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Ghosh: New ways to mark September

Posted by Jessica Rudis  August 31, 2009 09:30 AM

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September has arrived – almost. With it comes the memory of significant days in the month that are marked globally, locally and personally. Some dates we never forget because of the significance we chose to place on them by attributing distinctive personal history corresponding to the circumstance. We tend to construct meaning around those specific dates such that they are embedded in memory. Scholars extol that pleasant and bad events tend to be imprinted in memory than moderate ones. And without a doubt, come September and we speak about 9/11. Who can erase that from memory? But wouldn’t people born this month want to be wished without making allusions to aggression and bloodshed? Quite a number of famous people were born this month such as Stephen King, Agatha Christie, Harry Connick Jr., D.H. Lawrence, Nia Vardalos, Tommy Lee Jones and many, many more. There are other reasons to mark the month as well.

The ninth month of the year heralds the fall season and while we bid summer adieu, we also look ahead to the changes, shades and colors and really understand temporariness in a continuum of time. The drive to work and home gets a bit longer as vehicles and school buses reappear on the pikes and local roads. One notices “back to school” signs at every store selling “twin (extra long) sized mattresses” to equip the dorm inhabiting teens with basics, books and stationery, clothes, appliances and so on. And the orange hues become the trend. Inspired by folklore, it is believed that the harvest moon in late September or early October is orange, but the color is actually an illusion. The harvest moon is simply the full moon that occurs nearest the autumnal equinox, but an atmospheric effect makes all full moons that ride low in the sky look orange or yellow.

This month also celebrates Labor Day on the first Monday of the month. What started out as a “working men’s” holiday in many industrial centers is now a nationwide celebration of strength, freedom and leadership of the American worker. The association of the holiday with trade and labor unions has declined over the years. Labor Day for most people means the end of summer and the vacation season as well as the beginning of school for many students. The day is often celebrated with picnics, sporting events, reunions, and, in an election year, political rallies.

Of particular importance during these times of recession, millions of people are making dramatic career turnabouts— specially those involving cars, finance, real estate and construction — are shedding hundreds of thousands of jobs, many of which analysts say likely won't return for years, if ever. Meanwhile, fields such as health care, clean energy, computer science and the government are expected to grow robustly in coming years reports USA Today. This has resulted in workers transitioning into jobs hitherto unfamiliar yet growing fields. Such changes can be arduous, often forcing the unemployed to spend thousands of dollars to acquire new skills and take pay cuts in their new slots. And there's no guarantee of a job.

Additionally, the percentage of families supported by women tends to rise slightly, and it is expected to do so when this year’s numbers are tallied. Of the millions of jobs that were lost, 78% were held by men. As of November last year, women held 49.1 percent of the nation’s jobs, according to nonfarm payroll data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Women may be safer in their jobs, but tend to find it harder to support a family. For one thing, they work fewer overall hours than men. Women are much more likely to be in part-time jobs without health insurance or unemployment insurance. Even in full-time jobs, women earn 80 cents for each dollar of their male counterparts’ income, according to the government data.

Given the scenario, maybe a “working women’s day” needs special commemoration that recognizes the contribution of women in economic progress. This Labor Day maybe we could also celebrate the possibilities that public opinion and policy can make in spreading equity and unity and as the harvest moon ascends the sky.

Rajashree Ghosh is a Resident Scholar at the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis University.

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