Thursday, August 10, 2006

A Recent Interview with My Seven Month Old

Me: I have been thinking about the deep structure behind our difficulties as a family. What is the ultimate reason for us not living in the wonderful land of turtles that you told me about in our last interview? Why is it difficult for both me and mommy to have careers, for us to have enough meaningful time together as a family, and for us to be part of a strong community? Is it because of patriarchy or capitalism?

My Baby: Daddy, “patriarchy” and “capitalism” can mean lots of things. I don’t want to talk about this unless you give me clear definitions.

Me: Well, I think that capitalism is the organization of society around money and ownership. Labor, time, production of goods and services, and access to basic necessities like water – all these things are exchanged using money. Whole political systems are built around encouraging these exchanges and producing wealth for people with power.

And I think that patriarchy is the oppression of women. It is made up of all different kinds of causes like the reservation of well-paid jobs for men, the expectation that women should do all the housework and all the baby care, and the idea that women have stronger morals but weaker intellects than men.

I think patriarchy is worse than capitalism. Obviously patriarchy’s bad for you and mommy. I personally think patriarchy is bad for me too. I don’t want to be the one who goes to work all the time my whole life even if it means I can come home and order mommy around. I wouldn’t enjoy ordering mommy around even if she let me.

My Baby: I enjoy ordering you and mommy around.

Me: That’s true.

My Baby: The problem in a capitalist world is that taking care of children only matters in so far as it produces productive workers and managers. In this era of global capitalism, if governments require companies to provide generous family leave and childcare services, jobs are moved to countries that don’t require good benefits.

Me: So you think capitalism is definitely worse than patriarchy.

My Baby: I don’t know if one is better or worse. According to Heidi Hartmann’s essay “The Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and Feminism,” sometimes capitalism and patriarchy actually work together and sometimes they are at odds. When women care for children, parents, and husbands for free, it’s like patriarchy and capitalism walk hand in hand. The men in charge get rich off well-cared for workers and they get all the benefits of having women serve them at home. On the other hand, women going to work can mean more profits and that is good for capitalism but bad for patriarchy. Women who make money at work, even if they have bad wages, often have more say at home.

Me: So we live in a Global Capitalist Patriarchy in perpetual crisis?

My Baby: Daddy, let’s stop talking and make farting noises until I fall asleep.

Me: Pfffff ththththth BWOP!

No comments: