Here in Daily Life:

Chabon suggests, “I think it was training. We were practiced doing it together and we had our lines down. Also, people are not very observant, thank God”.

That’s the thing about sexual relationships, isn’t it? Part of it is real but part of it is always appearance, too. This facade is as much for yourselves as it is for others. Because a sense of self both feeds and is fed by intimate relationships. Ironically, the pressure to stay together is precisely what may be limiting passion in those women Waldman observed from in the mothers’ group. Children may have nothing to do with it. People stop having sex when they get bored with one another, too, but they are prevented from ending relationships by the pressure to ‘perform’ relationships.

Waldman wanted women to be more passionate, but there are limits to how comfortable any of us are with the pursuit of desire by women, and particularly, with mothers focusing on it. Having been a single parent for a couple of years I now find myself falling in love with another man and re-partnering. Sexual desire prioritises itself in a new relationship. Libido is all-consuming, it does not require conscious effort. In fact, it can be confrontingly disruptive to the calm necessary for parenting. I ask myself, is this how someone’s mother behaves?

On the wildness of love

I Did Think, Let’s Go About This

I did think, let’s go about this slowly
This is important. This should take
some really deep thought. We should
small thoughtful steps.

But, bless us, we didn’t.

– Mary Oliver

Not Anyone Who Says

Not anyone who says, “I’m going to
careful and smart in matters of
who says, “I’m going to choose
but only those lovers who didn’t
choose at all
but were, as it were, chosen
by something invisible and powerful
and uncontrollable
and beautiful and possibly even
unsuitable –
only those know what I’m talking
in this talking about love.

– Mary Oliver

All of this.

G.G.: Can you give some specific examples of what you see as mainstream feminism aiding capitalist exploitation?

N.F.: Sure. In the 1970s, feminists developed a powerful critique of the postwar cultural ideal known as the “family wage.” That ideal held that women should be full-time homemakers and their husbands should be the family’s sole (or at least principal) breadwinners, earning enough to support an entire household. Certainly, only a minority of American families managed to achieve this ideal. But it had enormous currency in a phase of capitalism premised on mass-production manufacturing and relatively well-paid unionized work for (especially white) men. All that changed, however, with the eruption of second-wave feminism, which rejected the family wage as sexist, a pillar of male domination and women’s dependency. At this stage, the movement still shared the anticapitalist ethos of the New Left. Its critique was not aimed at valorizing wage labor, still less at denigrating unpaid carework. On the contrary, the feminists of this period were challenging the androcentrism of a society that prioritized “profits over people,” economic production over human and social reproduction. They sought to transform the system’s deep structures and animating values — in part by decentering wage work and valorizing unwaged activities, especially the socially necessary carework performed by women.

G.G.: So how has the critique of the family wage changed?

N.F.: Today, the feminist critique of the family wage has assumed an altogether different cast. Its overwhelming thrust is now to validate the new, more “modern” household ideal of the “two earner family,” which requires women’s employment and squeezes out time for unpaid carework. In endorsing this ideal, the mainstream feminism of the present aligns itself with the needs and values of contemporary neoliberal capitalism. This capitalism has conscripted women into the paid work force on a massive scale, while also exporting manufacturing to the global south, weakening trade unions, and proliferating low-paid, precarious McJobs. What this has meant, of course, is declining real wages, a sharp rise in the number of hours of paid work per household needed to support a family, and a desperate scramble to transfer carework to others in order to free up more time for paid work. How ironic, then, that it is given a feminist gloss! The feminist critique of the family wage, once directed against capitalism’s devaluation of caregiving, now serves to intensify capitalism’s valorization of waged labor.

G.G.: But not all feminist efforts focus on upper-class women. What about the project of providing small loans (“microcredit”) to poor women in underdeveloped countries to help them develop small businesses?

Feminist tropes are invoked to legitimate policies that are deeply harmful to the overwhelming majority of women, as well as to children and men.

N.F.: I’m really glad you asked about this because it’s another example of the way in which feminist ideas are being twisted to serve neoliberal, capitalist ends. Microcredit is touted as a way of “empowering” women in poor rural regions of the global south. But it is also supposed to represent a new, more participatory, bottom-up way of combating poverty, which releases grass-roots entrepreneurial energies, while avoiding the bureaucratic red tape of the large-scale, state-led development projects of the previous period. So microcredit is as much about the glorification of the market and the vilification of the state as it is about gender equality. In fact, it weaves those ideas together in a dubious amalgam, invoking feminism to dress up free-market ideology.

But the whole thing is a sleight of hand. Microcredit became the rage at exactly the moment when international financial institutions were pushing “structural adjustment” on the global south — setting conditions on loans that require postcolonial states to liberalize and privatize their economies, to slash social spending, and to abandon macro-level anti-poverty and employment policies. And there is no way whatsoever that microlending can replace those policies. It’s a cruel hoax to suggest otherwise.

So here again feminist tropes are invoked to legitimate policies that are deeply harmful to the overwhelming majority of women, as well as to children and men.

From “A feminism where ‘leaning in’ means leaning on others’ with Gary Gutting interviewing Nancy Fraser in The New York Times.

Inequality in the hen house


Tender hearted six year old fed the hens for me but couldn’t watch them for long because “too sad seeing them fight”. He, who spends his mornings bickering with his sister. I tried to reassure him that they’re hierarchical animals and that there is plenty of food for all but he was nearly in tears recalling how he’d tried to instill fairness down there.

Oh darling.

