Way back in October, Fem2.0 announced, Wake Up, This Is the Reality!, a campaign to shift the conversation around work and families away from outdated assumptions and privileged perspectives to better reflect the experience of everyday Americans and American families, who are being crushed between the obligations of home and the workplace. We need this shift if we want lawmakers to take families and work policy seriously and to act on legislation around such issues as paid sick days, healthcare, child and elder care, equal pay, etc. Since the announcement, we’ve said nothing more about the project, but that doesn’t mean things aren’t happening. We have been busy putting the pieces of the campaign in place, and we’ll have details to share very, very soon, so stay tuned.
Yesterday, as a prelude to the campaign (to unfold in late January), we held an online chat with a variety of bloggers to get ideas and insights on reframing the work/life conversation. There were actually two chats – one moderated by Pundit Mom Joanne Bamberger, and one by me.
Being the blogger extraordinaire that she is, Joanne published her blog post about the chat just a few hours after the event ended. Me? I digest and write slower. In fact, there was so much to digest that all I can do is try to identify just a very few of things that leaped out at me.
I. It was clear that a major difficulty in figuring out new ways to talk about work, to find fresh language and words that can resonate through dramatically different communities (including but certainly not limited to parenting, caregiving, small business, corporate, global competitiveness, social justice and policymaking) lies in the very diversity of those communities. Early on in the conversation, people threw out words like "flexibility," "respect," "compassion," "parity," "freedom" and "choice," as possible additions to the work lexicon. Later on, however, Maegan Ortiz of Mamita Mala conveyed the harder reality for many, for whom such words would be a luxury. She said, “I think a lot of this is based on class. Lower income workers, undocumented workers all of these things do not exist (flex-time, maternity leave etc),” and later, “We have to be careful about assumptions about who is at the table.”
II. While men clearly have a vested interest in better work policies, the work/life conversation seems to be largely conducted among women. To reach men, we should be using words like “success,” which Shawn Burns of Backpacking Dad said, “still resonates, but it means something completely different to modern workers: more time with family. We don’t necessarily need to invent a new lexicon, we just need to use the words that already have normative content.”
III. Not only HOW we talk about work, but WHAT we talk about clearly needs to change; the focus needs to shift to people and what people need. Parentopia‘s Devra Renner wrote: “’Companies’ are made up of people with families. ‘Employers’ are people with families. Maybe we need to get back to dealing in people instead of treating companies and corporations are human beings. i.e. companies getting ‘right’ to privacy, etc.”
IV. There was a sense that perhaps it’s time to stop worrying about words and messages, and just time to act. Aliza Sherman wrote: “Words are fraught with politics. Every one of us feels differently about the same words. We need to get past the fight over words even though I am often one to be so very specific about words and their meanings. I admit it is a trap – we avoid doing/action when we continually try to massage the vernacular.”
The two chats are still and will remain up and public. You can see Joanne’s chat here, and my chat here. Take a look and let us know what you see in those conversations. We also encourage you to add your own two cents!