Oregon State University

Who's Counting? - Marilyn Waring

Who's Counting? Marilyn Waring on Sex, Lies and Global Economics

Produced by the National Film Board of Canada in 1995; 94 minutes.  
Classroom activities and module provided by Kryn Freehling-Burton.

From NFB:  “In this feature-length documentary, Marilyn Waring demystifies the language of economics by defining it as a value system in which all goods and activities are related only to their monetary value. As a result, unpaid work (usually performed by women) is unrecognized while activities that may be environmentally and socially detrimental are deemed productive. Waring maps out an alternative vision based on the idea of time as the new currency.”

Study Guide (PDF)

This film is availabe for streaming here, and is also available on DVD from the DPD Department.  For access to the DVD please contact the DPD Director.

This film has been used in various ways, primarily in WS 224 (Women: Personal and Social Change) and WS 340 (Gender and Science).

WS 224:  This class meets the DPD and the Social Processes and Institutions requirements.  For this class, the film has been used in its entirety, as well as excerpts from the film  upon discussion of women in political leadership and the effects of mothering on womens' options for full integration in society.  When showing excerpts, the first 30 minutes, covering Waring's election into Parliament and her exploration of asking questions of her colleagues, specifically in regard to nuclear disarmament.  this half hour also includes Waring's Time Use Surveys.

WS 340:  This class meets the Science, Technology, and Society Synthesis requirement.  In this class, the film works well for discussion of the course's Theme 4 - "Practical Applications of Scence and Technology."  This course focuses on the epistemological foundations of western forms of science and technology and the ways that a feminist analysis can broaden the efficacy of research and seek social justice for more underserved and under-represented individuals.  Segments toward the end of the term are watched after extensive epistemological readings and discussions about the specific effects of mothering and other specific gendered expectations on women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields.  Economics is a discipline and field that maintains close ties to the sciences, so this film fits in that way as well.

This film has rarely been shown in its entirety, due to its length (although it is highly recommended).  To begin, students are given a general introduction to Waring, her background in parliament, and the way she started asking questions about economics.  This emphasizes the ways the students have been asking crictical questions.  Some general questions on syllabi that are referred to thorughout the term examined specificall for this film are:

  • How does culture shape science and science shape culture? In particular how have ideas about women and men based upon intersecting differences (race/class/sexual identity/ ability, etc.) shaped scientific knowledge in terms of the questions asked, analyses undertaken, and consequences of scientific knowledge?
  • How does science and technology improve or benefit people’s lives? How does it complicate and make people’s lives more difficult? How does it harm people? What are the social and ethical issues associated with scientific and technological innovations both locally and globally?
  • Can science be redefined and reformed to include feminist perspectives?

Previously Utilized Excerpts

Budget questions/Time use Surveys
From 20:20 to 29:40

This segment introduces Waring’s initial questions about the value of unpaid work to a society.  Students hear and see how Waring works with participants in a research study, how she crafts questions, and then interprets data.  Students learn about time use surveys and how women perform multiple tasks simultaneously –many or all of which are likely to be unpaid labor.  This micro look sets up the next segment that examines the macro. 

World Economies
From 43:16 to 52:38

This segment shows Waring arriving at the United Nations in New York to explore her questions about how governmental accounting systems came about and how they do not value much of the work women do.  It also provides a nice history of how the accounting systems came about during the second world war.

Making a Killing
From 52:38 to 61:26

This segment immediately follows the above world economies segment.  Depending on time available, I sometimes elect not to show this segment.  It specifically addresses how war drives global economies.  This idea is at the core of Waring’s initial questioning of economics before retiring as an elected official and provides great detail about war markets specifically but the basic ideas are present in the World economies section.


Final thoughts from this module's creator, Kryn Freehling-Burton

I ask the students to connect these ideas to various readings about research design but haven’t assigned any of Waring’s writing—yet (it’s in my future term planning).  Her latest research was published in 2011 and addresses the unpaid work that caregivers provide to HIV-positive family members and friends.  I emphasize how her questions address and include different (often underserved or unexamined) populations, different priorities, and always include participants in the design of the research.  Here are 2 slides that I use either before or after our viewing and discussion about Waring.  The authors are ones the students have read and we explore how Waring connects, compares, and contrasts with these ideas.  I also use the Internal Review Board as an example of how considering specific populations can impact our research design, questions, methodology, etc. and make our work more ethical.

Click HERE for an example powerpoint presentation provided by Kryn.

Narrative from Kryn

I met Marilyn Waring at a conference on Mothering and the Economy in Toronto in 2010.  She blew open complete new ways of thinking about economics and the multitude of ways that this connects to all of my own work, especially in my teaching.  One of the memorable moments of her keynote was when a group of students from the university happened upon the event and begged for special permission to attend the keynote.  They had seen the film in a class and had to hear her speak live.  So great to see undergrads excited about such complex feminist ideas!  She’s a rock star!  My students consistently remark about how her ideas challenge them to consider radically different ways of asking questions.

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