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Exploitation of the Powerless

by on October 1, 2013


Our country has enacted such things as The Voting Rights Act of 1965, Woman’s Suffrage, and the continuing succession of states allowing equal rights for the gay community. These particular groups have received special protections under the law because there were general stereotypes strongly held that led these groups to be oppressed.  The protections were enacted in order to correct a previously powerless group of people, who now are afforded those powers.  As someone who has taken great interest in how to correct the economic ills of this country I find caregivers in a very powerless position, economically, to control their own economic futures.  One could argue that there is a systematic exploitation of women (I may tend to focus on women here as men only make up 1.5% of child raisers according to the 2000 census data, but with recent economic conditions that number has climbed) as they are put in the position to choose between motherhood, and a career to be more financially secure.  Iris Marion Young asserts that “Exploitation enacts a structural relation between social groups.  Social rules about what work is, who does what for whom, how work is compensated, and the social process by which the results of work are appropriated operate to enact relations of power and inequality.”  (Young, 226)  If society is truly concerned with bringing equality to all groups then it might be time to weigh the option of making the job as a primary care giver less exploitative by reducing the financial burden it brings.

Since the start of the women’s liberation movement in the 1960s there came an influx of women who started to enter the workforce at an unprecedented level.  Part of this was because of the movement itself and part of it was out of necessity for families to survive financially.  As this movement has now been entrenched for decades now, many concerns about the value of child care has started to come up.  If our country truly values the importance of raising a child should not there be more value given to the caregivers of children, especially mothers?:  “It is sometimes said that the United States doesn’t have a national child care system, but this isn’t true.  Mothers care for their own children for free, and child care workers increasingly care for other peoples’ children for the lowest wages in the economy.  These are the twin pillars of a care system based on the exploitation of women” (Crittendon, 203).  If this country were to show how much it values raising children and that value was measured monetarily, then it seems to me that this country does not value child rearing much at all.  I realize that it is traditional throughout most of human culture for a primary caregiver not to expect to be monetarily compensated for being a mother; after all it was a choice to become one.  Just because it has always been this way, does not necessarily mean that it should stay that way.

As a nation that is monetarily sovereign (meaning our government has no financial constraints) it may be time to start considering paying financially struggling families a fixed income (via maternity leave) so they are not forced with having to forgo raising a child properly and being forced to work a second full-time or part-time job (raising a child being their primary job).  There would be tremendous economic benefits to this.  Without being forced to work in order to support the family, that person would then leave the measured work force, and allow a job opening for someone else.  Considering the high unemployment rates, this would help not only one family but possibly two because someone else would likely have to fill that vacated position.  This would have secondary benefits of reducing such things as unemployment insurance, and other welfare programs, so the costs of this could be offset with other programs reducing.  The benefit would be an assumed increased ability to raise children properly in this country and create a more productive generation.

I called my own mother to discuss a few things with her to see if she ever felt exploited for having to be the primary caregiver she told me she, “never resented it and never felt exploited.”  I am sure most mothers would probably give the same answer, but just because people do not feel exploited does not necessarily mean they aren’t exploited, especially when exploitation is so culturally accepted.  She did however mention that she did feel powerless when she was forced to make ends meet and take full-time work as a realtor, so she could have a flexible schedule, make some money and help take care of my siblings and me.  Iris Marion Young also believes, “The powerless are those who lack authority or power even in the mediated sense, those over whom power is exercised without their exercising it; the powerless are situated so that they must take orders and rarely have the right to give them” (Young, 232).  My mother’s story is one often faced by many mothers throughout this country, and one this country has the ability to prevent.

The job of raising a child is perhaps the most important job that there is.  With an economy in bad shape, and more women having to face the same choices as my mother did, the issue of raising kids properly may become a major social issue in days to come.

“You will either profit by or pay for what your children become, raise them properly” (Walker). 

The previous quote exemplifies perfectly the importance we ought to put on raising children, and the consequences of not valuing those who are responsible for turning children into productive adults.  While the idea I expressed of helping to pay struggling families may seem to buck the norm, it may be time to start a new age of economic thinking and start supporting the most important and vital job in our country, raising a child.

Works Cited

Crittenden, Ann.  The Price of Motherhood.  New York:  Picador, 2001.  Print.

Young, Iris Marion.  Justice and the Politics of Indifference.  Princeton:  Princeton UP, 1990.  Print.

Hochbaum, Patricia.  Interview via phone call


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