The Value of Work Deja Vu All Over Again

There has been a marked change in the estimate of [women’s] position as wealth producers. We have never been “supported” by men; for if all men labored hard every hour of the twenty-four, they could not do all the work of the world. A few worthless women there are, but even they are not so much supported by the men of their family as by the overwork of the “sweated” women at the other end of the social ladder. From creation’s dawn. our sex has done its full share of the world’s work; sometimes we have been paid for it, but oftener not.

Any idea when this statement was made? OK, a clue: I recently ran across it in a speech given by Harriot Stanton Blatch at a suffragist convention–in 1898.

Blatch went on to raise issues much like what Ai-Jen Poo said at the “Unfinished Business” program 111 years later,  what Moms Rising has organized itself to organize the troops about now, and what dozens if not hundreds of bloggers will be talking about this weekend over at Fem 2.0:

Unpaid work never commands respect; it is the paid worker who has brought to the public mind conviction of woman’s worth…If we would recognize the democratic side of our cause, and make an organized appeal to industrial women on the ground of their need of citizenship, and to the nation on the ground of its need that all wealth producers should form part of its body politic, the close of the century might witness the building up of a true republic in the United States.

Yep, don’t agonize: organize. Band together to make the workplace and worklife such that people of both genders can both earn a living and have a life. This is the necessary next wave of the feminist movement, one in which both men and women must participate. Because these days, men want to participate in their children’s lives as women have always done. Family-friendly policies benefit everyone. But many if not most men are afraid to take paternity leave or a sick day to take care of an ailing child. And those not in paid employment, as well as the growing number of freelancers and caregiving workers, often have no health care benefits or paid sick days.

As the workplace moves ever closer to gender parity because employers need the skills of both men and women; as the ailing economy moves ever closer to one in which both partners must work outside the home to make ends meet, and as the cultural power balance between partners becomes increasingly equalized because of growing parity in income generation, the work that both do at the office or at home–or in someone else’s home–must be valued and supported accordingly.

Let’s not still be having this debate another 100 years hence. Check out the campaigns over at MomsRising.com to find out how you can help make the needed changes.

Today’s Power Point: Where Were the Women at Davos?

Check out this info from the Aurora Monthly Newsletter put out by wheretowork.com:

Following recent headlines about the lack of women at Davos again this year, women question the role of such a forum if it doesn’t comprise diverse leadership. The World Economic Forum’s own leadership structure that sets the agenda and decides who attends is not gender diverse. 4 / 22 foundation board members are women. There are 0 women on the managing board responsible for WEF’s operations and running. 2 / 10 senior directors responsible for subject areas within WEF are female. It ‘d be quite insightful to know which corporations and Governments in attendance at Davos sent mixed gender delegations.

In chaos is opportunity. Mark my words, despite the many real dangers that women (being often the last hired) might face heightened vulnerability to losing jobs during an economic downturn, the current economic chaos is great opportunity for women to advance.

First of all, when there’s a mess to clean up, they always bring in the women, right? Second, when those in power can’t figure out what to do, they are more open than usual to new solutions and in opening the table to previously untapped individuals who might offer new ideas for the solutions they are desperately seeking in order to retain their positions. And finally, as the public and investors daily lose more confidence in the men who have been in charge for so long, pure pragmatism says that if you can offer a solution and it works, they’ll no longer care whether you have a higher pitched voice and sometimes wear a skirt. So women can move into leadership positions that have never before been open, and suddenly guess what–women in power and leadership roles becomes normalized, and considering ability before gender becomes normal operating procedure.

This is one of those Power Point moments for women. Who will step up to take advantage of it? I can’t wait to see what happens in the next decade.

MomsRising–The Women’s and Men’s Movement of Tomorrow

I took an early morning walk today in Central Park with Joan Blades, founder with her husband Wes Boyd, of the progressive political on-line grassroots powerhouse, moveon.org. But her agenda wasn’t moveon.com. Joan is a serial entrepreneur and a very successful one, whether creating a software company or a new nonprofit organization. It was the latter she wanted to talk with me about today: her latest venture, MomsRising.

Joan has plunged her creative hands into a key mobilizing issue of the day, building a more family-friendly America in the workplace and public policy. Fresh from getting the New Jersey legislature to pass a paid sick leave measure, she brought me up to  date on the organization she started in 2006 in response to her own experiences as a mom in the workplace.

MomsRising has over 140,000 citizen members already and is aiming for 1,000,000 to participate in their citizen advocacy agenda. Over 85 national and state organizations have aligned with MomsRising to create a coalition that works at the state and national levels to bringing motherhood and family issues to the forefront of the country’s awareness so they can advance workplace policies such as paid sick leave, maternity and paternity leave, flexible work hours, and equal pay for equal work. Quality childcare and healthcare access are also on their rather large plate. And they’re pumping up their political fundraising so they can do more lobbying on all these issues.

They’re good at the use of symbols–which they put into the hands of an empowered constituency as they did in New Jersey–to get their messages across to the public and policy makers. For example, take a look at the clever onesie photo gallery where you can join in the effort to call attention to the need for policies that help moms and dads care for their children while staying in the workforce. You’re given two options in a classic grassroots, viral organizing technique:

1- CRAFTY OPTION:
a) Get a new or used baby onesie (or a small kids t-shirt) and make it your own by decorating it with fabric paint, markers, or even rhinestones! We invite you to add catchy slogans (“Paid Family Leave or Bust”) or your hopes for the future.

b) After you’ve decorated your onesie, then… pop it in the mail to us! SNAIL MAIL YOUR CREATIONS TO: MomsRising, P.O. Box 19596, Seattle, WA 98109

c) (optional) Hold a party! If you like, you can get together with friends and have a ONEsie Party to decorate! Or decorate your ONEsie with your children, at play groups, with book clubs, or even while you’re waiting for sports practice to end. *Please email us at party@momsrising.org, with the Subject line “Power of ONEsie,” and tell us if you are doing this in a group so we can tell the press and keep track.

2- NON-CRAFTY OPTION:
You can buy a ONEsie from MomsRising online with one easy click, and we’ll decorate it for you and add it to the Power of ONEsie project.

*Click here to buy your ONEsie to add to the Power of ONEsie project: https://secure.democracyinaction.org/dia/organizations/momsrising/shop/custom.jsp?donate_page_KEY=2305

Please invite your friends to participate in this effort by forwarding this web page link to them. Working together, we amplify our voices!

While the name of the organization is MomsRising and there are many gender-biased injustices to be tackled, the fact is that dads fortunes will also rise if this work is successful. The women’s movement has changed men as profoundly as it has changed women, and both now want to be able to make a living while having a life. That’s the men’s and women’s movement of tomorrow, starting today.

Look for MomsRising to take its place within the panoply of leading advocacy groups. No, join them in their work. Few things could be more important than electing a new president and policy makers up at the state and local levels who will prioritize the wellbeing of America’s families and children.