Why does anyone ever question the value of “women’s work”? Why don’t we honor it and the people who do it? I mean really honor it, with decent wages and with personal respect. People who clean up or care for people – homemakers, nurses, attendants at day care centers or retirement homes, social workers, maids, launderers – are at the bottom of the pay ladder and are socially invisible. Most of them are women or minorities. Above them are people who care for machines; still higher people who care for flows of paper; highest of all, people who care for money. Where did we get that set of priorities?
Either we valued cleaning and caring jobs so little that we foisted them off on people we didn’t value, or we thought so poorly of some people that their jobs became devalued by association. However it happened, we now take jobs that are pleasant enough within the varied routine of a household – peeling potatoes, wiping the noses of 2-year-olds, serving food to the table – and make some people do them full time. In the process the jobs become boring and demeaning, we look down on the people who do them, and all but the strongest of these people come to look down on themselves.
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