Recently in Question 3: 2/16-2/18 Category

Direct Engagement 3: Group C: Sarah Mainz


Housework according to these authors is viewed as woman's work. The troubling fact is that although what these women are doing is in fact "work" their efforts are deemed unimportant. The women in these scenarios are not given vacations or wages. They are forced to work hard and in return, they are forced to work harder and longer. As Friedan points out in her article in the 50's and 60's women were treated as slaves to their husbands or boyfriends. The were raised to view life as nothing more than preparation for marriage and babies. In order for these women to be happy they had to find a mate, and in order to stay happy they had to produce children and keep that man happy. It was out of the question for women to work outside the home, and as stated by Friedan women didn't want to. Society brainwashed them to believe their worth was in their femininity and beauty. Too much intelligence was seen as un-lady like, high career aspirations were uncommon and considered weird and manly. Oh how things have changed, and yet still seem to stay put.
Some how housework became devalued among our society. It is not seen for what is is: back breaking, tedious, smelly, work. It is seen as lady-like and unimportant in the realm of males. Too often males perceive housework still as something they simply are not interested in and something they only do because their wife is nagging them. People do not tend to notice housework until it is no longer taken care of.
Housework is a political issue because until it is debated, argued and shown with outrage nothing will change. Man has been oppressing women for centuries and it was not until women stood up and fought for our rights did they come. It is unjust for women to be expected to stay home all day, clean the house, drive the kids around, make lunches, do the laundry, make dinner, and do all this with a smile. It is a joke to me that this was ever the case for women. I have been lucky enough to grow up in a time when being treated as if that is unacceptable to me, and is against the way I was raised. This quote from Wages for Housework expresses this idea perfectly, "This crime of work and wagelessness brands us for life as the weaker sex and delivers us powerless to employers, government planners and legislators, doctors, the police, prisons and mental institutions as well as the individual men for a lifetime of servitude and imprisonment." Women have been oppressed for too long and used as workers for men, no longer will that be tolerated, no longer will women allow for us to be the weaker sex.
This is a feminist issue because labeling one realm of work, as strictly women's work is unfair. Especially when that work is housework and the hard work goes unpaid. How could what may be deemed as "slave work" be anything but a feminist issue? Women are put into a box and forced to believe that they are only happy when they are pleasing their man; and in order to please the man they have to give up all their dreams and ambitions to be his wife.
I agree that this is a feminist issue, because expecting any one race or sex to be one thing because it is easier for them to fit into that box is wrong. If women are doing housework they should be paid a wage. The only problem is, who will pay them? The government? That will never happen. The government for one is run mainly by men, and for two paying homemakers for their contributions to society serves no greater goal to the people running the show. It is true that women who are homemakers are there to raise proper children, have a warm, cozy home that helps their husbands feel relaxed after a long day working, therefore keeping him sane at work the next day. So really these women are doing this country a favor, and should there for be compensated generously.

Direct Engagement- Question 3


Housework to many, is not real work at all. In my opinion, housework can be just as difficult, or even more difficult than having a career outside of the home. According to Friedan, women felt a sense of loneliness and dissatisfaction when having to work at the home. Women "made the bed, shopped for groceries, matched slip cover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured cub scouts and brownies and lay beside her husband at night." Housework is defined as work done in and around the house to keep things organized and neat.
Housework is considered to be devalued as a job in most aspects. Housework is more so a priority than a job, especially since a housewife does not get paid. The flyers make a good point saying that the government should pay housewives, because of all the work that they do. I wonder if this though, would make more housewives in the world and men mainly go out in the community and work. Most women would love to be able to stay home during the week with their children, take care of their house, and even get paid for it. It causes for an interesting debate.
Most commonly, women are the spouse to stay at home and take care of the house (as I have mentioned several times above). It has always been that way: men make the income and women take care of the house to make their husbands happy. The debate between housework and women is most definitely a feminist issue. It seems like it always has been. It's a feminist issue because in the past, women were expected to stay at home and make their husbands happy. It has been passed on to the present, and men still agree that this is an okay situation. Maybe it is...maybe it isn't.

