, by virtue of maleness had the right to appropriate and distribute the domestic use values and emotional use value services his wife produced. These patterns have changed.

The women’s liberation movement has eroded the legal basis of men’s rights in the household. For example, spousal violence is no longer legally tolerated. However, male feudal privilege lingers. Domestic violence is still the leading cause of injury and homicide for women between the ages of 15 and 44 (14). Spousal rape is now illegal in all 50 states. However, even today there are lighter penalties for spousal rape than for stranger rape. In 20 states it is still legal for a man to have non- consensual sex with his wife if she is mentally ill or physically incapacitated (15). The feudal family is dying but its male privileges linger on.

As the feudal family slowly withers, it is replaced by other family forms with other prominent class processes. The fastest growing family form is Marx’s “ancient” form of household, which I call the individual form, which an individual, a man, a woman or a person with dependent children, or unrelated individuals live in a household where each individual produces, appropriates and distributes her/his own domestic surplus. Twenty percent of Americans never marry. Individual households are America’s fastest growing family form. Most children will spend at least part of their childhood outside of a family with their two biological parents. The individual family form is fast becoming the dominant form of US household. This form is encouraged by American individualistic ideology, feminists stressing female independence and males who want an escape from financial obligations to women and children.

Two other class forms of households are emerging. One is a communist household of adults and or adults and children. These households operate according to the communist precept “from each according to his/her abilities, to each according to his/her needs.” Domestic tasks and emotional work are shared as is work outside of the home when appropriate. This family form is encouraged by many family therapists, feminists, progressive people, and working couples without children, as well as some with children. It is a slowly growing family form.

There is another form proselytized and reinforced by forces that vigorously deny the collapse of the feudal household. This is the family of the religious right, which captures around 40% of Americans. It is what I call the fascist feudal family. So named, because of its similarity to families in the Third Reich. In the family of the Third Reich, women were to preoccupy themselves with kirche, kuche and kinde, kitchen, church and children. They were denied control over their own bodies through forbidding the use of birth control and abortion. Der Fuhrer was the leader of the man and the man was the leader of the woman (16). Women were to remain as subordinate as they are within the Southern Baptist Convention on men and women in which God is the leader of men who ordains males to lead females. Women are in charge of hearth and home (17). This model is difficult to maintain in today’s world, which is why the divorce rate in red states and amongst fundamentalists is even higher than it is in the less fundamentalist blue states (18). American women are less likely to remain submissive while working to support themselves and their children and a man who cannot alone provide for them.

Secure marriages are a thing of the past. Families and individuals are fracturing under the pressures of transformed landscapes of economic and intimate life. Secure families have been a basic personal support system for all Americans, particularly women. Women’s emotional labor connecting with children, relatives and friends has meant emotional survival and sustenance for children, men and other women. It was these networks of women at home that allowed families in hard times to take care of an extra child when a woman went to work or to move in together in hard times, or bring over extra food when a neighbor friend or relative lost a job or was ill. All of these primary crucial networks are breaking.

American women who try to keep their families happy and healthy must now work outside the home while there is criminally inadequate childcare for their children. Exhausted women return from their jobs to households needing domestic labor and both men and children desperately needing attention. Men, whose working conditions and salaries have deteriorated, want women to take care of them when they return. They are reluctant to help with childcare. They want to be cared for as their fathers were, which may explain why 70% of housework is still done by women. Women’s lives are ever more demanding, exhausting and lonely.

The American Left is not a unified vital alternative force. It presents nothing but action around particular feminist issues. It lacks a revolutionary program addressing the interconnected issues of national priorities and family disintegration. The family and personal life, which are central parts of people’s and particularly women’s lives are parts of life that the Left has left alone.

Designing a Left program that addresses the issues created by the conservative class revolution needs to begin by elaborating the skills and knowledge involved in emotional labor. At present women’s emotional labor is so undervalued that it is unrecognized. There is no vocabulary to define the knowledge and name the skills that enable women to anticipate and meet people’s emotional needs from infancy through adulthood. There are no accessible definitions of that body of knowledge that emerges from attuning oneself to meeting other’s needs, and caring for them physically while letting them know that they are valued and loved (19). The Left needs to explain and design a way to reward skills of empathy and connection. We should also elaborate the jobs that domestic work involves, cite their crucial importance, and then create programs to ease women’s domestic labor burden.

