In 1972, Phyllis Schlafly, (Click) opponent of the ERA amendment said, “the women’s libbers don’t understand that most women want to be a wife, mother and homemaker – and are happy in that role.” (“Real Housewives,” by Sarah Jones, New Republic, May 2017, pg. 58.) I’m certain there’s truth in her statement but it is a partial truth. Women also want choice. Without it, they descend into the straightjacket existence Margaret Atwood’s depicts in, The Handmaid’s Tale. Nor does Schlafly’s misogynistic view of gender roles allow men the freedom to become nurturers.
Of course, debate about who should work inside or outside the home may soon become moot. In fact, we may be standing at the brink of a “post work” society. (Ibid, pg. 57.) Already, well-paid, full-time jobs are in decline. A glut of workers allows employers to be choosy and to make unreasonable demands upon their employees. Today, corporations can require psychological testing. They can spy on their employee’s social media sites, enforce dress codes, even monitor the number of trips workers make to the toilet. (Ibid, pg. 56.)
As Elizabeth Anderson, author of Private Government: How Employers Rule Our lives (and Why We don’t Talk about it,” notes, if government made similar demands on us, few would consider themselves to be “free men and women.” (“The United States of Work,” by Miya Tokumitsu, New Republic, May 2017, pg. 54.)
To be clear, the Puritan work ethic that still dominates our thinking is out of cynque with the times. In an earlier era, our forefathers were landowners, or a tradesman: butchers, bakers, tinkers, tailors. For them, work was the means to obtain both equality and dignity. Later, In the Industrial Age, Labor unions extended that same dignity to those who no longer toiled for themselves but for an employer.
Sadly, thanks in part to technology, many workers today can no longer count on full employment. A new breed of “entrepreneur” is emerging: the temporary worker, the contract worker; the part-time worker. None of them enjoys the benefits of income security. Worse, as government slashes its social programs, traditional safety nets come unmoored. Individuals face increased economic instability. Whether we like it or not, as journalist Miya Tokumitsu writes, “Employers hold the means to our well-being, and they have the law on their side.” (Ibid, pg. 57)