Squabbling Over Crumbs of the Patriarchy!

I was slipped these two stories, which are two different takes on an incident over in Blount County (local and FoxNews).  And I bring it up because it’s one of those stories that gets more interesting when you take a second to consider it.

The short form (from Fox):

Sabrina Steele, 28, says that when she applied for work at Pope’s Plant Farm in Greenback, Tenn., a man she believed to be the farm’s owner discouraged her from taking the job so that he could hire foreign workers instead.

Critics say the case demonstrates that changes to the government’s H-2A foreign worker program will make it harder for Americans to find work.

In other words, those damn brown people took jobs American workers were willing to do, and doesn’t that suck?  Blah, blah, blah.

But what’s interesting is that what this case makes clear–foreign workers are not “stealing” jobs from Americans.  No Hispanic guy butted in line ahead of her and took the last job.  The guy, the American guy, who runs the place made a conscious decision to hire non-citizens to work for him over citizens.

I don’t know the specifics in this case, but in general, I know that people prefer to hire non-English-speaking Hispanics because they believe that they work harder than U.S. workers and are more reliable.  It’s also obvious that they believe that non-citizens are willing to work under circumstances citizens won’t because the non-citizens not only fear losing their incomes (which often support families and communities back home), but also a fear of being sent out of the country and having to find means, legal or not, of getting back here.  Having Spanish speaking workers in predominantly non-Spanish speaking communities makes those workers even more dependent on you and makes it harder for them to complain about you, should you mistreat them.  It also serves to keep the community from being too concerned about their treatment, because they don’t have people and there’s a communication barrier.

In other words, the boss’s success in business is precipitated by his ability to keep his workforce compliant and isolated and that compliance and isolation is made possible by his exploitation of the workers’ circumstances and the community’s prejudices.

In other words, he sets both groups against each other and he stays above the fray.

And as long as most folks believe that the “guest workers” are here doing jobs Americans don’t want, there’s no problem (for the boss).

But what happens when there’s a challenge to that?  When some American does desperately want the job the Bossman has said no Americans want?  What strategy can he use to dissuade that American from taking said job after appeals to her “fear” of these non-English speakers (“When she went to the farm to apply, Steele said, Mike Pope offered her a job, but he told her she’d be working 80 hours a week and would be the only English-speaking American employee besides the office workers.”)?

Again, from FoxNews:

She said Pope told her she would be outnumbered by men 20-to-1, and that she should consult with her husband before taking the job.

Bwah ha ha ha ha ha ha.

I like to throw out the term “patriarchy” just because I know it makes some of you bristle, but in order to understand what’s going on here, I do think we need to take a second with Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza and her term kyriarchy (which I first heard about from Lisa over at My Ecdysis and find it so damn useful for seeing what’s happening in cases like this):

I coined the neologism kyriarchy, derived from the Greek words for “lord” or “master” (kyrios) and “to rule or dominate” (archein), in order to redefine the analytic category of patriarchy in terms of multiplicative intersecting structures of domination. Kyriarchy is a socio-political system of domination in which elite educated propertied men hold power over wo/men and other men. Kyriarchy is best theorized as a complex pyramidal system of intersecting multiplicative social structures of supremacy and subordination, of ruling and oppression. Kyriocentrism is a name for the linguistic-cultural-religious-ideological systems and intersecting discourses of race, gender, heterosexuality, class, imperialism, and other dehumanizing discourses that legitimate, inculcate, and sustain kyriarchy i.e. multiplicative structures of domination.

In other words, what I believe Schüssler Fiorenza is saying is that the way we screw each other over (or dominate each other) is not static.  In any given circumstance, for instance, the man is not always going to be the oppressor and the woman the oppressed.  It’s fluid.  The white woman might, in one circumstance, dominate the black man in her employ.  That black man might dominate the black woman he’s married to, who, for kicks, beats up the white woman because she’s a lesbian.  See, everything’s in flux; who’s able to fuck over whom depends on the circumstance.  (and the problem, I might point out, is the whole fucking-each-other-over-ness).

Now what’s going on with Pope (and oh my god, you’ve got to love that name under these circumstances) who happens to be the mister who rules the land Steele wanted to work on becomes clear.  His goal is to hold and maintain his power, over the men who work for him, and, to some extent, over Steele.  And look at the way he invokes all these “structures of supremacy and subordination” to turn Steele down.  He’s appealing to her as an American–of course she, as an American who is above these non-Americans, would not want to stoop to work with them.  He’s appealing to her as an American–she’s so lazy that she is beneath these hard working non-citizens.  Those two things together make no sense on the surface–how can she be both better and worse than her competition?–but when viewed as him just trying to figure out which structure of domination is going to work, which bullshit key slides into the slot that makes her understand that HE IS NOT GOING TO GIVE HER THE JOB BECAUSE HE IS IN CHARGE, it starts to make sense.

Neither of these things work so he moves onto “oh, but you’d be the only woman” and “shouldn’t you discuss it with your husband”?  And follows it all up with “I can make you work so many hours that you wouldn’t want the job.”  But it all boils down to I AM IN CHARGE AND YOU CANNOT WIN WITH ME.  He can give her a menu of reasons why and she can pick the one that lets her slip into believing that she is better or worse than the people who already have the jobs.  But really, it has nothing to do with them.

It has to do with him and his methods for holding onto his power.

5 thoughts on “Squabbling Over Crumbs of the Patriarchy!

  1. This man might think that he has a lot of power, but surely by now, INS has heard of this “Pope’s Plant Farm in Greenback, Tenn”, and will be stopping by shortly. Unfortunately, this will suck for his workers, but it will (probably) shut down an institution that is helping to create a permanent underclass with little protection by police, courts, etc.

  2. Indifferent children, maybe, maybe not. Those workers are all here legally under the much-lauded solution to all our problems–the guest worker program, and he seems to be meeting all his requirements to them, so I’m not sure that he is in any real danger of being shut down.

  3. Yeah, Aunt B…great stuff.

    I had a bunch of local people invade my blog some time ago, when I wrote about a local immigration bust here in SC. For some reason, not a single one could understand the point you make, preferring to see the brown folks as the baddies in the story. But hey, THEY AREN’T CALLING THE SHOTS, PEOPLE!

    It nearly drove me batty.

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