They call it love, we call it unwaged work.
August 27, 2019 12:49 PM   Subscribe

When Your Boss Is Also Your Boyfriend “How about instead of pretending I’m miraculously going to start cooking and shopping one day, we admit that you’re ‘doing work’ and not just ‘being my girlfriend,’ and I start paying you to do it.” I said, “How much?”
posted by emjaybee (69 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
 
My aunt's husband pays her for doing his laundry and ironing. She does all the cooking and cleaning, too, but I think he imagines "she'd be doing that anyway" so he doesn't pay her for that. Anyway, they have bizarrely completely separate finances, so when he pays her she really does get money at least.

But most couples have at least some integration of their finances, right? So it seems like if one partner pays the other partner, they paid partner is just being paid with their own money. It's like me paying myself to cook dinner for myself. I could sit down with myself every month and write myself a cheque and then deposit it into a different account than the one it came from, but what's the point of that?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 12:59 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


I can see how that separate account might be really excellent if the couple split one day.
posted by wellred at 1:05 PM on August 27 [13 favorites]


Even if it's just symbolic, the symbolism of 'you bring this much value to this household, and here is the Venmo to prove it' is pretty powerful, especially where there is a disparity in outside income.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:08 PM on August 27 [47 favorites]


I liked the explanation for the author's rightful interest in the value of Tor's labor, which is nominally more valuable than hers: he is able to perform that valuable labor in no small part because he shows up to work well-fed, in clean clothes, and without stress about household chores that he will need to do after working all day. Take those advantages away, and almost any laborer's productivity would drop significantly.
posted by skewed at 1:15 PM on August 27 [67 favorites]


skewed, I agree. Sarah Miller goes on with more context to their decision in the article, which started with jointly enrolling in a graduate seminar on Marx’s Capital, followed by reading on Marxist feminism and read Silvia Federici’s 1974 essay, “Wages Against Housework” (PDF of scanned document).
posted by filthy light thief at 1:21 PM on August 27 [10 favorites]


A couple friends of mine did something very similar. Both grew up in Europe and were very pragmatic minded. The woman had moved to the US and basically been abandoned by her first husband leaving her stranded with nothing when he decided he wanted to move on. She was absolutely adamant she would never, ever, be stuck in that kind of situation again, so any serious relationship would require that she would have some separate savings of her own.

So when the idea of engagement was brought up by her next partner, who himself believed strongly in the value of a good contract, they sat down a negotiated a contract to sign before they would get married. It set out the responsibilities each would have, how much shared expenses and finances they'd have and what each would expect to have separately. It seemed mercenary or cold to some people, but they were completely content in having a set arrangement of expected behaviors to follow so they didn't have to worry about those things as their roles were clearly defined. It's something that might not work for everyone, particularly in relationships with shifting career options or the like, but I can see why it can work and would be appealing for others.
posted by gusottertrout at 1:21 PM on August 27 [19 favorites]


It doesn't sound to me like she's an employee, it sounds like he's a client.
posted by biogeo at 1:29 PM on August 27 [37 favorites]


To save time, they can hold their morning standups in the shower.
posted by CynicalKnight at 1:31 PM on August 27 [50 favorites]


While this sounds like overall a win for her household, this got me thinking about social exchanges vs economic exchanges like in the story of the daycare adding late fees to encourage parents to pick up their kids on time. (It established a norm where paying the late fee absolved parents of any guilt and so legitimized late pick-ups.) Now it sounds like here the social norm was definitely failing to encourage the boyfriend to do his part, so I certainly can't blame them for at least giving her labor some real acknowledgement.

But to be honest I personally would be scared to live in a world where men routinely paid women for doing traditionally women's work.
posted by sleepy_fork at 1:33 PM on August 27 [17 favorites]


I do like taking care of him and I would do it for free, probably because, like most straight women, I’m merely in recovery from Stockholm syndrome, because there is no cure. After all, I do have moments where I stand at the stove and think, Ugh, this again. At least now I can say to myself, Well, of course this is annoying. It’s work.
This is great. It wouldn't work for me (joint finances and I'd also have to pay my husband and other housemates for their housework) but as she says, it's important to think about (and value!) unwaged work.
posted by joannemerriam at 1:34 PM on August 27 [10 favorites]


I asked a girlfriend to supervise workers doing a complete garden revamp, and offered her money to do so, explicitly acknowledging it was a lot of work and that I felt she was uniquely equipped to do a great job designing and managing.

