valuing women in the global economy

Submitted by Susan Miller on Wed, 02/03/2010 - 09:24.

On Monday at the Localfood Cleveland meeting (So you want to be a farmer), Darwin Kelsey, of the Cuyahoga Valley Countryside Conservancy, noted that farming in the future is gonna be largely women's work - women he said are just doing it more than men are.

Indeed much of the coffee we drink is grown now by women. Who knows... the nurture instinct in women may be stronger than it is in men. So When Patel talks about food sovereignty as a way to end violence toward women, he's articulate about something I have been chewing on for years. We hear reports of domestic violence in the US and think this must be what is meant by violence toward women. But the entire capitalist model devalues women and their contribution to society. It is something to think about - reproductive labor is worth $17 trillion. Another externality that we don't afford.

Years ago I met a brilliant woman here in Cleveland - Mickey Stern. She and her husband Al had come to an agreement. She told the story at an awards ceremony when she was given the Women in Philanthropy award many years back. She said that she had gone to hear Martin Luther King speak in Washington, DC. He had a dream and she returned to Cleveland with one, too. She told Al (and this was the 1960s) - you make the money and we split the income. She said - no I am not talking about an allowance or a grocery budget - I mean we split 50/50. You earn from your business and I'll make the community a better place for our children, she said. He agreed. She went on to found Cleveland's Nine to Five and Preterm. She brought Judy Chicago's Dinner Party to Cleveland. No, she did not manage these things singlehandedly. She worked with many women to enrich our community and our world. And All was by her side for all of it. Now that's a story that you don't hear much in Cleveland these days, but it is one that ought to be heard and told again and again and not just to women and girls. Thank you Mickey Stern for these stories and so much more.

So if I bristle at posts like the one made by Peter N. DeWolfe here (now edited to show another hardworking reproducer) and don't wish to be lured into being associated with austere and sober to a fault by Jeff Buster, it's because I think that there are larger issues at stake for women around the world. These injustices are not always apparent. More often they are subtle and insidious, but they manifest in our negotiations and trade and policy decisions daily. It's a bigger issue than just appreciating a curve, or being straight-laced.

Back to comestibles: I had a discussion with Carl Jones of Phoenix Coffee and Tea about fair trade on Monday, too. He said that though fair trade coffee is a good thing, the producer gets 30 cents and the marketer/distributor gets 35 cents - still inequitable. So at Phoenix, they concentrate their efforts on Cafe Feminino which provides a more direct way to contribute to the growers. By the way, Carl also said that as they renovate their stores they are using low VOC paint and carpeting that is not off-gassing. Carl said they don't talk about these efforts toward social justice and sustainability - they just do them. Hence I thought I'd mention them here.

It's just something to chew on... $17 trillion in reproductive labor.