Essay Jill Richardson

We’ll Never Have Gender Equality Without This Crucial Reform

The collapse of child care and traditional schooling is having a devastating effect on women in particular.
[Neil Moralee / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

By Jill Richardson / OtherWords

This week my students turned in papers relating news articles to what they learned in class about parenting. Every single student’s paper is about how the pandemic is exacerbating pre-existing inequalities.

I’m a teaching assistant in a family sociology course, and inequality is one of the most important things we study. We strive to understand how inequalities are being produced, maintained, and especially during the coronavirus crisis, deepened.

With child care centers closing down and schools going virtual, taking on extra child care has fallen disproportionately to women. As a result, many women are falling behind at work or leaving paid labor altogether. The Washington Post reports the percentage of American women in the labor force is at its lowest since 1998.

As sociologist Jessica Calarco put it, “Other countries have a social safety net. The U.S. has women.”

Part of the problem is the gender wage gap. Women tend to go into lower paid jobs, but jobs associated with women pay less because so-called “women’s work” is devalued. Part of the problem is just plain sexism. But another part is more complicated.

In most heterosexual couples, the man earns more. In 2017, women earned more than their husbands in only 30 percent of couples. Often women marry men a few years older than them, so their husbands have also had a few more years of work experience andnorms raises.

When they have children, if one of them needs to cut back hours of paid labor, it often makes financial sense for the woman to do it.

But conditioning is still part of the problem.

Sociologist Arlie Hochschild found that women in dual-income couples usually work a “second shift” at home. Why? Because many women as well as men still believe that cooking, cleaning, and child care are “women’s work.”

Over the last half century, women’s and men’s housework has become less unequal, but not necessarily because men are doing much more. Instead, families now simply lower their standards, rely on technology (microwaves, dishwashers, etc.), and outsource (daycare, eating out, hiring house cleaners).

But all that takes money. And when it comes down to it, society places pressure specifically on mothers to take on the responsibility of raising children.

“Intensive parenting norms,” Calarco says, still “push women to put their children ahead of their careers. In the workforce, that makes it harder for women to compete with men for top positions, because they’re seen as less committed to their jobs.”

Dads basically get a free pass. When he became a parent, journalist Matt Yglesias found himself universally praised any time he held his infant son without killing him. It was as though even the smallest parental labors he made were seen as going above and beyond.

“No,” he wrote. “I’m not babysitting this morning, I’m parenting.”

In a pandemic that’s ruthlessly targeted the most vulnerable, all this only compounds existing inequalities.

In their papers, my students noted that children from low-income families are disproportionately falling behind in school now, which could limit their social mobility over the course of their lives. Without school and daycare, for instance, women farmworkers are finding themselves forced to bring their children with them to work.

Many of my students are intelligent, motivated women with ambitious career plans. It’s painful to see it dawn on them that their desire for a family will force them to choose between giving up opportunities or working at home after they work at work.

Social conditioning takes time to change, but policies don’t have to. My students want gender equality, but they aren’t going to get it until we improve our social safety net for parents.

Jill Richardson
Jill Richardson

OtherWords columnist Jill Richardson is pursuing a PhD in sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This op-ed was distributed by OtherWords.org.

9 comments

  1. 25 years into the Democrats’ war on the poor. As the overall life expectancy of the US poor fell below that of every developed nation, liberals maintained a pep rally for the middle class. This explains a great deal about this era.

  2. in amerika equality means money
    Christopher Lasch
    This amerikan demonstrates Hochschild is correct: “Culture determines perceptions and expectations”
    the USA is already a matriarchy–this explains the so called “narcissism epidemic” in USA
    amerikan children having little contact with their fathers—over-working themselves at their jobs, protecting themselves from their money worshiping materialistic wives…in a nation where success is love this is expected
    Gorer observed in 1948: “only in amerika is the father vestigial; the amerikan mind and conscience is feminine”…now even more obvious

    1. @Yuri: It might aid comprehension of your comments if you begin each new sentence with a capital letter and end it with a full stop.

      1. only amerikans reduce thinking to spelling: Daniel boors tin described this as “the amerikan spelling fetish”

    2. This British man says: do please use the most commonly-accepted English style of a capital letter at the beginning of a sentence and a full stop at the end. If I were an American, I would have suggested a ‘period’ not a ‘full stop’. Still, it’s your loss if fewer people read your comments. If it were poetry you write, anything goes. It’s not.

