Gender Economics: Approaches to Measuring Women’s Unpaid Labor through Opportunity Cost (Alexandra Beda)
Economics is a patriarchal social science. It aspires to dominate society by imputing value on goods that it finds important or relevant, and therefore manipulates perceptions of social value, and controls social welfare. Because of this, there is an abrasive intersection arising between economics, ecology, and ecofeminism. Marilyn Waring, author of Counting for Nothing, believes that there is a need for value to be imputed on unpaid women’s labor, but believes a fiscal approach would be inefficient and “totally dysfunctional”. The core of her argument is that economics has been designed to economically repress women, and that excluding women’s unpaid domestic labor from calculating national income is harmful in addressing the progress of our economy. Because the patriarchal nature of economics does not allow for a true imputation of value on opportunity cost women’s domestic labor, it cannot be considered a true measure of national income, and if remained unaddressed, will be detrimental to modern day society.
“I cannot think of a more authentic form of representation of [something] than its beginnings”. I’m surprised at how abrasive I find my own words, barely written more than a couple months ago at the beginning of my first semester at Bryn Mawr. My old window of perspective, which I now find rather limiting, has expanded to allow me much more room to see the different nuances in my environment, and has therefore helped me reorient myself as a part of it. I used to be enamored with the past, convinced that it could foreground significantly more about an individual or place than the present could. However, after reading works such as Terry Tempest Williams’, An Unspoken Hunger, and J.M. Coetzee’s The Lives of Animals, I’ve learned that while our history is a necessary reminder of how everything is connected, it sets a very narrow frame for the present. The past does not, and should not, define who we are. While our history is, in a sense, the foundation to the “architecture of the soul”, it does not determine the development of values that we acquire from life experiences.
Sitting behind Rhodes with the clouds looming overhead was an unfortunate way to end my sight sit postings. Watching flocks of geese fly south reminded me of how quickly time passes, and left me wishing that I had appreciated time more. When I say "appreciated time", I'm not referring to my first semester at Bryn Mawr specifically, but rather to the appreciation of time in general. I don't like that my first semester of college is nearly over, and it feels like it has been no time at all. I realize that it's not ideal to fixate on every moment in life, but I'm hardpressed to find a way to savor my time--especially as a college undergraduate. I don't want graduation to roll around and feel as disoriented as I do now, with finals looming ahead, wondering how I got here and feeling almost as foggy as the weather. I have a strong desire to validate my feelings of dissatisfaction with time's passing with my freshmen peers, but unlike the character Elizabeth Costello, I do not find myself having the power to "think" myself into another person. Therefore, I'm left with a lack of affirmation, and a lot of studying that will most likely make me feel hazy and exhuasted. Looking ahead to break has also been surprisingly disarming. Looking around right now, I don't know how I feel about leaving. This is my home, but don't I already have a home? I'm in limbo, and am hoping to find some much needed clarity during the next month.
I have never considered myself to be a personable narrator, and before this semester, have never been encouraged to be one. My reluctance to write in the first person narrative stems from my own experience as a reader who has been berated and patronized by authors who are unable, or unwilling, to place themselves at my level of comprehension, and had been reinforced by my high school teachers who insisted that I write in the traditional third person narrative—my mother being one of them, might I add. As a result, I’ve developed into a writer who is hard pressed to find literary merit to a thesis based solely in opinion, let alone my own. However, throughout the semester of “Ecological Imaginings”, I have realized that there was a need for my writing to evolve, and I therefore made an effort to rediscover my personal voice in my writing. After analyzing the works of authors such as Terry Tempest Williams and those of my classmates, I’ve begun to be able to piece together the formula imperative to the successful implementation of the first person narrative, which I believe is imperative in the development of a writer who is able to write at the collegiate level. Although most college essays will generally be written in the third person narrative, teaching students to locate their own voice at the high school level sets a foundation of understanding that will translate to college.
Elizabeth Costello claims that because she was able to "think" herself into one of her fictional characters that, before, had never existed, then she should be able to think herself into any being. This claim does not sit well with me, as I find that there are many intrinsic problems that make it untrue. First, Costello's ability to think herself into another human character doesn't necessarily mean much; it would have been much easier to put herself into another character's shoes given that the character was another human being. Part of the reason she was able to think herself into the character was because she was able to empathize with human emotion. Another flaw with her statement is that she really isn't thinking herself into an entirely new being; after all, she may have invented the fictional character, but it was, essentially, of her own entity. My question is therefore, why is it more difficult for humans to empathize with animals (which is what we are in all actuality)? When answered "consciousness", Elizabeth Costello replies, "They have no consciousness, therefore. Therefore what? Therefore we are free to kill them? Why? What is so special about the form of consciousness we recognize that makes killing a bearer of it a crime while killing an animal goes unpunished?" I find this to be the more important question, and statement. What is consciousness, and how are we able to differentiate between the consciousness of another human being and the consciousness of an animal?
