[LMB] Men and Women

Ed Burkhead ed at edburkhead.com
Sat Mar 7 17:35:58 GMT 2009

Paula cited a couple examples of, I infer, discrimination:
> Ob/gyn salaries were proportionately higher as MD specialities 
> before women started becoming Ob/gyns in large numbers, for 
> example.  When clerks were mostly male the payscale and prestige 
> was higher than when clerking because seen as women's work....

Hummm, I'm seeing this as simple supply and demand in a market.

When only men were allowed to be clerks, the supply of men who were literate
and free to take on such work was severely limited.

When women were allowed to be the clerks, the supply of literate workers way
more than doubled as women were still barred from other literate work
(doctors, lawyers, business managers, etc.).

With Ob/gyn, I suspect that the percentage of women doctors who were
interested in Ob/gyn work was higher than among male doctors.  So, I'd
expect a similar burgeoning of available workers and a market based lowering
of pay.

I tend not to assume a conspiracy when there are other obvious explanations.

We have, certainly, seen (and still do see) plenty of other conspiracy-like
discriminations as the weak put down entire other classes to protect their
positions. JMHO


> -----Original Message-----
> From: lois-bujold-bounces at lists.herald.co.uk [mailto:lois-bujold-
> bounces at lists.herald.co.uk] On Behalf Of Paula Lieberman
> Sent: Saturday, March 07, 2009 8:18 AM
> To: Discussion of the works of Lois McMaster Bujold.
> Subject: Re: [LMB] Men and Women
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Tony Zbaraschuk" <tonyz at eskimo.com>
> > On Thu, Mar 05, 2009 at 08:27:37AM -0600, Eric Oppen wrote:
> >> > Work: The First Twenty Thousand Years_ -- and it was great fun seeing
> >> > Fawn
> >> > constantly at work weaving in the SK books.)
> >> >
> >> > You weave because you can quickly put it down and go do something
> >> > else, or do it simultaneously with other stuff (like breastfeed the
> That very much depends on the type of the weaving... some can be left as
> others get completely tangled up and unravel if not properly finished off
> for a section, or the pattern gets broken....
> >> > child, or grab the child away from the fire, or all that sort of
> >> > thing) and return to the task later and finish it.  Not so easy to
> >> > do with (say) blacksmithing.
> Depends on what's being made... I watched a blacksmith out in the open
> (okay, under a tent... it was still outside in a place where it was a very
> temporary setup!) on part of the large expanse of Gore Place (a historic
> estate/house in Waltham, Massachusetts, which has the estate house, a
> sort-of working farm (there are sheep, fainting goats, a guard llama
> watching over the other herbivores, chickens, a decorative garden, annual
> plant sales, and a substantial amount of pasture land, some of it fenced
> the animals to graze, most of it left as ungrazed field... it's large
> that large year at the festival I went to, there was a ring set up with
> jumps and demos of two women with their horses doing jumping circuits,
> were multiple rows of craft booths sets up, there was  a miniature
> encampment of colonial re-enactors explaining the equipping and such of
> George Washington's Army, there were crafts demo of colonial arts
> blacksmithing), and a significant amount of land where when there is a
> festival a few thousands of people can come by, parking their cars on the
> estate in the field, and tromp around.  The blacksmith was making
> small everyday items and it didn;t take him long at all to do such
> things--and many of the items, the work could be subdivided into small
> tasks.
> Some "women's work" was extremely nasty noxious stuff--"blue Monday" for
> laundry, for example, used to be extremely nasty and noxious and
> time-consuming.... and running laundries was something shoved off to the
> lowest rungs of US society, because it was considered some of the
> of scut work (there was an exhibit about it at a national heritage museum
> Lexington, Massachusetts, a few years ago).  It was work done by Chinese
> immigrants and women with dark skins, for two or three different
> factors--the first being discrimination and sometimes even laws that kept
> them out of higher status better working conditions work, the second being
> that there was a need for it and other people would pay them to do laundry
> when otherwise the other people wanted them to not exist much less work
> live and have jobs in the area, and the third was that it was an
> to earn a living in something where there was opportunity to earn a living
> and an opportunity to be tolerated to exist.
> And if that sounds nasty, it's because the situations really were nasty.
> A large amount of  "women's work" is work that men didn't want to do or
> regarded culturally with contempt/was low pay-and-or-prestige, and foisted
> off onto others.  Or, if women started doing certain types of work for
> those jobs turned into low prestige low paid work... Ob/gyn salaries were
> proportionately higher as MD specialities before women started becoming
> Ob/gyns in large numbers, for example.  When clerks were mostly male the
> payscale and prestige was higher than when clerking because seen as
> work....
> And again, it's rather less "gender" than "class" binning.... I mentioned
> Chinese and laundries above, because in those times and places Chinese
> immigrants were the bottom of the social class ladder.   Other places and
> times in the USA, the bottom of the local or regional social ladder has
> people of African descent, Portugese immigrants, Irish immigrants, Jewish
> immigrants, Catholic immigrants, member of the Society of Friends, Italian
> immigrants, French-Canadians, Hispanics, economic class. .... being female
> in varying ways is a class identifier, one which cuts orthogonally across
> various of the other demarcations, which include national original,
> language spoken, religion, work background, hobbies, political
> affiliation.... It's one of the more obvious bins (though there are
> gender-ambiguous types), as opposed to e.g. politics and religion which
> to not be easily distinguished by appearance.
> >> For that matter, I'd venture to guess that most "women's work"
> >> _became_ "women's work" because it was things you could do while
> >> keeping an eye on active, curious, no-common-sense-yet toddlers.
> >> Unlike blacksmithing, or things like that.
> >
> > Very likely.
> I don't agree.... there are lots of different factors, and most of them
> social/cultural, some of them involve "convenience" but some are actually
> anti-convenience for the people the effects devolve on (that is, scut
> the more powerful and higher status types in the culture don;t want to do,
> becoming "women's work" such as gathering firewood in Africa... the women
> have to tromp miles to the woods and miles back, in between hacking up
> or deadwood, returning with a heavy load of wood... that's heavy physical
> labor.  The men go off and smoke.... for that matter, in the Jewish
> in eastern Europe, the women did most of the commerce and the men liked to
> "sit around the synagogue and pray" -- the ideal of "If I Were a Rich Man"
> from Fiddler on the Roof about the daily life of rich men, didn;t mention
> that the wives were shopkeepers and other professions, but the reality of
> the situation, is that the women DID work, and the ideal for men was
> spending all day in scholarly non-commercial pursuit... not so the women.
> The highest aspiration in that culture was for a man to spend all day in
> scholarship.... women were mostly blocked from it, and instead occupied
> money-making sector....
> My main assertion, though, is that human culture -can- be extremely
> as regards assigning and defining roles.  Outside of gestation and
> engendering and breastfeeding, there are no real biologically determined
> roles. And then are men who are childminders by nature and interest and
> lifestyle, and women who are warriors by nature and interest, etc.
> (For that matter, considier Sacejawa, who was carrying a kid around with
> as she guided Lewis and Clark around the continent... yeah, sure, women
> babies stay home and don't go a-roving....)
> Meanwhile, Lois' work has done various though experiments with
> only-Athos, Beta and other inhospitable planets, the Quaddies genetically
> engineered for microgravity, Kline Station as space habitat, Betan
> hermaphrodites.... there are lots of different ways of categorizing
> people--religion, talents, aspirations, size and shape, hair color, skin
> color, eye color, age, sexual preference, language(s) spoken, cultural
> background, social background, economic status, ancestry, and
> is but ONE factor, and making it be the overwheening determinant, to me is
> an evil thing.
> --
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