“They say it is love. We say it is unwaged work.”
May 12, 2019 9:25 AM   Subscribe

“Wages for Housework was misunderstood as saying, Give us money so we can stay home, doing the same domestic work. We actually saw wages for housework as a strategy of refusal, as a strategy giving us more options, more power to decide how to organize our lives. We were accused of “institutionalizing women in the home.” But many women we met would tell us that they were already institutionalized in the home because, without any money of their own, they could not go anywhere or they could not leave their husbands even if they wanted to.” An interview with feminist scholar, author, and activist Silvia Federici Every Woman Is A Working Woman.
posted by The Whelk (21 comments total) 59 users marked this as a favorite
 
If this resonates with you, please please check out Federici's Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation. It's a heck of a prequel to the conditions that led to the Wages for Housework movement and, for me, cast into a new light a series of historical events that I'd only previously heard described with a sad "what can ya do?" as one last expression of medieval superstition.
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 9:51 AM on May 12, 2019 [15 favorites]


Federici! Yes!
posted by lilies.lilies at 10:18 AM on May 12, 2019 [1 favorite]


I first read a little Federici a couple of years ago and was boggled at the ongoing relevance.
posted by praemunire at 10:20 AM on May 12, 2019 [1 favorite]


... if there is an adult who occupies a feminine gender role in the household, this work will usually fall to them. There are same sex households with housewives. I was curious about third sexes in societies that have them in college and one of the cross cultural distinctions is that they do housework when they occupy a feminine role.
posted by Selena777 at 10:37 AM on May 12, 2019 [4 favorites]


An important side note: Federici notes a preference for face-to-face meetings. For non-men autists, the option of asynchronous communication options like chat or email is critical to thinking through issues at our own pace and expressing ourselves in the most effective way for us. In general, feminist organizing tends to exclude autist women, and this is a loss to the movement.

That being said, the work of Federici and her comrades is invaluable and perennially relevant. Caliban is a brilliant book, if you can stomach a lot of really hard truths about how we got to our present state.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 10:46 AM on May 12, 2019 [21 favorites]


I live alone, work from home for a per word rate (in the parlance, "piece work"), and do my own damn housework & cooking. I'm super into it too, I get compliments and asked for advice, #zerowastegoals, etc.

I have nothing to add except that shit is expensive once you count it per "word"/time unit, and I'm a healthy, able-bodied man in a super walkable neighborhood with adequate plumbing. Minimum wage doesn't begin to cover it.
posted by saysthis at 10:53 AM on May 12, 2019 [7 favorites]


For non-men autists, the option of asynchronous communication options like chat or email is critical to thinking through issues at our own pace and expressing ourselves in the most effective way for us. In general, feminist organizing tends to exclude autist women, and this is a loss to the movement.

Also, dunno if I'm autist (probably not), but I don't like leaving the house, and asynchronous communication options is also critical to time-effectively utilizing things like laundry machines, ovens with timers, and delivery services for me. Two (or more!) things at once y'all, some with meditative aspects like cooking + can't hang the darks to dry if I have to be at a meeting. I don't know enough to know if Federici & other feminists consider that perspective, but it's one I benefit from a lot.

Now I will go away.
posted by saysthis at 11:05 AM on May 12, 2019 [2 favorites]


Federici inspired Laurel Ptak's Wages for Facebook manifesto. It's not so outrageous as it might seem. If we spend x amount of hours everyday on Facebook and someone at the other end collects a profit of x billion dollars - how come this isn't work? Maybe we should start thinking about it as work.
posted by Termite at 12:45 PM on May 12, 2019 [4 favorites]


Maybe we should start thinking about it as work.

Google Rewards that is kind of like that. Every once in a while it will send you a survey not unlike what facebook or twitter will do, asking things about yourself (income, job, where you shopped, what your interests are, etc) and give you a couple dimes for each answer.
posted by picklenickle at 1:55 PM on May 12, 2019


Both at home and in the workplace outside the home, it's been my experience that the increased productivity associated with new technology just means you get stuck with even more work to make up the difference.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:12 PM on May 12, 2019 [3 favorites]


But I can't figure out who is supposed to pay the wages, the non-housework-doing partner or the state. If it's the state, do they also pay for someone to come in and do housework in a home where neither partner is particularly inclined to do it?
posted by Ralston McTodd at 3:44 PM on May 12, 2019 [3 favorites]


Wouldn't Universal Basic Income solve this problem?
posted by monotreme at 3:51 PM on May 12, 2019 [8 favorites]


In some ... more healthy versions of old-fashioned marriages, the housewife would get -- they called it an allowance, which sounds infantilizing, and it definitely is. But she'd get an allowance for groceries and there was supposed to be some extra just for her. A good husband was definitely supposed to just give her money out of his paycheck. This is one of the antecedents of the idea of alimony payments after a divorce.

