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Question 2

I think it's extremely important to ask oneself "what kind of moral education does one learn from being in a household in which one adult is so clearly subordinate to others?" When families make the decision to hire a nanny, it's easy to come up with reasons why having a nanny might make life easier for all family members or why they can't fulfill the responsibilities that they are hiring the nanny to perform. Feminists would see this as a critical issue because it is central to parenting, labor, and equality issues. In popular discourse, maids are supposed to fill a "wife" role without being a wife. In your blog, you compared it to the way in which the Brady household had Alice, and she was central to the family but never got the same rights or recognition as other household members. What came to mind for me was the 1940s version of Mary Poppins, where the cook and the nanny clean up and make sure Jane and Michael are behaving, while the father goes to work at the bank and the mother socializes with the Suffragettes (definitely an interesting feminist dynamic). I imagine it must be confusing for children growing up with a nanny or maid, seeing an adult who is supposed to care for them but who also is subordinate to the parents. Especially when the nanny is (insert ethnicity here), it creates the problem of people of color serving white people, and even if the parents are not racist, the implication is probably not discussed openly between the employer and their children. The moral education they should be receiving would expose them to concepts of justice and fairness in a professional environment, and to make work visible again. To show the children that work is necessary and not just reserved for second-class citizens is to instill a work ethic that will ensure that they value equal treatment as well. The issues of equal treatment, divided labor, visible work, and family dynamics are all things that can have a feminist spin.

DE: Tronto


I believe that feminists are responsible for "the nanny problem" but there is a large difference between attributing it to feminists and saying they are to blame for the problem.

Tronto questions to what extent a social movement can be to blame for the societal ills that are a byproduct of it. Because women were able to join the workforce along with their parnters they needed someone to take care of their children, so they brought domestic workers (or nannies) into their home.

An easy alternative to this would be sending them to childcare. This eliminates the ills of domestic labor and the strange congext of working in someone else's home for that person.

In the 3rd contention of "I want a wife" it outlines the creation of the dilema that tronto writes about. That the desire for economic independence, and joining the middle class have necessitated some form of child care.

DE Question 1


In reading Toronto, she claims that feminists should feel responsible for the "nanny problem" if they themselves have a nanny. I thought her three main points were very strong. Her main points were
1) An institutional setting of a household is a different setting than the market (the market being day cares, child care with multiple children, etc.)
2) Relationships within household are more immediate and intimate than in a market and 3) Quality of relationships are measured by quality of work, so part of the work of domestic service is to nurture and maintain care of relationships.

Going off of the first point, household settings are more so the householder's territory. Things need to be done their way and because domestic caretakers are the owner's employees, they are the ones to say where the line should be drawn. If there is a nanny expected to raise the employer's children a certain way, they better assimilate otherwise their job could be on the line. Toronto also brings up a good point that because domestic service takes place in a private home, it's often not regarded as employment. This may be the reason why child care work pays pretty poorly and is looked at as low prestige, as Toronto states. The second point marks on the fine line between professionalism and getting too involved. Some employers were shocked to think their child care workers were only doing their job for the money. This attitude creates high expectations for child care workers to play the correct motherly role on top of household care which is their primary duty. Not only are they expected to do what the mother or father should do when they are off at work, but they are expected to be the parents as well. This also ties along with Toronto's third point saying that the domestic service worker should nurture and maintain care of relationships with the employer and the family members. Feminists could be held responsible for this "nanny problem" in part because they are advertising that women should be heavily into their careers, doing what they want to do. Some are out there making the bacon, but a possible issue is that they are not raising their kids if they choose to have kids. They are saying goodbye to the motherly role as they dive head first into their careers. Not to say that they shouldn't, but child care is something that they must look at deeply if they are going to choose a strenuous career and choose to have children in my opinion.

Tronto speaks of a "charge" as usually the child being cared for by the domestic worker, or another member of the family. Syfer's essay talks about her longing for a wife. She plays with society's expectations and definition of a wife. There is satire in her essay. The description of a "wife" given by Syfer almost makes a wife seem disposable. Who would want to be a wife if the definition was the one given by Syfer? I think that is sort of the point she was trying to make.

Ehrenreich knows what it's like to do household care first hand. Her and Tronto both make points about the rise of the two-career household and notice the shift in who is doing the housework today. Ehrenreich, different from Tronto, points out that the women of the house are still doing 2/3 of what needs to be done, it's the cleaning that is really getting to be too much. American's are helping feed this problem because they are giving jobs to others to clean their house, clean up what they don't have time to. The biggest problem with this that I think Ehrenreich and Tronto both talk about is the fact that this work has no prestige, it is seen as slum work by some or many in America. The other issue that they all bring up is our definition of a "wife" and our gender roles that are still so cemented in our societal norms.

