Tag: gender and politics

What Canada’s New ‘Pretty Boy’ Prime Minister Can Teach Us About Hegemonic Masculinity

Like most Canadian citizens, I was delighted to see the back end of our former Prime Minister Harper as he conceded defeat to the Liberal Party’s Justin Trudeau. Although I’ve felt slightly disconnected watching both the campaign and the reaction to Trudeau’s win from my home in Sydney, Australia, I’ve been fascinated by what arguably became one of the main campaign foci: Trudeau’s hair.  ‘Hair’ clearly stood in for much larger hang ups about Trudeau’s appearance, masculinity, sexuality, and life choices. Both the gleeful memes celebrating Canada’s ‘hot’ new Prime Minister (the National Post asked if Trudeau was ‘the sexiest politician in the world‘) and the sneering claims that being a drama teacher and the son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau hardly qualify him to run the country (the ol’ ‘get a hair cut and get a real job‘ argument) seem to tell us more about hegemonic masculinity in the world of politics than anything else.

But first, in case you haven’t been paying close attention and you think Trudeau’s hair wasn’t a big campaign issue, here is a summary:
Arguably, hair-gate kicked into full gear when the Conservative Party started referencing Trudeau’s locks in their attack ads- they commented that Trudeau was ‘not ready to lead’, but added ‘nice hair though.’ The ‘nice hair though’ became somewhat iconic. In her excellent piece ‘The Feminizatin of Trudeau’, Winnipeg Free Press Editor Shannon Sampert summarized: “the Conservatives tend to belittle his leadership skills by focusing on his hair. It’s become a common insult. Trudeau has nice hair, but no policy.” In 2012 the Toronto Sun reaffirmed this argument with the headline:  “Justin Trudeau: Great hair but no credentials.”

But the Conservatives and Canadians have not been the only hair-obsessed. The international reaction to Trudea as a candidate and as the future PM has largely been framed around his hair. The Economist called him the “hair apparent“, the UK’s Mirror noted his “luscious brown hair, spellbinding eyes” and “chiseled physique,” Spain’s El Mundo called Trudeau Canada’s “pretty boy,” and the The Huffington Post has a gallery with differently named versions of Trudeau’s iconic locks. By the end of the campaign, each Canadian candidate’s hair had its own (unofficial) Twitter account, and Mulcair’s beard had two: @trudeaushair, @graybouffant (for Harper), @MulcairBeard and @Mulcairsbeard. Continue reading

What Does the Rise of AI have to do with Ferguson and Eric Garner?

One might think that looking to the future of artificial intelligence (AI) and the recent spate of police brutality against African American males, particularly Michael Brown and Eric Garner, are remotely related if they are related at all. However, I want to press us to look at two seemingly unrelated practices (racial discrimination and technological progress) and look to what the trajectory of both portend. I am increasingly concerned about the future of AI, and what the unintended consequences that increased reliance on it will yield. Today, I’d like to focus on just one of those unintended outcomes: increased racial divide, poverty and discrimination.

Recently, Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and Nick Bostrom have argued that the future of humanity is at stake if we create artificial general intelligence (AGI), for that will have a great probability of surpassing its general intelligence to that of a superintelligence (ASI). Without careful concern for how such AIs are programmed, that is their values and their goals, ASI may begin down a path that knows no bounds. I am not particularly concerned with ASI here. This is an important discussion, but it is one for another day. Today, I’m concerned with the AI in the near to middle term that will inevitably be utilized to take over rather low skill and low paying jobs. This AI is thought by some as the beginning as “the second machine age” that will usher in prosperity and increased human welfare. I have argued before that I think that any increase in AI will have a gendered impact on job loss and creation.   I would like to extend that today to concerns over race.

Today the New York Times reported that 30 million Americans are currently unemployed, and of that 30 million, the percentage of unemployed men has tripled (since 1960). The article also reported that 85% of unemployed men polled do not possess bachelors degrees, and 34% have a criminal background. In another article, the Times also broke down unemployment rates nationally, looking at the geographic distribution of male unemployment. In places like Arizona and New Mexico, for instance, large swaths of land have 40% or more rates of unemployment. Yet if one examines the data more closely, one sees an immediate overlay of unemployment rates on the same tracts of land that are designated tribal areas and reservations, i.e nonwhite areas.

Moreover, if one looks at the data supported by the Pew Institute, the gap between white and minority household income continues to grow. Pew reports that in 2013, the median net worth of white households was $141,000. The median net worth of black households was $11,000. This is a 13X difference. Minority households, the data says, are more likely to be poor. Indeed, they are likely to be very poor. For the poverty level in the US for a household containing one person is $11,670.   Given the fact that Pew also reported that 58% of unemployed women reported taking care of children 18 and younger in their home, there is a strong probability that these households contain more than one person. Add these facts regarding poverty and unemployment an underlying racial discrimination in the criminal justice system, and one can see where this going.

While whites occupy better jobs, have better access to education, have far greater net household incomes, they are far less likely to experience crime. In fact, The Sentencing Project reports that in 2008 blacks were 78% more likely to be victims of burglary and 133% more likely to experience other types of theft. Compare this to the 2012 statistic that blacks are also 66% more likely to be victims of sexual assault and over six times more likely than whites to be victims of homicide.   Minorities are also more often seen to be the perpetrators of crime, and as one study shows, police officers are quicker to shoot at armed black suspects than white ones.

Thus what we see from a very quick and rough look at various types of data is that poverty, education, crime and the justice system are all racially divided. How does AI affect this? Well, the arguments for AI and for increasingly relying on AI to generate jobs and produce more wealth and prosperity are premised on this racist (and gendered) division of labor.  As Byrnjolfsson and McAffee argue, the jobs that are going to “disappear” are the “dull” ones that computers are good at automating, but jobs that require dexterity and little education – like housecleaning – are likely to stay. Good news for all those very wealthy (and male) maids.

In the interim, Brynjolfsson and McAffee suggest, there will be a readjustment of the types of jobs in the future economy. We will need to have more people educated in information technologies and in more creative ways to be entrepreneurs in this new knowledge economy.   They note that education is key to success in the new AI future, and that parents ought to look to different types of schools that encourage creativity and freethinking, such as Montessori schools.

