The politics of Wages for Housework was shaped by women who had an understanding of capitalism, imperialism, and the anti-colonial struggle. Thus we could not accept that women’s liberation could be a struggle for “equality with men” or that it could be limited to equal pay for equal work. We saw that in the same way as the racialization of black men and women had served to justify slavery, so had gender-based discrimination served to exploit women as unpaid workers in the home. This is why we supported the struggle of welfare mothers, which was led by black women—not because black women were the majority of women on welfare, which was not the case, but because black women were the most ready to struggle for their rights. They were the ones who were out in the streets saying: Welfare is not charity. Every woman is a working woman. They were saying, like us, that raising a child is socially necessary work. They were saying, Don’t tell us that we are parasites. Don’t tell us that we are dependent on the state. When the state needs soldiers, it turns to our children. When it needs people for its factories, it turns to our children.
Our analysis of violence against women hinged on seeing housework as a form of capitalist production, and analyzing the role of the wage in constructing the whole family’s organization. We argued that violence is always latent in the family because, through the wage, the state delegates to the husband the power to supervise and control the work of the wife, and the power to penalize her in case she does not perform. I would describe it as a sort of indirect rule: the state mediates the control over women through the man and his wage. [...]
cool way of thinking about it
Wages for Housework was misunderstood as saying, Give us money so we can stay home, doing the same domestic work. We actually saw wages for housework as a strategy of refusal, as a strategy giving us more options, more power to decide how to organize our lives. We were accused of “institutionalizing women in the home.” But many women we met would tell us that they were already institutionalized in the home because, without any money of their own, they could not go anywhere or they could not leave their husbands even if they wanted to.
Wages for Housework was not the end goal for us, as some critics supposed—which is not to say that it was not a powerful goal in itself. We believed that the struggle for Wages for Housework would be the quickest way to force the state to give us free daycare and other key support services. [...]
clearing up common misconceptions about the project