I already posted about the botanical tour a couple of weeks ago, but I thought I'd do another post reflecting on how I've been able to use what I've learned through out the semester. Given the fast, and often overwhelming, pace of the first semester of freshman year, I was concerned that I wasn't truly absorbing information. Often times, I felt as if I was robotically taking in information, for the sole purpose of "getting by"--if we want to connect this back to Meerker's comic mode. However, the other day I found myself in a rather refreshing conversation with somebody who didn't necessarily agree with my opinions regarding ecology (in its broad sense that accompanies ecofeminism, environmentalism, and even economics) and was able to not only able to give a strong argument for my case--which was about imputing value to women's unpaid domestic labor--but was able to convince them to somewhat agree with my standpoint. While I'd like to think that it was my skills of persuasion that convinced them to my side, I happily recognize that it's what I learned in this writing seminar that helped me shape, develop, and present a clear argument on this topic. The interaction gave me affirmation that what we've been doing here really has been sinking in, and that my education hasn't been reduced to a simple absorption of information; I've been acquiring knowledge.
Today, as I’m travelling back to campus, I’m not writing from my sight-sit, but on a train. This has awarded me the opportunity to travel “ecologically”, as I’m being careful to observe the interactions of other passengers. I’m realizing that a train is, in fact, one of the most interesting places to study people; individuals are forced to situate themselves within close proximity and besides having the same destination in mind, I’m hard-pressed to find many commonalities between these people. There are clearly very different socioeconomic classes, and if we weren’t all going the same place on a monotonous eight hour trip, I doubt that many of us would have ever had a reason—or opportunity—to interact with one another. I just had a conversation with a boy who attends Loyola University, and lives in Fairfield, Connecticut. His disposition didn’t seem particularly friendly at first, but when I started talking to him, he was very engaged in our conversation (which was about midterms). Somehow, we ended up having a conversation about skiing, and he told me that he goes up to Okemo and Killington to snowboard—which is about ten minutes away from where I live in Vermont. If I hadn’t been on this train, I would have never met Michael, even though he visits my favorite mountain several times a year.
As I missed class Tuesday, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about Terry Tempest Williams book, an Unspoken Hunger (which I had signed by the author by the way!). Instead of boring you with black and white print, I thought I'd offer a more colorful deliniation of what I derived from the text. One of my close friends, Stephanie, is a talented photographer. In my opinion, what makes her photos more captivating than her fellow peers is the fact that she doesn't take photos professionally; on any given day, she'll walk onto Morgan Hill and take photos of the landscape, just because it, for one reaosn or another, moves her emotionally that day. She allows a transparent perspective of nature, her goal being to elicit emotion from the eye of the beholder. My admiration of Stephanie is much like that of William's of Georgia O'Keefe. Williams wrote that O'Keefe had the power to "transform desert landscapes into emotional ones, using color and form to startle the senses. Scale belonged to the landscape of the imagination. When asked by friends if these places really existed, O'Keefe responded with her usual cando 'I simply paint what I see'". (p. 20) Like O'Keefe, Stephanie "paints what she sees", and what she "paints" is what she feels--she just does it with a camera instead of a brush. These are some of her photos:
I know this is a little bit early, but I wanted to tell everybody about the botanical tour that Hannah, Rochelle, Rachel, Graham and I went on this past weekend. Our tour began in Morris Woods behind the English house, where Rachel and Graham showed us a plant that mimicked other native plants in its surroundings in order to survive. I don't recall its name, but I've been calling it the "Chameleon" Plant (like in my recent Serendip post, for example). The Chameleon plant had a distinct burning tar smell (as Rachel described it), which distinguished it from a neighboring plant which looked almost exactly the same, but smelled more like "green peppers". Another plant nearby also had similar leaves, but had a more lemon or citrus smell to it. A yue tree was next on our botany tour; Rachel and Graham told us that it was very poisonous, and that we should probably wash our hands after touching it. We quickly moved on to a Beech Tree, which several Bryn Mawr students had carved into. Rachel commented on this, explaining that Beech wood couldn't be used for very much because it was a weaker type of wood. Both explained that they had played a game outin Morris, where students had to close their eyes and try to identify trees. The comment led me to believe that their class may be a little more environmentally based than our seminar, even though we both have been doing similar readings and discussion exercises in class.
Fall is my favorite time of the year. The brevity of the transition between Summer and Winter leaves something for want, and I find that my longest walks are during those crisp, scarf weather autumn days. Today, I will not be writing about my usual spot out behind Rhoades, but instead will be remembering a walk into the woods that I took after having the "botanical" tour with Rachel and Graham. At one point, I remembered that they had showed my group a plant that mimicked native species in order to survive. The three plants that they showed us looked almost exactly the same, but had three distinct smells that distinguished them from one another. This "chameleon" plant was thriving in the forest, even though it wasn't native to the area. As I returned to this site after out tour, I began thinking about how the human race has adapted ecologically to our environment--and how our reaction to our natural surroundings couldn't be more opposite to that of the "chameleon" plant. Would we have been better off if we had taken a similar approach? Instead of destroying and abusing our natural surroundings, what if we could have mimicked them? If this were the case, there certainly wouldn't be the problem of the green-house effect (at least on a large scale), no oil spills--pollution would be eliminated to almost nothing. If we were like the "chameleon" plant, we would have learned from nature in order to thrive and still be able to compete for resources. How could we have done this?