      1. I could care less if u also reduce thinking to spelling: “only in the anglosphere are connections not made”. Geoffrey Gorer
        “nobody has despised intellectualism as much as the British”. Leonard Wolff
        “Dialectal thinking is absent in the anglosphere” U niv of Wuhan 2016
        “in the anglosphere …thinking is particularized and decontextualized”. Richard Sennet

  3. Cerulean Blue

    Chapter 1
    Caliban’s Daughter

    Ahh … well …. Ya got t’ do it sometime, man.

    Caliban is like many; he wants to avoid the more difficult subjects. But he knows that to get from where we are, to where we want to go, these issues must be faced squarely. We cannot become Self-Aware by hiding from what makes us uncomfortable.

    This young woman could be me own oldest darlin’ girl. She wrote her senior thesis at Stanford on these issues. She compared the gender culture presented in the fictional drama ‘Sex and the City’, with that presented by the movie ‘Fight Club’.

    She was SO angry about the lot of women. She even lauded the promising research being done (she had heard) to create an artificial womb. It was UNFAIR, she insisted, that the lot of women was to create and nurture the miracle of new life.

    “For threatening my baby, un-borned and un-named, you ain’t worth the blood that runs through yer veins.” -(credit needed?)

    I did not yet even have a baby when I first heard those words, but I STILL was stirred as deeply as my very soul with raging hatred. Why? Because God or Nature, (take your pick), made me a man. The old silverback does not protect the tribe because he decided to, or because someone told told him he should, he does it because that is how his maker made him. There is NO choice involved.

    Before I even had a baby, the very idea of a threat to my baby un-borned, stirred me with rage.

    Then there was me darlin’ girl, standin’ before me, stompin’ her foot like spirited young girls always do, with fists clenched tight at their hips, tellin’ me that it is SO UNFAIR to be a human female.

    Imagine how an old ape would feel, to see that his Enemy had so poisoned his own daughter’s mind and spirit.

    Women certainly enjoy having those baby food glands on their chests, don’t they? I’m told that they even spend over $2 BILLION every year getting foreign substances injected into their baby food glands to make them appear more prominent. Ah, but ‘girls just wanna have fun. Eh?

    But when it comes time to actually feed babies, they RESENT that God or Nature cursed THEM with bearing these glands, (which stupid men find so ‘adorable’).

    Do all get me drift here. It has been a EVIL power that has taught our women and girls to hate the most marvelous gift that God or Nature has bequeathed to Humankind.

    Most of us don’t have a ‘vision’ of how this came about. We don’t ‘see’ the nuts and bolts details of how our cunning Enemy put these ideas in young girl’s minds. As always, the Enemy looked for a girl greatest immediate Desire, and manipulated that to serve the Enemy’s own interests at the tragic expense of more misery and pain for the Common People.

    If I was a young woman-scholar seeking a thesis to research and explore, it might “Don and Betty and Peggy. How ‘Mad Men’ the saga of our culture as it taught women to hate being women’.

    (Ms Richardson could ‘steal’ the idea. It’s no use to a poor broken down old carpenter).

    It never in a gazillion years would have EVER even occurred to Ma Joad, in the 1930s, that she needed to be liberated. Women were lauded as the very soul of ‘the fambly’. They loved their men. They loved them for being men. For their strength. For their courage. They loved their men for loving them back more than they loved their own lives.

    No man worthy to call hiumself that would EVER hesitate for an instant, to protect the life of any woman, if if she be a complete stranger to him, who njustr happened to fall into peril as he walked by?

    Would any woman do that for a man she did not know?

    Well … I’m not claiming credit here. No moral superior choice is involved. Men do NOT choose to be this way. Our maker, whether Nature or God, makes us this way. No one teaches a silverback to roar and face any danger with no thought, at ALL, of his own safety.

    Ma Joad was not merely just loved by Pa. She was worshipped. She was a glowing spiritual light to guide his life. She was the reason he greeted any labors each new day would lay onj his tired back, with resolute courage, tight lips, and if necessary, gritted teeth.

    Ah, but then, from the death technology of the First Great War, came the D-9s.

    Way far away in Russia, it was much more cruel perhaps, but anyone could see that with the new technology, steel ‘tank tracks’ on the ground rather than mere rubber would be MUCH more ‘efficient’ in working the land. The Joads did not even have a tractor. Animals still pulled many plows in the 1930s. In Ukraine, they still used scythes to cut the grain by hand, or even the famous ‘sickle’.

    Stalin starved them. He stole their grain, in a bumper crop year, He stationed the Red Army on every road so there was no escape. He wanted to get these peasants OFF their fields so the steel-tracked tractors could work ’em instead. (This story is in my own family’s lore. I first heard it at the knees of my own family’s elders. I have blood relative who were among the MILLIONS who got skinny, wasted away, and then died. The stench of death was so thick in the air, that in the springtime, when the welcome warm breezes first blew up from the south, the stench of death was even over Moscow, where people had nom idea what was happening in Ukraine.

    Yea …. That’s how it happened over in Russia/the USSR. But in America it was cruel enough, but not quite to that extreme.

    But it was cruel. The Bankster Thugs got themselves some D-9 Caterpillar tractors. In minutes, maybe two or three, a family’s home could be a pile of rubble to be burned and/or loaded and trucked away.

    Does Ms. Richardson even know the story? Tommy boy killed men to protect his dear sister and her baby, and all his ‘fambly’.

    Does Ms Richard really think that in that former ‘gender culture’, which formed from God or Nature’s own plan, the women hated their men for being men, as modern American women do?

    These strange repulsive selfish creatures, these ‘modern girls’, don’t stop at merely hating their men. They hate manhood itself, even as they so cherish stupid men’s idiotic fascination with the bags of adipose tissue (fat) on their chests. Yea … These girls cherish their sexuality as separate from their own womb. Being mothers is so boring, compared to be sexy girls commanding men’s attention.

    And men are shying away from these creatures. Whole ideologies are springing up among young men to warn them of the danger these Black Widow Feminists present.

    MGTOW is one. ‘Men going their own way’. Last I heard it was growing fast. Basically it teaches the old “wham bam thank ya ma’am” technique.

    “Watcha’ gonna do ‘about wham bam thank ya ma’am
    When you take to the wild-wood trail” — Bozz Scaggs

    Get what ya need from ’em boys, but don’t let them get their Black Widow fangs near ya.

    Yea … well … Look at all them numbers. All them ‘stats’. More and more sexy girls, every dang day, end up in the considerable miseries of single motherhood. And their ideological response is to angrily denigrate the very institution of the Human Family. We need trained workers to raise our children. We need the government to raise them. (Yea … This is what these crazed Bolshevik Marionettes actually SAY out fracking LOUD!

    This will free women to pursue fame and glory in their holy ‘careers’, (all girls lower yer heads and genuflect). If yer not a ‘career girl’, dressed to the 9s, clicking yer boot heels on marble floors, trying with every female wile to catch every man’s leering gaze, (then cursing him as pigs when you catch it), if yer not on the cover of ‘Ms.’, if you earn less than the stupid lout you married), you are a FAILURE as a human being. Ah … but it’s even so MUCH worse than that, you are a failure as a WOMAN.

    “And I hope that you die. I hope you die soon. I’ll follow your casket in the pale afternoon. I’ll watch while yer lowered, down to your death bed. And I’ll stand over your grave ’til I’m sure that yer dead” Lucky it was little Bobby a singing’ this. Had ‘a been Caliban ‘a singin’ I probably woulda’ said. “I’ll stand over yer grave and spit on yer demon’s head”.

    Look what they done to our children, folks. To our darlin’ precious girls. This is their most sinister and evil of all their ‘divide and rule designs’. Grab young girls by the short hairs of their raw female Desire, and make them despise the greatest gift that God or Nature gave them.

    The Ruling Elites, the Banksters in America, and the Stalinists in Russia, (ruling over the Soviet Union), saw that more money was to be made by pushing people off their land, (or simply killing them and letting them rot, as was done where the Bolsheviks had “overthrown capitalism”. So people were forced to migrate into cities, to live packed together. They could no longer, from that point, give the Ruling Elites the proverbial ‘finger’, and make their own living off the land itself. Now we were all totally dependent on the Elites to provide us with our livelihoods.

    Don Draper was born on a farm. When I was a boy, all my buddies’ grandparents grew up on farms. All four of mine did. But then we all lived in the city.

    Well … Due to our animal nature, living packed close together presents cultural problems. Well … We all know boys can all hot and bothered when they see a coke-bottle, let alone a pretty girl. And the girls? With so many boys after them, it was a bother, but. a girl who knew how to put her finger on all those nasty boys’ fancy would seldom be lonely.

    The old rural culture could NEVER stand up under such conditions. But the old culture tried to defend itself. First it became repressive, and the entire weight of defending the culture was puts on the heads of poor girls who were trying to understand the new powerful urges they felt.

    I’d already discussed ‘The Feminine Mystique’ with me own dear mother, Mary Lynn Owen, when I first saw the STUNNING film depicting the vise that this now cruel culture put young girl’s hearts into.

