. working & still feeling human .

"Many people talk about the need to increase the number of women in science and math. While those efforts are needed, they ignore the underlying question: why does society value accountants more than social workers?" - An Overview of Women & Work by Ellen Bravo & Gloria Santa Anna

Patriarchy dominates. Anything patriarchy values dominates: competition, linear thinking, black-and-white value judgements, binary code (0's and 1's), lack of feelings & emotions, a sense of reserve, being a "lone, fearless wolf", risk-taking, the alpha male, suits, ties, working with half a brain, working without a heart.

Women are raised and conditioned to know their hearts, be comfortable and powerful with feeling, expressing, relating, cooperating, supporting, loving. These actions all expend energy - they are all work. But we don't think of them as work. Society doesn't think of them as work. And patriarchy certainly will never consider them as work.

I have lived in poverty in all my adult life. I recount one year when I actually earned 10K-which I did by working 2 and sometimes 3, jobs. I am presently, at 27, trying to both finish my bachelor's degree and build my art business so I can earn a livable income and not have to suffer poverty again. My boyfriend is likewise promoting his photography business - and I am always amazed that, despite the fact I have 100 times more passion, intensity, drive and ambition for my business than he does for his, he can endure and stride farther than I can, in any given day. He is built like a workhorse, and I envy him as he leaves me in dust.

When I look at why, it is obvious: my boyfriend and most men can endlessly do, just as I and most women can endlessly be and feel. I'm not saying women don't do a lot - women do do a lot, I do a lot. But like most women, I become overwhelmed and exhausted almost every day. I need more "down" time than my boyfriend does. Time to speak with loved ones, listen to my friends, to relax in a bathtub, to walk in the woods. If society valued emotions, expression, strong intuition and a high ability to relate, I would be a queen, I would be a millionaire. But as it stands, none of the things I was conditioned for or had strong natural ability towards is valued. Yes, I make a good friend, people like me and I probably won't die of a heart attack or upturn my life at age 50 from a mid-life crisis because I know myself too well, but my skills, my feminine abilities go unnoticed and under-appreciated. Society doesn't reward emoters, expressors. "Help wanted: Large corporation seeks highly intuitive individual with advanced ability in self-awareness and emotional depth and expression. Desire to support, understand, listen a plus. Great salary, benefits for those who are relational experts." I know I would be a star! If only it were a world like that, I could - would - work all the time.

I often gripe - or ignore the nagging feelings - that I am becoming more and more "like a man." I conform to a certain masculinity, so I will be heard, respected - and paid. Let's face it, folks - we don't pay for feminine qualities. What the world wants is production (male), or, saving that, services (that are also male - "feminine" services aren't that important and any "dummy" - i.e., "unskilled person"?? - can perform those.) Although I do not "glorify the oppressor", I realize that if I do not function primarily in my masculine mode - if I am not focused, self-centered, competitive, hard-nosed, extremely shrewd - then I will continue to live in poverty, work as unskilled, "support" labor (as a secretary) and will have no consumer power.

My best friend shared this with me: after weeks of working to meet a deadline at work, she no longer felt human. She craved emotional intimacy, conversations with friends, time when she could relate to people in a non-hierarchical setting. It's the feminine experience that needs to be valued. We can pay male and female engineers the same wage - but the world is just as oppressive for women while the engineer earns an astronomically higher salary than a kindergarten teacher. When will everyone agree that performing surgery on the body is just as tenuous and delicate as navigating the locked secrets and emotions of a sexual abuse survivor?


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