Went over like a lead balloon, and actually offended her somewhat. She instead did it without recompense and, as expected, did a great job.

At the same time, she expected me to pay for lots of things that other people might consider her financial responsibility, such as loan payments.

No point to make here, except that people can have very different views of how relationships, money and effort relate to one another
posted by davejay at 1:36 PM on August 27 [13 favorites]


It set out the responsibilities each would have, how much shared expenses and finances they'd have and what each would expect to have separately.

There is a non-zero chance that doing something like this up front would have kept my first marriage from going to the bad place it did (although in our case, for issues related to business vs personal vs household finances, not housework and the value of it.) I know one couple who did this and they have been married for more than 20 years without typical financial conflict.
posted by davejay at 1:45 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


But to be honest I personally would be scared to live in a world where men routinely paid women for doing traditionally women's work.

Why is it scarier than the current world, in which men just benefit from our labor for fuckin' free?
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 1:49 PM on August 27 [120 favorites]


sleepy_fork: While this sounds like overall a win for her household, this got me thinking about social exchanges vs economic exchanges like in the story of the daycare adding late fees to encourage parents to pick up their kids on time. (It established a norm where paying the late fee absolved parents of any guilt and so legitimized late pick-ups.) Now it sounds like here the social norm was definitely failing to encourage the boyfriend to do his part, so I certainly can't blame them for at least giving her labor some real acknowledgement.

I had exactly the same thought (although iirc the lesson the authors drew from that study was that the day care should charge more if it would charge at all). I wonder how this couple arrived at the hourly rate?

I might assign this to my intro macro students when we talk about home production and the national accounts.
posted by dismas at 1:49 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


If my partner were going to pay someone for housework, I'd prefer it not be me. Even if I weren't working at an office all day.

The basic premise that housework deserves wages is one I absolutely agree with. But I don't know that it works, across the board, for one partner to pay the other to handle it. Basically, managing a household is hard and it's dull and it's tiring. Paying your partner to do it does not change those basic aspects of it and may create new conflicts.

I also think that the concept of fuck-off money is hugely important. But squirreling away your fuck-off money from wages you're paid from laundering your partner's clothes feels like a minefield.
posted by crush at 1:53 PM on August 27 [7 favorites]


(although iirc the lesson the authors drew from that study was that the day care should charge more if it would charge at all)

The daycare my kids went to charged $20 per minute if you were deemed to be a regularly late parent. It worked well, in that they wanted to close or they wanted to get paid.
posted by The_Vegetables at 1:57 PM on August 27 [13 favorites]


If my partner were going to pay someone for housework, I'd prefer it not be me. Even if I weren't working at an office all day.

Maybe so, but the market wages for cleaner, cook, and in-home laundry are relatively high, which is why most people don't pay for those services. People value their personal excess time in the neighborhood of $3 or so per hour (and I'd assume they value their partner's time at about the same rate if not lower). That is the disconnect.
posted by The_Vegetables at 2:01 PM on August 27 [8 favorites]


Why is it scarier than the current world, in which men just benefit from our labor for fuckin' free?

Because we've at least been slowly chipping away at that assumption over the decades, and I'm sure a sizeable number of men if given the option would rather just pay instead of changing their own behavior. And I feel like charging a very high fee like the daycare eventually did would be a tough thing to negotiate in a relationship.
posted by sleepy_fork at 2:05 PM on August 27 [9 favorites]


Then I admitted I was lying, or mostly lying. I did feel like I was sort of supposed to do it, and he was supposed to just let me, and if he didn’t want to accept this gesture of my devotion, perhaps he didn’t love me that much.

“Okay, wow, that is really fucked up,” Tor said.



LOL and YEP.
posted by bq at 2:06 PM on August 27 [10 favorites]


I really want to know how much they settled on and how they got there. If it's market rate, did any of those jobs get outsourced to an actual cleaner/laundry/cook?
posted by raccoon409 at 2:07 PM on August 27 [5 favorites]


Maybe so, but the market wages for cleaner, cook, and in-home laundry are relatively high, which is why most people don't pay for those services. People value their personal excess time in the neighborhood of $3 or so per hour (and I'd assume they value their partner's time at about the same rate if not lower). That is the disconnect.

