Are Housekeepers Heroes?
People who frequent the blogosphere love to argue about women’s equality and lack thereof, at home and at work, and to dissect hot-button subjects like equal pay and gender discrimination, who changes the diapers and who takes out the trash, in our relationships and in society at large.
And I love to argue right back.
Especially when dissenters complain that those of us doing the so-called whining about women’s inequality are overprivileged, overeducated women with too much time on our hands and too many choices when it comes to combining work and motherhood.
I never hear these folks ridiculing men who are “overeducated” or have “too many choices.” Maybe because education and choices are treasures no one can ever have too much of, whether you are male or female.
One of the harder points to explain to skeptics is that those of us who speak out about inequality, sexual harassment and shitty daycare are the tip of the female inequality iceberg in America.
The reality is that the only women speaking out are well-educated and economically secure, literate and well versed in the skills of the debate table, with access to newspapers, computers, the Internet, and other communication loudspeakers. We generally have husbands (or ex-husbands) who are tolerant of dissention from women. Our individual cultures and religions tend to support women’s independence in thought and action. When we argue during dinner table debates we may make people twitch. However we don’t risk ostracism, physical violence, stonings, divorce, condemnation from all-powerful mothers-in-law living upstairs, or church leaders who believe women’s highest calling is submission and sacrifice.
We so-called elite women have the time to debate the issues of fairness because we have good jobs at regular hours and decent childcare. We are not scraping by on minimum wage and working triple shifts while our toddlers languish in dodgy childcare with a bottle of formula duct-taped to their mouths. Most importantly, we do not typically risk getting fired from our jobs by speaking out and standing up for ourselves and other women.
We speak out because we are the only ones who can speak out.
And we speak out because we know we have an audience. In other words, people listen to us. Not everyone. Not all the time. But in general, we speak out with knowledge that we will be heard -- at least by each other.
But women below the tip - the vast majority of women in the United States and the world - cannot speak out. Many are not fully literate, so they cannot disagree or discuss these issues in written or verbal form. Many do not have access to the Internet (or free time to surf it), so mommy blog rants are out. And in the few instances where they do speak out, few listen.