WOMEN’S WORK A Reckoning With Work and Home By Megan K. Stack
Motherhood is an exercise that both equalizes and divides. It’s an experience shared by women across the world — a lesson in dissolving borders, in love and in sleep deprivation. It is work: a flow of activity that requires organizational thinking and endless labor. It is also an institution that clings to gender stereotypes and casts a harsh light on class and race — the firm boundaries of opportunity and care that privileged parents can draw around their own children, often to the detriment of other people’s. “Some problems we share as women,” Audre Lorde famously observed in a 1980 speech at Amherst College. “Some we do not.”
Megan K. Stack sets out in “Women’s Work” to explore the underside of motherhood — the realities of labor and child care that men ignore and that women of privilege regularly gloss over: leaving the nannies and cleaners out of their books, excluding them from social media posts and rendering their work invisible. “I’m complicit,” Stack writes. “The women I’ve rented are sweeping the floor outside my office even as I type; I hear the swish of their brooms over the boards.”
“And so, reader,” she continues, “are you.”
Stack’s book is a memoir in three parts, tracing her experience of motherhood while living in China and India, and recounting the relationships she forms with the women who work in her home. Stack, a former foreign correspondent for The Los Angeles Times, has covered multiple wars, reported from Egypt and served as the paper’s bureau chief in Moscow. At the start of the book, Stack is still a reporter, still accustomed to jumping on a plane at a moment’s notice or running toward whatever crisis is happening nearby. And then, pregnant with her first child, she decides to quit her job and attempt to write a novel. She envisions motherhood as a kind of writing retreat, a gently napping baby in the corner as sun streams through the window. It’s an idyll that disintegrates nearly as soon as the baby, a boy, arrives home from the hospital.
“The cold reality of my gender was dawning on me,” Stack writes. “Somebody, after all, must wash and feed and train the kids and get the food and clean the house and care for the sick and elderly.” Early on, she describes this work not as a job, but as a “constant gaping demand for labor.” (This is a characterization I disagree with — child care requires labor, yes, but also skill and a body of knowledge, whether earned by experience, passed down from family members or found in books.) Stack is overwhelmed by her domestic responsibilities; she is exhausted and anxious: “Just thinking about getting any more tired was like sliding slowly and nauseously down the walls of a carnival Gravitron that has just stopped spinning.” Her loss of identity is so profound that early in the book she arrives home from a dinner out and starts writing an essay titled “How to Disappear.”
When Stack’s husband, Tom, returns to work two weeks after their son is born, Stack hires her first nanny — who also cooks and cleans — a woman named Xiao Li. The low value placed on the work the two women are doing hangs over the household like a cloud. Tom, infuriatingly, insists on calling Xiao Li “the maid.” His exacting standards and Stack’s sleep deprivation make it difficult to work, even with help, and his questions about her writing are loaded and tense. “If Tom and I were willing to live in a messy apartment, or to eat more takeout, then the addition of Xiao Li might have signified an easy path back to my writing desk,” she writes. “But we’re both neat freaks and Tom is a picky eater, and since Xiao Li had started working for us, he didn’t see any need to accept an unkempt domestic existence.”
As Stack gets more comfortable in her role as mother and employer, she realizes that she is leaving Xiao Li out of family photos. Moreover, most of the women she knows do the same, implying that they are capable of doing the work of motherhood all on their own, rendering the true labor invisible. “Like Apple computers or Goodyear tires, I reaped the benefit of cheap Chinese labor,” she writes. The difference, however, is that she loves Xiao Li. Here is a woman who knows the rhythms of Stack’s home, the moods of her child and the preferences of her husband. In early motherhood, Stack makes clear, Xiao Li keeps her afloat.
The conflicts to come are wrenching and Stack is unflinching in her account. Xiao Li, who has a young daughter of her own, gives Stack’s son a plastic toy for Christmas. The gift traps Stack between Xiao Li and her husband — who is convinced the toy is toxic — and Stack wonders: “It was the only sort of toy her daughter would ever have. How could I dismiss it as a kidney failure waiting to happen? I might as well announce that her life and its contents were too cheap, her country too disgusting, our baby too precious for her offerings.” When Xiao Li’s own daughter becomes ill, Stack scrambles to balance her concern for the other woman with her understanding that time off for Xiao Li means infringement on her own shrunken supply of professional time. A single person — a nanny — is no stand-in for a life jacket.
It is after Stack moves to India and hires two new women — Pooja and Mary — to help cook, clean and raise Stack’s growing family that the account of her domestic life starts to feel limited. Her prose is beautiful as she shines light on the contradictions of her position. With respect to supporting a family, she writes: “There is a lingering expectation that men will pay in money. But when it comes to time, it is almost always the woman who pays. And money is one thing, but time is life, and life is more.”
In India, however, the gulf between her situation and those of the women in her household begins to feel too vast, the poverty surrounding her too extreme. It becomes increasingly clear that the problems facing the women who work for her extend far beyond this particular domestic setting — and beyond Stack’s ability to access and understand them fully.
It is late in the book when Stack announces her plans to her friends — that she will write about the compromises of her domestic life and the lives of her employees. This, she says, almost always went badly: “As if the simple exercise of placing myself alongside the nannies was already an affront.”
