From Connecticut to Oregon, women fight for domestic workers’ rights and power


Across the United States, women are organizing for domestic workers’ rights and power. According to the National Domestic Workers’ Alliance, in the next week, the Illinois Domestic Workers Bill of Rights will hit the Illinois State Senate; the Connecticut Domestic Workers’ Bill will go to the Connecticut House of Representatives; and the Oregon Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights will arrive on the floor of the Oregon State House of Representatives. From sea to shining sea, domestic workers – maids, nannies, and home health care providers – are on the move and winning previously thought impossible battles. Women, overwhelming women of color and largely immigrant women, are transforming a subterranean network into an Overground Railroad of emancipation and enfranchisement. Connecticut, Illinois, and Oregon are stations on that system.

In so doing, women are re-writing history. While every labor victory rewrites history, these particular struggles involve not only State and Civil, or uncivil, Society disrespect and marginalization. They involve the words and texts of law. In Connecticut, for example, domestic workers’ struggle for dignity, rights, power, and better working conditions is aimed at re-writing the State definition of “employer.” Under Connecticut law, “employee” is defined as “any person employed by an employer but shall not include any individual employed by such individual’s parents, spouse or child; or in the domestic service of any person.” The Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights eliminates the last clause: “or in the domestic service of any person.”

On Friday night, the Connecticut Senate passed the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights. Domestic workers – such as Natalicia Tracy, Iame Manucci, Maria Lima and Nina Siqueira – danced and shouted from the gallery, as the final vote was tallied. But they understand that this is the next step. Not only must the House of Representatives pass the Bill, but domestic workers must then militate further to be included in the State’s minimum wage law. That protection is not guaranteed under the Bill of Rights.

In Illinois and Oregon, it’s the same. Domestic workers are pushing to do much more thatn “come out of the shadows.” They have never been “shadow workers”. They have always been women workers on the move, and now the move has risen and expanded to the next stage.

The exclusion of domestic workers from labor law emerges from the explicitly racist foundations of slavery and Jim Crow. Domestic workers writing and promulgating Domestic Worker Bills of Rights participate in an ongoing Black and Brown Workers’ Liberation Movement. Within and beyond #BlackWomensLivesMatter and #SayHerName, domestic workers are pushing and expanding the terrain of emancipatory struggle. A luta continua! The struggle continues!

(Photo credit: Mark Pazniokas / Connecticut Mirror)

The Philippines factory fire was a planned massacre of women workers

A new collection of specters haunts the earth today: 72 workers killed yesterday in a slipper factory fire in the Valenzuela district of Manila. There was no accident. That fire and those workers burning to death are part of the brutal architecture of industrial production. Every report covers up more than it reveals, and the workers, charred beyond recognition, wait for nothing now.

The fire “started” when sparks set off an explosion. The slaughter of the innocents began long before the spark. The windows were covered, sealed tight, by metal gratings. Even now, the local mayor isn’t sure the building had any fire escapes.

Dionesio Candido, whose daughter, granddaughter, sister-in-law and niece were among the missing, said iron grilles reinforced with fencing wire covered windows on the second floor that `could prevent even cats from escaping’.”

Those workers – daughters, granddaughters, sisters-in-law, nieces – were deemed less valuable than cats, and far less valuable than the chemicals, the machinery, and the slippers in the building.

None of this is new. The State can “investigate quickly”, if it likes, and the trade unions can protest “working conditions”, but the factories and sweatshops go up, the bars and grills cover the windows, and doors are locked from the outside, the flammable materials are next to the welding machines, and no one does anything … until the fire explodes.

From the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in 1911 New York, to the Kader Toy Factory in 1993 Bangkok, to the Zhili Handicraft Factory in 1993 Shenzen, to the Tazreen Fashions Factory in 2012 Dhaka, and now to the Kentex Manufacturing Corporation in 2015 Manila, the architecture is the same, as are the smoke, stench, exploitation, workers and bosses. The factory wasn’t a factory; it was a slaughterhouse. When the flames burst and the women workers’ bodies exploded, there was no accident. There was an indiscriminate and brutal slaughter of people, a massacre, and it was always part of the plan.

 

(Photo Credit: Reuters / Ezra Acayan)

In Paris, a victory for migrant workers and for labor rights!

 

In Paris, this week 18 women and men, 14 of them undocumented immigrants, won an eight months battle for labor rights and human dignity. They are known as the workers of the “57” named after the address of the Afro Salon “New York fashion” 57 boulevard de Strasbourg in the heart of Paris.

