I find the reports in the National papers very disingenuous today. Apparently cuts in Child Benefit of 25% over the past five years have resulted in gender income imbalances, with women, surprise surprise, coming out the worst.
These are the same media outlets that five years ago provided a simple narrative for the public; that all women fell into one of two categories;
Category one spent child benefit on booze and cigarettes (based an advertisement by a Centra store for low cost alcohol on child benefit day);
Category two put child benefit payments into trust funds for their children (based on the testimony of two guests on the Pat Kenny show in 2009).
The child benefit allowance was cut, ‘and so it should be‘, screamed the masses.
Anecdotal stories plagued the media, especially phone-in shows like Joe Duffy; “I see them every month, twisted by four o’clock in the afternoon“, one caller would recount, “boxes of fags under the arms“.
The media narrative in 2009 was this; the nation was disgusted with mothers and the shenanigans they got up to every month. This gave the government an opportunity to proceed with cuts to child benefit.
Most ordinary women, mothers, I know, were perplexed. I was perplexed.
Each month, child benefit allowance has and tries now to cover clothing, foot-ware, stocking the freezer, stocking the larder cupboard, paying back credit union loans for Christmas and school expenses (one of the most continually, financially draining aspects of raising children).
The cuts to child benefit predominantly had the result of less spending in local towns, forcing small shops to reduce staff, or in extreme circumstances; close altogether (Let’s face it, if you have €60 to feed a family for a week, you are not going to go buy a loaf of bread locally for €2.70 when a discount supermarket sells them at €0.69).
Yes, women have suffered hardest with austerity; financially, but also mentally, physically and emotionally. They have lost family members to suicide, they remain the lowest paid workers in the country, and face ridicule if they choose either freely, or economically to stay home and raise their children (if someone meets you for the first time and asks you what you do and you reply, ‘I’m a mother’, watch the confusion on their face, it just seems that focusing on raising your children rather than paying someone else to do it, is an alien concept!)
I’ll leave you with this interesting piece of trivia to ponder; the word ‘hussy’, derived from the word housewife, why?
Throw down your mops! On second thoughts pick them up and hold them high. Confused, you should be. Nothing in life is ever black and white and that includes the perpetual genderised fight for freedom and equality.
Although the fight for equality often raises its’ ugly head in the workplace with all those sparkling glass ceilings, I believe the home is just as real a battlefield.
This summer an American Corporation called Swiffer launched an ad campaign for its’ new steam mop using the feminist icon ‘Rosie the Riveter’ ( she had ditched her mop to build fighter planes during WW2). They was uproar, and the company removed the images offering apologies to the offended group (their female customers). Read the article from the Huffington post here, and a piece in the Washington Post here.
Although rejecting housework is so tempting in the fight for equality, it still has to be done, cause even if we win, we’ll still have to do half of it! So how about rejecting the sexist corporations their ad agencies, and taking the power back?
Housework and feminine past-times need not be seen as tools of oppression, but opportunities for dissent. I found this paper on the internet while avoiding said housework entitled; ‘Knitting as Dissent: Female Resistance in America Since the Revolutionary War‘. It starts with the following line;
‘Primarily a feminine duty or pastime with granny connotations, knitting actually has a deliciously rich history of political subversion‘.
It made me smile.
I’ve to go now and put the dinner on.