Do we care? - Page 5

Local activists push for better recognition for caregiving professions

Lil Milagro Martinez (left) wants all domestic workers to be treated with the same respect she afford to the nanny of her son.

She even saw it growing up as child when she accompanied her father when he did housekeeping work, when he was treated "as nonentity, not human," abuse and mistreatment that was exacerbated by the twin facts that he was an immigrant doing women's work.

"Sexism has undervalued care work," Feris said.

Ammiano likened the current struggle to the gay rights movement, and he said that when he started as a teacher back in the 1970s and wanted to teach in the early primary grades, he was told that was for women.

"It's the feminization of labor," Ammiano said. "When you have institutional sexism, you have to peel it back layer by layer."

Eisler is equally direct: "We've all been taught to marginalize anything connected to the feminine," she said.

She noted the vastly disproportionate global poverty rates of women compared to men and said "it's because most are full or part-time caregivers," work that isn't often compensated.

Eisler said the current economic system "marginalizes and dehumanizes half the population," asking how that could ever be considered ethical or equitable. She dismisses arguments that we can't afford to value caregiving or work done in the home, noting that "there's always money for the masculine values" of war and economic expansion.

Ammiano said the cultural blinders that prevent people from seeing how society discriminates against women and the work they do makes the problem more insidious and tougher to solve.

"If they're doing it deliberately, it's almost better because you can sink you teeth into it, but if it's not deliberate then it's tougher to corral," he said.

Yet there could be subtle but important changes underway in how people value the roles of men and women in society.

There are indications that substantial majorities of people increasingly see men and masculine values as a big part of the problems the people of the world are facing. Author John Gerzema, whose forthcoming book is entitled Athena Doctrine: How Women (And the Men Who Think Like Them) Will Rule the Future, revealed some of the extensive polling research behind his book in a recent TED Talk.

Much of it points to what he called a "global referendum on men," with strong majorities in countries around the world — with Canada the only exception — agreeing with the statements "I'm dissatisfied with the conduct of men in my country" and "The world could be better if men thought more like women."

He and his research partners also had the tens of thousands of people they surveyed rate a list of traits as either masculine or feminine, and then later he had respondents state the traits they most wanted to see in their political leaders, finding that people around the world have begun to strongly prefer feminine traits to male ones in their leaders.

His conclusion: "Femininity is the operating system of 21st Century progress."



The "silver tsunami" — Baby Boomers reaching old age and about to need more care — is about to break.

POWER, Senior Action Network, and many other San Francisco-based organizations in the Caring Across Generations campaign are part of a national push to increase access to and investment in caregiving, from early childhood development through care for those with disabilities to elder care.

"The caregiver industry is something we should invest in," said POWER's Garza. "We believe in a society that values care and we want to value that work."

Yet with short-term, bottom-line thinking guiding the decisions, that requires a bold paradigm shift. Instead, the popular state In-Home Support Services program — which provides some compensation for caregivers of those with disabilities — is now facing an 8 percent cut as part of the recent settlement to lawsuits filed to prevent the 20 percent cut that then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had proposed.