Peonies And Economics

Our peonies, one of my favourite spring flowers, have just opened up. The peonies in our garden are a connection to one of my grandmothers, my father’s mother. She had a border of peonies at the front of her lawn that bloomed in a riot of crimson every spring. When she passed on, and the house was sold, my aunt saved some of the bushes for her own garden. Years later, my father planted a root from those same peonies in his garden, and even more years later shared the stock with us.

My grandma was a hard-working prairie farm wife whose family benefited from the large vegetable garden she tended right up until the last year of her life. My dad inherited her green thumb, but I did not (although luckily I married someone who had the gardening gene passed down from his grandfather and his mother).  Now that I am turning my attention to preserving much of the food our family eats, and more actively supporting my husband as he grows that food, I feel a connection to those women down through the ages who, out of necessity, have grown and preserved food so that their families will be fed throughout the year. Although I don’t have access my grandmother’s skill and wisdom, and didn’t appreciate it when she was still around, I feel sure she would be pleased.

While I’m on the topic of “women’s” work, which has been, and continues to be, undervalued in our economy, I want to share my discovery of Marilyn Waring, author of “If Women Counted: New Feminist Economics”. Waring, a former MP in the New Zealand Parliament, wrote the book in 1988. So my discovery of her is a few decades late, but her work is just as relevant now as it was then as, sadly, our global economic system hasn’t changed.  “Who’s Counting: Marilyn Waring on Sex Lies and Global Economics”, is available for viewing on Netflix. The NFB website says:

“With irony and intelligence Marilyn Waring demystifies the language of economics by defining it as a value system in which all goods and activities are related only to their monetary value and monetary exchange with the result that unpaid work, usually done by women, is unrecognized and activities that may be environmentally and socially hazardous are regarded as productive. She maps out an alternative economic vision based on the idea of time as the one thing we all have to exchange. Shot in Canada, New Zealand, New York City, the Persian Gulf and the Philippines this film is an entertaining primer for anyone who suffers from what Waring calls “economics anxiety.”

Here’s Professor Waring more recently, speaking about the differences between formal and informal work, subsistence and care work and why the majority of women’s labor is invisible to the market economy: