Rachel's Blog: Make them notice: child care and feminism.

Tue, 14 Feb 2006

Sonja Hood has an opinion piece in The Age today, What's being done about the lack of child care? She asks

[W]hat about the skilled women who are waiting at home for someone to notice that they are missing from the workforce?

The response is: what about them? No one is going to notice. Women are not wanted in the majority of workplaces and certainly won't be missed if they aren't there.

The extreme apathy of Australians has allowed, not only the rise of these human-unfriendly local, state and federal governments, but a reversion to post-WWII gender attitudes across the board. Government may claim that the marketplace will provide adequate child care places if there is a demand for it. But there is a demand and it's not being met. Perhaps this is due to the perceived femininity of caring for children. (Clearly an opinion held by people who have never looked after a screaming, sick toddler. One of the least feminine things I have ever done.) What group of money-hungry entrepreneurs is going to start a child care centre for goodness sake? That's not to suggest that what childcare needs is a wisecracking marketing team to make it more "macho". What it means is that the care of the young befalls to the community. Which should equal government. The trouble is that these governments, instead of taking care of Australians, have turned their sights to money-hungriness themselves.

In Port Phillip, fees in council centres are set to rise to $73 a day, as the council withdraws all direct and indirect funding to child-care centres, passing on all costs to parents. This is an increase of 71 per cent in the past two years.

So all things being unequal, what's to be done? Noise. Lots of noise. We need to teach our daughters and sons, and each other, that feminism is not in the past. It's relevant now. We may need to keep shouting out the achievements of feminists in the 1960s and 70s (and 1900s...), but we also need to shout out the new agenda. And that requires more energy, not less. Stop waiting for someone to notice; make them notice.

Comment by Rachel Holkner on Tue, 14 Feb 2006

Well that certainly was all over the place wasn't it? Must try to contain myself to one vein of thought at a time.

Comment by toby on Tue, 14 Feb 2006

Vein? I think you hit an artery!

Comment by toby on Tue, 14 Feb 2006

This is all badly thought out and kind of random. Feel free to pick it apart/tell me I'm completely missing the point.

I think that among the things that are needed are:

  • To choose a society/lifestyle in which two full time incomes is not an economic necessity.
  • For the government to realise that looking after a child is a job, and should be treated as such.
  • To provide fathers with the opportunity to care for their children, to support them in it, and above all to help them realise the importance of their children, and that there's more to life than defining one's worth in terms of one's job.
  • To foster local foster small local community based social alternatives to formal childcare provided by governments and companies.
  • To start asking why people who are only prepared to be involved in their childens' lives for a couple of hours a day should actually be reproducing.

Comment by Rachel on Wed, 15 Feb 2006

I absolutely agree with all of these but would extend the third point

  • ... that there's more to life than defining one's worth in terms of one's job.
to include everyone. Stay at home mothers suffer terribly from the common perception that because they make no economic contribuition they have no identity. And while this point is great in theory -
  • To foster small local community based social alternatives to formal childcare provided by governments and companies.
- we have seen the ramifications in our electorate of what can happen when things don't go according to the system. Family day care would fit the description of a small local alternative, but it is very difficult to keep tabs then on who has access to the children in care. Unfortunately there's a very large trust issue to be bridged. I don't know what the solution would be.

Comment by toby on Wed, 15 Feb 2006

I was thinking more of groups of 2-5 families that all know each other well.