Friday, April 04, 2008

Librarianship: We Fuck Ourselves In Small Ways, And It Spreads Like The Flu

Special thanks to Genevieve, who let me rant about this to her last weekend, and who was kind enough to reassure me from her position as a working expectant mom that no, I'm not being an unreasonable bitch.

So a few weeks back I was at Borders and ran across this new book Water Cooler Diaries: Women Across America Share Their Day At Work, edited by Joni B. Cole and B.K. Rakhra. I got excited because right there on the cover, there's a post-it saying "Librarian."

I love my profession, but I'm first to admit we suffer from a self-promotion problem. We suck at it, and I have a theory why, but that's another post. We also do a variety of things, and we have a public perception problem. People a) don't know what we do and b) can't believe a Master's degree is required (whether it really is or not is another story). So that someone, namely Tonia N. Sutherland of South Hadley, MA went and wrote up her day at work and it published with other diaries of glamorous, mundane and exciting work days of women, is awesome.

Except Sutherland didn't go to work that day. Her kid got sick and she stayed home with him and worried about her job instead.

And I got pissed.

1) Librarianship's a female dominated profession with a boatload of problems from issues of deprofessionalization,
sex ratio disparities, the assumption that even our best and brightest are just marking time until we stay home with babies. And that's on top of general disrespect and low pay.

So Sutherland had the baton to do us a favor, and she dropped it. That's disappointing. If there were other librarians writing for this project and the editors just picked her piece to include to illustrate a point, I'll publicly apologize for my pissiness and send her flowers, and go toilet paper the editors' lawns.


2) Grrr. Look, this is why you don't talk too much about your personal life and work. Because Sutherland wants pity/understanding for the way she's sabotaging herself at work and I can't give it to her. She's sabotaging herself by confusing her role as a wife and mother with her role of a worker. She had 4 meetings, including one about restructuring her job so that she got to do work she wants to do and a full day of work to do and she blew it off to stay home while her husband went off to his job where he makes half of what she does and gets no benefits. Honey, if "the library will not collapse because my child is sick," neither will the hospital where your husband is a nurse's aide. But your career will stall and collapse if you don't show up to work on your busy days, and I have no sympathy for the "my baby is sick!" argument. She should worry about her job--if I were her boss, I'd have trouble taking her seriously.

Part of feminism is the acceptance that when we took the right to move beyond the role of the angel of the house, we also got a new set of responsibilities. Your responsibility is to work on your career and succeed so you can provide for your child and family because you have a career and not let your husband dick around thinking that his job is as important as yours when it provides none of the benefits or responsibilities that go along with what we term good jobs.

And I get that it's hard to have kids and work. But this is why you try to structure things so that you have the primary breadwinner and a secondary person, and switch off whose career is important when, and not assume that because you're female you're responsible for the sun rising and setting.

Oh, and don't air your dirty laundry in print so bitches like me get mad and take you to task.


Anonymous said...

AMEN. Especially #2. I believe this is part of a larger societal clusterf*ck where women are rushing into relationships to have children, because, good LORD, time is ticking, ticking away, so they end up with some guy who is not going to be that partner, that person who is happy, honored and thrilled (OK, that may be going too far) to be the 50% parent. The Parenting (read: MOTHER) Industrial Complex is so out of control.


Genevieve said...

As you know from our conversation, I agree with all this. I'd like to add on to your 'angel of the house' comment on #2. There is the expectation by our culture that just because women moved into a more powerful role in the workplace doesn't mean that they gave up any of their 1950s household responsibilities. Somehow it is acceptable to have women in executive roles in the office, but at home it's expected that she is making dinner, taking care of the kids, doing the laundry, etc.

I think there's some kind of statistic that women still do 80% of the house and child rearing work. That is just disgusting to me. Equal work outside the house means equal work inside the house.

I am sick of hearing how "lucky" I am that my husband cooks and helps with the cleaning. You know - my life is like that because we set up that structure when we were first living together(although admittedly I cooked 50% of the time then and now that's a bit lopsided and he cooks most). And we plan on splitting the work of raising our child as well. I have no idea why, as in the book you're talking about, this equal division of labor is the exception and not the norm.

Kerry said...

Genevieve knows this, because we knew each other when I was going through it, but this was one of the (multitude) of reasons I broke up with the ex--because if we had kids I would be responsible for being the breadwinner, the cleaner, the cooker, and probably do a lot of the raising. And I am unwilling to live like that. We already had a lopsided relationship, but I wasn't willing to throw a kid and a martyr complex into it.

Caroline said...

Having taught for the first half of the year as a long term sub with no bennies and no sick time, my experience may be somewhat parallel to the woman you've discussed here. When the kids got sick last semester (which they did with irritating frequency), he stayed home because when I didn't go to work, we lost my day's pay. When he didn't go, he still got paid.

Tonia said...
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Tonia said...
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Tonia said...
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