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There’s a new article out at The Atlantic (here), titled “How Domestic Labor Became Infrastructure,” by Moira Donegan. From the title, one might hope for an critique of the dishonesty of politicians who have apparently included $400 billion in spending for at-home care for the elderly and disabled in an “infrastructure” bill… but no.
According to Ms. Donegan:
But the inclusion of care work under the infrastructure umbrella is more than just semantic sleight of hand. Rather, it’s the realization of an argument that feminists have been making for decades: that traditionally feminized caretaking or “reproductive” labor—the child care, elder care, cooking, cleaning, shopping, and domestic logistics that usually women do, often for low pay in the homes of others or for no pay at all in their own homes—is just as essential to the functioning of the economy as roads and bridges are.
As if “infrastructure” is synonymous with “essential.” I think that one could legitimately debate whether at-home care is “essential,” though I would certainly agree that it is useful and important in many instances. But it’s sure not “infrastructure.”
These people really don’t seem to understand language, or reason, or the importance of categories.
Except that I actually think that many of these people, meaning Ms. Donegan’s unspecified “feminists,” do understand the importance of categorization in language. Indeed, they count on it. People often seem to like “infrastructure” spending bills. So . . . just categorize the spending provision that you like as “infrastructure”! What a piece of rhetorical genius!
Except that it’s not rhetorical, genius. As Ms. Donegan’s article mentions, the ridiculous categorization of $400 billion in federal welfare spending (for at-home care) as “infrastructure” has led to criticism, noting:
Many Republicans and some Democrats have bristled that such spending—along with more robust family-leave mandates and investments in child-care access that are expected in a second package—is not “infrastructure.” Infrastructure, they argue, consists only of the physical things that make the American economy run: roads and bridges built by men in hard hats, which nearly all politicians in Washington agree require more investment and are usually prefaced with the adjective crumbling.
Yes, Ms. Donegan, things that aren’t infrastructure are, well, not infrastructure. If one must spend billions of dollars in taxpayer (or, more likely, bondholder) money on something, it’s nice to have something to show for it in 10 or 20 years, like a bridge or a road.
I was unable to find anything online about Ms. Donegan’s education, after an admittedly cursory search, beyond a Facebook post indicating that she is an alumna of Bard College, class of 2012. Apparently, her college work didn’t teach her the meaning of complicated words like “infrastructure.”
Nor did it include the ability to express a point coherently. I want you to carefully consider the opening of my first quote from Ms. Donegan’s article: “But the inclusion of care work under the infrastructure umbrella is more than just semantic sleight of hand. Rather, it’s the realization of an argument that feminists have been making for decades . . .”
So first she says that it is “more than just semantic sleight of hand.” In English, this means that it is the semantic sleight of hand. I find it hard to think of what the “more” could be in these circumstances (though in theory, the “more” might be something like a joke, or a pun, or a clever literary reference). To make her argument coherent, she should have said that it is not a semantic sleight of hand. Of course, that would have been false. It must be difficult to have an ideology that requires one to choose between honesty and coherence.
Then she says that the classification of care work as “infrastructure” is “the realization of an argument” made by feminists. What? What in the world is a “realization of an argument”? There’s no “realization” here. It’s just an argument, made by feminists, which is incoherent and ridiculous on its face (as usual).
So why argue about such a semantic issue? Presumably, because the feminists (and perhaps others) making this ludicrous infrastructure argument think that it will be persuasive to some people. Who, exactly? Dummies? Fools? Or, more likely, low-information voters who aren’t paying much attention?
Finally, notice the sexism angle in the quote from Ms. Donegan. Specifically, the “built by men in hard hats” part. This is a common, and dishonest, tactic of both feminists and Wokeists. The implication is that people like infrastructure spending on things like bridges not because they find bridges useful, but because bridges are made by men. As if there is no other reason to favor infrastructure spending, which at least leaves us with a potentially useful physical asset, over social spending like at-home care.
The substance of Ms. Donegan’s article is a sufficient basis for dismissing her argument. But what about her qualifications? The Atlantic article identifies her as the “[w]riter of a forthcoming book on sexual harassment.” I can hardly wait. It turns out that Ms. Donegan was the former New Republic assistant editor responsible for an anonymous “crowdsourced Google spreadsheet” titled “Sh*tty Media Men” back in 2017, which apparently circulated anonymous allegations of sexual harassment and violence in the media industry. Well, that’s something of a resume, I suppose. The Atlantic was probably wise in not mentioning it, but it would have been wiser to publish something different, perhaps by someone capable of crafting a coherent and sensible argument.
Let’s close on a happy note. I want you to picture the inimitable Mandy Patinkin, in his best Inigo Montoya garb. Hear the accent in your mind. “Infrastructure. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Wokeism delenda est.Published in