Friday, June 7, 2013

"Catho-Economics" and Women Part One

One of the things that appealed to me most about Feminist For Life when I was in the middle of my “feminist uprising” was how on point their message is. FFL consistently centers on eliminating the crisis situations that force women to turn to abortion for answers. FFL consistently refuses to argue beyond that message: no position on birth control or other inflammatory issues that are beside the truest point: women deserve better.  I have been thinking about FFL’s message lately, not only because it is so good to be reminded that the feminist movement came from the minds of women that wanted better for themselves AND their families, but because often the conversation today centers on issues that are beside the point. 

As a Catholic feminist writer, I want to see the truest issue resolved in a way that preserves the dignity of all people, female and male alike, from the youngest to the oldest human. I want to see rape culture (and with it the culture of death) dissolved. I also don’t just want to write about how horrible it is that we have allowed ourselves to live this way, but I want to evoke CHANGE so that my children do not grow up believing it is the norm. I want to be a part of the conversation that turns into action and resolve.

In an effort to realize these goals, I am going to start small. I came across this info graphic about a month ago, and I saved it to the desktop.

I open the file from time to time and mull over the statistics it gives us. I think about what this reality is for women in poverty. I think about what this reality is for women in Corporate America, and everywhere in-between. I think about how critical these issues are “Catho-economically” (I make up words now. Tying Catholic social teaching to economics is FASCINATING to me, and I think about it often. This does not present itself often enough in my writing.) I am by no means an expert in either field, but I will start small. Catholic social teaching (as illustrated by my favorite graphic) and Laborem Exercens:

Please keep these things in mind as I refer back to the Economic Insecurity graphic. A few points to note:

  •           Catholic Social Teaching seeks to preserve the dignity and rights of every human person.
  •           Within CST, we are talking about a call to family, the dignity of every human person, the dignity of work and workers, etc.
  •           CST encompasses SO MUCH in this discussion (just wages, family, political responsibility) that there are different ways to interpret what it looks like in practice while still being in line with Church teaching.
  •           The Catholic Church absolutely recognizes the inherent dignity of not just man, but woman. (See Mulieris Dignitatem)
  •           Work is good. The Church is not asking of us to have a “preferential option for the poor so that we have one group that works, and one that takes.*
  •           This post has been written by someone that whole-heartedly believes in limited government interference. (When I take political quizzes, I often end up libertarian.) I do not believe the way to approach equality for women lies in government programs to address the issue, but that it comes from us. It comes from the people that make up small businesses and large corporations. Change comes from within, and my best chance at creating that change is how I raise my children.

Unlivable Wage

According to the graphic, 2/3 of minimum wage workers are women.  When we think about this in terms of family units, 2010 Census data showed that approximately 85% of single parent homes had a female head of household. The vast majority of those that are having the hardest time making ends meet are single mothers. 

How can this be resolved? I am not certain that a living wage or further raising the minimum wage would correct this long term. In the short term, these families would see relief, but as the overall economy adjusted to wage increases, these women and their families would end up in the same situation down the road. What does this mean for workers making money above minimum wage, but not living “comfortably?” What does this mean for small businesses and job creation?  From where I sit, it makes more sense to begin by tackling the absorbent costs of healthcare and childcare, though not through government programs, but creating real change in how those fields operate, and how we can make them more efficient.**

Unequal Pay

There are multiple factors contributing to the wage gap between men and women. Some of these factors are indeed related to stereotyping (successful women are bitchy, women with husbands that work do not need more money, women are not as qualified for certain jobs, etc.) but here are a few things to consider:

  •           Studies have indicated that men are more likely to ask for more money.
  •           This is merely an observation handed down to me, but it has stuck: women have the tendency to qualify their statements and thoughts more than men. A former employer mentioned this to me, and it was something that I could not un-hear. On a daily basis, I began to hear women show their uncertainty when contributing in meetings in ways men did not. I see it every day in the blogosphere: “This might sound stupid but…” “ I don’t know if this makes sense because I am tired, but…” whereas men are more likely to stand by their thoughts and work in a more ‘matter of fact’ kind of way. (Stereotype? Nature of women/men? I do not know. Just an observation and certainly it is up for discussion.)
  •           Women that work outside the home end up taking time off for pregnancy/giving birth. How does this factor into merit-based or experienced-based compensation? How can we change best business practices to reflect a diverse workforce? 

That last point leads into my next post that will tackle the right-hand side of the info graphic. I hope to have it up the beginning of next week, but life happens. Until then, what are your thoughts? Criticisms? Fresh ideas or perspective?

*One of my favorite sayings (attributed to Reagan usually, though I cannot seem to verify he said it) is “The best economic plan, is a job.” Our end goal should be self-sufficiency, and helping those in need achieve that self-sufficiency.

**This article essentially shows the efficiency of no-insurance versus insurance in the medical field. (look past the rhetoric and into the cost differences, if you will!) You can also look into the efficiency of Mayo Clinic over other healthcare organizations. The costs are drastically different. We are living in a time where more and more businesses are taking the lean theory approach. We must ask ourselves why healthcare is not doing the same. Are government subsidies giving them cause to avoid efficient/wallet-friendly policies?


  1. I'm all out of fresh ideas and perspectives on economics, but I have to agree that I love that centeredness about FFL: "FFL consistently centers on eliminating the crisis situations that force women to turn to abortion for answers."

    I don't have any idea where to start, or who would start, with effecting large-scale change that could improve the economic condition for women (or anybody,) but it's easier to see on a smaller, community scale: getting women the resources they need to make good decisions. Resources like information, baby supplies, job and job-seeking skills...

    I hope you keep posting about CST and economics! I could stand to learn a lot :)

    1. Oh, I could stand to learn more as well! I really do better with the research and write tactic, so I hope that I am able to continue it as well. :)

  2. I'm excited to see this posts, because I'm a Catholic, free-market feminist too. :D

    I have noticed the same thing about women feeling the need to qualify everything. I wouldn't say it is an "intrinsically female" trait so much as a deep-rooted part of female *culture.* Women, in groups, follow a social norm that includes not putting yourself forward for credit, not putting others down, and stressing cooperation. Sadly these things don't get you promoted. However, if a woman at work imitates men, being more plainspoken and dominant, she's likely to get labeled a "b*tch" or "shrill" or "strident." Kind of a lose-lose situation if you ask me.

    I've heard the book "Lean In" has advice for this issue. The trick is supposed to be to be unfailingly *nice* but at the same time assertive. I'm afraid I haven't tried this, because I've never worked in that kind of job, but I've heard the book is great for women who want to get ahead at work.

    I keep saying, to anyone who will listen, that women will never be equal until children are respected. Till taking time off when a child is born is just what people do, not a "woman thing." Till bringing kids to work is seen as a viable solution in all kinds of jobs. Till it is assumed, when you hire a person, that they WILL be leaving at the end of the day to take care of their kids, that they WILL call in sick if their child is sick, etc. .... whether they are male or female.

    That's a job for dads to work on, more than anything. My husband's workplace could be a model. A lot of his male coworkers are the primary parent and will miss work on school snow days or when the flu is going around. And they were very nice about giving him some leave when I had a baby, though it was unpaid. :P It's a start.

    1. Yes! PARENTS have children, not moms have kids! Yes yes and yes. I really think that is key in changing the culture for the better.


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