Direct Engagement #3


"Why I Want a Wife" really said it all. A housewife is supposed to be a lady by day but a sex slave by night, if he's in the mood, of course. A housewife is to cook, clean, shop, take care of their child(ren), mend, bear as many children as her husband desires, stay faithful to him even if he strays from time-to-time, and basically treat her hardworking husband as a king, catering to his every whim and not bothering him with honey-dos or asking him to contribute at all to the upkeep of the house or help raise their child(ren). Her purpose in the marriage is to put her needs after her husband's and child(ren)'s. Not only that, wives are supposed to put their men through college by working, while juggling all of these preordained responsibilities, if they marry before he has finished his schooling. Once he is in the work force, she is expected to quit her job and focus on her household duties. This makes the housewife dependent on her husband to provide for her. If a wife is not up to her husband's standards, he can just replace her with a younger, hotter model who is willing to fulfill such duties. The household responsibilities of a wife are valued as far inferior to any job outside of the home. Her husband's job, no matter what it is, is much harder than trying to raise a bunch of kids, keep the house clean, cook, and still be up for sex whenever her husband wants it.

It is particularly clear in the "Wages for Housework" flyer that it is a political issue because housewives perform duties that benefit society. This is a feminist issue because women are negatively impacted by this. Their skill set, if divorced or widowed is low. This also makes it harder for women, themselves, to divorce their husbands, because they will have a hard time supporting themselves (especially if they got a Ph.T.). These expectations make it harder for women to become career women, not having as many women in certain fields. It could be discouraging to be in an all or mostly male class, especially with studies showing that men are more confident and feel a greater sense of entitlement (I forget where I read this, sorry). As Friedan points out, there are also psychological problems associated with such marriages. I found it interesting that many psychiatrists found "that, in their experience, unmarried women patients were happier than married ones" (201). Clearly such a lifestyle does not appeal to or satisfy every women.

I personally like the idea of being a housewife, minus the having children part. I do not really see this as a feminist or political issue anymore (except for possibly generations older than mine). Women are entering universities and colleges at greater rates than in the past, and I'm not entirely convinced that the wage gap is even relevant anymore. Men typically work more hours per week than women and go into careers with higher wages (sciences, technology, engineering, etc.).

Direct Engagement: Question 3 - Work and Equality


Broadly speaking, the various authors seem to define housework as everything involving the work of child bearing and upbringing as well as the labor necessary to maintain a home: "They baked their own bread, sewed their own and their children's clothes, kept their new washing machines and dryers running all day. They changed the sheets on the beds twice a week instead of once, took the rug-hooking class in adult education, and pitied their poor frustrated mothers, who had dreamed of having a career" (Friedan 199).

With respect to the value of housework, I found interesting the slight difference between the opinions of Nicole Cox, Silvia Federici, and the Wages for Housework fliers as compared to that of Friedan. I think that for Cox, Federici, and Wages for Housework, the problem was the devaluation and resulting depoliticization created by housework, whereas for Friedan, the problem was the seeming lack of fulfillment. For instance, Friedan says, "It is no longer possible to ignore that voice, to dismiss the desperation of so many American women. This is not what being a woman means, no matter what the experts say. For human suffering there is a reason; perhaps the reason has not been found because the right questions have not been asked, or pressed far enough" (201), i.e. for Friedan the idea of meaninglessness takes precedence. Yet for Cox, Federici, and Wages for Housework, the problem seemed to stem more from a sense of depoliticization through devaluation: "For not to see women's work in the home is to be blind to the work and struggles of the overwhelming majority of the world's population which is wageless" (4). That is to say that Cox and Federici see the problem as a more political issue and a more global issue. Thus, in contrast, Friedan views housework as a problem indicative of the necessity for women to find meaning in life, whereas Cox and Federici view the problem of housework as a political oppression and disenfranchisement.

In this sense, I think that Cox, Federici, and Wages for Housework are taking the correct approach. They utilize a discourse calling for political empowerment, and the reason I think this is more useful than a simple indictment of meaninglessness is because political enfranchisement is more pertinent to the general human condition. That is to say the problem of meaningless or lack of fulfillment isn't a problem limited strictly to women, it is a 'problem' that has been the center of much philosophical discourse and continues to be so because of its elusiveness. Thus, in my opinion, political enfranchisement is a tool that allows women to contribute to the general search for meaning and comprehension of the human condition. And thus, this issue should of necessity be a political one.

Direct Engagement: Housework


Though the readings may vary slightly, most define housework as anything done within the sphere of the home and family. To quote Betty Friedman, "She made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured Cub Scouts and Brownies, [and] lay beside her husband at night." The Wages for Housework flier suggests that housework extends even to childbirth and a smile. The housework affects the family, as the mothers were expected to bring children up to be good citizens. Housework was seen (and to some still is) as the extent of the world of the American woman. A commodity, housework is necessary to the flow life, yet should not restrict the lives of the women who were/are being forced to do it.

