Wages Against Housework by Silvia Federici was a book that grew out of pamphlets, flyers, and related materials that the US branch of the international Wages for Housework movement produced. Federici was a founder of the US group, which had a New York office beginning in 1975. The Wages for...
Wages Against Housework by Silvia Federici was a book that grew out of pamphlets, flyers, and related materials that the US branch of the international Wages for Housework movement produced. Federici was a founder of the US group, which had a New York office beginning in 1975. The Wages for Housework Committee was open to women who were employed inside or outside of the home. Federici’s title refers to the central idea that a variety of activities inside the home, often grouped under the “housework” umbrella and almost all performed by women, should be paid a wage. The book’s title reflects the problematic idea of unpaid housework as it conveys the complex relationship between waged and unwaged labor.
The term "housework" in the global movement's usage drew on Marxist ideas of production; it referenced not just house cleaning but also childcare and related work of social reproduction. It also called attention to the division of labor by gender and the related discrimination that women experience, along with the additional labor burden these factors placed on women. Because women perform unwaged, often hidden labor, they subsidize capitalist relations of production by reducing the amount that owners must pay as wages and forcing those recognized as workers to absorb those costs.
Overall, calling for wages for housework is not just about wanting money; it must instead be viewed from a political perspective, Federici writes, which is enormously different. This perspective urges women, even if they are paid a wage, to refuse housework.
If we start from this analysis we can see the revolutionary implications of the demand for wages for housework. It is the demand by which our nature ends and our struggle begins because just to want wages for housework means to refuse that work as the expression of our nature, and therefore to refuse precisely the female role that capital has invented for us.
Federici calls for the recognition of women’s domestic work as work by everyone, including by women who work outside the home. The idea of “wages” standing in opposition to “housework” means, in this regard, that women who do earn a wage should not aim to separate themselves from unpaid women’s struggle, as they are still expected to do the unpaid work as well.