Yet given the data that we have now about the growing disparity between white and minority incomes, the availability of quality education in poor areas, and the underlying discriminatory attitudes towards minorities, in what future will these already troubled souls rise to levels of prosperity that automatically shuts them out of the “new” economy? How could a household with $11,000 annual income afford over $16,000 a year in Montessori tuition? Trickle-down economics just doesn’t cut it. Instead, this new vision of an AI economy will reaffirm what Charles Mill calls “the racial contract”, and further subjugate and discriminate against nonwhites (and especially nonwhite women).

If the future looks anything like what Brynjolfsson and McAffee portend, then those who control AI, will be those who own and thus benefit from lower costs of production through the mechanization and automation of labor.   Wealth will accumulate into these hands, and unless one has skills that either support the tech industry or create new tech, then one is unlikely to find employment in anything other than unskilled but dexterous labor.   Give the statistics that we have today, it is more likely that this wealth will continue to accumulate into primarily white hands.   Poverty and crime will continue to be placed upon the most vulnerable—and often nonwhite—in society, and the racial discrimination that perpetuates the justice system, and with it tragedies like those of Eric Gardner will continue. Unless there is a serious conversation about the extent to which the economy, the education system and the justice system perpetuates and exacerbates this condition, AI will only make these moral failings more acute.

Bad Advice on Making Academic Babies: opting in and out of heteronormative panic

What I remember most about my post-grad Gender and Politics seminar were the extensive discussions we had about having babies. It was 2004, and debates about babies vs careers, and whether women should ‘opt out‘ to raise families, were heated and divisive. Women were told in the 1980s and 1990s that the highest feminist aspiration was to wear oversize, terrible suits and work alongside men- as equals (or at least work alongside men, while accepting less pay and dealing with harassment). This was followed by the movement to denounce the double-day; the New York Times and Time Magazine led the charge in declaring that women wanted out of the work force, and were empowered by the choice to stay at home and raise children. Less than a decade later, it was declared that ‘women couldn’t have it all‘- the career, family balance was a loose loose choice. We had been duped. The opt out luxury was always ‘fiction‘ that only really applied to white middle-class women. Forbes pointed out that opt-out mom’s were unable to catch up in their careers and Al Jazeera concluded that women weren’t opting out, they were out of options. The opt out women ‘wanted back in‘ (are you confused yet about what *good* feminists should want??). Perhaps the culmination of this back and forth comes in Linda Hirshman’s book, ‘Get to Work…And Get a Life Before it is too Late.’ Hirshman calls ‘opting out’ a form of ‘self-betrayal’ (and also encourages women to only have one child).
Entangled within this debate were mixed messages about how to ‘time’ having children (note, there was no debate there about whether strategizing to fit children within one’s career plan was itself a problem).
One article I read back in 2004 encouraged women to ‘do the math’ and take control over the timing of children so that they didn’t ‘forget,’ have to rush to become a ‘last chance mother,’ or run out of biological time before they reproduced- ending up ‘single and childless‘.* The strategy went like this: pick the age at which you want to have a child (or your last child, if you want more than one), count back in years and account for how long you want to be married before you have children, count back more years and think how long you will date before you get married. The results- your long term birth plan.
Does it get more heteronormative that this? The article made several big assumptions, including: Continue reading

The Politics of “Fitting” Feminist Theory in IR

(Note: This post is cross-posted at The Research Centre in International Relations at King’s College, London’s Blog)

Feminist theorists have long made and substantiated the argument that gender “matters” in International Relations (IR) theory and practice, and that it matters in complicated and hybrid ways. Gender analysis has been used (in my view effectively) across a wide spectrum of theoretical approaches, issue areas, and contemporary political events.  I thought about this as I was reading news stories and opinion pieces expressing disappointment that Malala Yousafzai did not win the Nobel Peace  Prize. There are so many gendered dimensions to her story: her activism and agency; the gendered reaction to by the Pakistani Taliban; the gendered reaction to that repression around the world; the gendered narratives surrounding her candidacy for the Nobel Peach Prize; and then the gendered reactions to the Nobel committee’s choice not to select her. All of these gendered framings, reactions, and receptions went on in the context of a gendered conflict between gendered states in what I would argue is a gendered international system. Reading those stories was, to me, another example of how gender “matters” in global politics – an example which could richly inform IR theory.

But what part of IR theory? Where does feminism fit? Is it another “ism” to go along with realisms, liberalisms, and the like? Does it cut across the “isms”? Where does it fit politically? Epistemologically? Methodologically? This question has been tackled again and again by feminist IR theorists like Ann Tickner, Marianne Marchand, Cynthia Weber, Marysia Zalewski, and Jill Steans, as well as by some theorists in mainstream IR interested in the question of feminisms’ fit. In the rest of this short post, I suggest that perhaps fit and positionality are the wrong language to talk about the relationship between feminist work on global politics and the field of IR in which it is (at least partly) situated.

Continue reading

Gender, Violence, War, Political Memory




































The sailor (George Mendosa) and nurse (Greta Zimmer Friedman) depicted in this iconic photo snapped moments after the announcement that World War II had ended turned out to be complete strangers, and apparently Greta Friedman, the nurse, wasn’t kissing back:

Mendosa: “It was the moment. You come back from the Pacific, and finally, the war ends,’ Mendonsa told CBS. ‘The excitement of the war being over, plus I had a few drinks. So when I saw the nurse, I grabbed her, and I kissed her.”

Friedman: “I did not see him approaching, and before I know it, I was in this vice grip. That man was very strong. I wasn’t kissing him. He was kissing me.”

Crates and Ribbons notes how recent interviews with the “couple” fail to acknowledge Mendosa’s behavior as sexual assault. A lively discussion in comments about gender, violence, war, and political memory. Enjoy.

IR, Policymakers, and the Gender Balance

I’m pretty sure this is a Soviet poster for International Women’s Day.

Are IR scholars relevant to policy? IR scholar and famous policymaker Anne-Marie Slaughter addresses that puzzle, which principally concerns only IR scholars, in a roundabout way in a new article in The Atlantic asking whether women can “have it all”–a puzzle that concerns a great many more people. She also addresses these concerns in a follow-up Q&A on The New York Times Web site.

I mention this because although I am not demographically directly interested (being neither a woman, nor a parent, nor, for that matter, employed) I am of course keenly aware of these tradeoffs, or as keenly aware as anyone at second-hand can be. Slaughter’s answer–which is a pretty unequivocal “no”–strikes me as being, at least, honest, and her trepidation in broaching the topic given her feeling seems sincere as well.

