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Houston Breakthrough 1980-09
Pages 20 and 21
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Houston Breakthrough 1980-09 - Pages 20 and 21. September 1980. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. University of Houston Digital Library. Web. August 21, 2014. http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/6082/show/6074.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

(September 1980). Houston Breakthrough 1980-09 - Pages 20 and 21. Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. Retrieved from http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/6082/show/6074

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

Houston Breakthrough 1980-09 - Pages 20 and 21, September 1980, Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters, Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries, accessed August 21, 2014, http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/6082/show/6074.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

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Title Houston Breakthrough 1980-09
Publisher Breakthrough Publishing Co.
Date September 1980
Subject.Topical (LCSH)
  • Women--Texas--Periodicals
  • Feminism--United States--Periodicals
Subject.Geographic (TGN)
  • Houston, Texas
Genre (AAT)
  • periodicals
Language English
Physical Description 30 page periodical
Format (IMT)
  • image/jpeg
Original Item Location http://library.uh.edu/record=b2332724~S11
Digital Collection Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters
Digital Collection URL http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist
Repository Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Repository URL http://info.lib.uh.edu/about/campus-libraries-collections/special-collections
Use and Reproduction Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by the content creator, author, artist or other entity, and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the copyright owner. For more information please see the UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the “About” page of this website.
File name index.cpd
Item Description
Title Pages 20 and 21
Subject.Topical (LCSH)
  • Women--Texas--Periodicals
  • Feminism--United States--Periodicals
Repository Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Use and Reproduction Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by the content creator, author, artist or other entity, and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the copyright owner. For more information please see the UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the “About” page of this website.
File name femin_201109_563p.jpg
Transcript CABIN FEVER They're both working, they're not meeting their payments and they're taking it out on each other." BY MORRIS EDELSON An interview with Charlene Torrest, Sharon Hanan, and Sam Calderara, marriage and family counselors and psychotherapists at the Family Service Center. Breakthrough: As counselors, how do you see the economy affecting families, particularly in the past six months? Charlene Torrest: In marital counseling, much of the time is taken up discussing the money situation, arguments over money and where money is being spent. It's different from a few years ago, when money wasn't tight. Couples are worrying about the next raise. Sharon Hanan: Money problems don't come up the first time a couple walks in the room with a domestic problem, but there's a general feeling of futility that their efforts are not producing anything. They're both working and at the end of the month they're not meeting their payments and they are discouraged. They take it out on each other. Their frustrations are directed at the person near to them and not on the job. Sam Caldarera: Yes, statistically, family violence has increased in the last year. There is more fighting. People are angry about a lot of things that happen in the society and it boils over into their relationships. Hanan: A feeling of helplessness to change anything going on is at the bottom of that and they reach out to some other person for some kind of answer, and don't get it. Then they lash out. Torrest: If it's a. one-salary family, there is more burden on the breadwinner. Shift workers are used to having eight to 10 hours overtime, and they're not getting it anymore. They're feeling the pinch and they don't see how they can pay for their bills. They get angry at their wives, and violence occurs more. Breakthrough: How do you deal with the violence issue in your counseling? Caldarera: We help people identify where their angers arise. If people become aware that they are really mad at their company, or that they are really mad about prices going up, then they can avoid. taking it out on their spouse. I work a lot with men who have a tendency to get angry and violent. I teach them to recognize it when it's still small and tell them to get out of the house. Some of them go Torrest: 'They 've lived in a plastic card socie ty. jogging or beat on a tree with a baseball bat, instead of beating up their wives or kids. Hanan: When one person stays home, that person is likely to see all the things that aren't getting paid for. The woman is usually in that position. She feels frustrated and she expresses her frustration. The husband hears her saying he is a failure. And really she is saying, "I don't