Don’t Lock Me Up: Reproductive Freedom and Working Women

0

It’s time to talk about the women’s economy with attitude. It’s time to laugh at what is often absurd and call out what is dangerous. By focusing on voices that are not typically part of the mainstream, man-to-man economic discourse, Women unscrewing Screwnomics will bring you news of practical and hopeful change and celebrate an economy run like life, not war.


For centuries under common law, wives and daughters were the property of the patriarch of the family or, at his death, of the closest relative endowed with a penis. Everything that belonged to them was his, and more importantly, he watched over his wife’s most prized asset: her belly. In early medical thought, a uterus was considered fertile ground to be protected by fencing to establish property rights, with it to be plowed and planted with seeds, literally sperm.

Without her carrying the next generation of males, the men had no successor for her business or her piece of land. No successor meant the end of a fortune, a castle, a pasture or a cabin. Household heads controlled mating and whether or not a child would live in the household. Although rarely done, a woman’s divorce from her husband resulted in the children being taken away from her to be in her sole custody – like the children who were hers by law as the product of her seed, grown in her legally fenced uterine property. .

January 2019 Women’s March in New York. (Terry Ballard / Wikimedia Commons)

We thought such cultural laws and metaphors were behind us. Women’s rights in American jurisprudence seemed well established after more than a century of legal wrangling. Women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton fought for a married woman’s right to inherit and own property, which was won in 1858. This laid the groundwork that implied that women themselves were more than just property, if not still full citizens.

Although rarely done, a woman’s divorce from her husband resulted in the children being taken away from her to be in her sole custody – like the children who were hers by law as the product of her seed, grown in her legally fenced uterine property. . We thought such cultural laws and metaphors were behind us.

Gradually, women were granted the right to education, the right to keep one’s salary or to exercise a profession, the right to sit on a jury, the right to vote in elections and, in 1974, the right to open a bank account without a male co-signer.

But today’s Texas cowboys have another idea in mind: In September, a law came into effect in the state that puts a premium on women’s bellies. Men have demanded property rights by building a time barrier around women who seek abortions, closing the door on their freedom of choice at six weeks and calling on anyone who feels the need to control women’s reproductive agency to sue its abortion providers.

Mississippi and 26 other states are poised to round up American women seeking abortions with so-called trigger laws — state abortion bans that will go into effect immediately in the event federal law changes. Legal experts predict that this year SCOTUS can very well set aside 50 years of precedent set by one of his most famous stops, Roe vs. Wade who established that a woman’s unwanted pregnancy could potentially lead to a “painful life and future”.

A later case in 1992, Casey Against Planned Parenthood, went further by declaring that the right to abortion was necessary for women to participate on an equal footing in the economic and social life of the nation. What is at stake are women’s civil rights as citizens, of course, but also financial rights. With the USDA fixing the cost of raising a child born in 2015 to college age at $233,610, the trigger laws and the closure of the womb will trap many women in what is called the “informal economy. “It’s a polite expression that means, frankly, poverty.

In September, a Texas law took effect that put a bounty on women’s bellies. Men claimed property rights by building a temporal fence around women seeking abortions, closing the door on his freedom of choice at six weeks.

Ironically, these setbacks in the rights of American women almost go hand in hand with a call to honor the “informal” workers of the global economy around the world. Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation, and Sally Roever, International Coordinator of Women in Informal Employment, write an editorial last June in Time magazine comparing the world’s informal workers to the coal miners of the past. The majority of the world’s 2 billion informal workers are women – about 20% of workers here in the United States and 58% of women globally.

What is “informal” work? It is work done without state protections or regulations. These are ad hoc arrangements of trade and barter, self-employment and work for black money. It’s all a woman and her family can find to survive.

Walker and Roether wrote:

“Informal work is the essential service that billions of people provide to a world that barely notices it. They are workers who survive outside the social and labor protections enjoyed by employees in the mainstream economy, doing countless invisible jobs…. Their workplaces are inside homes or on streets and sidewalks; they are everywhere and yet they are neglected, forgotten, ignored.

With the 109th Conference of the International Labor Organization (ILO) to come that month, the editors of the editorial expected the ILO to “request [that] international governments and employer representatives are planning a global economic recovery with the informal workforce at the centre. Sounds fair, but as they admitted, weak regulations and eroding labor protections in the globalized economy have contributed to grotesque inequality and concentration of wealth and mass migrations of people desperate for economic security.

What is “informal” work? It is work done without state protections or regulations. These are ad hoc arrangements of trade and barter, self-employment and work for black money. It’s all a woman and her family can find to survive.

The pandemic has revealed gaps in our supply chains around the world, and the particular vulnerabilities of working women. This was partly the reason President Biden addressed annual conference of the ILO this year, only the third American president to do so. He pledged to build a global economic agenda shaped by working people and rooted in the protection of their rights. However, the speeches made at the ILO and the policy recommendations will only become reality when governments and transnational corporations accept them.

(International Labor Organization, 2021)

The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), the largest labor federation that works with the ILO, calls for a new social contract for all workers. It may take a while since the ILO, founded in 1919, took a century to approve the first international treaty to eliminate gender-based violence and harassment at work in 2019. Despite reports that dozens of countries are currently working on such a contract, gender-based violence and harassment in the home, or violence and harassment by the state itself is not part of their vision.

“Informal work” is an economic word for working in the private world of our homes and neighborhoods, without the privileges of the traditionally male public world of the “formal” labor market. Labor receives state protections in return for paying taxes. Time, attention, and skill are needed in both worlds of work, but the real difference between them is socioeconomic status, gender, and race. These differences are only magnified in a global system dominated by the wealth of predominantly white male businesses and global Corruption.

Time, attention, and skill are needed in both worlds of work, but the real difference between them is socioeconomic status, gender, and race. These differences are only magnified in a global system dominated by predominantly white male corporate wealth and global corruption.

Even by ILO international standards, the very real work of reproduction, and the time and skills needed to support a family and maintain a home, are not on the table for even informal discussion. . If you work at home mending clothes for cash, under the table it’s informal; if you are a mother who cooks for your children the food you have grown in a garden, it is invisible. If you become an American mother before you are ready or can come up with a plan to raise $233,610 in the formal world of work, you will be forced to work however you can, as 20% of working women in this country do.

The bright side of this issue is the rise of women in American labor unions, which represents a significant change from the past. Their dynamic steering was noted last month by Bloomberg News. This is especially true in the female-dominated fields of education and health. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research reports that while women as a whole continue to earn only 80% of what male workers do in the formal workplace, unionized women earn 84%.

Now imagine if the women of the National Welfare Rights Union, who have long fought for salary for household and maternal chores were joined by their other union sisters. Together, they can tear down a false wall between informal and formal work – the time of our lives – and those enforced fences claiming women’s wombs as state property.

If you found this article helpful, please consider supporting our Independent Reports and Truth Statement for as little as $5 per month.

Following:

Share.

About Author

Comments are closed.