Dishwater Philosophizing
April 2006
Friday night. I’m daydreaming with both hands immersed in soapy dishwater. Betty Friedan passed away this week. Betty Friedan, the ultimate feminist from the 60’s who wanted to free women from the confines of their kitchens. I smile and think to myself: what would she think of me? Career woman just as she had wished, with a good man on the home front, and here I am, scrubbing grease off dirty dishes on a Friday night. And yet I persist. Manual work is good for me. Washing dishes, the floor, the toilet, I don’t really care: the actual task is not what’s important, it’s the state of mind that comes from performing such simple and methodical work. A kind of mental stimulation, but very different from what I get from the office. It is as if, ever so subtly, the subconscious emerges to restore its own kind of order by mingling every single aspect of a project, a problem, a situation.

This mental state attained by the performance of boring and tedious work, was, I’m sure, very useful to those women we once referred to as “housewives”. Indeed. Caring for a home and seeing to the family’s well being is not that simple. Stepping back provides the perspective required to plan, to solve a whole lot of ‘little’ problems – and occasionally some big ones too – and to disengage feelings of frustrations. Basically, a home is like a small business. To succeed, you need incredible planning skills, organization, leadership, resource management abilities, and so much more. Thus, the image of the archetypal housewife is filled with proven feminine skills in these fields. Take dinnertime for example. An armful of kids in one hand and a barely-there pantry on the other, the typical housewife could fix her family something to eat using what was on hand. And then, should a friend, family or acquaintance drop by, there was always room for one more at the dinner table. Now, that’s talent!

Well, I still have a few pots and pans to go. And dive into another train of thought. Where was I? That’s right! Feminine skills. Equally useful in the business world. But where are they all? Where are women in our cooperatives? Only 11 % of those elected are women. You must admit that the challenges facing women at home and in the cooperative are pretty similar. We have hundreds of members, we must also use our resources judiciously, fairly redistribute our wealth and set some aside to welcome new members and the next generation of cooperators. Pretty similar, don’t you think? Feminine skills can easily be transferred to the cooperative enterprise. And we’d be crazy not to use them.

Okay, now for the cutlery. In any case, the next agricultural generation is definitely spirited. Those who attended the half-day think tank heard the young Julie Gagnon quote a study published January 24, 2004 in La Presse with the title [Translation] “More Women, More Profits.” The study was conducted with the participation of 353 companies among the 500 listed at one time or another between 1996 and 2000, in Fortune magazine. That’s impressive! Aren’t we right in hoping to see more women in our board of directors? Note of interest: at La Coop fédérée, we’ve adopted a plan aimed at increasing from 11 % to 20 % by 2008, the number of elected women members in our network. Ladies, this is your chance.

And now, for the last element of the place setting. See, this is how I write my articles. Sorry, Betty. I’m just not a dishwasher kind of gal. Manual work is more my style, I need it. Besides, I’d look pretty silly scrubbing my computer monitor all day.

Colette Lebel, agr.
Director of Cooperative Affairs
La Coop fédérée
Fax: (514) 858-2025


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