    When the beautiful girl, a young girl that would reduce to pure mash the heart of ANY man alive, stood up from her tub? “I’m CLEAN mudder! She said through teeth clenched in rage. I’m still yer PURE girl!”… eh? well … I barely kept from passing out from the pure moment of a genuine ‘epiphany’.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3WCXyWMbOw

    I was but a teen-age boy, then, but I ‘saw’ that loving mother, her own head full of what had become a ‘sick’ culture, through the very eyes ofn that young girl, and felt that mudder’s pain stab me heart at the same time.

    I married a Catholic girl. 23 she was …. (I’m ‘a tellin ya boys, I’m gonna mind me manners cause ladies are here, but ya shoulda’ seen this girl when she was “comin’ after me”. (“Don’t the sun look like God’s own face, goin’ down over the sea, ahh … but don’t my gal look fine when she’s ‘a comin’ after me” (B Dylan … with a couple liberties taken)

    Catholic girls were complicated creatures. Catholic men worshipped the Holy Virgin. But it was mostly the ‘plainer’ girls who worshipped the Holy Mother the same. The pretty girls were ‘naughty’, to catch the nasty boys’ eyes.

    They forced the bony fingered nuns, (with their hated wooden rulers), to measure their hemlines every day. When they sat down, their very ladies modesty was only barely preserved, and they pretended not to notice when the cute one they had designs on looked so fervently.

    Let poor Caliban weave a tale fer ya. Me young wife and I went to Rome. I was dumbfounded as we flew over the landscape and rooftops. (I had first read ‘Caesar’s Commentaries’ as a Classics Comic when was maybe 8 or 9. When I was about 12, I found a paperback copy, (the Rex Warner translation, still my favorite), in my Ukrainian Uncle’s bedroom, in the old house on Highland Park Ave. By the time I had married, I had read it maybe 10 times already. Why? How the frack should I know?

    Anyway …. There I was, in the Fabled City itself, where all those characters had “strutted and fretted”. We barely got our luggage put away at the hotel. We went out to breathe the exciting Rome air.

    We hadn’t walked six blocks, six around, and six back, before we saw people around us start to get excited. And some began running. “What’s going on”, I asked the first carabinieri, we came across. “Il Papa!” he said.

    Well … me warrior instincts kicked in. I looked high and could see the most likely rooftop toward which they seemed to all be running. I spotted what looked like a promising shortcut. (These colorful details are only meant as a flourish. That last part is maybe a we bit exaggerated). We weren’t even sure what ‘il papa’ meant. We just followed alon g with the crowd.

    Apparently, it was an unannounced gig, like a big rock star stopping in a neighborhood venue and playing a surprise gig, to please his fans (sure) but large to feed his already badly engorged ego).

    Anyway …. We followed the crowd into a ‘chapel’. It was packed, (may 200 people? 400? I didn’t count). And there, maybe 25 feet from us was the Pope. (I think it was the Polish fella).

    Well … His Eminence gave us his generous benedictions, and then dang! He started in with a droning sermon in a foreign language. There I was, trapped for the duration, in the middle of this crowd. Me hands on me darlin’ wife’s shoulders. and me … uhh .. pelvis pushed against he uhh … ‘booty’. Well … What can an old man say? Nature takes it course. I’ve tried, but the little buggar will NEVER listen.

    Well … A’couse me wife became aware of this distressing development. And what ‘dya think any good Catholic girl would so. Well …. Let’s just say shew took the problem in hand.

    And ever since, (what’s it been? 45 years if a day), Caliban has wonder what the world record is for proximity to the actual fracking Pope, while being temporarily relieved of my adult responsibilities.

    Yea … Them Catholic girls. I’m tellin’ ya … I had a buddy named Roger who married a Catholic girl as well. He used t’ tease her. “The Pope sez ya gotta ..The Pope se4z ya gotta”, to the tune of ‘nanny nanny boo boo’. It was still in the Catechism at that time. It was the frackin’ Official Catholic RULE. Even if ya don’t want to … just lay there and endure, girl. It’s your duty to god….LOL … ( Swear t’ god …. That’s what it said).

    Anyway…. Ya better watch out fer these Catholic girls, boys. (This is a true story. I would not sully my wife’s ‘reputation’, but her parents have long passed, and I think all her sisters know the score. They’re Catholic girls too. I think they’d have a knowing giggled over it. [Modern women won’t be embarrassed for her. With the way they behave like alley cats in heat all the time? Will they?]