Neoliberal mothering

The good…

However, the interesting point here is the assumption that expressing (more and faster) is the answer. Buchholz’s comment is consistent with workplace norms under neo-liberalism that require mothers to minimise their breastfeeding relationship with their infants and to instead pump milk. As sociologist Kate Boyer recently observedin the US context, without longer maternity leave or proper provisions to breastfeed at work we are not so much accommodating mothering as squeezing it – quite literally – to fit into the ‘needs’ of industry. While centering the importance of ‘human milk’, expressing actually pushes mothering – the act of embodied nurture – to the periphery. This, she contends, is a new form of ‘neoliberal mothering’ that extracts both care work and labour from women without regard to the unique problems this creates.

The new norm is not to exclude women outright, but to exclude the particular embodied relationships women have with infants and young children (and, perhaps more fundamentally, that infants and young children have with their mothers). In the new model, liberalism has been surpassed by neo-liberalism: mothers are allowed in ‘the house’ (or out of the house as the case may be) but they and their babies are under pressure to minimise physical contact. As I have written recently, keeping up a ‘supply’ of milk and work is the new norm, which promotes ‘pumping’ over breastfeeding. These are, of course, not the same thing. The intimacy and bonding, the stroking and face-to-face contact, the intersubjective experience and embodied care are diminished in preference to disembodied ‘expressing’

From my friend, Dr Petra Bueskens’ “Keeping up supply: it isn’t only about milk” in On Line Opinion.

And the bad..

Despite the nice pictures with Kelly O’Dwyer, a former Costello adviser sporting the latest feminist political accessory, a baby, the five women who are ministers in cabinet, Michaelia Cash, Julie Bishop, Marise Payne, O’Dwyer and Sussan Ley, all supported Turnbull, although two were in Tony Abbott’s cabinet.

From Angela Shanahan’s “Politics divorced from the people” in The Australian.

And the good..

From the first stages of my pregnancy I was alarmed by feelings of dependency on my partner that I had never experienced before. As my pregnancy progressed, my sense of physical vulnerability increased and my capacity to maintain my equality through independence was repeatedly challenged. Finally, when my daughter was born, her utter vulnerability shook me to the core and I realised that I could no longer operate in the world as a wholly autonomous unit. I was encumbered by this incredibly dependent little person who needed me for her very survival. My understanding of myself and of what I needed from the world shifted completely, as did my understanding of the feminist project. I could no longer relate to the ambivalence of liberal feminism to the needs, indeed rights, of dependent women (and children).

This ambivalence of liberal feminism to the rights of dependent women is one of the reasons that it finds favour with some areas of right-wing politics. The individualism and market focus of the independence model of equality dovetails neatly with economic liberalism (or neoliberalism) and the belief that the market is the best arbiter and distributor of value. Single mothers, for example, are readily vilified as ‘welfare queens’ greedily bludging off the State.

Left-wing liberal feminists responds differently to the issue of single mothers and are more likely to support their right to government assistance. Nonetheless, this assistance is rarely framed in terms of payment for the unpaid work of caring for children. Instead, it is viewed as a safety net to assist women to survive until they can rejoin the path to equality through autonomy. This is because left-wing liberal feminism still envisages liberation through market participation and, thus, tends to focus more on the issues of affordable childcare and (occasionally) flexible work arrangements in order to support women to more easily become independent post-motherhood.

From Cristy Clark’s “Feminism and the terrifying dependency of children” in The Australian Sociological Association.

Most time management advice rests on the unspoken assumption that it’s possible to win the game: to find a slot for everything that matters. But if the game’s designed to be unwinnable, Schulte suggests, you can permit yourself to stop trying. There’s only one viable time management approach left (and even that’s only really an option for the better-off). Step one: identify what seem to be, right now, the most meaningful ways to spend your life. Step two: schedule time for those things. There is no step three. Everything else just has to fit around them – or not. Approach life like this and a lot of unimportant things won’t get done, but, crucially, a lot of important things won’t get done either. Certain friendships will be neglected; certain amazing experiences won’t be had; you won’t eat or exercise as well as you theoretically could. In an era of extreme busyness, the only conceivable way to live a meaningful life is to not do thousands of meaningful things.

From Oliver Burkeman’s “This column will change your life: stop being busy” in The Guardian.

Mindfulness for capitalism

This confusion, of what is essentially a way to exist with full awareness, with a one-size-fits-all treatment strategy for everything from depression to premature ejaculation, has placed a powerful way of life into a tiny box reserved only for the treatment of behaviours we currently see as unacceptable. Stressed at work?

Having trouble containing your grief at the office? Struggling with the uncertainty of your position during the 7th restructure in as many years? Do some mindfulness. It’ll fix not so much what ails you, but what is ailing those who depend on you. Rather than a difficult but easily accessible way to free your mind and body, mindfulness has been rebranded as a kind of gentle harness to help us heel to the corporate leg.

And the purpose of the practice has been restructured to include a hierarchy of outcomes as well.

Take a look at the current marketing of corporate mindfulness. If you’re reading an endorsement for mindfulness from one of our Captains of Industry, Jeff Weiner, for instance, you’ll hear about how he credits the practice with enhancing his success. If you’re slightly lower on the food chain, you’ll read about how you can reduce your stress and be more productive with just a few daily minutes of meditation. And if you’re even lower down the social hierarchy, a pregnant woman perhaps, you’ll be told about how mindfulness can help you be a better carer for others.

From “How corporates co-opted the art of mindfulness to make us bear the unbearable” by Zoe Krupka in The Conversation.


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