“Once upon a time, we lived in a world where men engaged in paid work and women stayed home and took care of the children, the elderly, the sick, and the disabled,” says Nancy Folbre, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and the editor of the recent book “For Love and Money: Care Provision in the United States.”
We no longer live in that world, for reasons that go well beyond women’s individual fulfillment (though that matters too!), including stagnating real wages and loss of worker protections in traditionally male jobs that once provided a “family wage.” But you wouldn’t know that looking at the American workplace, still structured as it is around the assumption that someone is at home to care for those who can’t care for themselves. And even in this election year of tailoring messages to women, the failure of the economy to catch up to household realities is scarcely on the table — not for Republicans, of course, but not for too many Democrats either. Given how women still pick up most of the slack on care work, even when they’re in the paid workforce, this is as much an issue of feminism as it is one of reproductive rights.