What I particularly appreciate is her diagnosis that academia is the friendliest, or at least among the friendlier, industries for women to balance “work” and “life.” (I hate the phrase “work-life balance,” though; I see work as an important part of my life, not an interruption of it.) And yet …

And yet, now I’m going to ramble a bit.

There is a creeping sense, occasionally publicly broached by commentators like Matt Yglesias (see Tim Burke here), that academia is too comfortable, too cosseted, and altogether too flexible–that we must all begin to work like Stakhanovites to fulfill our quotas of instruction and research at lower wages and with less well prepared students.

As U.S. society is being changed by, in no particular order, the AI revolution, the imposition of austerity, and the polarization of politics, it strikes me that we–and here I mean good liberals–don’t have a good sense anymore of how to address concerns like Slaughter’s in the context of change. Feminist demands were fairly easily accommodated in a distributional politics setting (not to devalue activism! I mean in comparison to accommodating peasants’ demands in the French Revolution). But the contemporary erosion of settled institutions suggests that the sort of full-throated defense and advocacy of particular points of view that characterized the 1960s and 1970s will come back in vogue–but, this time, as outcomes become more zero-sum, compromises grow less likely.

That’s a pessimistic conclusion, since it points to a future where there is less and less space for creating the kind of lifestyle that we’ve come to accept, even to define, as “middle class.” But there is no law of social science that requires the future to be like the present, only more so. In fact, it is very nearly the opposite.

Gender, Violence and Digital Emergence

One of the most unsettling findings of our media and radicalisation research was the way in which the suffering of certain individual women is turned into a cause by radical Islamic groups that leads to violence by men in those women’s names. The availability of digital media, combined with a certain doctrinal entrepreneurialism by those using religion to justify political violence, has resulted in the widespread dissemination of amateur video clips depicting a specific woman’s plight and calling for reprisals. If you want to understand the link between online propaganda and offline action, it appears that representations of women’s bodies and their “honour” are often central. My project colleagues and I document two such cases in a research article published this week.

Dua Khalil Aswad, an Iraqi teenage girl of the Yazidi faith, was stoned to death on 7 April 2007 by a Yazidi mob consisting of tens of men, mostly her relatives, for eloping and spending the night with a Muslim man. Her death was recorded on a mobile cameraphone by a bystander and circulated on the internet. It was eventually picked up by NGOs and international media, where the killing was framed in terms of human rights abuses. However, the clip was also identified by so-called ‘mujahideen’ in Iraq, namely Al-Qaeda in Iraq and affiliated groups. They claimed Dua was killed because she converted to Islam. They argued her killing demonstrated how non-Islamic faiths violate human rights (they know how to call upon human rights discourse too), and that this warranted the mujahideen bringing their own kind of justice to Dua’s killers. Between April and September 2007 a series of high-profile retaliatory attacks saw the individual and collective killing of hundreds of Yazidis and the wounding and displacement of more. One of the jihadist groups involved in these attacks, Ansar Al-Sunna, posted a video justifying their violence. Dua’s death was woven into a longer strategic narrative perpetuated by jihadists concerning a war between Islam and other faiths.

Three years later, in 2010, we found considerable religious tension in Egypt and the Arab world stemming from several cases of young female Coptic Christians in Egypt who had allegedly converted to Islam and were forced by the Coptic Church, with the aid of the former Mubarak security forces, to return to Christianity. The alleged plight of these women became the subject of media debates, street demonstrations and protests by Muslims and counter-efforts by Copts in Egypt, inflammatory editorials, online speculation, and finally, violence against innocent people. One of the most prominent episodes occurred in July 2010. Camilia Shehata, a female Copt Christian in Egypt, disappeared, and allegedly converted to Islam. She then returned under the shelter of the Coptic Church and released various videos to explain her case. Her story was amplified by Christian and Muslim groups alike, but subsequent attacks in her name occurred in Iraq rather than Egypt. Al-Qaeda in Iraq took hostages in a Baghdad church in October 2010 and announced on YouTube:

Through the directions of the Ministry of War of the Islamic State of Iraq, and in defence of our weak and oppressed, imprisoned Muslim sisters in the Muslim land of Egypt, and after detailed choices and planning, a small group of jealous Mujahideen, beloved servants of Allah, launched an offensive against a filthy center of Shirk [the Church] which Christians in Iraq have for so long taken as a place from which to wage their war and plot against Islam. By Allah’s Grace, we were able to capture those who had gathered there and take control over all entrances.

The Mujahideen of the Islamic State of Iraq give the Christian Church of Egypt 48 hours to clarify the condition of our Muslim sisters imprisoned in the churches of Egypt, and to free them all without exception, and that they announce this through the media which must reach the Mujahideen within the given time period.

The Iraqi government chose to attack the hostage-takers rather than negotiate. The hostage-takers detonated their suicide bombs in the church and 53 people died.

These events confirm one thing we know: terrorist groups can derive asymmetrical benefit from digital media, since content from individual lives and incidents can be rapidly reframed to bolster longstanding narratives such as the notion of a clash between Islam and other religions. But what struck us as particularly significant was the degree of contingency involved. The line from the initial acts to the eventual victims and the way in which events are incorporated into others’ narratives seems chaotic, escaping the control of the initial actors. The economy of exchange through media is irregular: digital footage may emerge today, in a year or never, and it may emerge anywhere to anyone. The concept of agency becomes complicated. The span of things done ‘by’ Al-Qaeda is beyond its control. Is distributed agency something new, only made possible by digital connectivity, or have social and religious movements always depended upon – and hoped for – a degree of contingent taking-up of their cause?

While we cannot know why the Yazidi man with a digital camera recorded the stoning of Dua (or why he recorded others recording it with their cameras), the increasing recording of everyday life certainly produces more material for political and religious exploitation. As we have seen, this allowed Al-Qaeda to instantly reframe a woman’s life as a “sister’s” life to shame men into action. If the killing of Neda Soltan during the Iranian election protests in 2009 represented one face of today’s mix of gender, violence and digital emergence, the cases of Dua and Camilla show another.

Cross-posted from the journal Global Policy

International Women’s Day: Cupcakes and Hateraid

I did not make these to destroy feminism.

Duck readers, I have a confession. I bake cupcakes. Thousands of them. I love doing it, I love icing them, I love decorating them and I really like eating them.

This is not something that I would typically share with a blog on international politics. Normally I write about things that blow up or try to calmly argue that twitter is not going to stop a war lord. But you see I am compelled. I am compelled to write in defence of cupcakes for International Women’s day.