They escaped their countries for various reasons. They are from Guinea, Ivory Coast, Guinea or China. Fatou left Ivory Coast because her life was threatened, she says that she wants to work and to pay her taxes to be part of the society. Alphonse from Burkina Faso had a visa to Turkey and then went to Greece where there was no work, and then came to Paris. He says that he had a lot of illusions, and then he saw how the bosses were merciless. His dream is to be finally happy. They each have a story rooted in intolerance and exploitation. They landed in Paris. Not all of them speak French. They all needed to work.

Many hair salons directed at migrant clients have settled in this district of Paris. Over time, a traffic involving the owners and managers targeted vulnerable and isolated migrants who needed work and dreamed about a safer more stable life. The managers recruited the workers of the 57 in the streets, enticing them with conditions of work and wages, which they never delivered. Instead, the workers had to work six days a week from 9AM to 11PM without interruption. The conditions were awful and harmful. The products they were asked to use contain carcinogenic agents, and they were used in rooms without ventilation increasing their toxicity. Their wages were extremely low from 300 to 400 Euros and irregularly paid.

Initially they had no work contracts. They first went on strike when they had not been paid in two months. Their bosses threatened to denounce them to the police, but they stood up for themselves. They reach out to the Union “CGT” for support after the managers and owners conveniently declared bankruptcy and disappeared, but not before shouting at them real threats against their lives. Their disappearance meant no possibility to regularize their immigration status.

As the general secretary of CGT Paris declared, this is modern slavery. They may not be physically shackled but the chains are now administrative and used by employers who exploit them. These chains are still heavy and violent. Still the techniques of slavery remained. The workers were separated according to language so they would not be able to communicate between each other.

But the workers responded with an extreme sense of solidarity. They endured threats. They disrupted the status quo with the authorities that allowed this worker trafficking to exist. Their courage and determination attracted attention. A group of film-makers made a little film to alert public opinion. Then, council members of the district and the deputy mayor of Paris multiplied the injunctions to the Minister of the Interior to obtain state protection, as required by law, for the workers. The union CGT pressed charges for human trafficking. Under French law, if an undocumented immigrant files an official complaint, the latter should receive a temporary residence permit. Regardless, the authorities were slow to move. While the workers were not going to be deported, their rights to work and to dignity were not restored. Artists mobilized and show their solidarity. Paris counselors of the leftist majority and the Mayor of Paris voted a text of support for the workers declaring that the non-protection of these employees will implicitly show support for these practices that imply exploitation of workers.

Finally, this week the Minister of the Interior regularized the 18 workers, providing then adequate documentation and the support of the state after eight months of hard struggle. Moreover, this victory is a good sign for many, especially those workers in this area who experience harsh conditions of life and work with abusive employers.

We should note that labor rights and laws to support them are being constantly questioned as human rights are again being defined according to origins and class. Their defense is crucial. At a time of merciless neoliberal control with climate and social destabilization, migration takes another dimension as asylum seekers are incarcerated or kept in unsafe situations threatening their lives. Cities like Paris should be involved in the protection of the most vulnerable residents and workers. Nothing is possible without strong solidarity between national, documented and undocumented humanity.

 

(Photo Credit: http://www.collectifdescineastespourlessanspapiers.com)

Women are the unexplained unexplained of the global wage gap

Last week, the International Labour Organization published Global Wage Report 2014/5. The largely report confirms what many already know and live. First and last, wages matter: “Wages are a major source of household income in both developed economies and emerging and developing economies.” Second, wages in so-called developed economies have been fairly flat, while wages in so-called emerging and developing economies are moving at a better pace. In fact, global wage growth, such as it is, has been driven almost exclusively by the emerging and developing economies. For example, if China is taken out of the mix, the global wage growth is cut in half. But the real growth, globally and regionally and locally, is in inequality. There’s big money in the production of every widening wage gaps. And here’s where women come in:

“In almost all countries studied there are wage gaps between men and women as well as between national and migrant workers…These wage gaps can be divided into an `explained’ part, which is accounted for by observed human capital and labour market characteristics, and an `unexplained’ part, which captures wage discrimination and includes characteristics (e.g. having children) that should in principle have no effect on wages. The report shows that if this unexplained wage penalty was eliminated, the mean gender wage gap would actually reverse in Brazil, Lithuania, the Russian Federation, Slovenia and Sweden, where the labour market characteristics of the disadvantaged groups should result in higher wages. It would also nearly disappear in about half the countries in the sample of developed economies.”

