In honor of working men

Camille Paglia in a recent article took feminists to task for failing to appreciate the work of men.

Oil Boom Shifts The Landscape Of Rural North DakotaIt is overwhelmingly men who do the dirty, dangerous work of building roads, pouring concrete, laying bricks, tarring roofs, hanging electric wires, excavating natural gas and sewage lines, cutting and clearing trees, and bulldozing the landscape for housing developments.   It is men who heft and weld the giant steel beams that frame our office buildings, and it is men who do the hair-raising work of insetting and sealing the finely tempered plate-glass windows of skyscrapers 50 stories tall.

Every day along the Delaware River in Philadelphia, one can watch the passage of vast oil tankers and towering cargo ships arriving from all over the world.  These stately colossi are loaded, steered and off-loaded by men.

via TIME.com.

Rod Dreher, who writes for the American Conservative magazine, responded:

I make my living manipulating words.  I am warm in the winter and cool in the summer.   I do not have calluses on my hands, and if my back hurts, it’s from sitting in a chair all day long.  My work is only possible because of men who can and do get out in the weather and keep the water, the gas, the electricity, and everything running, the roads in good repair, and who shoulder the greater burden in defending the country from potential enemies. That’s not a sexist observation; that’s reality. 

The world could get along just fine if all the male writers ceased to exist. But if the bricklayers, pipefitters, lumberjacks, firefighters, cops, linemen, soldiers, and their like, went on strike, everything would fall apart in short order.

via The American Conservative.

I think the same way that Dreher does.  I contrast my comfortable life with my grandfather, who spend all day, every day, for most of his life doing hard manual labor on his farm.  He died when I was in my teens, but I think that if he were to look down from Heaven on my life, he would not think that anything I did in my 40 years of newspaper employment was actual work.  And if you ask which is more necessary to society—journalists or farmers?—the answer is obvious.

What needs to be mentioned, though, is how much of the necessary and disagreeable work of civilization consists of what traditionally has been regarded as women’s work—starting with the pain and danger of childbirth.  Dreher himself has written about how his life as a writer is made possible by the support system provided by his stay-at-home wife, whose intellectual attainments are equal to his own.

At this point, I need to put in disclaimers to avoid being misunderstood.  I do not disparage journalists.  I do not think women should be locked into traditional roles, or denied the opportunity to do anything they think they can do.  I am not opposed to feminism.

The point I want to make is a different one.   No matter how much we talk about the  Internet, the information society and the importance of symbolic analysts, we human beings ought to remember that we depend on physical things—growing food, weaving cloth, building houses—and to honor, not disparage, those who make it possible for the rest of us to have them.

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