Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Unpaid Work Has Mega Value

As a feminist, I have always thought my relationships should be 50-50 — meaning each person should do 50% of the work in the relationship and pitch in to make things work. That has always been my ideal, but it never seems to work out that way in reality.

Lately, I have taken on a lot of the chores in my home.  My partner has been working a lot, and, right now, I am unemployed. But she also has health issues and it’s hard for her to do chores. (Not like chores are easy for anyone; I don’t know many people who like doing them.)

Chores are often physically demanding, repetitive, and boring. Chores are hard work! If it were up to me, it would be paid work. I always say it’s paid in a different way — in clean clothes, clean dishes, clean litter boxes, and happy people and animals.

One of my political science professors once told our class that the majority of toilets are cleaned by women. My partner is a woman, but I still clean the toilet. It kind of bothers me that she doesn’t do more chores. It has always been a sticking point in our relationship. It is true that more women do housework then men in relationships. Often, women are expected to work and take on a “second shift”— cooking, cleaning, and tending to children, their partners, and maybe even their elderly parents, too. It’s too much to expect from anyone. And it’s not right that our society puts that burden on women, alone.

Part of me wants to straight rebel against that notion. But being in a same-sex relationship didn’t suddenly free me from chores. Unfortunately, chores don’t get done by themselves. I have had to shift my perspective on chores dramatically in order to accept my situation.

Instead of resenting my partner for not doing many chores, I had to see that she just isn’t physically capable. And for now, although I loathe them, I am capable. Furthermore, the satisfaction I get is from having a functional home is immense. I contribute by using my labor to keep my home running well.  I value my family and doing chores is a way to take care of them.

Unpaid work is very important and should be valued more by our society. Think what would happen if no one did chores! We need to recognize how important our unpaid labor is and be proud of the work we accomplish inside our homes. Reframing chores from a degrading role to one of purpose has been key for me. Once I started realizing this, it became easier for me to do chores, and I let go of much of the resistance I had. Chores have to get done, and I am proud to be the one doing them.

My partner appreciates my efforts, too. She also helps make meals — and she’s a great cook. Together we are making it work. It may not be 50-50 in every way, but it’s working well enough for us.

*Previously published in The Socialist online on August 26, 2013

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Growing a Revolution in Your Own Backyard

Recently, my partner, Rachel, and I have been trying to add to our garden in our backyard. We really lucked out when we moved into our current home, an above-ground basement unit of a duplex house. Our backyard currently includes many fruit trees (apples, lemons, oranges, and persimmons), grape vines, and a blackberry patch. We have enjoyed and appreciated what those plants have brought to our lives. So we decided to add to it by starting a veggie and herb garden. We purchased our non-genetically modified seeds from Seeds of Change ( We planted tomato, carrots, cabbage, cucumber, beats, cilantro, basil, and flat leaf parsley.

The main reason we started a garden is to have relatively inexpensive healthy food grown in our very own backyard. These veggies and herbs are as local as it gets — right outside our door. So far, it has been a very positive experience to plant our little seedlings, water them, and watch them grow. I feel like a proud mama. It takes a little work to make a garden grow, but it’s also good to get out in the sun and dig in the dirt. Gardening has actually been shown to have positive benefits such as providing relaxation, stress-relief, nutrition, and physical and mental health. Besides these benefits, I feel that a garden is socialist. And as a Socialist it feels like a good fit for me and something I want to be part of my life.

A garden is socialist because it’s local, organic, small-scale, sustainable, and community-based. The food we grow will not require a carbon footprint, as it won’t travel in a truck to a supermarket or in a car to our home. The garden we grow will be totally under our own control, we have the means of production at our finger tips, and our own hands and efforts will make it happen. We will also have more than we can eat ourselves, so we plan to share our bounty with others. We are also doing this as partners, working together and cooperating to feed ourselves and others. I feel the time we are spending doing this together has been very worthwhile and gratifying. There is nothing like the pride you feel in growing your own food, gathering it, eating it, and giving it to others to enjoy. It is satisfying and fulfilling, and it has brought us closer together as a family.

I believe if everyone started a garden it would be revolutionary. If we want a different society we need to start in our own backyards, literally from the ground up. We could also start more community gardens and gardens at schools. Gardens are a renewable source of energy to fuel our bodies and souls. Let’s remake America one garden at a time.

*Originally published in The Socialist on August 3, 2013

Barely Surviving in Capialist America

As a recently unemployed person, I am feeling the stress of income insecurity. The thoughts of how I will pay for my rent, bills, or for food come to mind. I am lucky, for now, to have unemployment insurance, but it’s not much. Being let go from my job was shock enough, but trying to get another job with that on my record is daunting. How do you convince people to give you a chance when they think you’re a liability?

On top of that, the job market sucks. There aren’t a lot of good jobs, and the ones that exist are very competitive — which means the employers can afford to be picky. Although I have a Master’s degree, I often feel insecure, as if I am not qualified or as experienced as other candidates. I don’t want to take a job that’s not a good fit for me, but as long as I don’t have a job, I struggle.

I don’t have health insurance without a job. I don’t have money to fix my broken down car. I am over 40K in debt from student loans, which I was forced to defer, adding $70 of interest every month. Our only saving grace is my parents, who live on a fixed income; a meager amount of social security. They can sometimes help us make it from one month to the next, if we are short. But what about people who have no one they can turn to?

I know it could be worse for us; but couldn’t it also be better? Shouldn’t it be better for most of us? Social programs are being cut back, including food stamps. Whatever happened to that supposed social safety net the vast majority of us feel is a moral imperative? If people cannot get good jobs, they will need help if they are going to survive. I believe we need both: good jobs and support. That is what a community should provide to each other.

Socialists believe we are mutually dependent on each other and that our society must reflect that. That means our jobs should be co-ops where workers own their own means of production and share in the fruits of their labor equally, as well as have an equal say in their work. That means social programs that support people, from public health care to fully funded tax-paid college education. It means the hungry get fed, the homeless get housed, everyone gets a good job who wants to work, and no one struggles to survive.

Check out this article below that paints the bleak picture of where we are right now:

Right now, people are suffering more and more every day, instead of living the lives of our dreams. As a community we owe it to ourselves and each other to make those dreams a reality, together. Admittedly, there is a lot standing in our way. The rich are, no doubt, a very powerful adversary. However, the challenge they represent is nothing compared to our collective will to start truly living, instead of barely surviving.

*Originally published in The Socialist on August 2, 2013