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Anne Dalke's picture

any chance

...you might have encountered the work of Marilyn Waring? what interests me is the way she moved from the sort of work Heidi Hartmann does to a critique of economic measures.

Waring started out trying to assign value to traditional women's work-->
by calculating the labor of women, she was proclaiming their visibility and worth,
reconceptualizing the household not as a consuming unit, but as a productive one;
measuring economic welfare by what actually contributes to the welfare of us all--
although subsistence production had been seen, macroeconomically, as of little or no importance,
recording the time-use of women (vs. men) revealed the magnitude of women's invisible work:
unpaid work, including reproducing human life, or feeding and nurturing one's own families,
had not "counted "in the conventional measures, and Waring's project was to make such reproduction visible,
to empower women by giving their work a monetary value.

In arguing that the conventional labour market surveys were too narrowly conceived, 
Waring also claimed that they asked the wrong questions: we should ask what economy is for,
how much is enough, what provides joy, happiness, peace, satisfaction...

but she eventually decided that this work of pressing
non-economic values into framework of economic calculus
was always dependent on the values of a participant observer,
and was based on the absurb premise that everything has a price
"uni-dimensional economical fabrication cannot contain our lives,"
she argued, and economics doesn't allow for the introduction of values
that don't find their way into an economic formula.
Waring asked what the "cost" is of visibility in patently pathological value system:
do we want all life commodified in economic model?

HH's work, however, has been explicitly engaged, for decades, in that model,
and her visit showed me that I did have a lot to learn from the work she has been doing,
in particular about the relation (large gap?) between the sort of theoretical questions
we have been asking, and the sort of practice she engages in...

I was particularly interested in this "collective interview" (and thank you again, Carolyn, for finding it).
Here are my reading notes; I hope we can talk through some of them:

“My background in these issues probably starts with growing up poor to a single mother and going to an elite college, Swarthmore, where there were a lot of new Left activities...I didn't get involved in the women's movement until 1969 when I went to gradaute school in economics at Yale. New Haven Women's Liberation was....very much a socialist feminist group...a strong atmosphere of activism...helped me understand that what I was learning in school could actually be useful to women. A heady feeling....Then in 1987, I founded IWPR [Institute for Women's Policy Research].

Although I have written a couple of articles that are well known in socialist feminist theory, I moved into the public policy world soon after getting my Ph.D. I have worked primarily on women's employment and related issues...I am primarily a practitioner in the policy research context. I do not read much theory....'Who reads Signs anymore?'

Maybe professionalization affects what we label as feminist theory. In the old days, we might have called all of the feminist analysis done by activists feminist theory....

[Charlotte Bunch: I do not like the expression the women's movement. Instead, I often talk about women in movement....]

The frustration that we have had at IWPR is that...econmic issues do not seem to get the same priority and visibility...the center of the women's movement is the abortion rights marches...held around court decisions.

[Charlotte Bunch: they are the issues that the social structure is the most resistant ot changing...]

...what a struggle it is just to try to get some unity of identity and purpose among groups based in Washington, D.C. who self-identify as women's groups....We just disappear into the fabric of society.

[Charlotte Bunch: theory about difference can...form a new basis of solidarity [but] has conditioned the student to feel that she cannot have a voice....it has become immobilizing because it has not been done in conjunction with practice....

Roberta Spalter-Roth: it is a good thing to question whether i have the right to speak....to value this process of questioning...self-criticism, humility, and sensitivity to others..]

We had a meeting of the CEOs of some of the Washington-based women's groups who were focusing...on economic issues....The groups that were the better heeled were the least interested in cooperating...it was almost as if the leaders of these larger organizations were saying, "The working women of America? Wait a minute, I am on the way to the White House, puhleeze." So maybe...it would be better if there were more humility among all of these groups in terms of whom they think they speak for and what they should be doing.

[Charlotte Bunch: although separatism is a very good way to learn about your difference and shape your identity, it does not empower you over time. Ultimately, you can become so isolated that you are disempowered ....
Understanding that whenever you speak, you speak from who you are is basic. Nonetheless, each of us needs to try to incorporate as broad a range of understanding of others women's experiences as we possibily can...to speak to issues that go beyond just [our] own experiences. This requires knowing the difference between solidarity speaking, coalition speaking, and claiming or co-opting others' lives.]

IWPR is saying, "We specialize in policy research. Since some of you are in academia and some of you are policy activists, we will be the bridge"....feminist theory should include work...on the different streams of public benefits: the male stream, which tends to be better heeled, and the women's stream, which tends to be less well heeled....we are public policy advocates look to social science rather than the humanities for our theory.... feminist theory is valuable for practitioners insofar as it speak to them [but also responds to problems that they have raised].

We are much more apt, both in practice and theory, to study problems faced by women in other countries, without focusing on why the United States is the leader in pushing these poliicies and what U.S. women can do to improve U.S. policy. For example, what problems are caused by the International Monetary Fund structural adjustmetn programs, and what is the role of the United States in implementing these policies?

We have tried to use international precedent to strengthen our policy arguments... on equal pay for work of equal value ...and comparable worth systems....what can we learn from people in other countries...

We re getting some recommendations out of our collective interviews...enlarge what counts as theory...There is a moral certainty acquired from having a theoretical basis for your action that does give you strength as a political movement...before we create an agenda we need to define principles of femnism....we could develop a manifesto....create structural space for activists to write....broaden the definition of what counts within universities...diversify the formats in which we produce and dissemminate our feminist theories....give money to the causes and organizations you believe in.

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