There’s a gender wage gap, and it’s growing; a motherhood wage gap, and it’s growing; an immigrant wage gap, and it’s growing and for the immigrant mother worker’s wages, there’s a special place. The new world order has a new triple burden for women, a trifecta of gaps that women carry not on their shoulders but in their bodies. The ILO calls these burdens unexplained gender wage penalties. Women are being punished and fined for being women, and the penalty fines are getting steeper by the day.

So, what is to be done? For the ILO, the way forward is fairly straightforward. Raise the minimum wage. Promote job creation. Promote equal pay for work of equal value: “provide for the right to equal remuneration for work of equal value and effective access to justice to claim this right…Equal pay between men and women needs to be promoted through strong policies to promote gender equality, including combating gender-based stereotypes about women’s roles and aspirations, strengthening policies on maternity and paternity as well as parental leave, and advocacy for better sharing of family responsibilities.”

In 2002, then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld responded to a question concerning Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and Iraq’s ostensible support for terrorist organizations: “Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”

Twelve years later, there are explained parts of wage gaps, and there are unexplained parts of wage gaps, and then there are the unexplained unexplained parts of wage gaps, and those are the ones who live at the juncture of the explained and the unexplained, the ones we do know: women. Rumsfeld’s gone, but the war continues, the global war on women.

 

(Image credit: Ilo.org)

Chambermaids in Paris reject precariousness

 

The dirty secret of the European “developed economies” adjustment to the rules of the neoliberal market is being increasingly questioned. The neoliberal ideological tool of work flexibility has reached the welfare states to dismantle the social protection laws and produce social vulnerability. The cost of labor is now presented as the reason for unemployment and public deficit while the number of billionaires has doubled since the beginning of the financial crisis.

After the revelations of the precarious condition of over 7 million German workers who live with about 400 Euros (about $ 500) in a country with growing inequalities and poor protection of women workers with regards to pregnancy and child care, here comes the “Zero hour contracts” of the United Kingdom. Le Monde recently published an investigation of these contracts.

“Zero hour” already signals hopelessness for working people, especially women. The contracts keep workers underemployed, without work or benefits. The workers are summarily summoned to work when their labor is needed. Between jobs, they receive no pay. The materialistic order has reached a new height of mechanistic denial of life for the women and men whose lives are dictated by a “zero hour contract (ZHC).”

Every day, workers stare at their cell phones, waiting for a text message tol tell them if they’ll work or not, if they’ll make money or not.

In Great Britain, companies receive about 1900 Euros ($2200) for a new employment contract. Thus, in order to receive this precious subsidy, some companies don’t call their ZHC workers and make room for new workers with the same dreadful contract. “We, the contracted workers, we are like the cookies that we pack at the factory; we move on a conveyer belt and then we fall in a box to leave room for the next one.” declared one of these workers. For instance Mac Donald UK has enrolled 90% of its work force under ZHC.

Of course, the wage/hour is lower than full time wages, and, without benefits, workers’ precariousness is higher as is as their state of stress. In the northern suburbs of Liverpool where there is a high ZHC employment rate, 45% of children live in poverty. These destabilizing conditions keep people in fear and contribute to heightened an anti immigrant sentiment.

In France, chambermaids, mostly women of color, of five stars hotels in Paris have been fighting to stop this kind of contracted work and to demand full employment contracts. They have been demonstrating in the streets of Paris and are still demonstrating, although their colleagues from the Luxury Hyatt of Place Vendome and Madeleine have obtained a serious raise ($ 350/month) with full time work guarantees.

Other luxury hotels, such as the Park Hyatt, continue to contract chambermaid work. Under these conditions, the pace of work is intense, the wages are meager, and overtime work is never paid. They have minimum health coverage compared to average French workers.

These hotel workers have received the support of the Mairie (City Hall) de Paris. Recently, at the forum “Feminist Struggles and Reflections to Advance Society”, the deputy mayor of Paris, Helene Bidard declared that it is urgent to fight along with these workers because they symbolize the situation of the women constantly facing precarious work. They dared bring to light these shady practices that take advantage of the most vulnerable populations, women and in particular immigrant women. She further announced that the City of Paris is negotiating strong measures with the Ministry of Tourism to remove stars from hotels that contract chambermaid work.

The current neoliberal frenzy that bestows to labor cost numbers a justificatory power that mistreats populations increasing inequalities needs to come to an end. We need to raise the spatula like the Burkinabe women.

 

(Photo credit: Rue 89/ Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff)

Migrant and immigrant women workers want democracy, too!

