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Labor Day: The Hard Work of Mothering

A slightly different version of the following was originally posted on Dirty Laundry on Mothers Day 2008. Some of the statistics are out-of-date, which most likely only makes them more alarming.

cartoon mothers w: kidsAs the media does every so often, CNN recently reported the latest calculation of what mothers would earn if they were actually paid, in cold hard cash, for their labor. That number would fall somewhere between $117K and $149K per year, a figure arrived at by estimating the average hourly wage for the various tasks involved in mothering: cooking, nursing, chauffeuring, etcetera. Of course, this “news” was delivered by two giggling anchors: they didn’t take it seriously, or expect their audience to either.

Mother’s work is, so received wisdom goes, performed purely for love, and the notion of financial remuneration is simply hilarious.

Never mind that we pay nannies, nurses, housekeepers, day care providers, even the teenager next door for babysitting. And never mind all those studies proving, pretty definitively by now, that women lose income over the course of a lifetime when they spend years mothering. Or that they’re sometimes left to fend for themselves during hubby’s midlife crisis, if not sooner. We seem, as a society, to be terrified of this issue. We seem to think that if mothers were paid for their work, the family as an institution would crumble.

Back in the 1970s the International Wages for Housework Campaign, a network of women in Third World and industrialized countries, formulated a list of ambitious demands “for the unwaged work that women do to be recognized as work in official government statistics, and for this work to be paid.” More active in Australia and England than in the U.S., the movement never went anywhere, and today it’s all but dead: an Internet search dug up articles that were either decades old, or in fringe publications promoting social anarchy.

In 1990 the International Labor Organization estimated that women do two-thirds of the world’s work for 5% of its income. In 1995 the UN Development Programme’s Human Moneyhouse$$Development Report announced that women’s unpaid and underpaid labor was worth $11 trillion worldwide, $1.4 trillion in the United States alone. No doubt these figures are much higher today. (I looked up more recent U.N. reports, but, I confess, found them indecipherable.)

Even more mind-blowing is the system by which governments compute productivity. In If Women Counted: A New Feminist Economics, Marilyn Waring explains the complexities of our economic system, which “counts oil spills and wars as contributors to economic growth, while child-rearing and housekeeping are deemed valueless.”

Motherhood isn’t devalued in monetary terms only. In the early 1980s I enrolled in Empire State College, part of the State University of New York, to complete the requirements for my Bachelor’s degree. ESC was a school of independent study, and life experience earned college credits.  A written narrative had to detail the work and reading done in each field, and be approved by a committee. School policy excluded mothering as a field of study, but my mentor thought that raising a child with a disability, and what I’d learned of the medical system and social work organizations as a result, might be credit-worthy. I wrote up my papers for credit in that and a number of other fields. For writing I got 32 whopping credits. For public relations I got 9; for fundraising, 12; and for political activism, 15. For raising a child with a disability, after much committee debate as to whether to even include it, I got three credits, the lowest amount of all my life experience. If nothing else, I received a stunning education from SUNY.

I don’t know why the majority of the world’s population thinks mothering as work is laughable, and wages for housework a ridiculous concept. I only know that whenever some idiotic anchorperson laughingly tells me what I would have earned as a mother had my work been deemed monetarily valuable, I go into a rage.

 

Still Writing

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Okay, I haven’t posted anything lately–but that’s mostly because I’m still trying to get my new website off the ground. And maybe I’m becoming so overwhelmed by the sheer verbiage of this world, I find I have nothing to say, except maybe outrage over world events.

And okay, maybe my claim to the title “Still Writing” is tenuous these days, but I’m sure I’ll be back eventually. Meanwhile, please go visit my new website at:

http://marsheiner.wordpress.com/

You could even follow it!

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The Jackie Robinson of Pot

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Front cover of Jackie Robinson comic book (iss...

Front cover of Jackie Robinson comic book (issue #5). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Cannabis

 

Last week on his program Bill Maher said that Colorado is the Jackie Robinson of pot. Just as JR was the first to break the color line in Major League Baseball, the State of Colorado is the first to legalize pot and not just for medical purposes. As most people know by now, JR was purposely chosen for his ability to ignore the insults, racism and even objects that fans hurled at him on the field. Not once did Jackie Robinson fight back, or even talk back. They’d spit at him, call him names, and he’d go on playing baseball, ignoring all the hatred.