A few ideas for platforms that stem from recognizing and ameliorating women’s exploitation in domestic labor are providing: low cost nutritious family restaurants, options for healthy nutritious take out food, subsidized house cleaning and laundry services, child care provision modeled on the French child care system, quality after school programs in education, sports and the arts.

We also need programs that could help ameliorate women’s burdens of emotional labor, in addition to acknowledging all the skills and labor involved in the emotional labor of caring for others such as:

Providing extra income for jobs that require emotional labor and explicitly rewarding the emotional services provided. These are usually lower paid, female jobs such as nursing, social work, and teaching infants, toddlers, and children from 5 to 8 years old.

Creating an explicitly acknowledged financial incentive to compensate service workers for the part of their jobs that requires emotional effort towards the customer . These incentives might operate for such jobs as health care personnel, social workers, counselors, early childhood educators, secretaries, receptionists, waiters and waitresses, etc.. Emotional helpers would earn a supplement for providing emotional caring on the job.

Creating free counseling centers for couples and families where the explicit labor of understanding and emotionally serving others is valued and taught.

Mandating that ubiquitous, popular 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous, and others all include a 13th step which looks at the conditions of existence of addictions in oppressive, authoritarian families and profit hungry corporations such as the liquor interests, the diet and fashion industries, the pharmaceutical industry., the pornography industry, and the industries producing junk food.

Other parts of a Left program built on the analysis above could be;

  • Organizing to end gender discrimination in all kinds of labor in both the home and the workplace.
  • Mandating adequate and equal wages for men and women.
  • Working to to end hiring discrimination against all women and particularly mothers.
  • A comprehensive birth control curriculum beginning in the early grades stressing respectful honest decisions about creating a life for which men and women will share equal responsibility.
  • Providing courses throughout the life span for both children and adults to teach skills in working out difficulties in relationships with respect and consideration for the other whether that other is a child or an adult. These courses could give ample opportunities for discussion of strategies for creating egalitarian, communist emotional relationships.


It is crucial for the Left to create a language for and an appreciation of women’s domestic labor, our emotional labor and our labor in caring for other people. An explanation of what that labor entails is a crucial step in enhancing women’s positions at home and in the workplace. The class analysis above is a basis on which to create such a language and awareness and action. America is a land of personal crisis and family disaster. It is time for the Left to address the problems literally, where we live.

Notes:
1 Resnick, S. and Wolff, R. 2003. “Exploitation, Consumption, and the Uniqueness of U.S. Capitalism. Historical Materialism V.11 N.4.p.209-226
2 Minority males never earned a family wage that could support dependent wives and children.
3 Lee, M. and Mather, M. 2008. “U.S. Labor Force Trends.” Figure 1. “U.S. Labor Force Participation of Men and Women 1970-2007. 5. Population Bulletin. V.63 N.2.2008. Population Reference Bureau.
4 Babcock, L. and Laschever, S. 2003. Women Don’t Ask. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press X1-X111, 41-62.)
5 OECD. www:oecd.org/els/social/inequality.
6 Wolff, , R. 2008. “When Capitalism Hits the Fan.” Lecture video. http://vimeo.com/1962208
7 Arlie Hochschild. “Second Shift” (1989, New York: Viking.)
8 Fraad, H. 2008. “American Children- Who Cares?” The Journal of Psychohistory . p. 394-399
9 Uchitelle, l. and Leonhardt, D. 2006. “Men Not Working and Not Wanting Just Any Job.” The New York Times, July 31, 2006. p.D1.
10 More than 11% of women and 5% of men are taking antidepressants, Barber, C. 2008. Comfortably Numb: How Psychiatry Is Medicating A Nation New York:Panthon Books. Twice as many women as men are desperate enough to seek psychiatric help.
11 Roberts, S. January 16, 2007. “Most Women Now Live Without A Husband.” The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com.
12 Brinig, M. and Allen, D. 2000 “’These Boots Are Made For Walking”: Why Most Divorce Filers Are Women” American Law and Economics Review 2-1 (2000): p.126-169.
13 Forum on Child and Family Statistics 2007 4 . Hamilton, B. and Ventura S. 2007. “Births: Preliminary Data for 2006.” National Vital Statistics Reports. V. 56 N.7 . Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Health.
14 Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and National Committee on Violence Against Women. 2000. “Findings from the National Committee on Violence Against Women Survey, July, 2000.” US Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs. NCJ 181867 p.97.
15 Stritof, S., and Stritof, B. 2008. “An Evolution of Law: Spousal Rape Recently Prosecutable.” Times Standard. March 23, 2008. p.101.
16 Koontz, C. 1987. Mothers in the Fatherland. New York: Saint Martins Press.
17 Baptist Faith and Message. June 13-14, 2000. “Southern Baptist Convention on Men and Women. Orlando, Florida.
18 Belluck, P. November 14, 2004. “ To Avoid Divorce Move to Massachusetts. The New York Times Week in Review.
19 Daniel Stern 2004. Th Present Moment in Psychotherapy and Everyday Life. New York: W.W. Norton, and John Cacioppo and William Patrick.2008. Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection. New York: W.W. Norton