know what to do. I don't know, how to handle my feelings." So one thing we can do is help people hear each other's feelings wifhout taking it as a personal attack. Breakthrough: Well, what about lowering expectations? I mean, what if you just tell people, relax, you can't afford it? You can't have a new car. .. Caldarera: I think people have already faced that. It's not new cars. It's the necessities. Rent has gone up. Food has gone up. They are struggling with utilities, day care . . . Hanan: Day care costs a fortune. People think, well, a second salary check will fix our problem; usually the extra check just barely covers the gasoline, clothes, day care and expenses you have just in order to show up at work. There's not much benefit. Caldarera: People are definitely spending their money more carefully. Hanan: They are sometimes forced to be careful, because their credit rating has been lost. We are getting many more calls for financial counseling. Torrest: But we are talking about people who have never been through a depression, so they have an adjustment problem. They have lived in a plastic card society where it has been easy to get what they want, and a television sit-com society where everyone has a new set of clothes each week. Breakthrough: If they aren't doing too well, does the Houston boom depress people further? Caldarera: What I see about Houston's expansion is that people are complaining about all the cars and pollution more. Many of them are saying what a hard time they have had on the freeway; there is a lot of anger about it. People talk about their fears of their houses being broken into, of robberies. I have had a number of clients say they won't stay out after dark. Or walk in their own neighborhoods. Hanan: Sometimes we get people rushing into town who think a job is just waiting for them, a house is just waiting for them. If they don't plan ahead of time, they can get caught with some large bills. There may be more jobs here, but costs are high as well. Hanan: Many people who move in are already suffering depression because of years of struggle somewhere else. They arrive here in a bad state to begin with. Caldarera: When we get clients, when they finally call us, they are usually in a crisis stage. We provide family and individual counseling and therapy. We ask people to set their own goals and we try Caldarera: "The family is coming back.' to help them get to a place in their family, marriage or life that they want to be. We try to make them aware of what is bringing on their problems and what they can do about it and what they can't do about it. A lot of mothers, particularly as single parents, have unrealistic expectations. Torrest: The Super Mother syndrome- attempting to be a wonderful parent, available for carpooling, there when the child gets sick, there when the child's having fun, holding down a 40-hour job, traveling back and forth, taking care of the household as smoothly as when there were two people in the house and wanting about two hours a week for some personal life. She comes to us saying, "I don't know why I don't have time to do more." Hanan: A lot of men are supporting two households, paying child support to a previous set of children. And then they have new children in another household. Torrest: And as the economy goes down, the child support check goes down, which means more pressure on the single parent. Breakthrough: So you try to help a person become more realistic. Does that 20 HOUSTON BREAKTHROUGH help the client understand no matter what they do, the economy is still bad? Hanan: That's what we do. We help them realize some things are in their control m and some things aren't. It's facing reality. Torrest: We're dealing with all sectors here and you notice different reactions. Poor people are always being thrown out of jobs. The latest statistics say something like 40% of black youths are out of jobs. It's a horrendous figure and that would be considered a depression certainly if that was across the board. But we don't usually get those families- they're used to hard times. We get families in the middle of changes, where things were once good and are now not so good. People that are used to it just don't have the hopes that things can get better. Caldarera: And we have professional people coming in. Their income may be higher, but their standard of living is higher and on the inside they feel the pressures, the same way. They have more resources sometimes. But this trouble is affecting everyone across the board. I see a different attitude towards marriage, a general feeling that two incomes are better than one, so they are staying in them longer. Torrest: Sometimes the eonomic situation keeps them together, so they sort out their problems, because they both realize that individually they couldn't have a house and car and the goodies they can have together. So it's an economic motivation for them to stay together, and sometimes it's a negative motivation for couples that really would be better off separated. Especially women who may be in a physical or verbal abuse situation and may have children and feel no out because their skills are limited and child care would have to be taken care of. They feel trapped. Hanan: We have been offering classes in step parenting and single parenting and people see that alternatives to the family can be rough, that single parents or step parents have a whole new set