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Silvia Federici has been warning for decades of what happens when we undervalue domestic labor. Silvia Federici Credit By Jordan Kisner.
Prospect Park in May is a commotion of beauty: meadows and dense rambles, hills and hollows, everything covered in chokeberries, spicebush, violets, flowering hawthorns, magnolias and lindens. In this splendor the birds are boisterous, as are the people. But last May, the park was quieter than usual, and the people moving through it had a subdued, worried energy. Many wore masks; many did not. Occasionally someone shouted at someone else for coming too close. There was both fear of breathing common air and a desperate craving for it. Through this scene proceeded, at an energetic pace, Silvia Federici, the year-old scholar and theorist of domestic labor, one of the most influential socialist feminist thinkers of the last century.
Federici had a black scarf tied over her nose and mouth, and she was wearing a delicate blue sweater her mother made long ago. Federici walks all the way around Prospect Park at least once every day, even in the winter, with her partner of 47 years, the philosopher George Caffentzis. But for several days in May, she agreed to do a second daily walk with me. I had asked to meet because the pandemic and its cascade of economic, social and political breakdowns had led to a profusion of Federician thinking in places I had never encountered it before.
Suddenly notions and phrases from her work were all over my social media feeds, op-ed s and exchanges with friends, as people confronted what kinds of labor are considered essential and why. Federici is a longtime advocate of the idea that domestic work is unwaged Woman want sex Silvis and was a founder of the Wages for Housework movement in the early s.
It is a form of gendered economic oppression, she argues, and an exploitation upon which all of capitalism rests. It is essential work that our economy tends not to acknowledge or compensate. This disregard for reproductive labor, Federici writes, is unjust and unsustainable. But mainstream feminism — not to mention mainstream economics or politics — has mostly ignored domestic labor. Even so, women remain mired in housework. Woman want sex Silvis jobs are held mostly by women of color and immigrants. The arrangement is hardly a success for women at large. Public-policy experts and economists have pointed out in the last several years, the folly of excluding domestic work from economic measures like G.
When the lockdowns started, this growing malaise exploded into a crisis. After nearly a year of school closures, working parents are keenly aware of the amount of child care they rely on underpaid teachers to provide for eight hours a day. Without even the ad hoc systems for managing the constant work of child care day care; grandparents; after-school programs; summer camp; babysittersAmerican parents have discovered that the requirements of caring for a family match or even exceed the requirements of the full-time jobs needed to support that family.
None of this is news to, say, the single parents who were already working multiple jobs at minimum wage and unable to afford rent and food, much less babysitters — but the reversion of the professional classes to a situation that feels to them similarly untenable has inspired a radical mood. Increasingly, even those relatively unscathed by the pandemic are voicing anticapitalist sentiment, critiquing an economy that underpays or ignores domestic labor. Teachers deserve to make a billion dollars a year.
Or a week. Home, where dishes are piling up, where the cleaning and laundry lo have increased in the name of caution. Home, which up to 34 million Americans have lost or are at risk of losing entirely because of job loss and subsequent eviction. How might this year have looked different had the work we do to care for one another, ourselves and the world around us been valued at a premium? When we met in May, Federici seemed less panicked, or maybe less caught off guard, than most everyone else I knew.
She was focused and brisk as she walked toward me through the park, smiling behind her mask. She is slight and wiry, with lively hands and short, curly gray hair. As we walked, she spoke quickly, tallying up the fracturing systems, the interlocking forms of vulnerability that were always present but were now affecting even the people who thought they were immune. She said she was occasionally surprised that people are calling her up now to talk about things she wrote 20 or 30 years ago. Woman want sex Silvis she long suspected that the dangers of devaluing care work would eventually materialize into a crisis too big to ignore.
Laughing, she told me this experience made her want never to have children: the horror of cowering in the fields with babies, the bottles of milk, the terrible vulnerability of the world. Parma, unlike many parts of Italy after World War II, was a Communist stronghold, and in her teenage years Federici was influenced by the labor and anti-fascist movements there. Later, as a graduate student studying phenomenology in Buffalo, she ate uncooked hot dogs right out of the package and potatoes that she — grudgingly — boiled. It was an activity that had no rewards, no pleasure in it. She was the one who told me the things that later became my politics.
Whether in terms of housework, whether in terms of agricultural work, she was the one who basically was saying, But work is more than blue overalls! She was inspired by the vibrant antiwar and student movements in Buffalo and by the civil rights movement. The essay argued that by working without pay in the home, women were producing the labor force that capitalism exploited for profit.
The notion was epiphanic to Federici. Federici became involved with a group of feminists, including Dalla Costa and James, who called themselves the International Feminist Collective. The I. Our faces have become distorted from so much smiling. From the start, Wages for Housework was expansive in its definition of who belonged in the feminist movement. Because as long as we think we are something better, something different than a housewife, we accept the logic of the master, which is a logic of division. The New York committee operated out of a storefront in Park Slope, Brooklyn, where they campaigned to improve living conditions for women in poverty.
