“Office Help”

Anyone remember the job ads titled “Office Help”?  You knew, when a job ad was titled that way, that they expected, or wanted, a woman.  Women help.  They don’t actually do a job, they just help someone else do a job.  So the someone else gets the credit.  And the big bucks and the benefits.  After all, you’re just helping out, you’re just doing a favor.  Because you’re nice.  That’s what women are.  You never saw “Maintenance Help” or “Engineering Help” ads.

Another give-away was, and maybe still is, when the job was for something like “10:00 to 2:00”.  A man wouldn’t take a part-time job.  Men needed a full-time job.  Even if they hadn’t made a couple kids they then needed to support.   (Did I ever get paid more to support my choices?  Don’t think so.) 

And they’d get it too.  The full-time job.  Men are good at talking about their needs.  Because having needs makes you important,  If you’re a man.  (If you’re a woman, needing something makes you weak, dependent.)

(‘Course everything makes you weak if you’re a woman.  Even ethics.  It’s called ‘sentiment’.  In a man, it’s called ‘integrity’.)

Have things changed?

Surrogacy – Why Not?

Sure, women should be allowed to be surrogates.  We all do work with our bodies, some of us also include our minds in the deal (some of us are allowed to include our minds in the deal), so why not?  As long as they get paid for service rendered.

Being a surrogate is sort of like being an athlete.  You have to be and stay physically healthy, for the duration: you have to eat and drink the right stuff, and not eat or drink the wrong stuff; you have to get the right amount of physical activity.  And so on.  It’s important.  Use during pregnancy of illegal drugs (such as crack cocaine and heroin) as well as legal drugs (such as alcohol and nicotine) can cause, in the newborn, excruciating pain, vomiting, inability to sleep, reluctance to feed, diarrhoea leading to shock and death, severe anaemia, growth retardation, mental retardation, central nervous system abnormalities, and malformations of the kidneys, intestines, head and spinal cord (Madam Justice Proudfoot, “Judgement Respecting Female Infant ‘D.J.”; Michelle Oberman, “Sex, Drugs, Pregnancy, and the Law: Rethinking the Problems of Pregnant Women who use Drugs”).  Refusal of fetal therapy techniques (such as surgery, blood infusions, and vitamin regimens) can result in respiratory distress, and various genetic disorders and defects such as spina bifida and hydrocephalus (Deborah Mathieu, Preventing Prenatal Harm: Should the State Intervene?)

To be an elite surrogate, Read the rest of this entry »

A Gold Watch. Seriously.

At one of my previous workplaces, we had a little ceremony each year honouring employees who had worked there for five, ten, or fifteen years.  I used to go.  (There was free pizza.)  But then I stopped.  (After three years, I could afford my own pizza.)

It’s a curious thing, this esteem we have for longevity.  Why is an anniversary cause for celebration?  I can see it in some Purple Heart sense – congratulations for surviving – but that doesn’t seem to be the spirit in which such celebrations are intended.  (Then again…)

So what’s the big deal about being married to the same person, or working for the same company, for so many years?  Is it supposed to be some expression of loyalty, which is then rewarded?  What’s loyalty?  And why is it good?  Is it trust?  In a person, or company, no matter what they do?  Excuse me, but the day my partner or my employer starts making weapons or selling unsafe products, I’m outta there.

Let’s admit it, ‘seniority’ rewards quantity rather than quality.  I mean, what if it were a shitty marriage?  Why applaud someone for staying in it?  (Do you want fries with that?)

And what if the person’s a mediocre employee?  We give them a raise every year just because they’ve been there one more year.  But we don’t give a raise to the guy who’s doing a good job.  Is it any wonder then that so many employees develop a clock-punching mentality, that they figure just being there, just putting in time, is enough?  Because apparently, it is.  If they put in enough time, they get a wage increase, extra holidays, protection from lay-off, and eventually, so very appropriately, a gold watch.

Granted, sometimes there’s a connection between quantity and quality: the longer you work at it, the better you get, the more you know.  Sometimes.  (So why not just reward that increase in quality  –  directly.)   But unless you get moved to a different position, the level of mastery is often achieved before five years, certainly usually before ten or fifteen years.  So seniority means stagnation, complacency.  It could also mean cowardice, fear of trying something new.  (Or simply the lack of other opportunities.)  And of course, if one hangs on because of the rewards, it means self-interestedness.

My guess is that after a certain point, performance declines, rather than inclines, with seniority.  You know you can’t be easily fired, you feel secure, you feel comfortable.  So you don’t try as hard, you get a little lazy.  And you get a little bored, you get a little dull.

So seniority should not be rewarded.  And rather than penalizing the person who’s changed jobs every few years, we should be recruiting them.

Why aren’t there any great women Xs?

