During a call with my sister today, somehow the topic of Gloria Steinem came up.
Sister: You know mom called up KGO when Gloria Steinem was on, right?
Me: Really? What was the topic?
Sister: Well, I don’t totally know. Mom said she was listening and Gloria Steinem made a comment referring to how Stay-at-Home mothers are useless or not productive members of society, so she called in.
Me: What did mom say to her?
Sister: She got scared and hung up before her call went on-air.
Me: (laughing) That doesn’t sound like mom!
Sister: I know, Gloria Steinem scares people.
Me: I guess so. I don’t think I’d want to get into a debate with her on the radio, even if I felt I had a valid point.
That conversation got me thinking about how we are viewed by other people. It is great to be an activist and try to further a cause that will improve the lives of others. What concerns me is that having strong opinions is sometimes off-putting, or perhaps how we present our views alienates or confuses the people we, as activists, are trying to reach.
For instance, if my mother felt more comfortable and went through with that call, she may have discovered what Gloria Steinem originally said about SAHMs was not articulated clearly. Not only that, but her explanation to my mother could have also helped other listeners who could have been equally offended or confused by what they believed Steinem’s message was.
For the record, Steinem has spoken about her views of the “Stay-at-Home-Mom” in other interviews- which seem to align with my own feelings on this issue, and I also believe my mother’s.
From Mom-101’s interview:
“The goal of feminism is to honor and value all productive human work and open it up to everyone — including work that has been devalued because women, the de-valued half of the species, do it. To say that homemakers “don’t work” is a form of semantic slavery. Actually, homemakers work longer hours, for less pay, under worse conditions (more violence, depression, drug and alcohol addiction etc.) — and less security (more probability of being replaced by a younger worker!) — than any other class of workers in the country. So we can help a lot if 1) we never say “I don’t work,” but rather “I work at home;” 2) never put “just” in front of homemaker; 3) expect and require men to be homemakers and nurturers, too, whether that means husbands who cook, or sons who do their own laundry, or single moms who find male baby sitters and “mannies” so their kids grow up knowing that males can be as loving and nurturing as females — just as women can be as accomplished outside the home as men. If you decide to go back or into the paid labor force after your kids are more on their own, you could turn your homemaking life into a business-style resume: for example, you contracted for services, ran a budget, socialized new humans, did volunteer work that was a job in itself – whatever. We can do all that as individuals.
As a movement, we can also pass legislation to attribute an economic value to care giving at replacement level (whether care giving is raising children, talking care of elderly parents, AIDS patients; whatever), make this amount tax deductible in a household that pays taxes, or tax refundable in households too poor to pay taxes (thus substituting for the disaster of welfare reform). This Caregivers Tax Credit unifies the so-called soccer mom and the welfare mom because both benefit. You can find out more about this legislation, which just expands the refundability principle we won in the Child Tax Credit – though a lot of people don’t know they’re eligible; you should publicize that – to care giving. The website for the tax-credit campaign is caregivercredit.org.
For the global and economic implications of valuing what women do – a third of the productive work in developed countries and 2/3 in agricultural countries where women also grow much of the food their families eat – plus attributing economic value to the environment, you can see “Revaluing Economics,” an essay I wrote in Moving Beyond Words. Or you can find still more in If Women Counted by Marilyn Waring.” – Source
The question I have for all of you is, how do you think we can come across as inviting and warm, while still holding clear and strong opinions on certain topics? Is it possible to have a strong opinion and not seem abrasive?
As much as we hear we shouldn’t care what other people think (and to a point I think that is definitely true) I do, however, want people to find me approachable to converse with and open up about their own views, even if they feel they differ from mine. I personally think I could improve in this area, and I think many other people feel the same way.