Stack’s relationships with these women, however, make writing about them difficult. Xiao Li has little interest in letting her former employer in on the details of her own life. In India, she follows Pooja to her home village, where we get a glimpse of the forces that have been at work in Pooja’s life (poverty, casual rape, domestic violence and a tenuous local political situation), but the visit feels truncated, Pooja’s life available to us only in outline. We never get a sense of how she spends her days, the details that make a person seem real. In the book’s conclusion, Stack tells us: “The answer is the men. They have to do the work.” It’s hard not to wonder whether, for Xiao Li or for Pooja, a more egalitarian domestic sphere would be enough; they share some of Stack’s problems, but not all.
In that same speech at Amherst, Audre Lorde was offering a way forward for the women’s movement in the 1980s. “It is not our differences which separate women, but our reluctance to recognize those differences,” she told her audience. “The future of our earth may depend upon the ability of all women to identify and develop new definitions of power and new patterns of relating across difference.” At its best moments, Stack’s book is a sharply observed, evocative reckoning with the ways her struggles intersect and diverge with those of the women she employs. As it progresses, however, her own narrative overshadows those of the women she wishes to reveal. She shows us how we have ignored these women and exploited them. She names the difference, but as readers we do not get to travel across it.B:
老彩民高手论坛www96444【元】【宁】【轻】【轻】【叹】【了】【口】【气】，“【所】【以】【当】【孩】【子】【弄】【坏】【了】【衣】【裳】，【做】【母】【亲】【的】【责】【罚】，【并】【不】【是】【真】【的】【要】【打】【孩】【子】，【而】【是】【心】【疼】【过】【去】【为】【了】【张】【罗】【这】【一】【件】【衣】【裳】【而】【付】【出】【的】【辛】【苦】，【心】【疼】【孩】【子】【往】【后】【要】【穿】【多】【一】【个】【补】【丁】【的】【衣】【裳】，【更】【是】【痛】【恨】【自】【己】【没】【有】【能】【力】【给】【孩】【子】【更】【好】【的】【生】【活】。 “【打】【在】【儿】【身】【痛】【在】【娘】【心】，【自】【古】【以】【来】，【这】【个】【道】【理】【都】【是】【不】【变】【的】。” 【苏】【鹤】【亭】【专】【注】【地】【看】【着】【她】，【这】
【握】【草】。 【李】【成】【俊】【心】【中】【一】【万】【个】【曹】【尼】【玛】【飘】【过】。 【这】【林】【子】【美】【未】【免】【太】【尼】【玛】【开】【放】【了】【吧】。 【搞】【得】【李】【成】【俊】【脸】【都】【有】【些】【红】。 “【哎】【呀】【呀】【李】【成】【俊】【你】【脸】【红】【了】，【怎】【么】【你】【害】【羞】【了】？” 【李】【成】【俊】【没】【回】【应】【林】【子】【美】，【而】【是】【转】【身】【离】【开】【了】【洗】【手】【间】，【他】【怕】【自】【己】【在】【待】【一】【会】【会】【真】【忍】【不】【住】【对】【林】【子】【美】【做】【些】【什】【么】。 【不】【过】【这】【种】【受】【了】【刺】【激】，【然】【后】【没】【泄】【火】【的】【后】【遗】【症】【就】【是】