Apparently some people think my love of cupcakes makes me a bad feminist: real feminists hate cupcakes:

Cupcakes are just so twee-ly, coyly, ‘ooh no I really shouldn’t’-ly, pink and fluffily, everything that I think feminism is not. It’s feminism-lite, feminism as consumption and ‘me time’ (grr), rather than feminism as power and politics and equal pay.

You see, this “Bun fetish deals a blow to feminism”:

Because these cupcakes – mark my words, feminists – these trendy little cupcakes are the thin end of the wedge. It will start with cupcakes and it will end in vaginoplasty.

And so – maybe you thought the ideological battle was between men and women. Or even liberal feminists and radical feminists. You’re wrong. The real debate has moved to Cupcake Feminism.

This move is not deliberate – probably not even conscious. But the pop-culture image of feminism today – as perpetuated at Ladyfests, in BUST magazine and its Craftaculars, on so-called ‘ladyblogs’ and at freshers’ fairs – is ostensibly the direct opposite of the Hairy Dyke. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll call her the cupcake feminist….
Twee and retro have been seeping into feminism for a couple decades now, gaining potency. It’s all about cute dresses, felten rosettes from Etsy, knitting, kittens, vintage lamps shaped like owls, Lesley Gore. And yes – a lot of cupcakes.

Another problem with this trend towards the high-femme is that we inadvertently court the enemy. We inadvertently justify the vilification of the Hairy Dyke image, as if we were ashamed of it all along. Why are ‘fat’, ‘ugly’, ‘gay’ or ‘never-been-fucked’ still the first insults sent whistling towards the trench? What is their supposed import? To cry ‘We’re not all like that!’ only lends power. Some of us are fat/ugly/gay, some of us aren’t. So? Really, though, so what?
Mainstream society only finds cupcake feminism more palatable because it can lick off the icing and toss the rest.

These chickies want equal rights, darn it!

Look, I take these points seriously. Feminists who fought for the right to have equal pay, birth control and the idea that I could basically become whatever I wanted are uncomfortable with women “cooing” over pink fluffy things.

Tend to your cupcake lady-garden!

But I’ve never seen a woman “coo” over a cupcake. (Seriously? Who does this? Who are these anti-cupcake feminists hanging out with?! Get better friends!) I’ve seen an entire Department of Politics and International Relations devour 30 of them in under an hour. But I’ve never seen a woman making an intelligent point suddenly suffer a cupcake-lobotomy because of some buttercream.

In fact, the very reason I like baking cupcakes is that they are cheap, easy as hell and don’t take very long to make. I can make an entire batch in under an hour. It’s a fantastic way for me to be creative and then write about targeted killing. Or mark essays. Or reference letters for many of my excellent female (and male) students applying to do masters programs in their chosen fields.

Surely, the worst kind of feminism is the one that tells feminists what to do in uncompromising terms. Or the kind that perpetuates a “Hairy Dyke” vs “Cupcake Feminist” false dichotomy. Cupcakes, cupcake bakers and cupcake aficionados are not secretly trying to make feminism more palatable. To see cupcakes this way is to unthinkingly buy into the gendering of an activity – or wholeheartedly buying into a male-created stereotype without thinking about how the humble cupcake might be an act of liberation for those who partake in the cake.

I don’t consider myself to be a “Cupcake Feminist” – I’m just a feminist who likes cupcakes. I believe in questioning gender barriers AND unnecessary carbohydrates. But most importantly, I’m tired of individuals explaining to me what I am, who I am and what I can or can’t do on baseless, dated logic – whether they are feminist cupcake haters or Rick Santorum.

So I am asking you, Duck readers, this International Women’s Day – please consider ways we can rethink the gerontocratic patriarchy – and have a cupcake. These activities are not mutually exclusive. Plus I spent, like, an hour on these things.

EDIT: And for the love of cupcakes, read this excellent post by Sarah Duff at Tangerine and Cinnamon

Come to the Feminist Side! 

The Difference Between Feminist Politicians and Politicians with Breasts: a response to Naomi Wolf

Naomi Wolf recently posted a blog on Al Jazeera entitled “America’s Reactionary Feminists: what do Palin and Bachmann have that make them so appealing to the American public?” I don’t doubt that this is an interesting question. Unfortunately, I was disappointed with the confusing and simplistic answer Wolf provided- particularly the discussion around right wing feminism.

It may be worth taking a step back to ask why female politicians who do not identify as feminists continually get categorized as one. Surely we must be beyond the ‘woman=feminist’ discussion? Sadly, apparently no.

First, the scoop on where Palin and Bachmann stand on feminism: Palin wasn’t a feminist, then she was. She changed her stance on the term and now identifies with it- largely equating the term with her ‘rogue’ approach to politics not her anti-abortion, anti-social safety net, and her support for cuts to the Family and Medical Leave Act. Bachmann has made it more clear that she is NOT a feminist; instead, calling herself pro-woman and pro-man (hmm).

Back to Wolf. Let’s just ignore her references to the two women as tigresses, soccer and hockey moms for now and get to her central argument, which is that there are two reasons Palin and Bachmann are attractive to American voters.

First, Wolf argues that these two candidates are able to project the same emotional populist demagoguery (her words, not mine) that other popular figures like Malcom X and Joe McCarthy did. Truthfully, I’m not sure where Wolf is going with this point- can we put Palin, Bachmann and Malcom X in the same category??- so I’m not going to dwell on it. Instead, I’ll focus on her second point, which is that their popularity is due to “a serious historical misreading of feminism.” She explains “Because feminism in the 1960s and 1970s was articulated via the institutions of the left…there is an assumption that feminism itself must be leftist. In fact, feminism is philosophically as much in harmony with conservative, and especially libertarian, values – and in some ways even more so.” She goes on to claim that “the core of feminism is individual choice and freedom, and it is these strains that are being sounded now more by the Tea Party movement than by the left” and that “even if they themselves would reject the feminist label. In the case of Palin – and especially that of Bachmann – we ignore the wide appeal of right-wing feminism at our peril.”

It is hard to know which feminism Wolf is talking about. Maybe liberal feminism- which does emphasize institutions, equality, quotas, and choice- but certainly the various black, radical, and Marxist feminist voices that were equally relevant- and more focused on labor exploitation, racial discrimination, marginalization, and recognizing difference- during this time weren’t necessarily focused on established institutions of the left or right. To say that the core of feminism is about individual choice and freedom also doesn’t reflect the diversity in feminist approaches and is as intangible and vapid as most other political generalizations about choice and freedom.