With gravity in his voice, Maher proclaimed Colorado to be in the same position, warning them to “BE the Jackie Robinson of pot!” He ran down a list of what Colorado should and should not do in order not to ruin the chance for all of the U.S. to eventually legalize marijuana: “Don’t go all Cheech & Chong he said.” He told them not to market to children, and not to name some strains of pot things like Gummi Bear or Chocolate Cake. “Talk to your customers,” he cautioned, to find out their level of experience with pot before selling novices their strongest brand.

 

The Jackie Robinson of pot. I’m tickled by the idea; I don’t know when I’ve been so moved by CannabisBill Maher.

So go ahead, Colorado and BE the Jackie Robinson of pot!

 

 

 

 

Dreamgirls Redux

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I hate to go on and on about something, but it has, after all, been seven years since the film Dreamgirls came out. Having just watched it for the third time, I’m astounded at how great this movie is. That it only garnered two Academy Awards–one of them for Jennifer Hudson for Supporting Actress, and I’m telling you, if she hadn’t gotten that, it would’ve been the artistic crime of the century.(see my original review, Is Dreamgirls Hollywood’s Worst Nightmare?”

Jennifer Hudson

Jennifer Hudson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I’d forgotten a lot of the story, and continually found new things I’d missed in the film. One scene I had not forgotten, however, is when Jennifer Hudson flays herself on stage singing “And I am Telling You I’m Not Going.” It’s the peak of the movie, and although it takes a slight nosedive after that, it recovers nicely with Hudson later singing “I Am Changing,” which I’d forgotten, and “One Night.” Beyoncé was great, and sang her heart out—but Jennifer Hudson walked off with this show.

 

I saw West Side Story something like 45 times in my long life; I’ve seen Chicago maybe 6 times; and now I have another go-to movie musical to rent  when I want a cathartic experience.

Let’s Go To The Prom

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Originally posted on Dirty Laundry:

Dedicated to Frankie Scolaro

If you aren’t a teenager and you don’t have any such creatures hanging around the house, it probably doesn’t even cross your radar, but this happens to be a very important time of year for high school seniors. Yes, of course, graduation’s coming up—but I’m talking about something almost as important—the Senior Prom. These days, or so I’ve been told, kids don’t necessarily have to be coupled up to attend the Prom–some of them go in groups, which I consider a major act of liberation. But whether she goes with a friend or a fiancée, a teenage girl still needs the dress. And March is when they start shopping for it.

Evening wear—dress, matching shoes and purse, jewelry, hairdo—it can cost hundreds of dollars for a girl to be properly prom-attired. That may be fine in Beverly Hills, but around Oaktown and other working-class ‘hoods, it’s…

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Orange Is The New Best Show!

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I just finished watching the first season of Orange Is the New Black, and man oh man, how I wish I had more of it to watch right this minute! The second season is about to begin, but I can’t watch livestream because my free WiFi connection isn’t good enough: videos stop running at some point, or else they bumble through to the end, stopping and starting every few minutes. Thus, I waited until it came out on DVD to see the entire first season; now I’ll have to wait for the second.

I’m not going to give any summaries or recaps here, but there will no doubt be “spoilers.” To tell you the truth I’m a little sick of this spoiler warning bullshit—which I’ll expound upon at some other time.

Like Regina Specter’s song in the opening of the show says, “Remember their faces,” and I vividly remember every one of them . These characters are so well-drawn, their stories so compelling, they’ve become embedded deep in the neurons of my brain. I suppose I’ll just have to subsist on memories for how ever many months it takes…and in the meantime, I have a few opinions about the goings-on.

Q: What makes this show so terrific?

A: It’s about women. Women’s lives, one hundred percent and more real than any so-called reality show.

Big REd

Big REd

Example: A group of prisoners sit in a circle hatching plans so Daya can have her baby without revealing that the father is one of the guards, who she’s in love with. Big Red, Bitch-Goddess of the Prison Kitchen, solemnly advises Daya in a thick Russian accent (I’m paraphrasing here), “Think carefully: every decision you make now is going to affect your family for a long time. Welcome to motherhood.” That just about slayed me.