But if you're paying your partner below market wages, you have just opened a whole other can of worms. Or maybe it's the same can. Either way its an issue.
posted by mark k at 2:07 PM on August 27 [9 favorites]


> and here is the Venmo to prove it' is pretty powerful,

Is the IRS going to tax you on that money? Because that sounds like a bit of a problem with this idea, and I don't think they'll take "It's just symbolic" as an excuse when there are receipts.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 2:10 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


The Atlantic recently ran an article about an increase in jobs “serving rich people” such as personal chefs and pet caregivers, and what a terrible awful trend this is. Which, if you think about who normally does these jobs (for free) and whether the beneficiaries are considered ultra-privileged “rich people”...
posted by Ralston McTodd at 2:12 PM on August 27 [9 favorites]


I'm sure a sizeable number of men if given the option would rather just pay instead of changing their own behavior

I suppose I am viewing it pretty cynically in that none of the men I know are changing their behavior ANYway. It's also true that in my friend circles most of the women outearn their male partners by a significant factor AND work longer hours. So I'm imagining a situation in which these dudes suddenly find that they literally can not afford, as in, with real dollars, not to change their ways...well, it just might work.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 2:16 PM on August 27 [30 favorites]


I'm pretty sure I'd fail at project tracking. It takes all my organizational oomph just to fulfill that for my career -- there's nothing left over for clocking in on toilet scrubbing time. The last thing I need is more paperwork.

Also any ambition to monetize my house-care would be stymied because my spouse and I have fully integrated finances. With respect to financial matters I made the exact same deal with my spouse as I did with my business partner: "You support my disordered lifestyle, I split my money with you."

In practice, this means there is no differentiation between my spouse's money and "my" money. It's just some numbers.

Like the article author I am tasked with house-care because I work from home and have a more flexible work schedule than my spouse, who goes away to an office and sits in a chair professionally, far out of reach of the laundry.

Also I have learned that my spouse does not perform house-care. There are attempts, sporadically, but the results aren't worth agony. My spouse is eager and willing to discuss new "systems" or approaches that will result in a more evenly spread load of home-care, but the momentum on execution peters out reliably quickly. (Which is always a relief, frankly, because not everyone has the same working definition of "clean." My spouse was raised by farmers. Enough said.)

Even if it were practical in our circumstance to have my spouse pay me for time put in, I'm not sure I'd want to purely on the grounds that if I do happen to do a shoddy job I still want to be able to say, "It's pretty good for free, isn't it?"

(Also, for full disclosure, in this circumstance I'm the male and my messy spouse is the female.)
posted by Construction Concern at 2:33 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


Transferring money implies that records are being kept of how much work people did, and also puts down a concrete number for how much people value the work. These sound like great results if you have a problem with distributing work equitably, even if the money redistribution itself is not very consequential (e.g. because you share finances.)
posted by value of information at 2:34 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


So when the idea of engagement was brought up by her next partner, who himself believed strongly in the value of a good contract, they sat down a negotiated a contract to sign before they would get married. It set out the responsibilities each would have, how much shared expenses and finances they'd have and what each would expect to have separately.

My partner and I have no interest in marriage, but we negotiated and signed a similar contract. (The lawyer who represented her recommended adding language that would make the agreement count as a pre-nup if we ever did get married, even though neither of us are interested.)

I actually think it's an extremely sensible thing to do as soon as couple start to talk about cohabitation, let alone things like relocating for one or the other partner's work, etc. Part of the reason marriage accrued the legal privileges it did is that it was in the past (in principle) a prerequisite for cohabitation. Modern relationships that involve cohabitation before or without marriage should absolutely include some kind of similar legally-binding arrangement as just a matter of course.
posted by tobascodagama at 2:38 PM on August 27 [4 favorites]


If you want a single person's advice:

Both partners pay a steep "household tax" into a common account. The partner who works on something debits their pay a set (but essentially market, and thus expensive) rate based on how long things take. This sidesteps the employer/employee dynamic, and if neither one wants to do it you hire an outside person with money from the account.

(This obviously assumes a two income household.)
posted by mark k at 2:45 PM on August 27 [17 favorites]


I dunno how accurate this Invisible Labor Calculator is (I found it on the site of journalist Amy Westervelt), but I found it an easy prompt for thinking through some numbers.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 3:03 PM on August 27 [9 favorites]


Housework has indisputable honor and value, and it frequently isn't sufficiently appreciated or shared.

