Oh yeah, hit that strawfeminist harder, she’s still standing up

Men’s News Daily is at it again. They are totally twisting the important part of Jessica’s post, so in the quote below I’ll helpfully hightlight it for you in boldface. If you read the whole post and the comments, you’ll see that nobody commenting picked up on those two crucial words:

In feminist author Jessica Valenti’s recent Feministing.com post Clorox’s history of women’s unwaged labor, she criticizes a Clorox ad which shows generations of women doing the laundry. Jessica (pictured) writes:

“Clorox does end up unintentionally showing how women have been doing household grunt work for generations. The worst line in the commercial says that ‘even a man or two’ has done the laundry. As if all the women watching are supposed to have some little laugh to ourselves about the inequitable division of labor. ‘I do shit work for free, tee hee!'”

When I read feminists say this like this, I wonder where they think the men were. What about the tens of millions of male blue collar workers who put their bodies on the line in the coal mines and steel mills so their wives and children could live in safety and comfort?

The post goes on to discuss the undeniable toll of male injury and death in heavy industry and various dangerous vocations (no note at all of the many women who are injured and killed working as prostitutes of course – the fatality rate for prostitutes is reportedly up there with soldiering). Besides, plenty of women these days are interested in performing dangerous work because of the higher pay scales anyway: not every woman, but not every man is interested in physically dangerous work, either.

The issue is not whether the work is dangerous, or shitty, or mindnumbingly boring, neither is the issue how much the worker hates the work that they’re doing – the issue is whether the work is paid.

Categories: culture wars, gender & feminism, Politics


7 replies

  1. World’s Worst Jobs (Tony Robinson on the ABC)a few weeks ago highlighted the dangers associated with laundry work in times gone by. Professional washerwomen did heaps of heavy lifting, commonly died when they fell into wells and rivers while collecting water, and handled lye without gloves. Lye is now commonly known as CAUSTIC SODA so it’s not great on the skin, particularly not if you’re exposed to it every day.
    But yes, as you say, the issue was the lack of pay on the domestic front. A lack of pay that makes it very difficult for women to leave their partners, even if that partner is beating them up, rather than protecting them.

  2. Thanks, Kate. Apart from overlooking the pay issue, the stereotypes make one’s teeth grind: the MND mob’s stuff is all predicated on all women being SAHMs. They have no understanding of June Cleaver as a temporary aberration, an artefact of post-war suburban sprawl for the middle-classes, when we know historically that most women have always had to work outside the home – laundresses as above, seamstresses (vision problems, toxic chemicals in dyes), gleaners/threshers and associated agricultural worker risks, herders etc. These hardworking women were expected to come home and do the housework while the men expected to be waited upon, and while the women would be paid for their outside work they weren’t paid for their housework, and that’s hardly changed and that’s what sucks.
    Maybe when we’ve all got little e-secretary attachments noting down how every single minute of the day is spent, and everybody can throw up their stats on the screen, maybe then these people will finally believe that women work a significant second unpaid shift.

  3. “so their wives could live in safety and comfort”
    Wow. So, unpaid domestic labor, vulnerability to domestic violence and sexual assault, and a lack of reproductive rights sure sounds like safety and comfort to me. He’s right. Women have always had it so easy while the menfolk were busting their humps to provide.

  4. These MNDers resent the change in the typical family landscape: most probably grew up at a time when a single bluecollar skilled-worker wage was enough income to provide suburban comfort for a whole family, so that bluecollar families could afford to only have one adult working while the other (nearly always mother) stayed at home with the kids and polished the house.
    This was a matter of great pride to our whole society, because most of those people knew that their own mothers had had to go out to work to provide a comfortable household when they were growing up – it was a sign of progress and prosperity. It was also expected that technological advances would lead to the breadwinners also working reduced hours and having more leisure time over the next decades.
    But that sort of economic abundance wasn’t true before the fifties and has been receding since the seventies, so that we’re back to a situation where unless you’re up in the socioeconomic bracket where most of your income is from investments, then to live in suburban comfort requires two incomes. (And we still don’t have flying cars, either.)
    Of course, the MNDers probably blame feminism for the double-income necessity now instead of laying the blame where it belongs:

    * technological advances have downgraded the status (and pay) of most skilled bluecollar work, and instead of having fewer hours for everyone at a living wage we now have longer hours (and high incomes) for a few and the sack for everyone else;
    * and escalating consumerism and a rollback of egalitarian principles according to the ideology of economic rationalism have increased the cost of living.

  5. The stay at home mother who only looks after her own house and kids is indeed an aberation. One of my great-grandmothers, for example, stayed at home with her (large) family. She also tended chooks and pigs, raised veggies, and was the woman all the other local women called on when they needed a midwife. She did all that while her husband was an itinerant worker, and therefore working away from home a lot.
    She had four times more children than the current national average, her husband was inclined to drink his wages on occasion, she ran a small farm and had paid (although badly) work she got called out for. Hardly ‘comfort and security’. I haven’t checked, but I’d bet you anything you like her marriage and death certificates, and her children’s birth certificates list her as having no occupation.

  6. The whole “my wife doesn’t need to work” thing has always been a status symbol. Plenty of women have bought into it, but it’s a marker of socioeconomic class, not a biologically determined division of labour.
    Imagine if the whole country was predicated on 20 solid hours a week generating a basic, solid living wage. People could live healthily as singles, and if a couple decided to cohabit and raise children they could benefit from the double income and apart from the postnatal physical convalescence period could totally share parenting/household duties while both maintaining a career and independent financial security in case they end up divorcing, as so many do.
    There was a time that such a lifestyle for most was the way the Western economy was heading. But somehow a healthy and contented populace was deemed less important than pushing up the stockmarket.
    I’m not against economic progress, I just don’t think it’s the only progress worth making.

  7. “I’m not against economic progress, I just don’t think it’s the only progress worth making.”
    I’d add that if the few make great economic gains at the expense of the many, the many get shirty, and they have a tendency to start stealing, and setting fire to stuff. One way and another it doesn’t benefit the few that much.

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