A new (for me) answer to the classic question, Why aren’t there any great women Xs, occurred to me when I saw a website for a small company of composers specializing in music for dance troupes (all four composers were male) shortly after a male friend of mine confessed that if he wasn’t getting paid to do it (write a book – he’s an academic with a university position), he probably wouldn’t, and another male friend confessed confusion at the idea of composing something just out of his soul (everything he’d written had been for pay – soundtracks for video games and what have you). Until then, the answer to that age-old question seemed to go to merit and/or opportunity.  Now I’m thinking it goes to money. Read the rest of this entry »

Crossing the Line

I crossed a picket line once.  The Ontario Federation of Secondary School Teachers (OSSTF) in the Toronto area was on strike in 1983, and one of their demands was that union members be hired to fill night school and summer school teaching positions.  They were concerned about quality of education: they didn’t want these courses to become second-class courses as a result of being taught by second-class teachers who were unqualified and inexperienced.

Well.  I was qualified.  More qualified than many of the older OSSTF members who got their teaching jobs when you didn’t even need a B.A., let alone a B.Ed.  And I was experienced.  In addition to about ten years of private music and dance teaching experience, I’d had a half-time regular day school position for one year and had taught a few night school courses the following year.

But more than that, Read the rest of this entry »

Kept Women (and Men)

There is something objectionable about a perfectly-capable-of-working adult being ‘kept’ by another adult. It seems to me the epitome of laziness and immaturity to be supported by someone else, to have someone else pay your way through life.

But, I suppose, if someone wants to pay someone else’s way, if a man wants to ‘keep’ a woman (or vice versa), and that woman (or man) wants to be ‘kept’, I suppose that’s no business of mine.

But then why should I subsidize their keep? What has your wife (or husband) ever done for me? And yet I must subsidize her discounted income tax. Her discounted car insurance. Her discounted health insurance. Her discounted life insurance. Her discounted university tuition. Her discounted club membership. Hell, even her discounted airline ticket.

If he wants to pay her way, fine, but her way should cost the same as mine. Why is her way discounted just because she’s not paying it herself? Why do we roll out the red carpet for kept women?

Even if she is paying her own way, why should she have to pay less than me just because she’s married? Why should spouses get a discounted rate on all those things?

In particular, access to company benefits irks me: you don’t even work here, why should you be covered?

Two married adults should pay the same as two single adults. End of story.

Combining Family and Career

People say that women can’t have, can’t combine, a family and a career, that it’s having family responsibilities that keeps them from advancement – the inability to work late or on weekends, the tendency to need time off to tend to kids…

I’m not so sure.  I’ve never had such competing obligations, and I don’t have a career.  I think the family thing is a red herring.  Women just don’t get hired into career-track jobs nearly as often as men, and when they do, they don’t get advanced.  (And not because their family responsibilities get in the way.)

In fact, it might be an advantage to be a mother, because you’re seen as more adult then, you’re seen as an authority.  Certainly one carries oneself with more authority, I notice that a lot: as soon as someone becomes a parent, the authority they are to their kids spills over, and they start acting like they know everything with everyone, like they have a right to tell everyone what to do.  It’s especially obvious with women because it’s the first time they have, or are seen to have, authority. Women without kids aren’t grown up yet, they aren’t granted any sort of authority, certainly no position of responsibility.  It’s as if becoming a parent proves you can be responsible.

But of course it does no such thing: witness the very many irresponsible parents; indeed, becoming a parent in the first place is, for many, due to irresponsibility.  And, of course, there are many other ways of demonstrating responsibility.

Being There

I recently read a lament about work attitudes, about how more and more people seem to think that just being there is enough, that their paycheque is for putting in time rather than for actually doing anything, let alone for doing a good anything, that people feel no guilt about the mistakes they make, nor do they feel any desire to do better.

I’d like to offer some comments in defense, or at least in explanation, of that position.  Read the rest of this entry »

King of the Castle

Octavia Butler got it right in Xenogenesis when the aliens identified one of our fatal flaws as that of being hierarchy-driven (they fixed us with a bit of genetic engineering) – but she failed to associate the flaw predominantly with males.

And Steven Goldberg got it right in Why Men Rule when he explained that men are genetically predisposed to hierarchy (fetal masculinization of the central nervous system renders males more sensitive to the dominance-related properties of testosterone) – but he presented that as an explanation for why men rule and not also for why men kill.

And Arthur Koestler got it right in The Call Girls when, recognizing that the survival of the human species is unlikely, a select group of geniuses meet at a special ‘Approaches to Survival’ symposium (and fail to agree on a survival plan) – but I’m not sure he realized (oh of course he did) that one of his character’s early reference to a previous symposium on ‘Hierarchic Order in Primate Societies’ was foreshadowing.

The reason the human species will not survive is simple: Read the rest of this entry »

Leadership?

Some time ago, I attended a “Women in Leadership” conference put on by one of Ontario’s larger unions.  Wheat I learned there disillusioned two parts of me: the labour part and the feminist part. Read the rest of this entry »

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