Friday, August 29, 2008

Everyone Wants A Wife: Domestic Labor and Gender Division

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According to a study cited in the MailOnline "most men want a traditional wife".  When a list of priorities were listed what is obvious is that  men want a domestic servant rather than a partner.  You know after much thought, I cannot blame them.  I would love someone to do all of the cooking, cleaning and child care.  I would love for someone to cater to my every single whim simply because I was blessed to born with a vagina.  Why shouldn't I be entitled to that kind of gender worship?

Imagine a world where being born with a uterus coded the body with unearned privileges.  What would it be like to know that my sex meant that not only am I a  person of value, but that my words would hold weight when I chose to speak?  Consider for a moment what it would be like to be immediately deferred to as a rational voice of reason, based on the assumption that all women are naturally calm and thoughtful individuals.   Imagine a world wherein female is not considered a pejorative.  The fact that the number one thing a woman wanted in a mate was the ability to listen speaks volumes about how we value men and women.

The mail further states,  "figures from the Office for National Statistics bear out the claims. More than 2.1million women say they do not work because they are ‘looking after their family or home." This is offered as proof that women wish to return to the much mythologized fifties lifestyle of the stay at home wife.  What this fails to recognize is that though white middle/upper class women were stuck in the gilded cage of the household, women of colour daily reported to work.  The life of a stay at home mother  was never an option for us.  Since the days of slavery our gender has been no protection against cruelty and exploitation.  Though women were constructed as the fairer sex, the term woman was subsumed by white women. In slavery we bore the weight of the lash, and in freedom we have continued to labour never once receiving our due.

If women are returning to the household today it is due in large part to the fact that services that were once covered by the state are increasingly being downloaded to the nuclear family.  Companies are increasingly unwilling to make compromises that allow women to balance childcare and eldercare, while being gainfully employed.  Making the "choice" to stay home when all the other avenues to continue to work are closed off or are indefinitely forestalled, is not a choice.  A choice in absence of alternatives is a forced decision. 

Choosing to stay home and raise children, or care for elder parents is not only a sacrifice, it is a gamble.  Depending on a man for economic security leaves a woman in a precarious economic position.  Husbands loose jobs, and husbands die, thus leaving the sole responsibility for raising minor children and supporting the household on women.  Even staying out of the workforce for a short period of time can have a serious impact on a womans lifetime earning potential.  Often women are not able to re-enter the workforce at the same level that they left it at.  This is further compounded by the fact that absence from the workforce effects the amount of social security and old age pension that a woman receives.  Payout is based on your lifetime earnings and five years is a long time not to be contributing. 

It is quite obvious why men want a return to traditional gender roles.  Not only would they gain a domestic live in servant, their financial earning power would result in an uneven division of power within a relationship. For patriarchy to succeed women must be convinced into believing that our so-called role as natural caregivers is valued, which is clearly not the case.  In every single instance in this society, every form of labour that is valued is remunerated.  Despite the fact that the work in private sector upholds and maintains the work performed in the public sector it is not counted in the GDP or the GNP of any country. Though our work is necessary it is not valued enough to be counted much less paid.  This amounts to gender slavery based in the idea that a woman should sacrifice based in love.

Well love starts with self love.  Value yourself and don't be a dupe to patriarchy. If your man wants a live-in caregiver, let him move in with his mother who didn't have the good sense to raise a feminist son in the first place.


2 comments:

Megan Bayliss said...

Touche! I once did some research on the sexual division of labour at a bbq. I called it: :it's all in the sausage."

Feminism is about the experiences of women. Part of the definition of poverty is the inability to make choices. With the structural and social inequalities we face and a sanctioned social control of our choices is it any wonder that the women of the world continue to be marginalised and impoverish.

Change begins at home and it is great to read your pieces Renee. It is heartening to know that some women are striving for universal change for the sisters. Thank you for your commitment.

mycolorfulheart said...

Ugh. I hate 'studies' like this. At least this one is easy to pick apart-

Gardening? I think that alone tells you how relevant and accurate this 'poll' was. Yeah, I really really need a man who gardens. It's more important to me than anything else, and apparently 25% of women agree with me!

And the population of the US is currently 305,012,041. But there's a HUGE trend of 2.1 million women staying home.