DE! Question One


The issue of responsibility is big in American life today; scapegoats and blame games are being played in the political arena as I type, two examples: the funding for national health care and Planned Parenthood. Whose fault is it that some people are rich and some are poor? Whose responsibility is it to fund education? Whose job is it to decide how much education costs in the first place? Is education the reason or the fix for homelessness? These are all questions of responsibility, but the bottom line is that they are just questions--not answers. Concerning the welfare of nannies and housekeepers, who's to say that people can't choose to clean on their own (because who in their right mind would choose to do that...right)? Why can't people choose to monopolize on the things that other people choose not to do themselves? We all sell ourselves in some way to make a living, don't we? We are all prostitutes. Maybe the issue is better stated as an issue of awareness of the fact that, "Almost everything we buy is a product of some other person's suffering, and miserably underpaid labor" (Ehrenrich 51). Is it human nature to shy away from hard physical labor and lean towards intellectual labor (hence college)? And if that is so, then why do people degrade those choosing a physical vocation when they reach the pinnacle of their intellectual careers?

The constructed gender roles in the home seem to be the root cause of a new problem "that cannot be named," women who work full time jobs, take full time care of their children and their home with little to no help from their spouses (Friedan). The nanny, housekeeper, or maid seems to stand in this chasm picking up the slack for one or both partners, essentially as the ideal "wife." With awareness, and not only awareness but also a name or names for the problem at hand, people might be able to delve into the socio/economics of happiness and responsibility while stepping outside themselves, and evaluating how they divvy out value in a world that seems to devalue physical labor involved in the very things that make the rich's livelihoods run more smoothly (waiters and waitresses, janitors, maids, taxi drivers, stewardesses, cashiers, migrant workers, farmers, field hands...). The world would not run so well without them.

"Mother's Little Helper"

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This is not an entry of substance. The Friedan reading just reminded me of this song. Enjoy!

The Moral Complexities of Domestic Work


In response to Question 2:

The questions posed here, and brought forth by Ehrenreich and Tronto, delve into some very sticky and contestable areas of morals and ethics. The issue of domestic work is indeed fraught with moral consequences/implications and the feminist movement has seemingly struggled to seriously challenge these employment practices based on their moral outcomes. Tronto makes it clear that domestic work isn't really seen as work; it's something that one is supposed to enjoy. She even cites some employers yearning to imagine their nannies as not just working for the money; that there might be some emotional payoff for them in being part of a child's upbringing. These employers clearly fail to notice the alarming rate at which domestic workers are leaving their own children with a family member or neighbor in order to care for someone else's child(ren), often in another country. A feminist/social justice critique is desperately needed here, as argued by Ehrenreich and Tronto. Children are learning the imbalance of power and value among the domestic worker and their employers in the household as a natural part of the world, thereby ensuring their continued perpetuation in greater society.

Of course, it's complicated for a social movement to take a stance on a moral issue because of the possibility of alienating so many of its alliances in one fell swoop. This one however, as argued by Tronto, is a direct result of the feminist movement in the 60s and 70s and must be addressed due to its far-reaching and harmful effects. I would argue here (I think in partial alliance with Friedan) that part of the problem is that no one is talking about the problem and addressing it directly. Tronto and Ehrenreich speak to this need and with greater visibility of critiques like theirs, domestic work will become more valued, reasonable, and equitable for all parties involved.

DE for 03/07: Answer to Q1


Both Joan C. Tronto and Barbara Ehrenreich discuss the role of paid domestic work in relation to the Feminist Movement, and its unintended consequences. Tronto focuses on paid domestic workers who take care of children, while Ehrenreich focuses on domestic workers who clean the house. In both instances, the workers are primarily female, immigrants, and (often) poorly paid. Tronto and Ehrenreich argue that, while the labor reform (i.e. getting women out of the house and into the workplace) has benefitted upper-middle/upper class women, it is the women of the lower classes who are still being exploited as domestic workers. Ehrenreich states that, not only does hiring domestic workers often take advantage of poor, immigrant women, but it does not help the Feminist Movement as a whole, because men are still not expected to take responsibility for keeping the house clean and the children looked after. Rather than reversing traditional roles, in which the man stays home and the woman works, a couple will simply hire women to do these things for them, and men get excused from domestic work. Therefore, one may argue that feminists are responsible for the "nanny problem" that gets discussed in Tronto's essay, but perhaps this is simply because women are not demanding that their partner (in a heterosexual relationship) take on his share of the housework/childcare. According to Ehrenreich, "there is no reason to expect that men will voluntarily take on a greater share of the burden, and much of the need for help arises from their abdication." (100)
As Judy Syfer's essay, "I Want a Wife," demonstrates, wives take on an enormous amount of work and responsibility within the home, (whether she does or does not have a job/career.) Whether it is organizing play dates for the children, doing the laundry, picking up socks, making appointments, women are still left with many duties simply because their partners will not help.
In my own heterosexual relationship, my partner and I take turns completing certain cleaning tasks, and often times he does more of the cleaning than I do. However, I know of many heterosexual couples who do not follow along these same lines. Usually, it is the female partner who must take care of most of the cleaning and planning, because the male partner won't bother. How can we as women shift more domestic responsibilities onto our partners?

DE In response to Question One....


