VICTORIA WHITE: Ireland’s own brand of feminism comes with its own chauvinism

BIZARRE column from Victoria White who thinks raising her kids is a job taxpayers should pay her for — tweeted Fine Gael councillor for Howth/Malahide, Keith Redmond.

I don’t usually give a toss who tweets about the columns I write for this newspaper but that tweet made me angry.

I had written an article against the ending of the One Parent Family payment for lone parents whose youngest child is over seven. And he had the audacity to write off the work of thousands of hard-working parents!

Keith Redmond is a public representative from the main Government party and I fear his attitude is reflects the Government’s attitude to those who work in the home.

Well I have a message for Dr Dentist Keith: I’d rather be a child without teeth than a child without care.

I actually do think raising my kids is a job taxpayers should pay me for.

I’d have a taxation system in place which would scoop off most of that payment because I have a partner, a house and some income. But I want that payment there if I wake up one day and find I don’t have those supports.

I will fight for recognition of the work I do in my home because it is bloody amazing.

I have four children and one of them has autism.

He has spent the last six hours shouting at me because he can’t tell left from right, he couldn’t find his rubber snake, he found his rubber snake and ate it scattering polystyrene all over the carpet, he had a bath to calm him down and didn’t like the flex of the hair-dryer going across him.

And on and on and on while I cook and clean and deal with the emotional and educational issues of two teens and one pre-teen.

What’s amazing about me is not that I have the patience of a saint or make my own granola. It’s just that I stick it at all.

And of course I’m no more — in fact, a lot less — amazing than the millions of family carers through the world for whom Global Women’s Strike is demanding a wage.

Global Women’s Strike was founded by veteran feminist Selma James and is “an international network for recognition and payment of all caring work”.

As it happens, they have launched a petition in advance of International Women’s Day on Sunday which demands “a living wage for mothers and other carers” so Keith is more on-trend that he could possibly have imagined.

As the petition states, “Mothers are told they are “workless” and earning is more important than caring. They are pushed into jobs regardless of hours, pay or childcare provision. When caring work is devalued, people, relationships and life itself is devalued. The result is inequity, social neglect, environmental destruction and war.”

Please tell me, Keith, how you would run your society without the care work done by women?

As says Áine Uí Ghiollagáin of the parents’ and carers’ NGO, Cúram, the people who would push carers into the workplace “never do all the sums”.

It costs eight times more to keep an elderly person in a nursing home than to keep that person at home with a carer and that’s not including capital costs.

You might say that shows how exploited carers are. But do you think the answer is to kick those carers out of their own homes even when they are going to be carers in someone else’s home?

Oh no, you have higher hopes for them? So caring doesn’t matter, does it not? It doesn’t matter to this society?

Spell out what you think, Keith. You are the man who called opponents of Page Three Girls “feminazis” so I doubt feminism is listening.

The real tragedy is that mainstream feminism itself has in this country accepted the market’s view of caring. Feminism itself has a chauvinistic view of caring.

That’s why the Government is getting away with kicking lone parents off the One Family Payment, with cutting the pensions of elderly women who worked long years in their homes, with suggesting, as Minister Frances Fitzgerald did last year, that Child Benefit should be scrapped and replaced with a childcare service.

You can do anything you like when so-called “progressive” and “left-wing” opinion is bang in line with the most extreme form of market capitalism and most of the mainstream media are clapping along.

You have to travel a long way to find policies which are considered “progressive” and “left-wing” and which support caring work in the home in practical ways.

In Venezuela Hugo Chavez implemented Article 88 of the new Constitution which recognised care as productive work, saying “Now the revolution puts you first, you too are workers, you housewives, workers in the home.”

“Leaning in” or climbing the corporate ladder with Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg just invites a number of elite women into the patriarchy leaving the rest outside minding the children as a servant class.

And if you are an educated childcare worker and don’t like being described as a servant, just have a look at your pay packet and ask yourself what it says.

The only feminism which will really raise up poor women is feminism like that of Global Womens’ Strike, which demands recognition for work in the home. Tragically Ireland’s own brand of feminism has from its inception refused point blank to have anything to do with such an idea.

When the Second Commission on the Status of Women was convened by Charles Haughey in 1992 it was charged with paying particular attention to the situation of women in the home.

A payment for women in the home was the most requested item in the submissions. But the Commission denied the request with a put-down which could hardly have been more hurtful: “In essence, the maintenance of a full-time homemaker, although of benefit to society, is primarily a private benefit to the earning partner and as such could hardly be deemed to warrant a State payment.”

In its wisdom, the Commission also recommended against increasing Child Benefit in favour of “supports for childcare, eldercare and towards education and training opportunities”.

So nothing’s changed, then. Frances Fitzgerald, now Minister for Justice, was among the signatories of the Commission’s report.

When I was researching my book Mother Ireland in 2010 I asked her to explain the denial of a payment to a parent in the home on these grounds and she said she would come back to me, but despite several requests, she never did.

I have been given no reason to believe that she or Joan Burton or the rest of the Cabinet thinks any more of the work that I do in my home than you do, Keith.

So this International Women’s Week I’m going to shout from the roof-tops that there will be no progress for women and no health for society until those who work in their own homes have workers’ rights.

The Global Women’s Strike manifesto and petition is at www.globalwomenstrike.com 

READ MORE: Joan Burton’s treacherous attack on lone parents is Thatcheresque


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