Off-Topic: Messages from the Bus, Women’s Work, Babies, and Libraries
This morning a guy on my bus gave me a book. It’s about “boring” and “ordinary” “small-town librarian” who decides “it’s time to get a life – and a sex life.” I don’t know what this means exactly, but I’ve never spoken to this guy until yesterday, and we did not talk about my being a librarian.
My local daily paper has a piece today, “State’s underfunded libraries struggle: Tennessee is almost last in spending.” We reportedly spend $16.32 per person on libraries in this state, compared with the U.S. average of $31.65. Needless to say, services to library visitors suffer. And then…
Tennessee librarians are expert community networkers. Don’t have the budget to put on a children’s program? Find a community volunteer. Don’t have enough meeting space in the library? Get a local business to volunteer a room. Don’t have enough money to build a new library? Form a community partnership and raise private funds.
“Our librarians are wonderful people,” said Jane Pinkston, assistant state librarian for planning and development. “They work long hours for next to nothing, and they try to do the best with what they have.”
Well, that’s just great. I’m glad my state’s public librarians are being portrayed as savvy, creative, resourceful, and dedicated. However, I think it would be much, much better if, for librarians as well as for teachers, childcare providers, and other service work and traditionally women-dominated professions, we funded adequately and stopped pretending getting by on less than is needed is some kind of unique womanly virtue. It has taken forever to get the people in charge of these types of institutions to realize that these forms of service work are valuable, and that the women doing the work need to survive, not just earn a little pin money. Working long hours for next to nothing is never the ideal to be celebrated. So good for our librarians, but shame on our state, and our stereotypes.
Speaking of “women’s work,” Renee at Womanist Musings has an excellent post on motherhood and perceptions of the value of different women’s children, “Whose Children Count?” She writes:
As a society we pay a lot of lip service to respecting motherhood, but in truth unless you are of a certain colour or class, it is more likely that you will be punished, or somehow stigmatized for “choosing” to give birth. The pro life movement has dedicated itself to ending abortion but offer no good solutions to help women who decide to keep their babies. There is no social conversation about socialized daycare to make it easier for single mothers to work and raise their children. We “support” a woman staying home to raise her children but if she has to be on social assistance to do it, she is labelled a “welfare queen,” and is told to be grateful, as it is the social myth that these women are living in luxury.
Our social obsession with the pregnancy of celebrities is a confirmation of which bodies matter in this society. We care more about these privileged babies than the children that everyday go to school without breakfast.
Good discussion in the comments, too. Tanglethis and Mack, I think Renee’s post may offer some insight as to why the pro-lifers aren’t more worried about the baby in the case of Juana Villegas DeLaPaz.