Monday, May 3, 2010

Model Behavior

Nancy Fraser’s After the Family Wage: Gender Equity and the Welfare State to be very thought provoking. It raised some interesting questions for me as I considered how unfairly women in the work place are treated. As a woman I know firsthand that I have to work twice as hard just to compete with my male counterparts. I never understood why. I’ve always been under the impression that I was just as capable as any man and never quite understood the logic of penalizing a person because of their sex.

I thought Fraser’s piece was really interesting because it not only offered options on how to elevate that financial earning ability of women but also presents the areas in which they would be successful and those where they would lack. The breadwinner model, in my opinion, would be the closest to a feasible solution to the disparity in men’s and women’s wages. I think it would be harder to totally undermine the system, as patriarchal as it may be, and reconstruct it so that women’s unpaid labor is now paid and given more dignity. Granted, I do think that work in the home and care responsibilities are highly under appreciated, I don’t quite think that I would personally want to be paid for cleaning a house that I reside in or taking care of the family that I chose to create. I think it’s all in principle to me. The same goes for taking care of a sick family member. I’m just thinking of having to take care of a parent; my mother didn’t get paid for taking care of me for 18 years, so why would I feel the necessity for compensation for taking on caring for her should she need it?

It seems that it would just be easier to raise wages for women so that they are equal to men and then base one’s salary on the work that they put forth. Both of the models that Fraser presents are very idealistic, as she admits, but also flawed. Neither of the models fully speaks to the woman’s condition in terms of work. It also leaves out those of minority groups. The target of the breadwinner and care models is middle class white women. Now it is far more common for women across many different categorizations to seek employment that is equal to their male counterparts. The social and economic locations of women very to such a degree that something needs to be done to cater to them more generally. I think by starting with what seems to be most pragmatic we can begin reforming the way women’s labor is conceived while not totally trying to deconstruct and reconstruct the system at once.


  1. Could not agree with you more. Paying someone to ensure that they clean their own house and raise their own children is a ludicrous idea. These are principles of life, principles that should be followed by virtue of status as a human being and member of a society.

    One of Fraser's suggestions, overhauling society to the point that unemployed women are independently subsidized by their husbands' employers, is, frankly, stupid. Firstly, it does nothing for women's vulnerability in marriage. Secondly, there is no evidence to support the claim that it places more value on domestic work or makes it more appealing to men. Thirdly, it would take decades of reform to completely flip the system; I suspect it would be just as long and difficult a process to reform labor laws and achieve equal wages for the sexes as it would to universalize Fraser's suggested system.

  2. I actually heard that the pay difference was actually more like 97 cents for every dollar between men and women. The 74 cents for the same job doesn't take into account things like seniority, education, or experience. How would this statistic effect Fraser's opinion.

    Wouldn't education and time eventually make up for everything?


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