 

Can migrant and immigrant workers demand democracy, and if they do, who will listen? This question arises, again, out of the news coverage of the Hong Kong protests, which has demonstrated an ambivalence, if not an anxiety, about where immigrant domestic workers fit in, or not, in the Umbrella Revolution. At heart, the problem is that many find it difficult to understand that migrant and immigrant women workers, domestic workers, “helpers” want it all: decent work, dignity, and democracy.

Hong Kong boasts one of the highest densities of domestic workers in the world. The overwhelming majority are Filipina and Indonesian. They are famously underworked, overpaid, and often suffer the full gamut of abuse. They are also organized, into various national-ethnic associations as well as into pan-Asian domestic workers’ associations, most notably the Asian Migrants’ Coordinating Body. Typically, the “news” about these women is [1] a story of abuse, [2] a story of seeking higher wages, [3] a story of getting slightly higher wages, and then the cycle begins again.

Abuse and wages pretty much cover the “domestic worker” front. And that’s why the Occupy Hong Kong protests have caused a ripple in the surface of the common sense. Where are the maids in Occupy Hong Kong? Where are domestic workers in the struggle for democracy?

Everywhere: “On 29 September, the first day of the general strike, unions representing dock workers, bus drivers, beverage workers, social workers, domestic workers, migrant domestic workers from Indonesia and the Philippines, radio producers, and teachers took to the streets. They are not only protesting against the police suppression of the students. They are not only campaigning for universal suffrage. They are also demonstrating a more down-to-earth wish: social justice.”

Domestic workers, like 60-year-old Filipina domestic worker Vicky Casia, understand that political as well as economic wealth and well being in Hong Kong depend on the labor of migrant women workers: “We are proud of what they are doing right now. This is history. It would be another achievement for us, if soon they would also include in their fight the rights for migrant workers.”

Domestic workers were at the demonstrations, openly, proudly and happily, as their photos show. Likewise, domestic workers formally supported the protesters: “The Asian Migrants Coordinating Body (AMCB), is one with the people of Hong Kong in condemning the brutal response of the Hong Kong government, through its Police Force, to the protest – predominantly youth and students – calling for full universal suffrage in choosing the city’s Chief Executive … The movement for universal suffrage has been gaining steam for the past years and is further being propelled by the government’s lack of effective response to the problems besetting many of the Hong Kong people. Cuts in social service, disregard of the condition of workers, and the prioritization of the government of the interests of businesses, especially in times of crisis have contributed greatly to the desire of the HK people to have a more direct say in the election of the Chief Executive …The right of the people to assemble and protest is being wantonly violated; and activists for democratic rights cannot stand by and watch … We are one with the people of Hong Kong in the call to stop the repression against their democratic rights. We call for the immediate release of the arrested protesters. We call for the HK government to respect the people’s rights … We extend our solidarity to those who uphold the people’s rights and democracy.”

Migrant and immigrant women workers want it all: decent work, dignity, and democracy.

 

(Photo Credit: Varsity CHUK / Common Dreams)

MH’s victory is a victory for all women workers everywhere

At the end of July, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom handed down its judgment in the case of H (Appellant) v Allen and another (Respondents), In their unanimous decision, the Court decided to protect and strengthen the rights of women workers, and in particular of migrant and immigrant women workers, irrespective of legal status. It’s a great decision and an important victory for women everywhere.

Lord Nicholas Wilson, Justice of the Supreme Court, explained the case and the Court decision as follows. On 28 January 2007, “Mrs. Allen” brought “Miss H”, aged around 14, into the United Kingdom on a visitor’s visa. Miss H is described as illiterate. She had lived with Mrs. Allen’s brother in Lagos. Miss H was brought into the United Kingdom under two false claims. First, her age was listed as 20. Second, she was claimed as the granddaughter of Mrs. Allen’s mother. Miss H was “aware” of the false pretense. She knew that she could only stay for six months and that she could not legally work for pay.

Miss H, illiterate and 14 years old, “entered into a contract” with Mrs. Allen to help with Mrs. Allen’s children. Miss H never received any pay, nor was she ever allowed to attend school. Further, Mrs. Allen verbally, emotionally, and physically abused Miss H, and repeatedly threatened her with prison, explaining that since she was “illegal”, if she were caught on the streets, she would go to jail. Miss H lived under these conditions for a year.

On 17 July 2008, Mrs. Allen pushed Miss H out of the house, locked the door, and that was that. Miss H was found by someone, who took her to Social Services.

