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Women's place in a market economy


Darbas anglų kalba. Moterų vieta rinkos ekonomikoje. Women’s proper work. The sacred child. To work or not? Vocabulary.


A good woman is hard to find. Either she’s threatening a lawsuit because she was denied a promotion. Or she’s expecting the taxpayers to subsidize her illegitimate children. Or she’s neglecting, even foregoing, children in favour of a career. Or perhaps she wants it all-work, children, love, leisure, and a flexible schedule-making her entirely unreliable.
If women seem confused about what they want, society is even more confused about what it wants from women. Social philosophers have long pondered the meaning of work and its place in our moral lives: whether it is ennobling or degrading, whether virtue requires hard work or hard work inculcates virtue, or whether, in an ideal world, there should be more or less work. But when the worker is imagined as a woman, philosophy goes into a new key and both the questions and the answers are of a different tenor. About women, the questions concern whether they ought to work outside the home, whether they are capable of many kinds of work, and whether tending home, family, and community count as work at all.
Such philosophical questions have always been at the heart of both labour politics and gender politics. Protective labour legislation in the U.S. finally got off the ground with assistance from women’s reform groups and widely accepted ideas about women.
Let’s start with an old chestnut: Is work stultifying, or is it fulfilling and uplifting? [See Alan Wolfe, "The Moral Meanings of Work", TAP, September-October 1997.] Ask that question assuming the worker is a man and the implied comparison is other kinds of jobs or other ways of organizing work. When the worker is a woman, the implied comparison is with unpaid housework and child care, so the measure of work’s effect on the female worker has a different yardstick: Compared to dusting and diapering? Compared to rearing the next generation of citizens, soldiers, leaders, parents? And the question has a different moral valence in a world where many people, both men and women, have thought that women should not do certain kinds of jobs or engage in paid work at all except in dire necessity.
Since marriage and motherhood have been treated as moral obligations of women, if not sacred callings, the question of whether virtue consists in performing disciplined, paid work is shaped by the alternative moral vision of women as guardians of the family and hearth. Probe yet one level deeper and the debate for women is over something even more fundamental: How to reconcile work and womanhood?
You might have thought that issue was settled by the feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s, or by the sheer overwhelming scale of women’s participation in the workforce. But Sharon Hays and Diane Eyre, authors of two recent books on motherhood and work, each make a chilling case that in the dominant scientific culture, biology is still destiny. According to the three gurus of child rearing, Benjamin Spock, T. Berry Braselton, and Penelope Leach, women are supposed to be selfless, nurturing, and caring, not selfish, competitive, and climbing. "In an ideal world", Leach wrote in 1989, "no woman would ever have a baby unless she really knew that she wanted to spend two or three years being somebody else’s other half". Moreover, mothering is instinctive and what women really want to do, so all the social pressure on mothers to work is unfortunate. From Braselton in 1983: "We may be ignoring . . . a deep-seated drive in women - a strong feeling that their primary responsibility is to nurture their children and their spouse. It may be unfair to expect a woman to be the fulcrum of her family; but it has always been so, and women feel it instinctively". ...

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