Marriage/domestic partnership always struck me as the epitome of a socialist structure, i.e. from each.../to each.., - so paying for housework feels a bit capitalistic, maybe even objectivist by comparison. If marriage is indeed a capitalist structure, then I agree partners should go totally Sheldon Cooper over it and ensure they have no exposed vulnerabilities to each other.

Also is Sarah living rent-free with Tor, or did I miss that they are they both contributing?
posted by zaixfeep at 3:14 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


Is the IRS going to tax you on that money? Because that sounds like a bit of a problem with this idea, and I don't think they'll take "It's just symbolic" as an excuse when there are receipts.

A simple way around this is for him to pay for more of the rent or groceries or whathaveyou. Instead of increasing her wages by, say, $1000 she would decrease her bills by $1000. She gains the same amount, instead of increasing her cash inflow she decreases her cash outflow.
posted by heart's ease at 3:52 PM on August 27 [4 favorites]


So I'm imagining a situation in which these dudes suddenly find that they literally can not afford, as in, with real dollars, not to change their ways...well, it just might work.

If you can't afford something, you either do it yourself or do without, and the problem then is women being left with the same situation of having to live in a house with someone who thinks they can opt to do without.
posted by straight at 4:02 PM on August 27 [21 favorites]


Should the IRS tax you on that money? Or on the work if you're receiving it for free? It's certainly not tax-exempt when a household of two non-housework-doers hires someone.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 4:02 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


My Roommate is disabled, and unable to work, and we consider the bit of work she does help with around the house to be partial compensation for the extra amount we (the 2 working roommates) in rent (or conversely, we're offsetting her rent/paying more to compensate her for her labor). Most people think that's ridiculous, but we think it's fair. It's not exactly the same, but yeah... OF course we generally try to divvy things up a bit more fairly (like we don't just pay equal amounts we pay according to our ability like good communists)...
posted by symbioid at 4:04 PM on August 27 [8 favorites]


> She gains the same amount, instead of increasing her cash inflow she decreases her cash outflow.

And by these steps, we get back to the old norm where one partner specializes in earning the money, and the other specializes in taking care of the household. The difference being that now the balance of labor is accounted for explicitly, which is a good thing if you have a problem maintaining an equitable balance. This mechanism allows for a nonbinary division of labor, but I suspect that iterated optimization would result in full specialization nonetheless.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 4:04 PM on August 27 [4 favorites]


Maybe so, but the market wages for cleaner, cook, and in-home laundry are relatively high, which is why most people don't pay for those services. People value their personal excess time in the neighborhood of $3 or so per hour (and I'd assume they value their partner's time at about the same rate if not lower). That is the disconnect.


But if you're paying your partner below market wages, you have just opened a whole other can of worms. Or maybe it's the same can. Either way its an issue.

Both of these are why if my partner were going to pay someone to manage the househould, I strongly prefer it not be me. I most certainly value my not-at-work time at higher than $3/hour and, in fact, don't fell I have any "excess" personal time. Having my partner explicitly say that it was worth below market wages to them to be relieved of housework on top of professional work to gain time at the expense of my time says something very ugly to me.

And what about when I'm being paid for my household labor while my partner is going to a movie? Or what if we both go to the movie and now the work's not done? When we have the shared responsibility--paid for by both of our time and mental energy for doing the chores--and we slack off, we are both conserving time and energy at the expense of the task and neither should be considered more culpable. Theoretically, our time and energy are valued comparably.

When I'm solely responsible for the labor--whether that's demonstrated by my receiving a wage for it or by it being categorically women's work--our time and energy is explicitly valued differently, with mine probably being valued at below market wages. So no, I don't want that re-enforced by my partner paying me to do the household chores.
posted by crush at 4:22 PM on August 27 [9 favorites]


Invisible Labor calculator: solid theoretical idea, inexplicably problematic execution. I tested it out by putting 1 hour in each category (and as far as I can tell there's no scaling/bulk discount, so it doesn't get cheaper per hour the more you put in):

