Love's Labor: Essays on Women, Equality, and Dependency 0415904129, 9780415904124

This fascinating study of women carers explores the significance of dependency work by analysing John Rawls' influe

169 51 17MB

English Pages 238 [257] Year 1999

Report DMCA / Copyright

DOWNLOAD FILE

Polecaj historie

Love's Labor: Essays on Women, Equality, and Dependency
 0415904129, 9780415904124

Table of contents :
Cover
Half Title
Title Page
Copyright Page
Dedication
Table of Contents
Preface
Introduction
Elusive Equality
Feminist Critiques of Equality
Should Women Still Want Equality?
Part One—Love's Labor: The Requirements of Dependency
Chapter One: Relationships of Dependency and Equality
Reflections on Being a Mother's Child
Dependency in the Human Condition
Chapter Two: Vulnerability and the Moral Nature of Dependency Relations
The Transparent Self of the Dependency Worker
Moral Obligations of Dependency Workers and an Ethics of Care
Moral Obligations to the Dependency Worker
Part Two—Political Liberalism and Human Dependency
Dependency as a Criterion of Adequacy
The Role of Equality and Equality’s Presuppositions
The Arguments in Outline
Chapter Three: The Presuppositions of Equality
The Circumstances of Justice for a Well-Ordered Society
The Idealization That “All Citizens Are Fully Cooperating Members of Society"
Free Persons Are “Self-Originating Sources of Valid Claims”
Chapter Four: The Benefits and Burdens of Social Cooperation
The Two Powers of a Moral Person and the Index of Primary Goods
The Public Conception of Social Cooperation
Conclusion: The Principles of Justice and Dependency Concerns
Part Three—Some Mother’s Child
Introduction
Chapter Five: Policy and a Public Ethic of Care
Welfare De-Form
Justifications of Welfare
The Family and Medical Leave Act
Welfare Re-Formed: A Vision of Welfare Based on Doulia
Chapter Six: "Not My Way, Sesha. Your Way. Slowly.” A Personal Narrative
A Child Is Born
Portrait of Sesha at Twenty-Seven
On the Very Possibility of Mothering and the Challenge of the Severely Disabled Child
Mothering Distributed: The Work of Dependency Care
Alternative Routes—Routes Not Taken
Chapter Seven: Maternal Thinking with a Difference
Preservative Love
Socialization for Acceptance
Fostering Development
Care for Disability and Social Justice
Lessons for the Theoretician
Afterword
Notes
References
Index

Citation preview

L O V E ’S LABO R

Thinking Gender Linda J. Nicholson, editor

Moral Dilemmas of Feminism Laurie Shrage

Also published in the series:

Subjection and Subjectivity Diana T. Meyers

FeminismIPostmodernism Linda Nicholson

Feminist Contentions Seyla Benhabib, Judith Butler, Drucilla Cornell, and Nancy Fraser

Gender Trouble Judith Butler Words of Power Andrea Nye Femininity and Domination Sandra Bartky Disciplining Foucault Jana Sawicki Beyond Accommodation Drucilla Cornell Embattled Eros Steven Seidman Erotic Welfare Linda Singer Materialist Feminism and the Politics of Discourse Rosemary Hennessy An Ethic of Care Mary Jeanne Larrabee Feminist Epistemologies Linda Alcoff and Elizabeth Potter Gender Politics and Post-Communism Nanette Funk and Magda Mueller Engenderings Naomi Scheman Feminist Theory and the Classics Nancy Rabinowitz and Amy Richlin Postmodern Revisionings of the Political Anna Yeatman

Feminists Read Fiabermas Johanna Meehan Sacrificial Logics Allison Weir The Other Machine Dion Farquhar Feminist Genealogies, Colonial Legacies, Democratic Futures M. Jacqui Alexander and Chandra Talpade Mohanty From Sex Objects to Sexual Subjects Claudia Moscovici Race/Sex Naomi Zack Feminism and Families Hilde Lindemann Nelson Playing with Fire Shane Phelan Dislocating Cultures Uma Narayan Emotional Rescue Isaac D. Balbus Men Doing Feminism Tom Digby Daring to Be Good Bat-Ami Bar On and Ann Ferguson

L O V E ’S LABOR Essays on Women, Equality, and Dependency

Eva Feder Kittay

Routledge • New York and London

Published in 1999 by Routledge

711 Third Avenue New York, NY 10017 Published in Great Britain by Routledge

2 Park Square, Milton Park Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN Copyright © 1999 by Routledge

All rights reserved. N o part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilized in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or here­ after invented, including photocopying and recording or in any information storage or retrieval system, without perm ission in writing from the publishers. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication D ata Kittay, Eva Feder. Love’s labor : essays on women, equality, and dependency / Eva Feder Kittay. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-415-90412-9 (he. : alk. paper). — ISBN 0-415-90413-7 (pbk. : alk. paper) 1. Equality. 2. Dependency. 3. Caregivers. 4. W omen’s rights. 5. Equal rights amendments. I. Title H M 146.K59 1998 305— dc21 98-18629

Dedicated to my children, Leo and Sesha

This page intentionally left blank

Contents

Preface

ix

Introduction Elusive Equality Feminist Critiques of Equality Should Women Still Want Equality?