Wednesday
Jun132012

How Tiger – and Other Confessors – Could Make Amends

From Tikkun Daily, February 2010.

Tiger Woods’ confession seems to have placated his public and perhaps his sponsors as well. He seemed so sincere. According to the reputable Golf Digest, Tiger Woods amassed approximately a billion dollars in his 13 years as a clean-cut, all American, star athlete. That billion was made from pitching products rather than hitting golf balls. Ten percent of his income was garnered from winnings. Ninety percent was from endorsements. Nike’s alone was worth about one hundred million dollars over five years. Gatorade – Pepsi co was negotiating a similar deal when the scandal erupted. At the same time Woods had endorsement deals with Gillette, ATT, Tag Heuer, and his own lucrative firm, Tiger Woods Design which gives its name to golf course developments from Dubai to North Carolina.

Like other wealthy confessors such as Elliot Spitzer, John Edwards and Senator Mark Sanford, statements of owing the public better behavior were like other political promises. There was no commitment to back them with payment. Similarly Obama has felt no obligation to the public to compensate us for his broken promises on ending war, providing single payer health care, opening credit and creating jobs. FDR’s administration came through and created eight million decently paid jobs for unemployed Americans. America’s population has since doubled. To honor his promise as FDR did, Obama would create sixteen million jobs with the 7 billion a week saved from just 2 of the 3 wars he continues. Every unmanned drone of the type that has killed more than 300 civilians costs us $750,000 dollars. How much would Obama save by stopping that murder? Perhaps he might use that blood money to put American children in quality childcare. Currently 85% of American babies and young children are in substandard childcare.

Similarly Tiger Woods might actually show his contrition for letting Americans down. New York City’s one million school children will lose their free subway fare on school days. The New York Subway system, the MTA needs one hundred and forty two million dollars to restore free rides to the children. That sum would be a drop in Woods’ overflowing bucket. (This point was contributed by a struggling part time New York City arts teacher). After all, Woods garnered about a billion dollars.

Similarly, Elliot Spitzer, John Edwards, and Mark Sanford could chip in to send all of Washington DC’s elementary school children from their dilapidated substandard public schools to superb, enriched schools like Sidwell Friends where Obama’s children go to the tune of thirty-thousand dollars a year each. Naturally, in that excellent school children learn to think rather than pass the tests foisted on public school children.

We are used to accepting that there will be no commitment behind people’s words. Advertisements constantly make false claims. No one holds them accountable. We are taught to look away from the glaring reality that we are deceived daily. It comes in increments from our media, our sports heroes who are paid corporate mouthpieces, and our public leaders who are also paid corporate mouthpieces. What would happen if none of the hollow statements articulated with such sincerity were accepted without a real financial commitment to their truth? What if we demanded that our leaders and heroes put their money where their mouths are?

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