【鸣】【人】【眼】【里】【冒】【着】【星】【星】：“【想】【学】，【当】【然】【想】【学】【啦】！” “‘【螺】【旋】【丸】’【可】【不】【是】【那】【么】【好】【学】【的】【哦】！” 【日】【向】【镜】【嘴】【角】【一】【扬】，【笑】【了】【笑】。 【说】【起】‘【螺】【旋】【丸】’，【他】【自】【己】【其】【实】【也】【才】【刚】【刚】【学】【会】【不】【久】，【而】【且】【还】【是】【专】【门】【请】【教】【了】【自】【来】【也】【后】【才】【学】【会】【的】。 【他】【虽】【然】【知】【道】‘【螺】【旋】【丸】’【是】【四】【代】【受】【尾】【兽】【玉】【的】【启】【发】【而】【开】【发】【出】【来】【的】，【也】【隐】【约】【记】【得】【一】【些】【修】【炼】‘【螺】【旋】【丸】
【顾】【朝】【阳】【猜】【测】【妈】【买】【这】【块】【布】【肯】【定】【不】【容】【易】，【花】【费】【肯】【定】【不】【小】，【她】【还】【有】【弟】【弟】【的】【要】【养】，【跟】【叔】【叔】【两】【个】【都】【是】【工】【人】，【日】【子】【过】【的】【也】【就】【比】【旁】【人】【稍】【稍】【轻】【松】【一】【点】，【能】【买】【到】【这】【么】【大】【块】【红】【布】，【光】【布】【票】【就】【得】【攒】【好】【长】【时】【间】。 【其】【实】【他】【的】【猜】【测】【完】【全】【正】【确】，【从】【去】【年】【听】【说】【儿】【子】【有】【对】【象】【了】，【顾】【母】【就】【在】【准】【备】【了】。 【接】【受】【了】【布】【料】，【钱】【顾】【朝】【阳】【便】【不】【打】【算】【接】【受】【了】，“【妈】，【布】【我】
【傅】【子】【吟】【与】【施】【素】【年】【解】【决】【了】【这】【一】【大】【桩】【悬】【案】，【自】【然】【成】【为】【了】【功】【臣】。 【皇】【帝】【看】【傅】【子】【吟】【也】【更】【加】【顺】【眼】【了】，【巴】【不】【得】【现】【在】【就】【把】【皇】【位】【给】【他】【几】【成】。 【可】【是】【傅】【子】【吟】【并】【不】【想】。 【而】【施】【素】【年】【也】【怕】【傅】【子】【吟】【登】【基】【之】【后】，【那】【些】【大】【臣】【们】【催】【着】【他】【充】【盈】【后】【宫】。 【于】【是】，【为】【了】【让】【自】【己】【耳】【根】【子】【清】【静】，【他】【们】【又】【回】【到】【了】【听】【风】【楼】。 【施】【素】【年】【满】【意】【地】【看】【着】【听】【风】【楼】，【正】【在】【琢】老彩民高手论坛www96444“【冰】【清】【说】【吧】。”【蔡】【宇】【鹏】【抬】【起】【右】【手】【撩】【起】【冰】【清】【的】【头】【发】，【冰】【清】【感】【受】【到】【了】【他】【手】【的】【温】【度】，【之】【后】【再】【她】【的】【耳】【后】【碰】【触】【顺】【着】【头】【发】【丝】【的】【细】【细】【声】【响】，【冰】【清】【忍】【不】【住】【的】【颤】【抖】【了】【一】【下】。 “【反】【正】【不】【能】【继】【续】【叫】【蔡】【总】【了】。【冰】【清】【你】【好】【意】【思】【叫】【这】【么】【长】【时】【间】【蔡】【总】，【你】【更】【没】【诚】【意】，【连】【个】【称】【呼】【都】【不】【给】【我】【改】。”【蔡】【宇】【鹏】【摸】【到】【冰】【清】【的】【耳】【根】，【收】【起】【手】**【裤】【兜】【里】。【冰】【清】【突】【然】【害】
【黑】【鱼】【把】【硬】【币】【放】【在】【了】【手】【里】，【得】【意】【的】【笑】【了】【起】【来】。 “【呵】【呵】……【你】【还】【有】【什】【么】【本】【事】？” 【这】【次】，【被】【剁】【碎】【了】【的】【乌】【鸦】【再】【也】【发】【不】【出】【任】【何】【声】【响】【了】，【而】【硬】【币】【也】【没】【有】【丝】【毫】【的】【反】【应】，【空】【气】【中】【也】【只】【有】【地】【上】【乌】【鸦】【的】【腥】【臭】【味】。 “【老】【兄】，【刚】【才】【的】【问】【题】【你】【还】【没】【有】【回】【答】【我】【呢】，【如】【果】【是】【你】，【你】【会】【像】【我】【刚】【才】【这】【样】【么】？” 【白】【鱼】【揉】【了】【揉】【太】【阳】【穴】，【轻】【叹】【一】【声】，
【只】【见】【对】【面】【的】【灯】【亮】【起】，【奶】【娘】【闻】【声】【而】【出】，【声】【音】【带】【着】【警】【惕】：“【是】【谁】？” 【四】【周】【没】【有】【回】【应】，【只】【有】【一】【声】【猫】【叫】，【只】【听】【奶】【娘】【骂】【道】：“【畜】【生】，【快】【快】【睡】【觉】”【这】【才】【熄】【了】【灯】--- 【待】【到】【魔】【族】【势】【力】【走】【远】，【蛟】【龙】【这】【才】【屏】【住】【心】【神】【靠】【近】【信】【儿】【的】【闺】【房】，【用】【仙】【法】【使】【得】【她】【沉】【沉】【睡】【去】，【陷】【入】【梦】【境】【不】【能】【自】【拔】，【而】【蛟】【龙】【更】【是】【窥】【探】【了】【她】【的】【心】【神】。 【李】【府】，【皇】【家】【最】【最】
【闻】【言】，【顾】【连】【城】【缓】【缓】【从】【沙】【发】【上】【站】【了】【起】【来】，“【我】【带】【你】【出】【去】【吃】【饭】【吧】。” 【顾】【念】【乔】【一】【喜】，【连】【忙】【递】【出】【了】【自】【己】【的】【小】【手】，【却】【发】【现】【顾】【连】【城】【已】【经】【牵】【起】【了】【乔】【姜】【的】【手】。 【俩】【人】【还】【假】【惺】【惺】【的】【回】【头】【看】【了】【她】【一】【眼】，“【你】【要】【不】【要】【去】？” “【去】！” 【顾】【念】【乔】【大】【声】【的】【应】【了】【一】【句】，【他】【是】【绝】【对】【不】【会】【让】【他】【们】【有】【单】【独】【相】【处】【的】【机】【会】【的】。 【于】【是】，【他】【拿】【起】【自】【己】【的】