1 2 8 17

Part One-—Love's Labor: The Requirements of Dependency

21

Chapter One: Relationships of Dependency and Equality Reflections on Being a M other's Child Dependency in the Human Condition

23 23 29

Chapter Two: Vulnerability and the Moral Nature of Dependency Relations The Transparent Self of the Dependency Worker M oral Obligations of Dependency Workers and an Ethics of Care M oral Obligations to the Dependency Worker

49 51 53 64

Part Two— Political Liberalism and Human Dependency Dependency as a Criterion of Adequacy The Role of Equality and Equality’s Presuppositions The Arguments in Outline

75 75 78 79

Chapter Three: The Presuppositions of Equality The Circumstances of Justice for a Well-Ordered Society

83

vii

83

viii / C on ten ts

The Idealization That “All Citizens Are Fully Cooperating Members of Society” Free Persons Are “Self-Originating Sources of Valid Claim s”

88 93

Chapter Four: The Benefits and Burdens of Social Cooperation The Two Powers of a M oral Person and the Index of Primary Goods The Public Conception of Social Cooperation Conclusion: The Principles of justice and Dependency Concerns

100

Part Three— Some Mother’s Child Introduction

115 115

Chapter Five: Policy and a Public Ethic of Care Welfare De-Form justifications of Welfare The Family and Medical Leave Act Welfare Re-Formed: A Vision of Welfare Based on Doulia

117 117 122 133

100 104 109

140

Chapter Six: aNot M y Way, Sesha* Your Way. Slowly.” A Personal Narrative A Child Is Born Portrait of Sesha at Twenty-Seven On the Very Possibility of Mothering and the Challenge of the Severely Disabled Child Mothering Distributed: The Work of Dependency Care Alternative Routes— Routes N ot Taken

152 154 160

Chapter Seven: Maternal Thinking with a Difference Preservative Love Socialization for Acceptance Fostering Development Care for Disability and Social Justice Lessons for the Theoretician

162 163 165 169 173 178

Afterword

182

Notes

189

References

220

Index

231

147 147 150

Preface

E ld o ra M itchell is nearly as old as the century, and for her it has been a life o f love and service. Startin g at the age o f 12, when she went to w ork scrubbin g white p eo p le’s flo o rs to help her fam ily. L ater, she cleaned ho sp ital room s to feed her ow n children and cared for her grandchildren while their p aren ts were w orkin g. In her 60s, she nursed her dying h u sban d and her elderly m other. N o w , at 95, frail and slow ly goin g blind, it is M rs. M itch ell’s turn. . . . M rs. M itchell has ab ou t $8,000 in savin gs and no lon g­ term health insurance. W hat she does have is her fam ily and her exp ectation — that they will do for her as she has done for the p revi­ ous generation s . . .

So begins an article that appeared on the front page of the New York Times (Rimer 1998, 1) just as I was completing the book you have before you. The same article ends with the story of M artha Perry, forty-nine, who gave up her job and daily life with her husband to care for her mother-in-law. After the death of her mother-in-law, she served as a round-the-clock caregiver for six months for her ailing eighty-five-yearold mother before finally returning to her husband and her job. What is Martha Perry’s job when she is not taking care of family? She is the man­ ager of a group home for disabled adults. Both the older Eldora Mitchell and the younger M artha Perry have spent their lives doing what I call dependency work, the work of caring for those who are inevitably dependent. The dependency work on which the reporter focuses is familial and largely unpaid1— the paid work these women did was either domestic labor (itself not dependency work in the sense discussed here, but closely aligned with it) or dependency work proper, such as managing the group home for disabled adults. The strength and strains of a life of dependency work are captured in IX

x / Love’s Labor

these stories, as are the involved histories of race and sex in dependency care. The T imes article is at once a paean to the strength of AfricanAmerican family life— to the network of help the extended family in African-American communities provides— and a shameful testament to poor health conditions, economic strains, and a warranted history of mistrust of institutional arrangements that are the legacy and products of racism. Although the African-American community is featured in this story, the article cites a remarkable figure: One in four American fami­ lies is caring for an elderly relative or friend “ doing everything from changing diapers to shopping for groceries.” This one-in-four figure does not include the work of caring for other dependents such as young children, the ill, and the disabled. In these families, no less than in the families featured in the story, the dependency worker is likely to be a woman. The fact that women largely bear the burden of dependency work is a legacy of tradition, of sexism, and of a sexual taboo against men being involved in the intimate care of women’s bodies.2 In the stories of Eldora Mitchell, M artha Perry, and the other women (and some men) featured in the Times article lie the point and purpose of my book. I began this project in response to an invitation to speak on the topic of “Elusive Equality” as the keynote speaker of the Helen Lynd Colloquium Series at Sarah Lawrence College. Since philosophers and feminists alike had written volumes on the topic of equality, it was not clear to me what I could add to the topic. As I began to explore the bur­ geoning literature by feminist scholars, especially legal theorists, ques­ tioning the ideal of equality, I began to see that there was a consideration missing from many of the accounts. I began to see that while equality often entailed women crossing the sexual divide between women’s work and men’s work, equality rarely meant that men crossed over the divide to the women’s side: our side— women’s— the side where work was largely, though not exclusively, unpaid or poorly paid care of dependents. Simone de Beauvoir has written that “woman has always been man’s dependent, if not his slave,” that “the two sexes had never shared the world in equality” (Beauvoir 1952, xx). But it seemed now that this dependency was a derivative dependency, derivative of the care of depen­ dents. This view was one that I had already encountered, if not in a fully articulated form, in the work of Susan Okin. Okin (Okin 1979) detailed how the great political philosophers of the Western tradition envisioned a role for women in political life only when they reconceived the role of women in the family— suggesting thereby the intimate relation between women’s situation as caregivers and their exclusion from the public domain. It seemed to me that one could delineate a critique of the ideal of equality that I call the dependency critique.

