Women’s Work

In prehistoric times, the gatherer part (women and children) of the hunter/gatherer culture brought in over 80% of the calories consumed. In those earlier times, we were the midwife and herbalist that stood at the doors of life and death i.e. the doctors, nurses and pharmacists. We were the ones who stood up for the less fortunate or able in a community and made it work i.e. social workers. As arbiters of conflict and resolutions, we made the world safe and saner for all i.e. diplomats, mediators and lawyers. Cottage industry was the ONLY industry there was for millennium. Baking, weaving, herding, milking, sowing and reaping, the list goes on and on. Women were not only necessary, they were absolutely critical to the survival of the group.

Then the world changed, and our “unpaid work” became that thing called “women’s work” and subject to a sharp discount in a patriarchal world. But some of us still filled those necessary niches . If we were not cut out for a life at the hearth, we might become religious and sort out some kind of career as a teacher or nurse in that mileau. Laywomen evolved into “church ladies”, the ones we all depend on to cook the funeral meats, sew a layette, sit with a sick congregant etc. Today, in many areas of the world, these women still exist and are still absolutley vital to their community.

As time has passed, the large group of women doing the “soft” often unpaid jobs necessary to stabilizing a community have become a smaller and smaller group and sometimes it is down to one, lone woman putting herself out there for the greater good.

Today, as we have become more and more industrialized, the women doing the vital community building work have become known as the “go to gal”.  She’s the “sister” we call when something needs doing and the community knows this sister will get it done if at all possible. She is also the one most likely to get out in front of any project, movement, cause or group and take the brickbats thrown for what they are: claptrap, criticism, and crap chucking. Sooner or later, others will join with her because what she does is so critical and, horrors, it is the right thing to do. Sometimes, due to our systemic inhalation of hierarchy, we women, well, we can crush each other trying to emulate the current “power over” motif instead of the more natural “power with” which allows all women to do what they are best at in a given situation.

In my opinion, we should not strive to gain credit for what we do and we should not force others to follow whatever path we have chosen for ourselves. Conversely, just because we see how one sister is doing something great, this is not an excuse to go out and do a power grab. Picking apart someone’s project and then rebuilding it just so you get the credit is the most unfeminist thing we can do to each other. Instead, honor your mothers, sisters, and daughters in the struggle for humanity in community. Offer help if you truly mean to help and not to co-opt her work. If the woman says “no thanks”, then watch her back for her and support her but don’t take over for her. Everyone has a place and there is a place for everyone.

Now more than ever, women and what they do matter. With a sexual assailant creeping towards the White House and his Republican fellow travelers slavering at the gate to chop, rend and destroy not only the few rights we still have, but with the intent to make our lives and the lives of those we love even more difficult, we must stand with and for ourselves and humankind itself.  Now is the time to help each other, not play the hierarchy game like crabs in a barrel.H


~for Heaven IA


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