of problems. Torrest: Another economic effect we see, it's so apparent we forget to comment on it, is that people are a lot more thoughtful about baby-making, because they can't afford children just now. Hanan: I think in the 60s people became aware of population control efforts. Breakthrough: How has this freedom affected your women clients, as far as their roles in the family are concerned? Hanan: A lot of the women we see say they are unhappy with their roles and want to do something different. When they start to question that, it causes conflict in the marriage. Torrest: I think it's the economic situation that pushes women into a working role, but household attitudes haven't changed, so she tries to be Super Mom, Super Wife, Super Housekeeper. The household forgets she is alread working 40 hours. She's expected to maintain the house the same way. I had a woman in my office yesterday who said, "My mother-in-law keeps asking me why I am not sewing, why I am not canning." Then, we went through it. She leaves the house at 6:30 a.m., drives an hour and a half to work, drops the kids off at a day care center. She doesn't get back in the house until 6:30 at night. For 12 hours, she is physically out of the household. She gets a meal together, throws in her laundry, takes a bath and then it's bed time. And the other generation expects her to can food. Hanan: Men used to think it was a negative reflection on them if the wife worked. Now it's, "I expect my wife to work, but I also expect my wife to be a housekeeper." Hanan: "I have seen women running away.' Caldarera: In some families, roles have shifted. In a couple of cases, men take kids after separations. Torrest: Non-married couples are good at that. But the few men that take on the kids don't begin to equal the number of single mothers who do. Hanan: I have seen women running away, just leaving husbands and kids, starting a better life. Breakthrough: Well, where are families today? Are they all struggling to survive? Or is there room for idealism, social concerns and the general good anymore? Torrest: Yes. It's a survival atmosphere. Most are very family-centered. Very few families come in with concerns that override their own family situation, o with concerns about the city, fo example, other than the traffic on the way to work. Traffic is a big complaint Hanan: There is a trend to conservativ politics and religion. Caldarera: A lot of people are turning to religion. And the family is coming back into vogue as a place of security, a plac where people listen and share. People said the family was going down the drain, bu it's evident that it is changing, bu thriving. Hanan: One couple we had here has a written legal contract, not a marriage which describes in detail the partner' duties and roles. That will be a different but strong family. Caldarera: People I see, either divorced or single, are looking for someone to hook up to. So human beings still have a need to get together. Relationships are still important. It's difficult to live in a relationship and it's difficult to live without it. That's a theme in most of my single clients. They want support and companionship. After the marriage, they keep pining for the same thing. The Family Service Center is currently working with approximately 20,000 clients in the 13 locations and 14 social service programs it operates. More than a million people in the Houston area have been introduced to its services which include prevention of physical and sexual abuse of children, marriage and family counseling, a homemaker service for temporarily disrupted families and Plays for Living with discussions to help organizations introduce discussions of problems such as alcoholism, domestic violence, and urban isolation. The FSC central office is at 3635 West Dallas, and their number is 524-3881. them steadily. Even the majority of poor female heads of household are workers. On these, says Davidson, "the present inflation crisis is having a catastrophic effect." As for Smith's contention that non- working welfare recipients remain unhurt by the current crisis, Davidson points out that the typical AFDC payment has hardly increased since the early 1960s, which means that continuing inflation has eroded the purchasing power of that payment by more than 50%. Economist Richard Parker, in a Mother Jones review, identifies the problem of recession as one of growing economic inequality. Very few people are still doing well in America, he finds: 2/3 of the national income and capital is held by less than 1/3 of its population. If present trends of concentration continue, he says, only 25 million people in the country will receive 60% of the nation's income. Parker places Americans in three categories facing different problems worsened by recession: a "noneconomy" of 16 million people on welfare or retired; a "subeconomy" of frequently laid off iow-skilled workers, single women and minority groups; and a middle class, whose lives are slipping toward poverty. Parker says that developments in the economy may signal a coming collapse, especially if trends toward inequality continue. Among these he notes that cost increases for necessities have run as much as 25% higher than the increase of the official measurement, the Consumer Price Index. Also white males in their 40s continue to win income increases, alone of all the work force. And taxes on business have fallen in the past