Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Will Work ... for Free

I had a conversation with a friend on Facebook the other day. This friend is an anti-capitalist, which can be interesting. I learn a lot.

In this particular conversation, he was sharing some thoughts about housework. In particular, he was sharing articles and essays by Silvia Frederici, who seems to be saying that women have gotten the raw end of the deal when it comes to capitalism. I didn't read further into her writing, and it may be that she is very politically motivated and promoting a different political-economic system than capitalism.

But that's not where my conversation with my friend went.

Where it went, at least for my part, was to concentrate on the reality that our society views housework as valueless, and by proxy, people who engage in it, are considered less valuable than those who do paid work. Mostly women fall into this category, and again, Ms. Frederici, a feminist, may be ranting against this patriarchal system that has, again, dumped on our more gentle sex.

The comment that prompted me to comment to him at all was that he said something about kept women (not to be derogatory, but as a label that is often applied - unjustly - to those who are homemakers).

It's, unfortunately, a truism in our culture, and as a long-time stay-at-home Mom (and I usually qualify that I'm also a work-at-home mom ... see? I'm worth something, because I HAVE a job that actually pays money), I have, personally, been subjected to this stigma.

My thought, though, and that of greater thinkers and writers than I (like Sharon Astyk and Amanda Soule), is that we, the home-makers, may just be the ones who save us. We can all see that our economy is in trouble. The world economy is in trouble. In the past thirty years, the economies in Russia, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Argentina, Greece, Venezuela, and Japan (and perhaps others I haven't mentioned) all collapsed, catastrophically. No jobs. No money. No supplies, including food.

We, housewives (at least those of us in the middle class sphere of housewifery) have been creating a, sort of, informal economy, where we, often, barter our services and/or goods - usually without even thinking that that's what we're doing. I'll teach a workshop and get "paid" with bread and fresh produce. I'll babysit for my friend and she'll pet sit for me. I'll give my friend a rabbit (because she wants to try it), and she'll give me cheese and grass-fed beef from her own cows.

We've learned to reuse stuff that those who are working for money would simply throw away. If I had a full-time job, I probably wouldn't spend much time making my own panties or a bath mat out of old towels and some leftover fabric scraps. There aren't a lot of gardens in suburban neighborhoods, because most two-parent families have two jobs, and gardening isn't on the priority list. Most people don't line-dry their clothes, because it can be a time-consuming choice. Most people don't heat with wood, even if they have a woodstove, and if they do supplement their heating with wood, they don't cook on their woodstove.

It takes time. It takes effort. It takes thought and planning to do all of those things, and when people work full-time, the last thing they want to do is extra work. It's just easier to pay someone else to make panties and bath mats, deliver the heating oil, produce the electricity for the clothes dryer that someone somewhere manufactured, heat up the convenience food that someone else prepped and froze (or canned) in some facility out west somewhere.

Here's the rub, though. When our economy buckles and those conveniences are either no longer available, or only a little available, we'll all be doing more for ourselves.

Or we'll need to hire a housewife to do it for us ... because we, housewives, will be the only people who know how.

1 comment:

  1. Work worth doing, which frankly a lot of paid work, and most well-paid work, is not. People talk about a glass ceiling but I've always wondered if women were just not (mostly) smart enough to not WANT to do that CEO sort of work. Etc. But the whole thing really is work worth doing. And cleaning toilets and washing up tea cups is actually quite valuable.