Cleaning: 147.60
Childcare: 141.96
Eldercare: 12.18
Party Planning: 309.96
Gift Buying: 173.28
Appointment-making: 342.36
Cooking: 300
Lunch Making: 150.72
Family Errands: 207.36
Transportation: 164.16
Accounting: 20.25
Gardening, landscaping, yard work: 14.88

I can't think of a single category here that makes sense to me on a hourly wage basis that tracks prevailing market costs, most are way too high, some strangely low. I mean: cooking is worth $300 an hour? That's more than a half million dollar salary when done full time!
posted by foxfirefey at 4:37 PM on August 27 [11 favorites]


The time scale is also strange: you're asked how many hours you contribute per month, but the wages aren't simple hourly wages for that time. They.... appear to be the mean hourly wages for a given profession multiplied by 12. Except, for some reason, eldercare.

The dollar values come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which lists mean hourly wages for Maids and House Cleaners, for example, at $12.30. 12 * 12.30 = 147.60. For childcare, the mean hourly wage for a childcare worker is $11.83. $11.83 * 12 = 141.96. For party planning, well, the mean hourly wage for an event planner is $25.83. $25.83 * 12 = 309.96.

I am not entirely sure why this multiplicative error has been introduced, but it's super weird.
posted by sciatrix at 4:50 PM on August 27 [10 favorites]


I hope this woman figures out a way to monetize her instagram account where she documents that her husband is a slob.
posted by peeedro at 5:20 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


The reason it feels odd is because it's commodification, the turning of a relationship most of us imagine as outside the realm of cash bargaining, into a venue for market logic and potential exchange at a profit, or sacrifice at a loss. (It's also why it feels, for the same reasons, just and fair when a 'fair' wage is proposed, because those market logics are so fundamental these to our understanding of human worth).

Simply turning romantic/intimate relationships into commodified client-contractor relationships was absolutely not what Federici had in mind, I think, it was a much broader program against the hypocrisy of gendered labour and of nuclear-familial support to capitalism. Even less did the wages-for-housework movement have in mind the extension and expansion of management practices (project management, or other post-taylorist ideas)...
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 5:23 PM on August 27 [21 favorites]


A simple way around this is for him to pay for more of the rent or groceries or whathaveyou. Instead of increasing her wages by, say, $1000 she would decrease her bills by $1000.

If this worked, I would also have my employer cut a check to my landlord in lieu of paying me that cash.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 5:24 PM on August 27


My free time is only worth $3 an hour? Wow. That is such a classically American thing to do- not only putting a value on it, but also a really really pitifully cheap amount.

Guys! Your time is worth so much more than what the corporate overlords would have it!
posted by Philby at 5:33 PM on August 27 [9 favorites]


If this worked, I would also have my employer cut a check to my landlord in lieu of paying me that cash.

It totally works, as I know someone who started doing it a long time ago, having their wages frozen but having their employer pay more and more living expenses, insurance costs, and so on.

If course, it requires you have a sympathetic employer, and in this particular case one that specializes in tax related stuff.
posted by davejay at 5:40 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


sciatrix: Huh, okay, that's illuminating then. I'm guessing the calculator is trying to estimate what your yearly salary would be then, and the bug is in the three categories that aren't multiplied by 12! That makes much more sense.
posted by foxfirefey at 9:13 PM on August 27


It totally works, as I know someone who started doing it a long time ago, having their wages frozen but having their employer pay more and more living expenses, insurance costs, and so on.

AFAIK this would still be totally taxable. My understanding is employer-paid health care is specifically exempted but you'd still need to report employer-paid rent and similar items.
posted by mark k at 9:43 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


Yeah, clergy have a special exception to receive housing without being taxed, a holdover from when clergy would live in the parsonage owned by the church. Anyone else has to report the value of that as income.
posted by straight at 12:27 AM on August 28


So essentially this is spousal support, but not though a divorce. In my juridisction spousal support is codified through guidelines, as is child support. As a society we should be able to put a dollar amount on work, even traditional “women’s work” and pay it fairly. We have mechanisms like Pay Equity job evaluations that look at specific tasks without a gendered lens (looking after an animal in a zoo and looking after a toddler have a lot of overlap in actual tasks complexity, and responsibilities so childcare should be paid at the rate of zookeeping etc).