So how can Palin and Bachmann prove a wide appeal to right-wing feminism given that they don’t identify as feminists (at least not all the time) and the types of policies they support? Wolf seems to be making the leap to argue that the conservative politics that Palin and Bachmann share represents a new type of right wing feminism; however, feminism has been about eliminating gender inequalities, acknowledging difference, and radical change- the antithesis to the call for a return to ‘traditional values.’ There seems to be some ‘degrees of separation’ logic happening here: most feminism is political, most feminists are women, therefore political women must be feminists. Logic 101 would help identify the problem with this train of thought and point Wolf (and hopefully those who want to write about Palin and Bachmann together in the future) to the following conclusions: the only thing remotely feminist about these two is that they both have breasts.

Does Menstruation Explain the Gender Wage Gap?: A Kiwi theory

The CEO of the Employers & Manufacturers Association, an association that promotes New Zealand businesses, Alasdair Thompson sparked a heated debate last week when, during a discussion on equal pay, he publicly claimed that women’s productivity was impacted by their periods. He claimed that women “take the most sick leave” and explained “ you know, once a month they have sick problems. Not all women, but some do.” He later went on to say “Men and women are fortunately different. Women have babies. Women take leave when they have their babies.” In a subsequent interview he claimed: “Some women have immense problems with their menstruation – immense problems. You know they can pop a lot of paracetemol and drag themselves into work, but it’s hard for them.” Thompson seemed to only make matters worse when he later rationalized his comments by referencing one of his receptionists who he says told him that when some women call in sick they cite their periods as the reason.

Is it possible in 2011 that a top CEO could honestly believe that the main reason for pay disparity between men and women is menstruation? Really? This story is so frustrating that it is difficult to know where to start. Logically there are three main assumptions that Thompson is making that warrant examination: first, that women take more sick days than men; second, that menstruation is a major factor in women’s sick days; third, that these period-induced sick days help explain the gender pay gap.


The first assumption- that women do indeed take more sick days– is true, but not significant. In New Zealand men typically take 6.8 sick days a year, with women taking 8.4. While there are no clear statistics available for the US, studies in the UK also show, on average, men take 140 days off sick during their career, with women taking 189 sick days. A Finnish study also found that while women were 46 percent more likely than men to call in sick from work for a few days, there was no statistically significant difference between men and women in terms of their long-term leave from work.

The second assumption- that menstruation is a major factor in women’s sick days- is much more difficult to substantiate. The New Zealand study indicated that menstruation was not a significant factor in women’s sick days. The Finnish study noted that working conditions for women were consistently poorer for women and could be a primary factor in fatigue, and sickness rates. The UK study indicated that single mothers had the highest rate of sickness absence, indicating that family pressures could be a factor in sick days. The UK study also found that women were more apt to “try their hardest to make it to their desk” and “feel guilty” if they fell sick.

The third assumption- that period-induced sick days help explain the gender pay gap- is the weakest link in Thompson’s unfortunate logic. Decades of activism and research surrounding equal pay legislation and policies have shown that the biggest factor in the wage gap is attitudes.

Thompson’s comments reveal embedded misconceptions and stereotypes surrounding women’s ability to contribute to the global workforce. Thompson is right on one account- women are different from men. Women are (at least for now) the only sex that can carry children and give birth. Further, most women are the primary caregivers to children- regardless of their work duties. Recognizing these two differences in more rational and supportive ways should result in changes to workforce policies rather than accusations of female liability.

Which Sexual Scandals Matter?: sorting gossip from substance with the Sexual Scandal Scale


It seems the seasons, and our attentions, have shifted from the Arab spring to the summer of sex scandals. May 2011 has been a notable month for high profile affairs and sexual indiscretions (let’s use this term loosely for now). Dominique Strauss Kahn’s (DSK) attempted rape charges, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s love child, Anthony Weiner’s alleged tweeted self portrait, and the developments in Silvio Berlusconi’s trial for sex with an underage female have all occurred within a few weeks of one another, but does that warrant the tendency lump these scandals together? It may be that all four are emanating various degrees of sleaze but the truth is that there are only two factors uniting these men: sex scandal and power. With so many scandals to think about, how’s a guy/gal to sort through all the details and determine what matters and what’s just good gossip? What differentiates these and other sex scandals and which ones should the public care about?

My answer: the Sexual Scandal Scale (I toyed with using sleaze-o-meter but it sounded a touch normative).

The scale includes four categories:

1. Upgrading/down-aging wives
From Newt Gingrich to Donald Trump (he pretended to run for president for five minutes so we can include him) to Nicola Sarkozy, this activity has come to define many men in positions of power- political or otherwise.
Gossip or Substantial? This is just classic good gossip material, and- unless you are running on a family values platform- shouldn’t impact one’s political career.

2. Concerning allegations/Consensual affairs
Concerning allegations is the ‘catch all’ category and should include Weiner’s pic as well as Chris Lee’s topless photo on craigslist. I consider consensual affairs like Prince Charles of Wales and Camilla Parker Bowles on par with these sorts of allegations even though they certainly differ.
Gossip or Substantial?: Creeping to grey areas, although still mostly just good gossip. In such cases integrity and judgement might be called into question but typically the decisions are largely personal (albeit potentially unfortunate) and don’t impact one’s job (what does Charles do again?) performance.

3. Abuse of Power
This category is primarily reserved for affairs with an employee or subordinate. The question here isn’t whether the sex was consensual or not (that’s a legal question- non-consensual=rape) but whether someone either leveraged or took advantage of their position of power for sex. Schwarzenegger affair with his employee fits here. Perhaps clearer cut examples include Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky and President Dwight D. Eisenhower and his secretary.
Gossip or Substantial? Substantial. See below.

4. Illegal sexual activities
Here we include a laundry list of crimes, including sex with minors, rape, statutory rape, and the use of paid call girls/prostitutes (unless, like me, you live in New Zealand where this activity is legal).
Gossip or Substantial?: Red alert substantial. Technically Berlusconi is off the charts here.

