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women, race and class

'women, race and class'
MIA: Subject Archive: Women and Marxism: Angela DavisAngela Davis 1981Women, Race and ClassThe Approaching Obsolescence of Housework: A Working-Class PerspectiveSource: Chapter 13 of Women, Race and Class, Angela Davis 1981;First published: in Great Britain by The Women's Press Ltd, 1982, 124 Shoreditch High St, London E1 6JE;Transcribed: for marxists.org by Dominic Tweedie;Copyright: Angela Y Davis.The countless chores collectively known as “housework” – cooking, washing dishes, doing laundry, making beds, sweeping, shopping etc. – apparently consume some three to four thousand hours of the average housewife’s year.[1] As startling as this statistic may be, ir does not even account for the constant and unquantifiable attention mothers must give to their children. Just as a woman’s maternal duties are always taken for granted, her never-ending toil as a housewife rarely occasions expressions of appreciation within her family. Housework, after all, is virtually invisible: “No one notices it until it isn’t done – we notice the unmade bed, not the scrubbed and polished floor."[2] Invisible, repetitive, exhausting, unproductive, uncreative – these are the adjectives which most perfectly capture the nature of housework.The new consciousness associated with the contemporary women’s movement has encourages increasing numbers of women to demand that their men provide some relief from this drudgery. Already, more men have begun to assist their partners around the house, some of them even devoting equal time to household chores. But how many of these men have liberated themselves from the assumption that housework is women’s work"? How many of them would not characterise their housecleaning activities as “helping” their women partners?If it were at all possible simultaneously to liquidate the idea that housework is women’s work and to redistribute it equally to men and women alike, would this constitute a satisfactory solution? While most women would joyously hail the advent of the “househusband,” the desexualisation of domestic labour would not really alter the oppressive nature of the work itself. In the final analysis, neither women nor men should waste precious hours of their lives on work that is neither stimulating nor productive.One of the most closely guarded secrets of advanced capitalist societies involves the possibility – the real possibility – of radically transforming the nature of housework. A substantial portion of the housewife’s domestic tasks can actually be incorporated into the industrial economy. In other words, housework need no longer be considered necessarily and unalterably private in character. Teams of trained and well-paid workers, moving from dwelling to dwelling, engineering technologically advanced cleaning machinery, could swiftly and efficiently accomplish what the present-day housewife does so arduously and primitively. Why the shroud of silence surrounding this potential of radically redefin
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