I am annoyed that in the article despite all the transparency about their relationship the author is coy about what she is actually paid. I suspect because it includes a significant “friends and family discount” to her boyfriend’s benefit.
posted by saucysault at 2:08 AM on August 28 [4 favorites]


Where's the difference between this and having Ricky Ricardo give Lucy money for running the household? I remember watching that latter and being offended at how infantilizing it was, but now that's supposed to be a feminist move? Okaaaay.
posted by basalganglia at 2:26 AM on August 28 [1 favorite]


Where's the difference between this and having Ricky Ricardo give Lucy money for running the household?

Household money in that sense is funds for buying the necessary things for the home, the groceries, clothing, and the like. A "Ricky" might also then sometimes give over "fun" money as well on a per need basis, subject to his approval. "Lucys" were in charge of maintaining the home, but didn't control the money. The set up described is more one of individual accounts not completely shared finances. Being paid when you control your own finances in addition to household use funds is a different kind of thing.

I suspect because it includes a significant “friends and family discount” to her boyfriend’s benefit.

I'm not sure that's necessarily a problem as they do still share a household and have to maintain expenses balanced to what they both earn, so having a fixed rate that all households would use as a measure couldn't make universal sense. It would have to be predicated on what both partners earned, the amount of labor one of the partners would be putting in to household tasks the other didn't and what their living situation would determine as fair reimbursement for that added labor. If one partner works and the other stays home to care for a child, for example, there isn't "extra" money they can work with, just striking a fair balance for shared expenses and individual pay. Different situations would likely require different accounting. It's probably more sensible to think about it on a percentage basis instead of a flat rate of pay.
posted by gusottertrout at 2:51 AM on August 28 [4 favorites]


I think the key thing to keep in mind here is that this concept is tied to the idea that relationships won't last forever. In Ricky and Lucy's day it was generally assumed a marriage was for life and so separating finances wasn't going to be considered since there'd be no point to it for most couples. now with cohabitation being as popular or more than marriage, and neither marriages nor cohabitation lasting for life or anything close to it being treated as a given, new arrangements make much more sense.
posted by gusottertrout at 3:38 AM on August 28 [4 favorites]


Ms Westerveldt wrote back and pointed out that the salary at the bottom is intended to be a yearly one, at which point the figures stated make perfect sense.
posted by sciatrix at 4:33 AM on August 28 [2 favorites]


I suspect because it includes a significant “friends and family discount” to her boyfriend’s benefit.

Well in fairness, she does obtain some benefit from the labor besides the money -- she also eats the meals she prepares, wears the clean clothes she launders. A discount from what you would earn preparing food you cannot eat, or laundering exclusively someone else's clothes, makes sense.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 7:33 AM on August 28 [3 favorites]


If you can't afford something, you either do it yourself or do without, and the problem then is women being left with the same situation of having to live in a house with someone who thinks they can opt to do without.

We aren't legally obligated to live with those assholes, tho. If this sort of expectation prompts more women to unload their useless bros, so much the better.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 7:43 AM on August 28 [6 favorites]


Our one-income household puts all of our money into a single account, and then spends it all on food, shelter, Hulu, and quarters for the washing machine. Is this something I'd need a savings account to understand?
posted by turkeybrain at 7:45 AM on August 28 [3 favorites]


Where's the difference between this and having Ricky Ricardo give Lucy money for running the household? I remember watching that latter and being offended at how infantilizing it was, but now that's supposed to be a feminist move? Okaaaay.

Anyone sneering at the feminism of this idea without reading the (linked!) Federici essay is making a fool of themselves. Just FYI.
posted by praemunire at 7:45 AM on August 28 [4 favorites]


Yeah, clergy have a special exception to receive housing without being taxed, a holdover from when clergy would live in the parsonage owned by the church. Anyone else has to report the value of that as income.


and even that ends up being reported on self-employment taxes for clergy iirc! (it's not taxable income, but it ends up affecting your self employment tax liability in some way that I can't remember off the top of my head).

also I think people are confusing the $3 an hour fine from the Israeli daycare study with how much this woman is charging her boyfriend per hour. I hope/assume she's charging more than that.
posted by dismas at 8:00 AM on August 28


If this sort of expectation prompts more women to unload their useless bros, so much the better.

I'm all for unloading useless bros, but the problem is that they are heavy, and unloading them can be pretty labor intensive itself. You might even need to hire a truck, get your friends and family to help you, etc.

