The question we should be asking is not whether domestic caregiving is more or less important than wage work—they’re both crucial, and crucially different.
By Michelle Chen
Poor women, who evidently lack dignity, must redeem themselves through work, while the apparently inborn dignity of their affluent counterparts allows them to embody feminine virtue by staying within the domestic sphere. And if they volunteer to climb the career ladder, they’re vaunted as supermoms.
Part of this mentality stems from a reactionary, often racialized construction of the “deserving” versus the “undeserving” poor. The argument is also steeped in the corrosive cultural assumption that poor women’s social value derives from their labor or reproductive capacity, not their humanity, intellect or relationships.
The counterpoint to Ann Romney’s domestic sainthood is the right’s fictional “welfare queen,” the unwed mother who supposedly leeches off the state with abandon and embodies corrupt, uncontrollable fertility.
And that’s where the “dignity of work” comes in, to discipline the unruly woman and keep her in her place, safely below the poverty line. Neoliberals like Newt Gingrich have sought to broaden the attack on poor women by advocating for the use of the child welfare as a punitive tool, sweeping kids into state custody to “rescue” them from disadvantaged mothers and their communities. So much for family values.
Seriously. Indians were brave and noble, we tell ourselves. But now they're corrupt and degraded. We worship the dead ones while scorning the live ones as fakes (not enough blood) or sellouts.
For more on Indians as welfare recipients, see Republicans Want to "Keep America America" and Attawapiskat Triggers "Welfare" Stereotypes.