Saturday, August 19, 2006
We just can't win, can we?
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Low-income women have been slow to return to New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina and many who have returned are not benefiting from the recovering city’s construction labor market, a report released Friday said.
“Those who have managed to get back are clearly struggling,” Avis Jones-DeWeever, director of the Washington-based Institute for Women’s Policy Research, said at a news conference in front of City Hall.
She cited a quadruple increase in food stamp use in the metropolitan area as evidence of the hard times for many women in the New Orleans metropolitan area.
Gleaning its findings from recent U.S. Census and other government data, the report said the number of single mothers in the area has dropped from 10 percent before Katrina to about 6 percent now.
The report also said the number of low-income female-led households dropped from 35 percent before the storm to 18 percent after.
The report said women in Louisiana earned less than men and had fewer opportunities than men before Katrina, and that their plight will be worsened with the unequal playing field that was created after the storm.
One way of changing this would be for women to be hired in the construction fields, new City Council woman Shelley Midura said.
“Women can break Sheetrock, women can wire homes, and women can drive trucks,” Midura said. “These are good-paying jobs.”
Beth Willinger of Tulane University’s Center for Research on Women said the labor force needs to be “totally integrated” both in terms of gender and race.
“But first we need to bring our women home,” she said.
Jones-DeWeever was joined by several prominent women, including Midura and state Rep. Karen Carter, a Democrat and a contender in a Nov. 7 congressional race for the seat of U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, who is running for re-election.
It's absolutely true that women can do construction work, for the most part. I don't do construction myself, so I don't know about the entire realm of construction jobs, but women can certain drive trucks and swing hammers and do electrical work and...well, just about anything. But, they don't get the job training and, if they do, they don't get hired. Why? Well, because there are men wanting those jobs too. Men with wives and children they need to take care of, ya know. And well, men are just better at these sort of things. Why don't you go get yourself a nice secretarial job, huh? Sure. I'm sure she would, but you have to have businesses for those kinds of jobs and hey, aren't you building those businesses right now? So, if they don't exist yet, how does that 'women's work' exist yet? Right. It doesn't. But you won't let her have a hammer or the keys to the forklift, so what's she supposed to do?
Of course, this isn't anything new. It's pretty standard operating procedure. And it's a shitty practice when things are running smoothly, but now? Now when you've got insane unemployment, very little government assistance and -- I love this part -- a government that doesn't want to rebuild it's assistance programs...(Seriously, we had people debating on whether they should rebuild assisted housing in New Orleans. They just didn't want to do it. Because then those poor people would come back. And they've suspended most of the social welfare programs, or at least they had. Some of them may have been reinstated by now.)
I fear that New Orleans, when it's rebuilt, is going to be a white-washed, personality-less Generic City. More men than women, more white than black, more bland and boring than colorful and alive.