Sometimes getting rid of a burden is also burdensome. If you want to get rid of him because he doesn't respect you as an equal at home (which refusing to pull his weight generally is), you are 100% justified ... but it's not your fault if that's hard to do.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:37 AM on August 28 [8 favorites]


I wish I could express how disgusted I am that Federici's work was written THIRTY FIVE years ago and is still valid.
posted by corvikate at 8:41 AM on August 28 [1 favorite]


I'm all for unloading useless bros, but the problem is that they are heavy, and unloading them can be pretty labor intensive itself. You might even need to hire a truck, get your friends and family to help you, etc.

I mean, everyone has to do their own calculation on ~n months of hardship vs a lifetime, I guess? In the meantime I am advising every young hetero woman I know (well, any of them who ask for my advice) against cohabitation, whether before, during, or after marriage. If you don't start it, you never have to figure out how to stop.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:46 AM on August 28 [7 favorites]



I mean, everyone has to do their own calculation on ~n months of hardship vs a lifetime, I guess? In the meantime I am advising every young hetero woman I know (well, any of them who ask for my advice) against cohabitation, whether before, during, or after marriage. If you don't start it, you never have to figure out how to stop.


This is good advice for everyone really. I wish I would have heard it a long time ago instead of having to learn it the hard way.
posted by some loser at 11:57 AM on August 28 [5 favorites]


I mean, everyone has to do their own calculation on ~n months of hardship vs a lifetime, I guess?

This is a substantially more complicated equation when children are involved. And "~n months of hardship" that starts with "be homeless until you find a job that lets you live on your own" is not an easy choice to make.

It's not like a lot of women haven't considered leaving if her partner won't do his share. But the thought comes out more like, "I guess I could live on the streets and lose custody of my children if I'm not willing to do his share of the dishes and laundry as well as my own."

... I also had the horrific thought of how "payment for housework" is likely to work in our capitalist dystopia: The IRS starts declaring it as income and increasing people's taxes for the "barter services" they've received.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 1:17 PM on August 28 [4 favorites]


This is a substantially more complicated equation when children are involved. And "~n months of hardship" that starts with "be homeless until you find a job that lets you live on your own" is not an easy choice to make.


That's... why I literally said, everyone has to do their own calculation, and why I used "~n months of hardship" and not "come on this is super easy everyone do it right now." A thing doesn't have to be right for 100% of people to be right for some people.

For some people it will be a complicated calculus that ends with staying with a shitty partner, because the short-term perils outweigh the long-term lack of happiness. For some people, it may be a complicated calculus that ends with leaving a shitty partner, because those short-term perils do NOT outweigh the long-term unhappiness. For others, it may just be one of those "oh fuck, what am I even still doing here?" moments.

This is also why my focus is currently on advising against cohabitation in the first place. Yeah, living separately's ALSO harder to do for some people for a variety of reasons!* But it's also rather easy for some people to do, except they feel like it would be "wrong" not to live with their partner or spouse, or they feel like they could get a nicer place or save a little money. Couples considering cohabitation -- ESPECIALLY when the primary motivator is to save money -- could benefit from a framework that makes all costs of cohabitation explicit.



*For what it's worth, I also advise anyone who's asking to avoid getting married and to avoid having children. I'm super fun at parties.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 2:11 PM on August 28 [5 favorites]


Isn’t taxing income in whatever form more “public good” than “capitalist dystopia”? I mean, it’s obviously not remotely politically feasible, but households without a traditional breadwinner/homemaker structure who pay outside workers for housework are already incurring this tax.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 2:50 PM on August 28 [1 favorite]


This is also why my focus is currently on advising against cohabitation in the first place.

This plays into the capitalist regime - the idea that everyone is supposed to support themselves, and themselves only, and not share resources. If you and your boyfriend live alone, you need two toasters, two microwave ovens, two refrigerators, two stoves, and you need to pay rent on two separate dwellings.

On the one hand, yes, discouraging women from moving in with men and taking care of them is a good thing. On the other, "isolation to maintain autonomy" does not build healthier, happier communities. (I don't disagree with the premise; I'm not happy with any of the options.)

Isn’t taxing income in whatever form more “public good” than “capitalist dystopia”?