Preface / xi

The dependency critique is a feminist critique of equality that asserts: A conception of society viewed as an association of equals masks inequitable dependencies, those of infancy and childhood, old age, ill­ ness and disability. While we are dependent, we are not well positioned to enter a competition for the goods of social cooperation on equal terms. And those who care for dependents, who must put their own interests aside to care for one who is entirely vulnerable to their actions, enter the competition for social goods with a handicap. Viewed from the perspective of the dependency critique, we can say: O f course, women have not achieved equality on men’s side of the sexual divide— for how could women abandon those they leave behind on their side of that divide? Their children, their elderly parents, their ill spouse or friend? Yes, equality has been elusive for women and will continue to be so unless and until better institutional supports are put in place to enable women who wish to leave the exclusive domain of home— the haven for dependencies that no political theory could abolish by pro­ claiming all men [sic] to be equal— without jeopardizing the well-being of those they love. Focusing on dependency, however, also allows one to see that as some women leave behind many traditional roles, other women fill those roles. The process creates greater differentiation among women. This indicates that while dependency and dependency work offer an impor­ tant connection between women, they also give rise to a rift between those who do dependency work and those who have found other means to fulfill traditional responsibilities. The source of division is still more disturbing as women raising children on their own increasingly swell the ranks of the poor and suffer from the stigma attached to solo mother­ hood (even as its incidence increases), just as the condition of other more privileged women improves. T o what extent, I wondered, are the “ welfare w ars” over the fate of poor solo mothers— a war now lost to welfare “ reform”— a reflection of an ideal of equality for women that does not seriously consider the role of dependency and dependency care in women’s lives? These reflections on dependency were, I realized, prompted in part by a personal situation that made questions of dependency especially salient for me. My daughter is a lovely young woman who is profoundly depen­ dent and will always be. Her conditions of severe mental retardation and cerebral palsy have meant she can never carry on a life without constant assistance. I have lived with my daughter’s dependency for twenty-eight years and have had a long time to absorb the meaning and extent of dependency. Out of these considerations grew the idea for this book.

xii / Love’s Labor

My original hope was to formulate a new theory of equality that embraces dependency, for I failed to see how any progressive movement, at this historical juncture, could do without an egalitarian ideal. If there was something amiss with the ideal, it was in its formulation— not in the concept of equality itself. To provide such a theory was not possible in this book. There was too much work to be done in simply clearing the ground for an idea as radical as an equality that embraced dependency rather than defining itself against dependency. So this book is but a propaedeutic to some future theory of equality. This book is as eclectic and yet as knit together as the concerns that gave it birth. Some of the material is very theoretical, some is more empirical, and some is deeply personal. Many of the chapters were origi­ nally written as separate articles, and have been revised for this book in order to have them read as a single work. My hope is that the reader will be willing to make the voyage with me, through my different voices and through my different but related concerns. I recognize, nonetheless, that some readers will pick and choose, and so I have been careful to include cross-references that will direct these readers to ideas that are key points for the chapters they want to explore. In these prefatory remarks I would like to offer a few cautionary notes that will, I hope, forestall criticisms that may keep a reader from fully grasping my intent. First, a question I frequently encounter: Why focus only on the more extreme dependencies? Dependency is found not only in the case of a young child who is dependent on a mothering per­ son. A boss is dependent on his or her secretary. Urban populations are dependent on agricultural communities. Persons on farms are dependent on electrical workers. Professors are dependent on janitors, and janitors are dependent on engineers. And so on. We are all interdependent. My point is that this interdependence begins with dependence. It begins with the dependency of an infant, and often ends with the depen­ dency of a very ill or frail person close to dying. The infant may develop into a person who can reciprocate, an individual upon whom another can be dependent and whose continuing needs make her interdependent with others. The frail elderly person, like Eldora Mitchell, may herself have been involved in a series of interdependent relations. But at some point there is a dependency that is not yet or no longer an interdepen­ dency. By excluding this dependency from social and political concerns, we have been able to fashion the pretense that we are independent— that the cooperation between persons that some insist is m£