    [Thomas Wolfe wrote a whole ‘passage’ about his old codger relative who considered Byron a ‘cad’ for sullying a ladies reputation. “You’re telling me”, the young man asked the codger, “that one of the greatest poets who ever wrote in English language is no more than a contemptible cad, for setting the raptures they shared to some of the most beautiful poetry ever written?” Yea … Sure enough …. that’s what that old boy was tellin’ the lad … He meant it, too! ..LOL

    I know I am meandering, but how else can we even try to convey a broad ‘vision’ of the topic at hand?

    The culture we have now, as fully participated in by Modern Women, is VERY bad for women’s own best interests. They are being used … They think they are ‘liberated’ as they dance on the ends of The Ruling Syndicate’s strings.

    I’m not defending the repressive culture depicted in ‘Splendor in the Grass’, that crushed young women’s natural feelings so cruelly that it drove that beautiful girl ‘mad’.

    What I’m saying, is that the culture that has NOW been imposed on our society by those who have the full power of social engineering, is VERY bad for women. It is VERY bad to teach our young girls to behave like alley cats in heat. Do they think they will enjoy raising babies alone? (Take it from one who’s done it … They WON’T!)

    All suffer. Half those babies will be men. Will these bitter Black Widow mothers teach their sons to feel ‘toxic’ for being ‘male’? Aren’t we going from one extreme of a toxic culture to another? Will some poor young boy with an involuntary erection stand up naked before his mother and whimper insanely, like Natalie Wood?

    This young scholar, Ms. Richardson, has her eyes set on pursuing fame and glory, and she’s angry that motherhood may hinder this deepest instinctual human urge. “It’s still the same old story. A FIGHT for love and glory. A case of do or DIE!”

    Well … A society would be pretty stupid to deprive itself of the benefits that will accrue to ALL by nurturing EVERY mind to the fullest extent. Only a foolish society would waste fully HALF its most brilliant minds. Yes, we must create child care systems that will facilitate our exploitation of this, our MOST valuable national resource, (our children’s minds, in the skulls of both little girls and little boys), to its fullest.

    But … Does Ms. Richardson not know that most girls are NOT intellectuals? Most girls are just average girls. (How life must be to be so unburdened, eh?) A ‘career’ to them means long shifts in cubicle hell, or else a waitress’s aching feet becoming shin splints, with 5 hours left on the shift.

    An ‘intellect’ will always demand to be fed. Our nation must help its female intelligentsia contribute to the Common Good. But ‘careers’ are just not what they sometimes seem looking up from below. There are many ways men and women both have of stimulating our intellect that have little or nothing to do with pursuing ‘careers’.

    Let me tell the rest of this story about my oldest daughters. Like Ms. Richardson, she is burdened with a ‘heavy head’. And she resented that being a woman and mother would hinder her.

    She moved to the Big City, determined to make her mark. She lived in a closet, (no, LITERALLY), as she started out to learn about life beyond school. Well … She got herself situated … She ditched the corporate job … got a job as a ‘nanny’, (what d’ya a rich broker would pay for a nanny with a Stanford degree? LOL … You kidding? … Bragging rights ‘down at the club”?). She got a nice apartment in Brooklyn, and got accepted to NYU’s graduate track. Well … You know how them young girls do. She caught a fella’s eye. First love. Then marriage. Then a baby carriage.

    Fast forward several years, she’s trying to get her dissertation done. A lot of her research is in DC. (Library of Congress). She’s already been a TA for years, and is now shuttling up to Columbia as an adjunct. She and her husband bought a fixer upper ‘up the river’. She’s rolling pretty good on the dissertation, and bang! An unplanned pregnancy. And then, it gets worse, it’s twins.

    I sure never would have judged her for making a different decision, but her twins are now 8, she’s a little gray, but just coming into her own. She has an online graphic design business, and has more work than she can accept. She very active in Town politics, (Roger Ailes himself lived in that town, and was, of course, an adversary). She”ll be mayor within another few years. I tease her, and she laughs, but I actually think that.

    Oh …. Did she finish her dissertation? Are you kidding? This is Caliban’s daughter we’re talking about here. You betcha she did. She finished it while she nursed her twins. And you can imagine a proud old papa was at the Radio City Music Hall as she walked the stage, picked up her degree, and became Dr. Zwarich.

    But … After her view of the corrupted mess of the nation’s system of higher education, she said “no thanks”, just as she had to the corporate world.

    If you asked her today, at a cocktail party, or at some conference, what do YOU do? I think the FIRST thing she would say is “I am the mother of three”. If she respected the person’s reaction enough, she might go on to elaborate. (And you think ole Caliban ain’t proud of his baby girl?)

    There ya have … Don and Betty and Peggy … Mad Men takes us from Ma Joad to CIA operative Gloria Steinem.

    Caliban

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