Only if there's actual money changing hands. If it's just, "you make $38,000 per year at your job, but I see that your wife does $12,000 worth of housekeeping for you, so we're taxing you based on $50,000 of income," that's not better for anyone. The people making $250k/year are not as likely to be bothered by having to pay taxes on $272k... if they have a spouse or girlfriend who does that work for them, rather than an actual employee that they pay.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 3:25 PM on August 28


This plays into the capitalist regime - the idea that everyone is supposed to support themselves, and themselves only, and not share resources. f you and your boyfriend live alone, you need two toasters, two microwave ovens, two refrigerators, two stoves, and you need to pay rent on two separate dwellings.

This is getting a little absurd -- nobody is born as one fully-fledged half of an adult heteronormative romantic cohabitation. People generally ALREADY HAVE ALL OF THESE THINGS and then THROW HALF OF THEM IN THE TRASH when they begin cohabitating. How is that less monstrously capitalist? And is there no such thing as roommates anymore?

I mean obviously the ideal solution is for men to just be a fucking adult for fucking once, but look, I only got like 20 more years on this earth.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 4:04 PM on August 28 [6 favorites]


how disgusted I am that Federici's work was written THIRTY FIVE years ago - corvikate
Worse: Written Spring 1974, published 1975, making it 44 or 45 years?

"Housework had to be transformed into a natural attribute rather than be recognised as a social contract because from the beginning of capital's scheme for women this work was destined to be unwaged. Capital had to convince us that it is a natural, unavoidable and even fulfIlling activity to make us accept our unwaged work. In its turn, the unwaged condition of housework has been the most powerful weapon in reinforcing the common assumption that housework is not work, thus preventing women from struggling against it, except in the privatised kitchen-bedroom quarrel that all society agrees to ridicule, thereby further reducing the protagonist of a struggle. We are seen as nagging bitches, not workers in struggle. [...]

"Many of us still have the illusion that we marry for love. A lot of us recognise that we marry for money and security; but it is time to make it clear that while the love or money involved is very little, the work which awaits us is enormous."

I'd still fancy a husband, but maybe the "LAT" model is worth a look...

Living Apart Together (Current Sociology, March 2004)
‘We have never lived together. Is that so strange?’: the married couples who live apart (The Guardian, Sept. 23 2017)
Older Couples Are Increasingly Living Apart. Here’s Why (Time Magazine, May 10 2018)
These couples say they’ll never move in with each other — here’s why (MarketWatch, June 14, 2019)

The key is gobs of money? You don't say!
posted by Iris Gambol at 4:29 PM on August 28 [6 favorites]


The podcast The Dig did a great interview with Sophie Lewis, the author of Full Surrogacy Now. The answer isn't atomizing the nuclear family still further so that each individual is expected to be a self-contained and self-sufficient economic module, but rebuilding community structures larger than the nuclear family where people can help each other out and all work is recognized as work (and also for men to be fucking adults for fucking once, while we're dreaming.)
posted by contraption at 5:21 PM on August 28 [2 favorites]


I feel like wages for housework and living apart together are both attempts to fight back against the extremely heavy pull of sexist expectations on hetero people in relationships. No matter your good intentions going in, you have both been heavily programmed to be Helpless Male and Caretaking Female, which is further reinforced by literal centuries of social arrangements and the expectations of 99% of the people around you. Including your own government, which assumes you can and should stop your career and life dead when your husband (or elderly parents, or child) needs care and that you don't need any other support.

Having just come out from a marriage where I found myself struggling, despite a supportive partner, to resist all the pressure to negate myself and subsume myself into my partner's needs, I am astonished at how much more freedom there is in living alone. It is not my preference; I'm a social person, I like being in relationships, I think community makes life better. But a cohabiting hetero relationship now feels to me like a black hole of societal pressure from which very few women emerge intact. Maybe none.

Of course, the recently divorced are known for their cynicism, so maybe that's all that I'm feeling, but I have seen so many women suffer in the same way that I think we truly have failed to appreciate just what we're up against, men and women alike, in trying to make it equitable.
posted by emjaybee at 8:32 PM on August 28 [10 favorites]


To save time, they can hold their morning standups in the shower.

Showering together is an idea that seems great on paper but is miserable for both parties. However, the burndown chart is phenomenal.

Is there a non-paywall link? Deleting cookies doesn't seem to work.
posted by bendy at 12:19 AM on August 29


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