The mere fact that one would compare Schwarzenegger’s affair with DSK’s attempted rape is hugely problematic. Blurring the lines between bad choices, abuse of power, and illegal activity dilutes the gravity of sexual crimes and places them on par with affairs and topless photos. This conflation also implies that men in positions of power are so driven, drunk with testosterone, burdened with weight of decisions, that they are more likely to have an accelerated sex drive and less able to control it. Last week the New York Times’ Benedict Carey wrote an article entitled “The Sexist Pig Myth” wherein he pondered how he might behave with “all that power”, and asked if “power turn[ed] regular guys into sexual predators?” hinting that most men simply lack the means to commit multiple sexual indiscretions. The presumption is that, if given the chance- men will catch Tiger Woods syndrome and ‘swing at whatever they can.’ The questions “do all powerful men cheat?”, “Does machismo cause rape?” and “Why do powerful men risk everything for sex?” have been raised again and again over the years- seemingly with one answer: they can’t help themselves, and why should they? These are simply the wrong questions. The right questions focus on the substance of the sexual activity rather than concluding ‘boys will be boys.’

Reporting in the Middle East: Are Female Journalists a Liability?

Do the responses to the plight of Dorothy Parvaz, a journalist for Al Jazeera English who was detained in Syria and Iran for nearly 3 weeks, show continued resistance to female journalists pursuing particular types of stories?

Parvaz flew to Syria to gather information that could add to what little is known about local protests and government violence. She was arrested at the airport in Damascus and taken to a detention center- Parvaz likened it to a mini version of Guantanamo Bay. Three days after her arrival in Syria she was extradited to Iran as a suspected spy before being released without charge.

In addition to providing an important and rare glimpse into Syria’s detention centers and the apparent random brutality of the regime, Parvaz’s story seems to have re-raised questions about female journalists. These questions echo those posed after Lara Logan was sexually assaulted during the revolution in Egypt (ie. Should the media pull women journalists from war zones?, should she have stayed home because she is a mommy?). Several media outlets chose to use Logan’s story as an opportunity to undermine the capabilities of female journalists and to question what types of assignments might be appropriate for them.

Similarly, in an interview by CBC Parvaz was asked whether she regretted her decision to go to Syria and was pushed on questions related to the risks involved in going. Responses to the interview online were scathing and included accusations that Parvaz was naïve (‘what was she trying to do?’), overly ambitious (‘her 15 minutes of fame are up’), took too many risks (‘she brought it on herself and can’t blame anyone’), and was abusing the fact that she has multiple citizenships where does her loyalty lie? Canada, US, Iran?’).

So why focus on the haters and not the supporters?

Hard line questions and critical comments shift the focus from the real story- torture and unjust detentions in Syria. Furthermore, Parvaz’s history as a competent and successful journalist and her brave efforts to cover important international events has been downplayed.

Finally, the caddy and critical comments raise some important questions, including: Is the underlying message in both Logan and Parvaz’s case a racist one- that the Middle East is inherently a hazardous place for non-Western women (forgetting that Parvaz holds Canadian, Iranian, and US citizenship)?; or a sexist one- that male journalists can prove their dedication and bravery through difficult or dangerous journalism while excellent female reporters continue to have to prove they are not a liability?

Must Men Be Pigs? The C*jones Conundrum

Last week was full of bad news for those of us with c*jones:  One of my co-genders, who just happened to run the IMF, caught redhanded (or something) after assaulting a chambermaid; another, the very model of a manny-man rather than a girlie-man, fessing up to having sired a child with an employee over a decade ago. This week a one-time Presidential front-runner facing indictment for using campaign money to cover up news about his own love-child.

Maybe I’ve just missed it, but it seems that most of the justifiably angry responses to these events have come from the distaff side:  Maureen Dowd, Gail Collins, etc.   Deservedly so.  But men, especially those of us in the social sciences, should have our say too!  Silence does not mean that the vast majority of us condone these actions.  More likely, it indicates our embarrassment, even shame.  Let me take up the sword and kick these men while they are down.
There is no defense for what they have done.  (OK, admittedly DSK is innocent until proven guilty, but the many stories circulating about his past “exploits” paint a pretty damning picture.)  They thoroughly deserve all the opprobrium and ridicule they are getting.  The fact that they are put in electronic stocks for all the world to see is somewhat satisfying. 
But somehow, despite all the social punishments they receive, these appear to have only modest deterrent effects.  One might have thought that Bill Clinton’s protracted, worldwide disgrace would have scared off even the most reckless of the lot.  But of course Bill has long since been rehabilitated, and it’s obvious that his case has done little to deter. 
The world cries out for a better policy solution!  But first, of course, we need a few reams of high quality social science research.  So let me throw down the gauntlet here too.
To begin, a research question:  Not to put too fine a point on it, why can’t these men keep it in their pants?  Or to put this in social science terms:  Are they outliers?  Of course, I shouldn’t pick on DSK or the Sperminator.  There are so many more out there, from Sacramento to Rome, that it would be tedious to name them.  They’ve even given legitimate activities a bad name.  How many of you no longer dare stroll the Adirondack trail blithely smoking a stogie?   So, to put this in broader terms, given the right situation, is any man likely to do what these Bozos have done?  (Take that, selection bias!)
Some might say these are questions important only to psychologists—or tabloids.  But I see them as questions of politics—even international politics!  I once believed that a politician’s personal life should not be an important basis for deciding who to vote for.  But I have to say that the accumulated peccadilloes and outright crimes of the last decades are making me re-think that belief.  Bad judgment, risk-taking, and an inability to defer fulfillment in one field seem likely to spill into others, if you will.  Of course, that’s not to say that politicians with seemingly tranquil personal lives will not also make extremely bad decisions, as several of our recent Presidents amply attest.
But back to my research questions.  These come down to critical theoretical issues that social scientists must concern themselves with!  Thinking out loud (or, as we at the Duck are fond of saying, en blog), they concern the respective weight of identity (as married), networks (jointly formed during marriage), and the political institutions that new (and old) institutionalists are so fond of writing about.  How strongly do the bonds of trust, respect, and love created in marriage shape one’s identity?  To what extent do the broader networks in which married couples–even political couples–become enmeshed, keep them in line?  Or does institutional position so affect/infect the personality that those in lofty political, entertainment, or business positions are at higher risk of infidelity than others?
As a brief digression, let’s not forget our own institutions, fellow academics.  Anyone who works at an undergraduate teaching institution understands that, given students’ diverse dressing habits these days, even the most pointy-headed scholar faces daunting occupational hazards too.  (I’ve often considered contacting the producers of Most Dangerous Catch to suggest that they broaden their concept to the most perilous jobs in America—and film an episode in a typical college classroom devoid of the high school “nurse’s office” where the scantily clad can be sent for wardrobe refurbishment.)
Feminist scholars:  note that the prior two paras are written in gender neutral terms.   Are there examples of women in powerful offices, especially political offices, who have gone astray?
But back to my research questions!  Fundamentally, these go to the heart of the agent-structure debate, even if this glaringly obvious fact has only dawned on the most enlightened of the disciplinary cognoscenti.  Does the presidency (or governship) of your choice make the man–or does the man make the presidency?  Are people like DSK hapless victims of circumstance/structure/institution, as his lawyers seem likely to argue?   (Poor Arnold!)  Or, hard as it seems to believe, can they actually make choices, notwithstanding the structural conjuncture in which they find themselves?   Indeed there is a good chance of solving that hoary social science chestnut with a concerted, multi-year, multi-million dollar research thrust into these issues, if you will.
But back to my research questions!!  Perhaps they are misconceived, if you will.  Is there a hidden variable I am missing?  For instance, perhaps the inflated egos that typically go along with the quest for high office are coupled with a higher likelihood of super-charged libidos?  If so, we men may be fated to endure these kinds of embarrassing events perpetrated by our more successful members–from here to eternity?  

