“They say its love; let’s say it’s an unwanted job.
They call it frigidity; we call it absenteeism.”
Starting with such denting lines Silvia Federici’s ‘The wages against Housework Manifesto’ circumnavigates around the everyday oppression that is faced by the housewives particularly in the lower middle class and poor section, they are subjected to such oppressive behaviors as a part of their daily routine. Federici who is a feminist activist, writer and a teacher, has played a pivotal role in launching the Wages against Housework campaign across the world, in the capacity of the co-founder of International Feminist Collective. She vehemently tries to run across the perspectives of oppression of women working in house through her manifesto. Along with advocating for the fact, why the wages should also be imparted to the housewives. The paper tries to explore various reasons supporting Federici’s claim for housework wages.
First is the constant subjection to the violence. Without any doubt the housewives remain the most oppressed group when it comes to the violence, it comes in the attire of domestic violence, Federici states that the “capital has made and makes money through our cooking, smiling, fucking” (Federici 82). Which runs parallel to Husbands exploiting their wives to provide them with all kinds of comfort. At the point when specific social groups live with the awareness that they might be dependent upon irregular, unwarranted assaults at any point of time, because of their having a place of the specific social gathering, it turns into a type of gathering viciousness, which step by step gets systemic. No matter how tirelessly a woman works throughout the day she is always expected to take care of the husband when he comes home from the work and as Federici notes that the men is allowed to recover his ego at wife’s expanse by channeling the amount of blows he gets at work to her (Federici 79).
While it remains an undeniable fact that the women have been constantly exploited by their husbands for galvanizing their economic and social gains, no doubt capitalism is he epitome of exploitation just like a labor’s wages, rather then being given for the work done hide a lot of unrecognized work that contributes to the profit. Housewives provide all the comfort of the home, she has no bidding out of it, it is gender specific and a tiresome labor and as Federici states that “it takes at least twenty years of day to day training, performed by an unwaged mother to prepare a woman for this role”. She also states that most people do their job not because they love it but because they want to live. These housewives are made to go through this rigorous work only to be exploited by the dominant male working class, and what is more alarming is that this treatment and ideology backed by various religious and historical piece of works which are considered to be the pioneers of morality in the society. Federici also adds to this notion of exploitation that, “Love and marriage is a fraud and a name, that this form of oppression goes under” (Federici 79). Thus a housewife has to go under such oppression and exploitation just because that is what a “good woman” should do.
Second aspect is of powerlessness according to Young a powerless person is a non-professional. A professional possess certified skills recognized by an institution, which on other hand are certified by other previous professionals, who then become the experts in that field. Unlike this housewife have no such magnitude to scale their skills, talents and knowledge as a result of which no matter how much time a housewife has invested in honing up her skills they will not be realized formally. There is one exception of Geishas from medieval Japan when during the time of prevalence of Shogun rule (Adalid). But considering the general outlook the housewives are deprived of any respect of authority, status and state of self that every professional has right to. These housewives are made to work without being given any profit or wage for their work and proving that the professionals fulfil the same functions of the capitalist in the capitalist economy.
Owing to the above-mentioned reasons it would not be wrong to say that just like racial groups, castes and classes housewives too are subjected to Marginalization by the dominant section of the society. Young has stated, “Many old people, for example, have sufficient means to live comfortably, but remain oppressed in their marginal status” (Young 55). Here, the housewives are marginalized for not getting the equal amount of recognition for equal amount of efforts, that in a way is depriving her of her right to dignity, for no matter how much work she does it will never be considered at par with a desk job, even if the person has to look at the CCTV while munching his burger. Federici very sharply criticizes this by stating, “We are housemaids, prostitutes, nurses, shrinks; this is the essence of the ‘heroic’ spouse who is celebrated on ‘Mother’s Day’” (Federici 82).
Cultural Imperialism happens when a minority faces double consciousness, W.E.B. Dubois says, “this sense of looking at one’s self through the eyes of others of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity”. This comes into action when the dominant groups perception of society transforms into the social norm. Unlike other oppressions discussed earlier it is not restricted to workplace, which for a housewife is the house, where exploitative and violent oppression renders woman powerless to act against it. The society vehemently builds such stereotypes basing its understanding on the perspectives of the dominant groups. The stereotype about the housewives thus, circumnavigates on the husband’s understanding of things, not the wife, no mater how enriching opinions she possesses, she cannot speak her mind due to already created stereotypes against her.
The most viable way out of this cycle is to firstly target the role of a female at its very roots by establishing that the work done by housewives is the work that matters for building both the society and the economy. Even if she breaks one barrier and gets a second job, it does not change her role but only increases her the amount of exploitation, highlighting the value and impact of housewife’s work on both socialization and Collectivization, Federici states, “It is one thing to organize communally the way we want to eat and make state pay for it and totally different thing to ask the state to arrange for the food.” As in the latter case we are letting state control us. “ Wages Against Housework” conveys why housewives should be respected and treated with parity to any working professional not just because it is our moral duty but because they have every right to be recognized for the hard work and struggle they are subjected to. Doing that will only be a true justice to this oppression from eons.
Young, Iris. “Five Faces of Oppression.” Justice and the Politics of Difference, 1990.
Federici, Silvia. Wages against Housework. London: Power of Women Collective, 1975.
Adalid, Aileen. “Understanding the Geisha of Japan: Myths and Facts.” I am Aileen, published: October 14, 2018.
I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.
If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.
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