In 1968 and 1970, I was part of the Mouvement de libération des femmes (MLF) (Women’s Liberation Movement), and the notion of being financially compensated for housework never came up. The notion of paid housework belonged to the Italian movement, to Silvia Federici, and to Selma James and the book she published in 1972. It was never taken up by the French movement, and that’s perfectly fine. I don’t even understand the underlying basis of the proposition. Who would pay for this work? The state as the “representative entity of capital”? First of all, the state is not the representative entity of capital, even if it supports such capital. And I don’t see how we could get the state to pay when we can’t even get the capitalists to pay. And second, the idea that capitalism benefits from housework is, in my opinion, a meaningless one. It’s not capitalism that benefits from housework; it’s men.
So yes, if there is anyone who should pay for such work, it’s men, and I alluded to this in “Par où attaquer le ‘partage inégal’ du ‘travail ménager’?” (How to take on the “unequal division” of “housework”?). I proposed, for those couples already living together, that rather than making society pay, we make the men who do not want to do their share of the housework pay, and that, to this end, we abolish all advantages—social, fiscal, and salary-based—accorded to men with housewives. “So far, it is not only that men fail to pay their wives, whether they use them for housework or for professional work, but also that the state pays these men a good portion of what it costs to support their wives…
This text stems from an interview with the organizers of the debate.
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