Women have always been the ones forced to do the housework. As Friedman states, young women in the 1950's and 60's strove to be the typical suburban housewife, "concerned only about her husband, her children, her home." Children should be raised to be productive members of society. Homes should be orderly so that its inhabitants can focus on humanistic advancements such as studying, experiencing art, finding time for oneself, etc. People should eat well so as to avoid obesity and the diseases that may accompany it. However, women should not be the ones forced to raise the children, clean the house, and cook the food. Spouses need to adopt a system of equality, one in which the housework is shared, children are raised by both parents, and meals are not the responsibility of only the woman. This way, women are free to advance themselves in the realm of academia, or find time to simply relax and have no worries. She should be able to devote the same amount of time to these things as does her spouse-- no less.

For the Wages for Housework authors, housework has to be seen as a political issue. The government was the one encouraging women to breed, telling them when to stop, and ordering them to take on a second job, or when to focus on the home. In order for women to feel fulfilled, they need to have equal opportunities as men to follow whichever path in life they so choose. This right must be protected by law.

As Friedman states, "We can no longer ignore that voice within women that says: 'I want something more than my husband and my children and my home.'" The issue of housework must be a feminist issue because women are being subjugated to spending their lives as housewives, lacking the opportunity to seek fulfillment in other arenas of life. Government needs to work hand in hand with feminists to ensure that women are afforded their inalienable right of being able to pursue happiness that comes from areas other than the home.

Direct Engagement #1

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The "problem that has no name" that Betty Friedan writes about seems very much to be alive and well today, albeit in a different form. The conventional world, its wisdom, 'experts,' and various cultural artifacts that make up the girth of 'official American culture' fill our heads with ideas of progressive linear time in which all the big battles have been won and 'practical equality' achieved, reminding us of the 'power' we have as consumers to choose all the various aspects of our largely predetermined lives. The hyperactive flickering of commercial images, movies that are practically advertisements for McDonald's or NIKE (for example, Mac and Me, 1988), and silent corrosion of reforms from the 30's and 70's send us into a desperate frenzy, busy choosing and buying all manner of commercial packages governing everything from our health care, education, food, to designer products, sex fantasies, and even our political rights. Even our presidential elections are far more akin to junior high popularity contests than anything concerning the vast political machine that shapes the lives of humans and nonhumans alike. Friedan wrote, "She was free to choose automobiles, clothes, appliances, supermarkets; she had everything that women every dreamed of," (CP pg. 38), referencing the substitution of consumer choice for real political choices. The same goes on today. People say that it's easy to take 'a shot at the system,' because everyone supposedly has economic opportunity that opens up their 'choices' in the consumer world. Few question the system that allows them these 'choices,' built upon hidden masses of slave labor, out of sight and mind, built upon extremes of advantage and disadvantage, upon the racism and colonialism, perhaps more overt in yesteryears, that is said not to exist today. In the face of this massive denial, that what exists only needs a tune up, things like housework often seem hardly to be political issues. The markedly skewed distribution of domestic labor is seen as fair by many couples, something that is a logical product of the 'choices' they both made (thank goodness we have the power!). We seldom reflect on the larger economic and social products of domestic labor: perpetuation of economic imperialism, production of human capital, perpetuation of the profits of various conglomerations, indeed, perpetuation of a system that sits on a cushion of exploited labor, puts on a happy face, and gives some 'people' around that world some 'choices.' Domestic labor is a political issue, as everything is. It is in the 'domestic sphere' that we envision the 'private,' 'personal,' aspects of our lives that touch everything else. Even the term 'domestic' is allowed to sit comfortably and strangely silent; unexamined are its oneness with the political public, the desperation of privatized relationships, and it contact with 'other' Other layers of exploited labor. "Be the change you want to see in the world," Ghandi said, now a widely available bumper sticker, book mark, motivational quote-a-day calendar, or whatever you choose. Indeed. I think real political choice begins with creating communities based on people consciously creating and preserving possibilities of being that don't necessarily go hand in hand with the profits of their life insurance provider.

Direct Engagement: Wages for Housework + Betty Friedan

Housework is constructed through the various readings for this week as work done in the domestic sphere--that is, work that is done to ensure the health and well-being of the family, specifically the breadwinner and the children (who may or may not be future family-breadwinners). This housework is unpaid, and unmarked by wages and therefore capital, but as Cox & Frederici insist, housework is essentially a part of capitalism and is essential to production. They suggest that housework supports the person (near always the husband) who participates in measured, waged work, who daily goes out into society to produce and perpetuate the movement of capital. Housework also supports the children, who will either be participants in waged work or the supporters of waged work in the future.

