Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Naomi Cahn, Harold H. Greene Professor of Law at GW Law sent me a link to an interesting article that she co-authored. Women, Eldercare, and the Honor Commandment appears in the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs.
Starting the article with the story of Naomi and Ruth, the article explains the authors' "work exploring modern expressions of the Honor Commandment – the Biblical command to honor one’s mother and father – ... [with] many stories of how daughters (and sons) honor their parents." The article mentions that although the gender gap is closing as far as child care, there is still a significant gap for elder care, with the bulk of caregiving being provided by women. The article proceeds with summaries of several stories and includes quotes from the women caregivers.
"Overall, our research shows that the Honor Commandment not only continues to motivate the providing of elder care, but also reflects the full complexity of practical, emotional, and spiritual care of the family." But the caregiver dilemmas are not limited to the Jewish or Christian religions and are found throughout the world, regardless of religion.
As a society, we may be better off if a sense of honor is the motivation for care of our elders, rather than coercive or regulatory measures. The Honor Commandment and its analogues in other religions and cultures provide a moral framework and path forward that respects both individual wishes and family integrity. But the path of honor can become a “daughter track,” ... where responsibility for caregiving falls disproportionately on women. Providing more adequate support for caregiving would have a particularly significant effect for women, ensuring their ability to provide care while also making available the fullness of their services as equally respected worker-citizens. Strengthening our secular laws to help support caregiving can profoundly affect how people live the Honor Commandment, improving the lives of those who receive and give family care—especially women... (citations omitted)
The full article will appear in volume 30 of the Journal of Law and Religion (June 2015). In addition, keep an eye out for a symposium volume in the Journal (co-editors Naomi and Amy Ziettlow) (forthcoming 2016) "will ... feature a slate of international, interdisciplinary, and interfaith scholars addressing the world-wide impact of the Honor Commandment."