By Joan Entmacher and Katherine Gallagher Robbins
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 was central to preserving public sector jobs, most of which are held by women. Not only did it provide funds for state and local education and Medicaid—which kept teachers and health care workers on the job—it bolstered state budgets so other services could avoid deep cuts. ARRA also provided additional funding to states for child care, child support enforcement, and administration to handle the upsurge in Food Stamp and Unemployment Insurance claims. So, when ARRA funding started drying up in mid-2010, public sector jobs started to disappear, slowing down the recovery, especially for women.
By Joan Entmacher and Katherine Gallagher Robbins
By Shanelle Matthews
Among the myriad reasons why women use birth control, one of the most obvious is—we work. A recent study finds that women believe improved career outcomes are a direct result of access to contraceptives. Women make up almost half the workforce, so our contributions are integral to the economy.
In 1960, when Enovid, the first birth control pill, received FDA approval, U.S. women began weighing their options. Without unintended pregnancies, they could pursue higher education and improve their value in the job market—and they did just that. The pill revolutionized women’s ability to have successful careers outside the home.
Opponents of contraception—fundamentalist Christians, the Catholic Church hierarchy, and politicians like Rick Santorum—cite the sanctity of life as their justification. But it’s evident that they want to see women confined to antiquated gender roles and out of the workplace. The Christian fundamentalist “Quiverfull” movement is explicit on this point. Mary Pride’s The Way Home: Beyond Feminism, Back to Reality quotes the Bible to maintain that women’s role is as “mothers, as bearers of children, and workers in the home under the authority of a husband.”
Interview with Silvia Federici
By Lisa Rudman and Marcy Rein
As a feminist activist, writer, and teacher, Silvia Federici engages and inspires students of all ages to fight for the liberation of women and all beings. In 1972, Federici cofounded the International Feminist Collective, which launched the “Wages For Housework” campaign. While teaching and researching in Nigeria in the 1980s, she observed the specific impacts of globalization on women—and their similarities to the social disruption caused by the enclosure of the commons in the earliest days of capitalism. She became active in the anti-globalization movement and the U.S. anti-death-penalty movement, and cofounded the Committee for Academic Freedom in Africa. From 1987 to 2005 she taught international studies, women’s studies, and political philosophy at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY. Her books and essays span philosophy, feminist theory, women’s history, education, and culture, and more recently, the worldwide struggle against capitalist globalization and for a feminist reconstruction of the commons. Caliban and the Witch: Women, The Body and Primitive Accumulation, perhaps her best-known work, argues that capitalism depends on a constant supply of women’s unwaged labor. Federici sat down for this interview while she was on a tour to promote her new book, Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle (Common Notions), a collection of essays written over the last forty years. In conversation, Federici moves smoothly between history, theory, and present struggles, hardly stopping for breath, almost vibrating with concern and indignation.
Shanelle Matthews (sugarforyoursoul.com) does online media communications for Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice, advocating for women of color and families on the margins who have strategically been left out of the socio-political debate on reproductive health and rights.
The way women of color activate themselves in their communities is different from the way white women do it. All women of color are struggling in this country for access to resources, public assistance, equality. Black women are harmed by a lack of solidarity because we are often stigmatized as insatiable and hypersexual. The commodification of our bodies is something that is left out of the conversation.
By Maryam Roberts
War, militarism, and climate change are destroying countless communities worldwide and women, particularly women of color in the Global South, are paying the highest price. “It is now more dangerous to be a woman than to be a soldier in modern conflict,” says Major General Patrick Cammaert, a former United Nations peacekeeping operation commander in Africa. And to be a poor woman, even outside the theater of war, is to be at risk for starvation and displacement.
Traditional wage employment doesn’t work for everyone, and many people dream about the flexibility, earning potential, and control of being their own boss. Since 1988, Women’s Initiative for Self Employment (WI) has provided training, financing, and technical support to low-income women micro-entrepreneurs in the Bay Area. Clients come to WI for many reasons. Many find that they are unable to provide for themselves and their families in low-wage jobs, minimum wage is no living wage for Bay Area families. United Way finds that one of four Bay Area families—nearly half a million households—has income too low to pay for housing, food, transportation, childcare, healthcare, and taxes.1 This problem is particularly acute for immigrants with limited English abilities.
In 1998, 48-year-old Parvathi Ammal came to Cupertino, California from Madurai, India, to visit her distant but well-to-do relatives on their invitation. During her originally planned three-month stay, she helped the Gopalan family with household chores, including taking care of their two children and occasional cooking. At the end of her stay, the family invited her to continue living with them as a domestic help for a monthly payment of $300, convincing her that working informally and overstaying her visitor visa, were not crimes.