Chapman Piper Chapman, the main character, sleep-walks through life, as everyone accuses her of doing, letting whatever happens to her happen, taking no responsibility for any of it. She doesn’t seem to realize that words have consequences, that when she tells Healy, her prison counselor, to go fuck himself, he’ll turn on her in the most vicious way he can conjure up. It’s only beginning to dawn on her that you can get into all kinds of trouble saying the wrong things in prison; for instance, if you tell a seriously disturbed religious fanatic her beliefs are a crock of shit, she will seek revenge. In the last episode Chapman gave lip service to accepting responsibility for the crime that got her into jail, but her words sounded hollow and unconvincing. She still blames Alex, her ex-lover and partner in crime, who did indeed turn her in to get less time herself.

AlexI adore Alex, and I can’t stand Piper for causing her so much heartache. Cruelly she abandoned Alex on the heels of her mother’s sudden death, with Alex begging Piper to just accompany her to the funeral. Piper walked out and slammed the door, muttering some nonsense about her needs. When the series begins, her affair with Alex is long since over and she’s engaged to a nebish of a man who understands even less of how the world works  than she does. Larry, who looks exactly like the preppie writer wanna-be he is, uses Piper’s situation as a stepping-stone to a career: he writes an article for the New York Times about his experience of her imprisonment. Not content with the attention he gets, he pushes the envelope by chatting about it on Urban Tales, a fictive NPR show emceed by one Murray Kind, a shoo-in for Ira Glass of This Orange New BlackAmerican Life. Jenji Kohan, who adapted Piper Kerman’s memoir, Orange Is The New Black: My Year in a Woman’s Prison, for the Netflix series, told Fresh Air’s Terry Gross that Urban Tales is a take on This American Life, and she’s an Ira Glass fan. So why didn’t Ira himself play the role? ‘I asked Ira if he would do it and he politely declined,’ Kohan said.

Not only does Larry appropriate Piper’s story for his own benefit, he tells tales out of prison about the other inmates, who despise Piper for the things she said about them. He’s clueless about where she is and with whom, and that he could seriously hurt her with his idle chatter. As for the sleep-walking Piper, she barely confronts him on it, and never tells him straight out to knock it off: she still wants to marry the creep! In their last phone conversation, when I wanted her to rip him a new pair, verbally at least, she sobbed pitifully when he broke off their engagement. Little does she realize, the jerk did her a favor.

But she can’t go back to her hot lesbian lover: Alex won’t allow Piper near her anymore, and at the conclusion of Season One Piper is completely and utterly alone. As much as I’ve come to dislike her, I did feel sorry for her. None of the inmates want to be her friend; some even despise her. Her counselor, Mr. Healy, simply walks away laughing while the crazed religious fanatic goes at Piper with a razor. The only thing Piper has going for her is remembering the street-fighting techniques the black girls taught to her gratis—and she uses them. As the show ends Piper is smashing Ms. Jesus to a bloody pulp, and we’re left wondering if the nutcase survives the beating.

Well, I can hardly wait for Season Two, though after that ending I’m afraid it’ll start out with Piper in solitary, aka the SHU: oftentimes I just can’t watch scenes of solitary confinement. It terrifies me, and I empathize too much with the prisoner to watch what she goes through. I braved Piper’s first trip to the SHU, and the fact that it didn’t bother me inordinately is an indication it wasn’t that intense, unlike true stories I’ve read, or the portrayal, in his biopic, of Reuben (Hurricane) Carter’s time in isolation. I’m not criticizing Orange on this; I’m glad it wasn’t unbearable, since I don’t want to have to skip one single minute of Orange Is The New Black. Ever.

 

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Still Writing: New Blog

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Readers and other Dirty Laundry Followers! 

 

I’ve just begun a new blog, Still Writing, with a primary focus on writing, books, and most particularly, my books.While the site is still under construction, I’d be delighted to get some visitors, commentary, followers, and feedback. The construction is going slow, but there’s a hefty number of posts up that I transferred from another old blog, BookBuster, soon to be permanently shut down. In fact, I just put up a Dirty Laundry post from last year about the wide world of publishing, so come on over.

 

book piles

 

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