lol “‘this French-Chilean singer’ who was ‘treating me like I was just an opening band’” can only be ana tijoux, who i shared a golf cart with at lollapalooza. she was on her phone the whole time and, indeed, acted precisely as if she had no idea who i was, either. totally should’ve [also] pissed on the stage.
“JSTOR: An Error Occurred Setting Your User Cookie.” JSTOR: An Error Occurred Setting Your User Cookie. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Nov. 2011
To make the wider point here, what we take to be the female professions—child care, social work, nursing, the creation and care of culture, the ministry, teaching (these last, when done by men, being done by effete men, as Vice President Spiro Agnew told us)—all contain a greater admixture of gift labor than male professions—banking, law, management, sales, and so on. Furthermore, the female professions do not pay as well as the male professions. The disparity is partly a consequence of stratified gender system: women are still not paid on a par with men for equal work, a discrimination therefore clearly unrelated to the content of that work.
But if we could factor out the exploitation, something else would still remain: there are labors that do not pay because they, or the ends to which they are directed, require built-in constraints on profiteering, exploitation, and—more subtly—the application of comparative value with which the market is by nature at ease. There are two points here, one having to do with the nature of the work, the other with the commitment of the worker. “Female” tasks—social work and soul work—cannot be undertaken on pure cost-benefit basis because their products are not commodities, not things we easily price or willingly alienate. Furthermore, those who assume these labors will automatically inhibit their abilities to “sell themselves” at the moment they answer their calling. Gift labor requires the kind of emotional or spiritual commitment that precludes its own marketing. Businessmen rightly point out that a man who cannot threaten to quit his job has no leverage when demanding a higher salary. But some tasks cannot be undertaken in such an adversarial spirit. Few jobs are pure gift labors, of course—although a nurse is committed to healing, she is also an actor in the marketplace—but any portion of gift labor in a job will tend to pull it out of the market and make it a less lucrative—and a “female”—profession.
But, you ask, if we really valued these gift labors, couldn’t we pay them well? Couldn’t we pay social workers as we pay doctors, pay poets as we do bankers, pay the cellist in the orchestra as we pay the advertising executive in the box seat? Yes, we could. We could—and should—reward gift labors where we do value them. My point here is simply that where we do so we shall have to recognize that the pay they receive has not been “made” the way fortunes are made in the market, that it is a gift bestowed by the group. The costs and benefits of tasks whose procedures are adversarial and whose ends are easily quantified can be expressed through a market system. The costs and rewards of gift labors cannot. The cleric’s larder will always be filled with gifts; artists will never “make” money.
And of course the ultimate “gift labor”—childrearing—is embarrassingly undersupported in the American economy, and the aspects of it that are contracted out are that much more underpaid than any of these other “gift” labors. (See, for example, Ann Crittenden’s The Price of Motherhood.)