In less healthy versions, it would only be grocery money, and part of the advice and the secret ~womanly lore~ that got passed around, along with cleaning tips, we were told to scrimp and save out of the grocery budget so you could have a stash of money that your husband didn't know about. In case, well, in case you had to leave. Or something. There were no qualms, in this warning, there was no worry that you would be taking something that you hadn't earned, or didn't deserve.

The whole situation of being married - giving up your own freedoms, raising a man's children, washing his dirty boxers - the whole ... everything ... of that meant that you'd earned a piece of his damn paycheck.

This wasn't a matter of law - it was a social framework and understanding. Not universally accepted. But it was reified into US law as the jurisprudence changed around divorce and alimony. Point is, "Wages for Housework" was written in that context, in 1972, with that understanding in place. It was not crazy to say that husbands should give their wives money. The crazy part was saying that this money wasn't a gift; it wasn't an allowance given to a child; and it shouldn't really be at the man's discretion. Wives were creating things of value. For example, meals. Clean clothing. All things that you'd have to pay for, if this woman weren't your wife.

And that's without getting to the intangible, emotional things. (A homemaker, someone who makes a home, is clearly making something valuable.)

Nowadays we understand relationships differently, and ... it's complicated.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 8:51 PM on May 12, 2019 [24 favorites]


Wouldn't Universal Basic Income solve this problem?

I don't think it would alone. The housework would still need doing, and men would still do less of it, even if everyone has more money overall.

Like, in the same way that UBI isn't reparations by dint of it's universality, UBI isn't wages for housework because it's not recognising the imbalance, the extra work being done by some, unpaid.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 12:36 AM on May 13, 2019 [7 favorites]


In less healthy versions, it would only be grocery money, and part of the advice and the secret ~womanly lore~ that got passed around, along with cleaning tips, we were told to scrimp and save out of the grocery budget so you could have a stash of money that your husband didn't know about. In case, well, in case you had to leave. Or something. There were no qualms, in this warning, there was no worry that you would be taking something that you hadn't earned, or didn't deserve.

After my father's parents died my parents found thousands of dollars of loose change in jars stashed in every possible nook in my grandparent's house. It was my grandmother's emergency fund for if her husband left her.
posted by srboisvert at 9:23 AM on May 13, 2019 [1 favorite]




When I posted a picture of my 92-year-old mother on Facebook, a friend asked if she was a career mother. I responded that yes, she was; she raised 8 children.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:25 PM on May 13, 2019


oh, IMO a universal child allowance - like a UBI for children - would go a long way to help this. Not that housework doesn't exist in non-child households, but children seem like a really ... big part of the problem, and the state has a strong and valid interest in making sure children are well taken care of. If there's no child in a household, I'm not sure the state has a good reason to do anything.

And a child-focused UBI would at least be recognizing the labor and care that go into raising a child.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 3:06 PM on May 13, 2019 [1 favorite]


Some examples of that exist, mostly in the social democratic states, with some saying the non-birthing partner also has to take off work during the first few years of care to democratize the child care and social reproduction - the People Policy’s Project’s Family Fun Pack included calls for “ free child care, free pre-k, free healthcare for children, and a child allowance, among other things.” (It got slammed when it came out for ...possibly promoting a religious extremist model of childcare? Which I didn’t think held water, it seems like a basic social welfare childcare platform but I admittedly do not know enough about ..secret plans to turn the US into a social democratic Christian theocracy.)

The other criticism is that it didn’t do far enough even with existing models out there which, fair.

The Wages For Housework Movement, much like the inspired by it Wages For Facebook is less a “how do we pay home caregivers?” And more thinking about how women are dependent on men for money (the wage gap!) most of the time and that the labor of social reproduction isn’t convinced of as labor and is massively gendered. How do we break free of this market mindset and capitalistic mode and think about social programs as not “help” but “necessary” , etc
posted by The Whelk at 4:17 PM on May 13, 2019


If there's no child in a household, I'm not sure the state has a good reason to do anything.

The state has an interest in happy, healthy communities, in encouaging friendships and other social relationships. The state has, arguably, a bigger stake in the health and welfare of children, but "pay an adult to just be in the house, make the house a comfortable living space, go shopping at local stores, and buy goods and services from local businesses" creates value for the state.

It's not hard at all to say that the state should subsidize housework - the state's certainly happy to subsidize other activities that support local communities and businesses. The key stumbling block is that "subsidize housework" is code for "pay women to do things women are told to do," and we've got an awful lot of politicians who can't tolerate that.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 9:46 PM on May 13, 2019 [6 favorites]


While of course it's nowhere near as good as getting the wages, I think it's a step in the right direction when we can all agree that those wages have been damn well earned, whether they're paid yet or not. That costs us nothing, and yet it seems like a lot of people won't even come that far.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:32 AM on May 14, 2019 [2 favorites]


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