Lately it's becoming clearer to me that the work our society most desperately needs done - work for which not nearly enough paying jobs exist - is work that has traditionally been performed by women in the home. The reason behind the pay disparity for our respective roles, when we look at it logically, is clear. Since men designed our modern economic system, and since masculine energy and values have dominated most of human society for several millenia now, all things traditionally feminine have been neglected, ignored or relegated to a lower status than what has typically been viewed as the purview of the male. I don't believe this was intentional so much as accidental; men simply didn't think about the value of what women do when they designed our modern Western society.
For instance, our entire planet today is in dire need of a good spring cleaning, given the messes we've been making for such a long time. We've got whole plastic islands floating in our oceans, scorched earth where beautiful trees used to grow, filthy, stagnant waters where once clean rivers flowed and mounds of garbage stacking up in our planetary corners. Additionally, many other species with whom we share space are going extinct because no one is caring for or about their needs. In a well run home, it traditionally has been the women who take care of the pets, clean up the house and make sure things are in order. Because we don't pay women to do such "unproductive" work, by extension we haven't figured out how to pay business to do it either.
Basic home maintenance has also been neglected in our society, which is why our roads are crumbling, our water delivery systems are failing and our energy systems have become inadequate. Additionally, our limited natural resources are not being equitably divided, so many of us are going hungry and dying every night. How often does that happen in a well-run home? A loving mother feeds all her family members, and she doesn't permit the men to hoard the food. For countless centuries it was also the woman (along with the older children) who forged paths to the river each day to fetch the water and wood for the fireplace, tasks which today still fall on women in places that have not yet industrialized. Such tasks have long been taken for granted by men, who were either out hunting or farming and weren't present to witness the energy expended by their women to keep the home running, so the assumption that somehow those tasks will continue to "magically" get done persists in society.
We can also look to the sorry state of education, health and elder care for more insights. Raising, teaching and nurturing our children to reach their highest capacity has long been the province of women in the home. Caring for the sick too has been a feminine role. Though medicine men sometimes provided the necessary cure, it was the women who nursed the patient back to health. With our elders it has usually been the daughters who have reached out to care for their parents in their old age, and who have lovingly hospiced them to the end of life.
The challenge we humans face today is to accept the fact that this world we've primarily structured around masculine energy, competition, domination, power, productivity and control is NOT a whole system. It is an unbalanced half-world, one in which the softer qualities of love, compassion, kindness, nurturing and cooperation are not being valued. Yet we know, as members of our own families within our private homes, that for any of us to thrive we must first create a stable, loving, orderly environment out of which to successfully operate.
How do we begin to place appropriate value on feminine traits when they don't create marketable products, only environments (wombs) out of which success is birthed? Feminine energy clearly isn't as easily measured as are masculine enterprises, because feminine energy is hidden, obscure and internal while masculine energy is forceful, projected and highly visible. I suspect the shift in our awareness will come when we collectively embrace the fact that each of us contains both of these so-called "masculine" and "feminine" energies, and that we need to honor them both to thrive and feel whole.
Interestingly enough, many women today are growing more and more "masculinized" and are stepping into roles that have traditionally been held by men. Many men too, are discovering the joy and beauty that is their feminine side. As this trend toward greater internal balance continues, it will become ever more apparent to us all that we can't continue to do "business as usual" from an economic standpoint, because our economy - at least the way we've designed it - doesn't support the maintenance and care of a beautiful,loving home environment from which our species can continue to successfully create and thrive.
Our present options seem to be to incorporate the feminine aspects of home, hearth and community maintenance into our current male-dominated business model - most likely through increased taxation on masculine productivity - so we can afford to pay people well to perform our traditionally feminine tasks; OR we can change the way we're operating so that none of us get paid to do chores because everyone performs their chosen work out of love for and a sense of responsibility to our larger human family.
Is there a both/and solution to this dilemma? Can we incorporate a love for our planetary womb and a deep appreciation for all life forms - including children, the infirm and the elderly - into our present paradigm, still maintaining a for-profit economic system? I simply don't know. What I can say is that for us to make it through the current spate of crises that we face, we need to design a whole systems social order where everyone benefits from - and contributes fully to - the beautiful world we choose to build and share.