Feminist economics in private life

Some time ago, I wrote about economic systems and feminism. Unfortunately, I’ve been rather busy , so it’s been hard for me to find the time to write the second part that I had promised. Fortunately, there now is a little hole in Fashion Week season because I’m skipping New York this year.

There basically are two distinct subjects that are to be treated. The first is about our current economic system and what we can do within it to slowly get to a better world. Naturally, the second part concerns an ideal economic system. This however is a little more difficult to describe, if only because a lot depends on things like technology, so for now, I’ll stick with what can be done in our own lives.

For me, the core idea should be to try to help other women whenever we can. Of course, this runs into a few very simple obstacles. The first is self-interest. This self-interest is frequently put down as something non-ideal and pure egocentrism. In a way, that of course is true, but we have to keep in mind that we’re all people. I don’t know that many perfect people to be honest, and in most such cases, some less than perfect traits will probably have been hidden away somewhere.

This doesn’t mean that self-interest should be the guiding principle, I’m not an objectivist, but it also shouldn’t be denied or judged. It’s impossible to live a life without it after all. So, self-interest is a known factor, and in many ways, a limiting factor on what can be done for others. Of course, giving most earnings away to (good) charity might be applaudable, but it isn’t much of an option. It also isn’t to be expected of women that they will save on things like quality of life (to a certain extent, as always) and the like, just so they can do more to help their sisters. Only patriarchy demands the complete submission of our own desires and dreams to others.

So, both materially and mentally, the needs of the self have to be met. But that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to do something for our sisters. Spare income (insofar it exists), can always be used, just like time (often even more limited). There however are constant choices to be made. When you for instance need someone to paint a house, you can choose which company you want to hire. When I was in that situation, I made a point of looking women. This allowed me to support women in a field where they tend to struggle. Of course, it was a little more work and it might have been a little bit more expensive, but it was the better thing to do.

The same goes with all kinds of services and the like where you can choose the individual or company you do business with. A good example is getting a taxi. When booking in advance, it often is possible to choose if you would prefer a female driver. I always make use of this, not only because of the aforementioned reasons, but also because of very simple selfishness. I don’t like to be alone in a vehicle (or anywhere really) with a man. They after all are a constant threat. But it also works with larger companies. Even when dealing with giants, you can look at how they treat women and how many women there are in them.

So, that’s one relatively easy thing to do. Of course, in more remote locations and smaller communities, it can be harder to do, but even there, there should always be possibilities. The same goes when hiring professionally. There are all kinds of discrimination laws, but there still are plenty of possibilities to help women. In science for instance, I know a few female group leaders who almost exclusively hire women. The argument again isn’t just that they want to help their sisters, but selfishness again plays a part. There is a lot of discrimination going on against women, so it actually is much easier to find good female candidates. Naturally, this applies in many other fields. Another advantage is that male employees tend to look down on female leaders, so you get more issues there. So, when hiring my first PhD student (under my current professor’s supervision), I naturally also chose for a young woman.

Those aren’t the only ways that one can help. Volunteering and financial support always are options, although those tend to run into far more limits in terms of what is bearable. But what can be truly important, more than anything else, is giving advice and support. Throughout our upbringing, we are taught to naturally step into second place, to sacrifice our own dreams. This makes many of us shy and insecure about our wishes, especially professionally. It might be more common in more conservative circles, but I’ve encountered it throughout all kinds of spectrums, there is no strong difference between left and right.

This support can be all kinds of things. One of the simplest is just giving an example that it’s possible. Once, when I was speaking at a school, a girl remarked that I seemed so nice and pretty for a woman in the sciences. This alone can help, because there are lots of negative stereotypes about women doing things we aren’t supposed to be doing by patriarchy. This isn’t to say that everyone should be pretty and nice, not even close to that (I for instance am not nice at all, I however can pretend. And beauty is determined by society. I keep seeing an overly skinny doll in the mirror), but it does show how even a single example can help overcome those stereotypes. The same goes with all sorts of roles, meaning that it always is good to be visible.

But there also are other things that take more effort, such as sitting down and talking to someone. There is a huge lack of information for girls, and there are lots of ways in which knowledge is kept away from them. This concerns not just career paths, but also that there are other ways of life than becoming a slave in marriage. Frequently, all that’s needed is some information from someone seeming at least a little trustworthy. My own perspective of course comes from rather strictly orthodox Calvinist groups, but there you encounter lots of holes in knowledge. Even when they study, lots of little things that are necessary just aren’t learned. Things like how to dress and behave at interviews, how to act in public, and many others.

In general, the most important thing to do is to be true to yourself. To look where you can help without being too much of a burden on your own life, and to always try to put your sisters first.

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