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Capitalism, Not Women’s Lib, Freed From Domestic Drudgery

Something that the headline writers – the subeditors – at The Guardian really do need to begin to understand. Yes, it’s entirely true that traditionally female household labour has declined massively over the past century or so. It’s equally true that there has been women’s lib over this period of time. The two are indeed connected as well. But it’s capitalism, not the agitation for the lib, that has brought it about.

Suzanne Moore’s actual piece here is fine, rather enjoyable in fact. It’s that headline which is nonsense:

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Women’s lib freed us from domestic drudgery – so what’s with today’s competitive cleaning?[/perfectpullquote]

Women’s lib is a product of the economic emancipation of women. A long desired and wholly delightful liberation, of course. That liberation coming from the manner in which domestic labour has decreased so much this past century. These numbers strike as a little overcooked but a serious estimate is that a 1920s household required 60 hours of labour a week to run. Today that’s about 15 hours. That’s the cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing and all that. It being those products of capitalism which make the change. The washing machine – both Hans Rosler and Ha Joon Chang use “washing machine” to mean the entirety of domestic labour replacing machines – the iron, the gas or electric stove, the freezer and fridge, the vacuum. All products of purely profit driven capitalism and anyone disagreeing never did own a Soviet washing machine as I once did.

Women are indeed economically free these days and Huzzah! for that, but it’s capitalism wot done it.

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5 years ago

All a bit sexist from the Grauniad. Domestic chores now being the shared responsibility of all. I expect many working dads also actively participate in the getting of cleaners etc. it being a general cost of the household budget. Unless their rather old fashioned position is that wifey pays for it out of the “pin money” she earns by working her “little job”?

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