Miss H sued Mrs. Allen for discrimination, since she was brutally mistreated because of her Nigerian nationality and her unlawful immigration status. The Employment Tribunal agreed with Miss H and demanded that Mrs. Allen pay compensation. Mrs. Allen appealed the case, claiming “the defense of illegality.” That is, Mrs. Allen claimed that since Miss H was working illegally, she could not sue. The Court of Appeals agreed with Mrs. Allen.

The Supreme Court unanimously reinstated the Employment Tribunal’s decision. For two of the Justices, “the defense of illegality” did not hold, and so that alone sufficed to throw the appeal out. For the remaining three, the more compelling argument was that Miss H had been trafficked. They argued that the public policy of maintaining the integrity of the legal process was secondary to the public policy of opposing trafficking and protecting the rights, if not the well being, of vulnerable people. To accept Mrs. Allen’s claim of “defense of illegality” and to refuse Miss H’s appeal would be, in the words of Justice Wilson, “an affront.”

Anti-trafficking activists and others have hailed this decision as an important step forward. The immigration status of a worker has no bearing on the labor rights of that worker, including the right to sue the employer in court. In the United States, women understand that courts matter. In South Africa, women understand as well that judges matter. And in this decision, in the United Kingdom, MH, who as a child labored in virtual slavery in someone’s house, has demonstrated that courts matter, judges matter, justice matters, women and girls matter. All women. All girls. Always.

 

(Video Credit: UK Supreme Court / YouTube)

Solidarity with Greek women cleaners against austerity!

The women cleaners of the Ministry of finance in Athens have been demonstrating that the fight for life and dignity should know no rest. Since being laid off eleven months ago, thanks to austerity measures, they have been in front of the Ministry, standing there to show that life cannot be neither brushed aside nor contracted.

First, they turned to the court of justice, as labor rights must be defended by all means. The District court of Athens rule in their favor. The minister did not budge. A month ago, a court decision in Athens vindicated them and ordered their immediate reinstatement. The government responded with what the neoliberalist dogma orders: demanding submission and dependency and going after the women cleaners. The government dismissed the judgment and bypassed the court of appeal, going straight to the higher court Areios Pagos.

At the same time, the conservative press, media, politicians have broadcast negative images of the cleaners, calling them shirkers, accusing them of receiving undue privileges.

Meanwhile, the women cleaners who lost their meager salary (around $1000/month) are regularly physically assaulted by riot police, and suffer injuries requiring hospitalization.

Why is the government in Greece going after the women cleaners with such rage? Why do the State despise their lives and livelihood so much? Isn’t the state responsible for the well being of all its members including low wage women?

Who is the government serving?

In the late 70s, when the dollar was `floated’, the market system encompassed the idea of floating currency in relation to the idea of floating work value. As a result, the value of work as well as the value of life became increasingly indeterminate. The goal became the promotion of indeterminacy as a way of life, going against all efforts to create a socially responsible state. Austerity measures, and structural adjustment programs implemented in the South, opened the way to establishing a contracted work force by erasing the notion of public services and public responsibility. Austerity and structural adjustment `liberated’ public funds to the indeterminate market system.

Women are more dependent on public services and related jobs and comprise the vast majority of the growing underpaid and unemployed population in Greece. The government has argued that the termination of their work was for the public interest, intentionally confusing reduction of public sector with public interest. The State claims that the decision should be made in an administrative court, which would to make it a permanent labor rule.

The fact that the women cleaners were no fiscal burden, and their replacement by contracting businesses is more costly and less effective does not matter. The issue is not the way work is done but rather the profit making market system that thrives on the floating value of work. This is a legal issue and justice should protect life and way of life.

The fight of the women cleaners and their determination, despite their increasingly precarious situation as the result of no pay, is an example for all of us who understand that the threat is global and broad.

In building solidarity with the women cleaners there is a chance to direct the focus to respect for life that can override the ruthless neoliberal attack on human dignity.

Solidarity is the people’s weapon!

 

(Photo Credit: Greecesolidarity.org)

Considering that domestic work is mainly carried out by women and girls

Five men on the US Supreme Court decided this week that women workers [a] aren’t really workers and [b] don’t really work. Therefore, women workers don’t deserve the protections, and the power, that a trade union can confer on its members. Many have written on this decision, and many more will. Much of the response has avoided that frontal attack on women workers, preferring instead to focus on labor unions or on household workers. Although the majority opinion doesn’t specify women, it’s clear that the workers under attack are women.