Most pressingly of all, why hasn’t political science paid attention to the c*jones conundrum?  For future research proposals, scholarly articles, and bestsellers, I hereby bleg your insights, theoretical perspectives, research designs, etc.

Should I go vote for women because they’re women?

Reading a recent TIME article on “Why Women Candidates are Talking Tough” inspired me to blog about the upcoming elections a little bit. While there are a record number of women candidates for national office, predictions are that women will lose ground in representational terms. If women pick up any ground (or even don’t lose it), it is predicted to be GOP women winning seats and Democratic women losing them. With so many unappealing women to vote for (whose names I’ll leave off this blog post to be polite), and so few appealing women to vote for … what’s a progressive, Democratic, pro-choice woman to do?

The easy argument (and what I’m likely to do) is to vote with your political preferences. But in the rest of this post, I’ll make an argument for voting for every woman you can, regardless of political preference.

I realize that this sort of behavior is exactly what people think feminists do (that they don’t) that gives feminists a bad name (unjustifiably), but I think it might be an important thought experiment anyway.

So the argument against voting for women just because they are women is that it doesn’t make any sense to vote against your political interests in a democracy, and doing so in effect is voting against one’s political interest. Another argument against such behavior is that feminists argue that the category “woman” is in itself false and problematic.

Conceding both of those things … what if the election (nationally and locally) is already lost to the political cause of those of us who are progressive, pro-choice democrats?

The United States falls below the world average of women’s representation at every level of government – there is a woman-majority parliament in Rwanda, and dozens of places around the world where women constitute more than 35% of the parliament or Congress. In the United States, it is less than 20 percent. Women are drastically underestimated in gubernatorial offices and the cabinet, and there has never been a woman president.

This is not incidental – it is symptomatic of systematic gender bias in the United States. It is no coincidence that women are drastically underrepresented – our ideas about what it means to be a leader correspond to masculinity (which women must constantly prove while men are assumed to have it). Still, women leaders must be “as manly as men” (so they can’t cry) while maintaining their femininity (so they can’t be too aggressive).

Waiting for these masculine (and therefore secondarily male) biased gender rules to disappear is like trying to find atlantis. So how do you get involved to end it? Maybe the answer is to vote for women. Because the more female faces we see in office (regardless of political preference, assuming, in 2010, that’s predetermined), the more we have to confront our underlying gender biases in definitions of leadership and voting habits. Maybe? Or maybe we’ll just lose a lot of women’s rights ground at the same time …

“In Chess, Why is the Queen More Powerful Than the King?”

My son asked me this very rich question during a chess game about a week ago. Indeed, the distribution of power among the royalty on the chess board is the reverse of the gendered logic documented by feminist theorists of the state.

In chess, the queen has mobility (the crucial barometer of power in the game) but less value, as the game can continue without her; the hobbled king is relatively powerless, but is the most valuable piece without whom the game ceases. In actual politics, the situation is reversed: women’s relative lack of access to political and military power and even social, economic and physical mobility is sometimes justified and at any rate partly explained through their greater perceived value compared to men for reproductive and symbolic purposes.

Pleased though I was with my son’s ability to recognize this contradiction, it took a week of digging to actually find an answer. Turns out Marilyn Yalom has written a brilliant little book about this very this paradox and how it came to be: The Birth of the Chess Queen. In her introduction, she asks:

“How did [the chess queen]come to dominate the chessboard when, in real life, women are almost alway sin a position of secondary power? What is her relationship to the other chessmen? What can she tell us about the civilization that created her?”

Reading on, one learns three fascinating parts of the answer.

First, the chess board once lacked a queen altogether: in India, Persia and the Arab crescent, early chess included only male figures, the closest thing to the queen being the “vizier.” Yalom argues the appearance of the queen on the board coincided with the Arab invasion of Europe and the Christianization of the game as it took root in lands dominated by the idea of a woman as help-meet to a Christian king.

But second, the early queen was far from the icon of power she is today. Indeed, according to tenth century chess rules, the queen is second only to pawns in her abject powerlessness on the board – able to move only one step diagonally in any direction (less power than today’s king). While my son and I have had much fun attempting to play by tenth century rules (which include the knight’s final step moving on the diagonal), the question remains: how did the queen become so powerful? Yalom relates this to the importance of a series of strong European queens during the ensuring centuries.

So the queen was born of the gender politics associated with the clash between Christianity and Eastern cultures; and gained power in concert with traditions of queenly rule in Europe. But this doesn’t explain the other side of the coin: why the chess king is so vulnerable relative to his counterpart – so (one might say) feminized? Queens may have had greater power in Europe than in other parts of the world, and chess may have been a site for using gender as a cultural marker for civilizational identity, but queens hardly displaced their husbands and fathers as the loci of political authority. Perhaps the chess king’s vulnerability reflects the perception of many men surrounded by strong females that women actually hold the power, even if it’s not wielded through the sword.

Or maybe chess has simply not caught up (yet) with historical shifts in gender relations in the family and political life. Imagine a set of chess rules where the king and queen function as partners – equally powerful and equally valued – each dependent on the other for protection. The goal of each army would be to defeat both; either king or queen could fight and be “taken,” but once one partner is lost the other would revert to the vulnerability of the contemporary king, as it is the strength of the union from which their power is derived.