decade, while taxes on personal consumption and other levies on the individual have risen proportionately. We Have Bit the Bullet And It Is Us Smith agrees that there is inequality. Banks have greater market power than individuals and companies. The institutional arrangement of the economy, the laws of banking, makes it almost beyond individual capability to stop recession. Sacrifice is foolish-savings are discouraged. "The public bit the bullet already to stop inflation. It did slow in 1975 under Ford, and Carter came into office with a very low rate. We should never have gotten back into this problem." No incentives, no savings, inflation continues. Smith says, "We haven't had an incentive to save in this country for ages. We can't get the prime rate for our savings--we can't even get a return that matches the rate of inflation. Thus, our savings rate in the Unitec1 States is only 3-5%, compared to moie than 20% in Japan and 10% in West Europe. So we spend, inflation goes on until the government decides to use unemployment as a way of slowing us down. Unemployment is a heck of a way to fight a recession!" We can pull out of it, and even improve, says Smith. "Everytime something bad happens, it is a chance for us to learn something. We should see our system not as the status quo, but as an evolving process, a changing way of doing things. Even our banking system learns things. We've come a long way from the 19th century when banks printed their own money. Even the Federal Reserve is better than what we used to have. Unemployment has focused us on the problem so we should be able to change things for the better, not just take up some quick, superficial solution." A Tunnel at the End of a Light Smith even sees a slight improvement immediately ahead, before the election, and a recovery in 1981. But he is apprehensive about the more distant future: SEPTEMBER "1990 looks bleak to me. I am concerned about the quality of life waiting for me there. If prices and incomes are going to triple, my retirement is going to be peanuts and my life insurance worthless. I want a major step forward in the economy, not a short-term solution, influenced by politics that is no real change and will make more suffer." Our economic problems were avoidable, he says. "Recession is not inherent in our system. It is always the result of some specific policy. We get sucked in. And the country is .not like our bodies. We notice pain in our body immediately. The country doesn't notice it is wounded until it gets faint." Phil Russell, an Austin economist and author of Mexico in Transition, calls recession an integral part of the American economic system and bound to recur: "When times are good," he says, "business bids for labor. Employment and wages rise, so salaries cut into profits. Productivity tends to fall during periods of high employment, since workers who are pushed or speeded up, can quit and find another job. They walk off and get something else across the street." The falling rate of profit and the saturation of available markets forces companies to cut back. They can't sell and can't produce for profit. Then the recession comes on, when no new buyers can be found and when productivity is down. Recession is a way of disciplining the work force: "People on the streets will take anything, do anything, just to get a job and they will try hard, be productive, to keep it." Russell reminds us that recession is not the only way to discipline workers. Giving them a share of the business can work just as well-in Germany and Japan, where all energy needs are met by import, there is presently negligible inflation and unemployment, compared to the U.S. Only a very small segment of business would use these countries as a model, since most corporations fear a power struggle with their work force. Change of some sort, Russell says, agreeing with Parker and Smith on at least one point, is inevitable. A severe downturn always affects the quality of life in America. "At the turn of the century we had a severe business failure they called The Great Depression, until the 1930s taught us what a depression really was," he said. "From that first near-collapse came the strong monopolies that dominated our business until the second Great Depression. The New Deal response to that second period of joblessness and production stoppage was an increased government role in which the government "regulated" or assisted big business. Some call this period state monopoly capitalism." "Now," concluded Russell, "we are at a new crossroads. The U.S. position of absolute power, after World War II destroyed its possible rivals, has eroded. The dollar is weak and exchange rates have not worked. Something new is on the way. The Tri-Lateral Commission, for example, speaks openly of there being too much democracy and thus inefficiency in some countries. American industry has not been proven competitive against Japanese and German products. New social developments certainly must come in to restore even a minimal functioning of the market." And all the experts agree primarily that the one thing promised the American people by the candidates, laissez-faire capitalism, is the last thing the country needs. People may either pray for a sudden enlightment on the part of the oil companies and others (after all, they do bring us PBS!) or may hope that the candidates don't intend to fulfill even the most often heard pledges. 21