Moving Up Shows Wages are Not Enough
Women and Citizen's Income
Real liberation depends on material security. That can come from Georgist economics, a potential successor to both capitalism and communism. The author of this op-ed is retired and lives in Yorkshire UK. Readers, please feel free to submit your own.
by Diana E. Forrest, February 22, 2009Imagine a middle class Englishman (that is, more well heeled than a middle class North American). Somebody hands him a cup of tea. In 1900 she is a maid in a uniform. In 1950 she is a housewife in a pinny. In 2000 she is a professional in a business suit.
Ms 2000 owes her professional position to organized feminism. There was nothing new about women in employment in 1900, as the maid could testify. What was new was women getting the respected and well paid jobs.
That being so, why is Ms 2000 still the one who makes the tea? The pioneers of feminism might have assumed that the maid would still be there and that Ms 2000 would have time to put her feet up. There is no maid -- but there are two adults in the house.
It seems Mr 2000 still isn't doing much housework -- but why not? Mr 1900 wouldn't have done so because he employed the maid, or maybe maids. Mr 1950 would have argued that his wife had nothing else to do with her time because she was lucky enough to have a husband to provide for her. In theory, Mr 2000 and Ms 2000, who share the wage earning, should find it fair to share the housework.
As the above example shows, the women's lives have changed more than the men's -- supposedly a change for the better. The change is sometimes attributed to women's changing aspirations. Look at them, the funny fickle things! Going out to work! What will they think of next?
Ms 2000 does not get much sympathy. If she has no children she is selfish and career obsessed. If she does have children then she is Trying To Have It All. But if she does have children, then in the event of divorce (easier in 2000 than in 1900 or 1950) her well paid job is the only thing that will keep them from a fast slide into poverty. Even then she will have a struggle and may have to give up her claim to the house because she cannot afford the mortgage on her own.
Ms 2000, despite her professional job, is still dependent on Mr 2000. This is what feminism was supposed to prevent. What went wrong?
We need to look at the role of economics. Mr 1900 might have owned their house outright. Mr 1950 may have had a mortgage, but one that could be paid, along with two people's keep, out of a single male wage. Mr and Ms 2000 need two wages to pay their mortgage. Yet it might be the same house.
The rising price of houses is what is keeping women dependent and leaves some of the single ones living with parents or sofa surfing because their pay won't run to any of the available places for rent. Feminism has done a good job in getting women into well paid work but now needs to look at the economy as a whole, including recognizing that, however high women's educational achievements or employment aspirations, not all of them can be professionals. There will always be some women on minimum wage or looking after others (elders or children) full time.
A land tax and Citizen's Income might free women economically. Taxing land as if it brought in rent would encourage the building of houses and flats that would bring in the rent, rather than an empty office block or nothing. CI would help women who wanted to work part time because the part time pay would not be clawed back. But I have not seen any mention of CI for kids. This, paid to the parent who looks after the children, is needed to free women from dependency on men.
Perhaps Ms 2050 will be able to tell her husband to make his own tea without fearing that he will go off with someone else.
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