My son and I will shortly be beta-testing this chess system and invite faithful Duck readers to join in our little experiment and leave feedback in comments.

Losing my religion (or Jimmy Carter follows me)

In an article in The Age, Jimmy Carter recently renounced his membership in the Southern Baptist Church, arguing that “women and girls have been discriminated against for too long using a twisted interpretation of the word of God.” Particularly, Carter objected to statements by the Southern Baptist Convention “claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be “subservient” to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.” Carter links this sort of belief to justificatory logic for slavery, violence, forced prostitution, and the failure to make and enforce rape laws.

In a 1995 op-ed in the Pensacola News Journal too old and obscure to be located online, I renounced my membership in the Southern Baptist Church, arguing that the misogyny and heterosexism of Southern Baptist doctrine was something no God could want.

Carter’s article fluctuates between brilliant feminism and over-rhetorical politicking, but includes some important food for thought. The “lowlights” include his declaration of his membership in a group called the Elders and an unsophisticated understanding of gender hierarchy which seems to blame it almost entirely on men’s manipulation. While criticizing the Southern Baptist Church, Carter generalizes about the world’s religions – and, while his recognition of the link between patriarchy and religion is important, it would be nice if Carter recognized that all religions were not “created equal,” and have different (and different level) gender hierarchy problems. The highlights of Carter’s announcement/article, however, are surprisingly insightful.

For example, Carter argues that these religious beliefs “help explain why in many countries boys are educated before girls; why girls are told when and whom they must marry; and why many face enormous and unacceptable risks in pregnancy and childbirth because their basic health needs are not met.” Inherent in this and other statements in Carter’s argument is clear understanding that gender hierarchy is structural, and that structural gender hierarchy negatively impacts women’s lives on a daily basis all around the world. The second important recognition that Carter makes is nearer to the end of the article, where he points out that “it is not just women and girls who suffer [from gender hierarchy]. It damages all of us.” This is a realization that gets way too little play in the policy world – that gender hierarchy hurts the people “on top” as well as the people “on bottom” of that hierarchy. I applaud Carter for being able to see this, and concluding that “it is time we had the courage to challenge these views.”

Still, the egocentric part of me was tempted to reread Carter’s statement next to mine, and recall what I was thinking when I renounced my membership in the Southern Baptist Church. My column talked about many of the issues that Carter’s does, but also talked about the “Disney boycott” (where the Southern Baptist Convention objected to Disney’s decision to recognize and insure employees’ domestic partners) and other heterosexist policies. It also, while renouncing my membership in the Southern Baptist Church, urged the Convention to rethink its position and volunteered to enter into a dialogue to think about these problems more seriously. Reading both my column from years ago and Carter’s now, though, my major complaint is this: really? you think you can just quit patriarchal institutions? I think that Carter’s heart is in the right place, but I also think that we can’t disassociate ourselves with patriarchal society – we have to work with, and within, it. And maybe, for someone who otherwise agrees with the Southern Baptist Church like Carter claims to, that means dealing with it within that patriarchal society.

XX

Laura Rozen has confirmed reports that Princeton Wilson School Dean Anne-Marie Slaughter will become “the first woman to head the State Department’s Office of Policy Planning, Foggy Bottom’s in-house think tank.”

If Slaughter ever publishes an anonymous insider account about US foreign policy in Foreign Affairs, her obvious pseudonym is XX.

Child: Labor

Perspectives on Politics just published a depressing assessment of the prospects for women in the academy, placing much of the blame for the glass ceiling on the “intractable tension between professional success and family duties.” The section of the article concludes:

“Virtually every woman with children [interviewed] noted the difficulties in balancing career and family. Mary and Gale remind us that family versus career is a human problem, not just one with which women wrestle.”

Hear, hear. While the authors conclude that there is little evidence that society or political science as a profession is taking it seriously as such, one might make the same argument about the study itself, which looks at women in the profession, rather than parents in the profession, including fathers, for whom – at least for that small but growing percentage who takes on half the work at home – may be even more disadvantaged career-wise. (It would have been great to see the sex-disaggregated statistics.)

The authors aren’t alone: a new Caucus within the ISA that is seeking to address family issues within the profession calls itself “Mothers in IR,” reifying the idea that parenting is primarily a women’s issue; at my insitution, the Child Care SubCommittee lobbying for more family-friendly policies is subsumed under the Gender Equity Committee rather than mainstreamed into the Benefits and Welfare process. No wonder the issue isn’t taken very seriously.

In my mind, all this is a huge part of the problem. That’s why, on Father’s Day this week, I was happy to see the New York Times report in-depth on families, mostly working professionals, who have come up with creative arrangements for splitting child-care 50/50 in order to support one another’s careers. The article presents a balanced view of the impacts of equal parenting on the career choices of both men and women, as well as many examples of how it can work and what employers can do to make it easier for fathers and mothers.

But. Even here, it matters quite a lot how you define “work” versus “fun” in child rearing. Dr. Sampson Lee Blair, a sociologist who studies work/family dynamics at University of Buffalo is quoted in the NYT article:

“The social scientist’s definition of child care “is attending to the physical needs of a child — dressing a child, cooking for a child, feeding and cleaning them,” Blair says. It doesn’t include the fun stuff, like playing and reading and kissing good night.”

Hello: I say, reading at night is work, too, for three reasons.

A) It is of value to the kid; it doesn’t matter whether it’s fun or not – I also love my job as a teacher, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t get paid.

B) Sometimes, it’s not fun, lying in bed with a book at 8pm when you’re exhausted but know you need to get back up to troll around on blogs watch the Daily Show prep for class and have to struggle to stay awake while you do it – that can be work.

Part of the problem is that society wants to exclude from the definition of “work” anything that society thinks we’re supposed to want to do unconditionally out of love, regardless of how hard it is or what its actual economic value. This assumption needs to be challenged of caring work done by both sexes. My husband may love to garden and fix things, but that doesn’t mean I should discount these contributions to our household as “hobbies.”

In her (once again, inaptly titled) book The Price of Motherhood, Ann Crittenden offers a better definition of the the economic value of the labor it takes to raise children well: the price you would have to pay someone else to do the work for you.

What if we calculated the cost of this labor of child rearing as a percentage of GDP?

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