After WWII there were fears that the US economy would decline back into recession (remember Great Depression immediately preceded WWII). Part of the solution to this problem was to convert all the war production infrastructure into manufacturing … we were sold refrigerators, cars, all manner of small household appliances. It was in this period that the modern model of consumption was born. We needed to consume to produce jobs and then we needed jobs to continue to consume. We created a situation in which women who had previously stayed home, had to work in order to bring in enough money to keep up with what we were required to consume to keep the economy afloat. In many ways this is also about the erosion of the middle class. Which we have seen increase especially over the last 25 years.
Feminists have asked economist to include what we call “the reproductive economy” into our calculations of what it costs for society to operate because it is fundamental to the ability to do wage work.
Dr. Sara Diaz
WGST 303: The *isms: Race, Class, and Gender
Work & Family
• What is the institutional meaning of family in our lives?
• At what intersections does family sit?
• Functionalist approach—The function of family is reproduction.
• Constructivist approach—The meaning of family varies across culture, class, history, etc.
• For mainstream economists the “productive economy” is:
• Characterized by monetary exchanges through trade, the organization of work,
distribution and marketing of goods, contracts, negotiation of wages and
salaries, and so forth.
• For our purposes “productive work” will be paid labor.
• Assumption behind the productive economy
• Worker is married man
• Wife does:
• Laundry, food procurement and cooking, home maintenance, bills/accounts,
child rearing, elder care
•This domestic labor includes biological and social
•Done mostly by women
•Maintains daily life
• Raise children; care for elders, etc.
•Often considered “unproductive” because it is
•fundamental to the ability to do wage work
• Public/Private Binary – Feminist intervention
• Nation Building: White women’s role in building the new American republic was to mother
the next generation of patriotic citizens within the private/domestic sphere.
• White women were protected from patriarchal violence in the public sphere by the “cult
• “Racial-ethnic” women were not seen as having a role in nation building as mothers, but
as laborers in the public sphere. Thus, the “cult of domesticity” did not protect them
when they were in public.
Gendered Division of Labor
A division of duties between men and women under
which women have the main responsibility for home and
nurturing and men are mainly active in the public sphere.
Kirk & Okazawa-Rey
The Double Day/Second Shift
• The double-day describes the phenomena of women who
work in paid labor and then put in a “second shift” at home in
childcare and household labor
• 70% of mothers work outside the home.
• In 40% of households women are the sole or primary earner.
• Working mom’s spend 5 hours per work day in household and
childcare activities, while men spend about half that amount
• Stay-at-home mothers work about 96 hours a week.
• What is the problem with the
company by company, or
state by state approach to
• Unlimited up to 1 year
• Only applies to salaried
• Hourly workers exempt
• Customer Service
• DVD Warehouse
•What legal, social, and economic practices
promoted the growth of family life among
European colonists? How did these practices
distinguish the experience of a white, dominant
culture from those of racial ethnics?—Nichole
•What is reproductive labor and how did it play a
role in the lives of racial-ethnic women?--Serena
• When a family in the United States has a child, but neither parent can afford
to leave their job, and a caregiver is out of the question, what are they left to
• Why is it that the "one-size" polices surrounding maternity leave do not "fit
• With many people fighting for paid maternity leave in the US today, should
we add paid paternity leave as well? Do you think the family as a social
institution would benefit if both parents had paid maternity and/or paternity
leave? How will the absence of paid maternity/paternity leave affect us when
• Why have other countries established better policies for materinty
leave and America still hasn't?--Meredith
• The United States as a whole is not a very supportive country.
There's no support for pregnant women in the work force,
homelesssness is ever increasing because of the lack of welfare
policies, and the middle class/working class (essentially the engine
of our economy) are under attack. I feel like the governement isn't
really set up to help us anymore. It has not always been like this
though. Why has it changed? Why has the richest country in world
also become one of the most selfish?--Ami
•What could we do to fix it?
•What would a program that not “one-size
fits all” look like?
Reflect on your own family formation and its relationship to
• Who was responsible for productive (waged) and
reproductive (non-waged) labor?
• Was the reproductive work distributed to household
members in traditionally or non-traditionally gendered ways?
• How did your family’s class, race, sexuality impact the division
of reproductive labor?
• Do the histories Dill outlines have any bearing on your family’s
division of labor? How so?
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