...the use of nannies allows upper middle-class women and men to benefit from feminist changes without having to surrender the privilege of the traditional patriarchal family. The hired household worker is an employee, but she is mainly treated as if she were a wife (Joan Tronto, 47).

How are feminist responsible for the "nanny problem"? What do you think of Tronto's charge in relation to Judy Syfer's essay? What connections can you draw between Tronto's claim and the essay by Ehrenreich?

Feminists are responsible for the "nanny problem" by conceding ground in what Ehrenreich labeled as the 'chore wars' of the 1970's and 80's. That is, even after feminists established how cleaning and household chores configured into a framework of power, the effort to subvert the dominant role men had in expecting their wives to do the housework had limited success. Some husbands started taking on housework or more of it than before, but the majority of cleaning and chores were still performed by wives.

The division of labor in the household remained unequal and was never truly resolved but rather slowly faded into the background over a period of time. The system was still broken and instead got recreated--as Ehrenreich explains, "women gained a little ground, but overall, and after a few strategic concessions, men won [the chore wars]. Enter then, the cleaning lady as dea ex machina, restoring tranquility as well as order to the home," (89). The entrance of a maid into the space of a household reproduces the same models of dominance over again, but instead of a wife being placed in the role of subservience, it's now the maid. Though maids are paid, the very nature of their employment is one that a person wouldn't choose for themselves if given other abilities and opportunities.

The framework of power can't be supplemented by maids earnings because, "even better wages and working conditions won't erase the hierarchy between an employer and his or her domestic help, since the help is usually there only because the employer has 'something better' to do with her time...the obvious implication [being] that the cleaning person herself has nothing better to do with her time," (Ehrenreich 102). Wives, like maids, were often deemed as having nothing better to do than housework since it wasn't considered a job so much as a responsibility of a wife; maids are employees but their labor isn't being viewed as something necessary for them so much as a natural job they'd occupy since they lacked "something better" to do with their time. The same assumptions that placed women in the submissive and degrading role of being expected to clean up after their husbands gets reworked through the maid rather than a husband and wife both equally dividing the household labor. Now both the husband and wife are free from the responsibility of taking care of the household and instead settle the work on someone else's shoulders.

Syfer's piece also strongly correlates to Tronto's claims by imagining the responsibilities and tasks a wife performs as well as the privilege that a husband would afford from having a wife. In particular, these descriptions of a "wife" strongly correlate to duties and qualities tied to a maid: "I want a wife who will keep my house clean. A wife who will pick up after my children, a wife who will pick up after me. I want a wife who will keep my clothes clean, ironed, mended, replaced when need be, and who will see to it that my personal things are kept in their proper place so that I can find what I need the minute I need it... If, by chance, I find another person more suitable as a wife than the wife I already have, I want the liberty to replace my present wife with another one," (Syfer). A maid can in many respects become a wife or rather be viewed as one in how their duties are arranged around picking up after others, tending to the maintenance and cleanliness of clothes, and arranging things in the precise manner that the husband or employer wishes.

A wife is also understood by Syfer as being expendable. If a husband can justifiable get a divorce and look for a wife that would be more "suitable" so too can a maid be fired and a new one hired that would be better able to meet a specific standards that an employer, like a husband, would have. Maids occupy a similar capacity that wives do/did even with a status as an employee because their labor is still devalued, taken for granted, gendered, and deemed replaceable.

DE Question for march 9

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In your evaluations, some of you indicated that the Saturday evening deadline was a little difficult. So, this week I have decided to shift back the deadline. Instead of posting entries by Saturday and comments by Monday, group D should post their entries by Monday evening and groups A and B should post their comments by Wednesday at noon

Pick one of the following questions:

Question One:

...the use of nannies allows upper middle-class women and men to benefit from feminist changes without having to surrender the privilege of the traditional patriarchal family. The hired household worker is an employee, but she is mainly treated as if she were a wife (Joan Tronto, 47).

How are feminist responsible for the "nanny problem"? What do you think of Tronto's charge in relation to Judy Syfer's essay? What connections can you draw between Tronto's claim and the essay by Ehrenreich?

Question Two:

...what kind of moral education does one learn from being in a household in which one adult is so clearly subordinate to others (Tronto, 40)?

To be cleaned up after is to achieve a certain magical weightlessness and immateriality....A servant economy may provide opportunities, however, limited, for poor and immigrant women. But it also breeds callousness and solipsism in the served, and it does so all the more effectively when the service is performed close up and routinely in the place where they live and reproduce. ...The moral challenge is, put simply, to make work visible again (Ehrenreich, 102-103).

Why should the nanny/domestic workers problem be important for feminists? Why is this a feminist issue? What sort of moral education should children be receiving? What contributions can/should feminists make towards that moral education? Why is the moral challenge to make work visible again? What other moral challenges do housework/the nanny problem create?

Question Three:

In her essay, Ehrenreich discusses "the politics of housework." What does she mean by this term and how does she, and some of the other authors we are reading for this week, understand this idea of housework as political? What do they mean by politics?