The tasks of housework are extremely broad, each adding up to create an enormous sum total. Importantly, a female homemaker is assumed to perform these tasks. The authors of the 'Wages for Housework' fliers define the tasks in easy-to-understand language. They proclaim, "[women] have scrubbed and polished and oiled and waxed and scoured until [their] arms and backs ached" (flier 2). Women have been in charge of "childbirth" and "dirty toilets" and "cups of coffee", and teaching children the proper way to behave. This work is essential in bringing up families to meet societal standards ("good families" are expected to wear clean clothes, have pristine houses, manage their children, eat healthy home-cooked meals, etc.)

Cox and Frederici lament that this work is unmeasured by wages and therefore devalued, although it has tremendous social value in addition to supporting the movement of capital in the professional world. They propose revolutionary measures, not only to assign wages to housework, but to eventually overthrow the capitalist system that demands the sacrifice of human lives to the attainment of capital.

Freidan is markedly less revolutionary in her chapter "The Problem That Has No Name"; she does not propose to overthrow capitalism, but she does wish to expose the unhappiness and dissatisfaction that many women in the 1950's felt as their lives revolved around housework and family support. All of the pieces we read for this week aim to deconstruct the nuclear family structure and critique it as a unit of capitalist production and normative social group--they aim to expose the unsatisfying aspects of devoting one's life to housework, though Cox & Frederici are decidedly more revolutionary in aim. To these 3 authors, housework is absolutely a feminist issue, as it is women who are traditionally expected to fulfill the role of hardworking housewife. The power relations and dissatisfactions that can come from a breadwinner/supporter family structure can leave both roles unfulfilling, demanding a critique of this structure and an analysis of patriarchy and capitalism's roles in defining it.

Supermom, Supermodel, Supermotivated


Housework is paradoxically regarded as both vital and trivial in both feminist circles and greater society. According to The Wages for Work campaign, housewives have "scrubbed and polished and oiled and waxed and scoured" without appreciation. They have also "brought our children up to be good citizens" and "raise[ed] the next generation of workers for you [you likely being patriarchal societies and governments]." Housework is a political issue because it stratifies: women, especially stay-at-home women or women from lower classes, can be kept in subjugated roles because those with more empowered identities believe that housework is all that such women are good for. It is not equitable to force certain groups of people to perform tasks, simply because more empowered groups don't feel they should have to.

Emphasizing the drudgery of housework can be a double-edged sword, though. Our emphasis on originality can cloud our judgment, implying that tedious, repetitive activities are less important or deserve less praise than completely novel undertakings. In "The Problem That Has No Name", Betty Friedan speaks of women who "feel empty somehow ... incomplete." Even if we are too desensitized to empathize with feelings of emptiness, surely we recognize the urgency of modifying a social structure that could lead a woman to say, "I feel as if I don't exist."

Being socially coerced into hard, tedious, repetitive labor day after day would almost certainly leave a person feeling frustrated and disheartened. But I feel that the issue is not as simple as building new machines to make housework get done faster, or getting more women into professional employment, although this is definitely a step in the right direction. The Friedan quotes indicate that in addition to being tired and frustrated, the women interviewed didn't feel appreciated in their roles as mothers and spouses. Since women as a group won't be able to escape identities of mother and spouse/significant other, I don't think putting on 8-hour Enjoli and being supermom, supermodel, and supermotivated at work will solve the problem. We need to appreciate housework for what it is: skilled, challenging, important work. Due to its very nature, and more than probably any other undertaking, if housework stopped, so would civilization.

Question 3: 2/16-2/18


Next week we start Issue #2, Work. This set of questions is for Group C. Please post your entries by this Sunday (2/14). Comments from groups A and D are due by Tuesday (2/16) at noon.

The Politics of House(work)

According to Friedan, Cox/Federici, Syfer, and the flyer (Wages for Housework) what kind of work is housework? How is it (de) valued in relation to other forms of work? Who does (and/or should do) the housework? Why is housework a political issue for the authors? Why is it a feminist issue? Do you think it should be a political and/or feminist issue? Why or why not?

Bonus Question: Watch the following commercial from the 1970s for Enjoli perfume:

What types of labor/work is this women expected to perform--as a supermom, wife, woman, etc? How have these expectations changed since then? How have they stayed the same? How are a wide range of women-as-workers represented in commercials now? How is labor around the house represented on commercials (who does it? what jobs do they perform? how is it valued/devalued)?

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