On June 16, 2011, the International Labor Organization recognized as much, when it passed the Convention Concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers. The Convention defines domestic work as “work performed in or for a household or households”, and defines domestic worker as “any person engaged in domestic work within an employment relationship.” The ILO was careful to note that its Convention applies to all domestic workers.

But before the ILO launched into the nuts and bolts of decent work for domestic workers, it set the global table, specifying the place of domestic work in the global economy and the place of women and girls in domestic work. In other words, the International Labor Organization recognized and considered women as the key.

And so, without further ado and as an alternative to the narrow, misogynistic world view of the U.S. Supreme Court, here’s a sampling of the opening of the Text of the Convention Concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers:

“Recognizing the significant contribution of domestic workers to the global economy, which includes increasing paid job opportunities for women and men workers with family responsibilities, greater scope for caring for ageing populations, children and persons with a disability, and substantial income transfers within and between countries, and

“Considering that domestic work continues to be undervalued and invisible and is mainly carried out by women and girls, many of whom are migrants or members of disadvantaged communities and who are particularly vulnerable to discrimination in respect of conditions of employment and of work, and to other abuses of human rights, and

“Considering also that in developing countries with historically scarce opportunities for formal employment, domestic workers constitute a significant proportion of the national workforce and remain among the most marginalized, ….

“Recognizing the special conditions under which domestic work is carried out that make it desirable to supplement the general standards with standards specific to domestic workers so as to enable them to enjoy their rights fully, and ….

“Having decided upon the adoption of certain proposals concerning decent work for domestic workers, which is the fourth item on the agenda of the session, and

“Having determined that these proposals shall take the form of an international Convention;

“adopts this sixteenth day of June of the year two thousand and eleven the following Convention, which may be cited as the Domestic Workers Convention, 2011.”

 

(Photo Credit: Mother Jones / NDWA)

“Entrepreneur Barbie” Crushes Communities on Her Way to the Top


When Mattel announced that Barbie’s next career ensemble would position her as a tech entrepreneur, The Huffington Post offered a sympathetic piece detailing why the challenges of being a female entrepreneur would make this job Barbie’s “toughest yet.” While Mattel views this career choice as an opportunity for Barbie to “break through plastic ceilings” alongside actual female entrepreneurs (featured in a photo collage with Barbie in the center), the news of this doll—and the mainstream media’s response to it­­­­­–immediately made me cringe.

The Huffington Post is absolutely right to call attention to gender wage gap, workplace discrimination, and underrepresentation of women in leadership positions. And with her hot pink corporate battle armor, “trendsetting” attitude, and upper class white background, Barbie is in a relatively advantageous position to face those challenges. However, the article glorifies female executives like Sheryl Sandberg as groundbreaking role models for Barbie and the enterprising young girls who play with her. This line of thinking is problematic.

By suggesting that women’s reluctance to more firmly advocate for themselves is the primary obstacle in achieving equality, Sandberg’s philosophy of Leaning In ignores external obstacles and systems of oppression that cannot be overcome with a positive attitude alone. Moreover, an increase in female CEOs is a solution reliant on capitalist systems in a society where high profile, high earning jobs are deemed the most valuable. This perspective overlooks the struggles of the many working class women who make up today’s globalized workforce.

Looking beyond Lean In, Entrepreneur Barbie (along with everyone who supports her) seems blind to the issues of gentrification and displacement that have faced Bay Area communities in the wake of Silicon Valley’s successes. For example, research from UC Berkeley shows that when companies like Google expand and use buses to transport their employees to and from work, they drive up the rents in the neighborhoods where those bus stops are located. This often means that the original residents can no longer afford to live there, or must struggle to maintain their standard of living, especially when landlords realize that they can make far more profits from new tech employees than from allowing their current tenants to remain.

In a political moment where communities of color in particular are being targeted and displaced from their homes, supporters of Entrepreneur Barbie are off the mark in hoping that the doll will “bring the next generation of girls with her on her journey to entrepreneurship.” This vision of trickle-down equality is dependent on maintaining the status quo for those already in positions of privilege and suggests that any upwardly mobile path is a good one, regardless of the cost to local communities. Barbie is not “uniquely equipped for this challenge because she’s a trendsetter;” she’s uniquely equipped because she is a marker of privileged whiteness and omnipresent corporate dominance. While Mattel may be aware of gender inequality in the workplace, Entrepreneur Barbie loses any redeeming value when she spreads ignorance of race-and-class-based struggles that no amount of Leaning In can ever solve.

(Photo Credit: Adam Hudson / Truthout)