They supported the formation of other groups around the country and in Canada, and worked locally with the activists Margaret Prescod and Wilmette Brown, who formed Black Women for Wages for Housework. They campaigned together in support of welfare activists, as they considered welfare the first victory in the struggle to demand that the government compensate women for their work in the home. But after four years, the international network splintered. Until very recently all parties declined to discuss the year-old internecine conflict in public, convinced that it would distract from their work.
This transition was violent, she argues, citing thousands of women killed during that period, usually women who failed to conform to their new, radically constricted reality and were accused of being witches. These were merely conventions useful to the rise of an economic system that has become so all-encompassing that we no longer dare to imagine another way.
This way of things can be reversed. The last year — this plague year, this election year, this horrific year — has been a fruitful time to pay attention to who profits from our economic system, and at whose expense. In the last year, more than 70 million Americans filed for unemployment, a majority of them in the service sectors, where workers are more likely to be women of color. Low-wage workers lost their jobs at greater rates, and have stayed unemployed longer. At the same time, just over half of essential workers, who have continued working outside the home at risk to their health, are women, and disproportionately women of color.
In the last year, women in health care have fared worse than their male counterparts: A C. Many were nurses and certified nursing assistants, jobs that involve direct patient care — sponge baths, feeding, administering medication — and are more populated by women and Woman want sex Silvis of color. Hospital housekeeping and home health aides also got sick and died in higher s. It is expected that when the vast s of unemployed women re-enter the job market, they will be paid lower wages than before. In the last year, 2.
All this, amid perverse debates about whose lives are acceptable to sacrifice to save the economy. Back for whom? It is somewhat less than surprising that there is a growing hunger for a different way, a society less stubbornly resistant to valuing human life when it stands in the way of profit for a rich, white, often male ruling Woman want sex Silvis.
Taylor is among a generation of scholars and activists bringing renewed attention to the leftist, often Black-led wings of the feminist movement that were shut out by mainstream white feminism. Their legacy has been taken up by contemporary social-justice activists and scholars like Taylor, adrienne maree brown, Rachel Cargle, Dean Spade and Mariame Kaba.
This is where the energy of the left is now, if not a majority of the money or institutional power. This hit its logical endpoint in the branded and sloganeered feminism of the last 10 years. And years like do not fall evenly on all women. The promises of liberal feminism have never sounded more hollow as the huge population of women who were left out of this vision entirely has grown. Gender parity in the work force ified by equal representation or even equal pay never materialized, and has been set back generations by the unsolved problem of domestic labor.
These issues are gaining traction in the halls of power — not because they are new, but because they now affect even middle- and upper-class women, particularly white women. There are ways to restore that value, relocating it where it was all along. Federici still lives in Park Slope, as she has, on and off, since She met George Caffentzis inwhen they became roommates.
Within the year they were together. Federici has taken up the cooking, which she enjoys more than Woman want sex Silvis did in her 20s.
Caffentzis loves to cook, she told me, and his pleasure in it helped her see the task as less burdensome and more beautiful. Before, we had a more equal share. Woman want sex Silvis apartment is filled with hundreds of books — on shelves but also stacked under the sofa and the bed, piled in corners, even stashed in the kitchen cabinets between the dishes.
What are the stakes of that omission? Her aging mother needed round-the-clock care, and Federici flew to Parma to her sister in the effort. Me, my sister, all day, and there was not enough. Federici discovered that her mother, over her day hospital stay, had gotten deep bed sores. What are we going to do? What is valuable? What are the priorities, eh? I think unless we touch that? Unless we touch that. The remedy for enclosure, Federici proposes, is turning more and more of the world into a commons. Commoning is that idea in action, a practice of putting more and more of your life outside the reaches of commodification or extraction.
And therefore, you can devise some of your own things that are situationally appropriate. The ways this could look are as various as the communities seeking to address unmet needs. Recently, a group of coders built a free online tool to help families form and schedule child care co-ops.
Mutual aid networks are one iteration that has flourished during the pandemic: Using something as simple as a Google Doc, neighbors can write down what they need and what they can give, forming or revealing a network of symbiotic relationships. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez co-hosted a conference call with the prison abolitionist Mariame Kaba on the basics.
These exchanges often seem mundane: Instead of your hiring a handyman, a neighbor might come to Woman want sex Silvis house to help install your ceiling fan; in exchange, you might help him, or someone else, with his taxes or pet-sitting or garden work. In addition to donating to big nonprofits, you might also reply to calls on your local mutual aid network to help a neighbor make rent.
While agitating for the government or other organizations to allocate desperately needed resources, your community might band together to pool and increase the resources it currently has. In the course of fighting a pipeline project, the tribe and its allies built an encampment network that kept thousands of protesters housed and fed and safe, even as winter descended; they created a school for the children, recognizing that if whole families were going to participate, the children would need both care and education.
In part because they made the camps a livable, long-term community, they were able sustain and amplify the effort into a movement with international support and ongoing momentum even though the camp itself was cleared by law enforcement in February Federici, when imagining the possibility of a truly just world, writes about the way collective, transformative action can match the magic worked by nature, which continually regenerates. In this sense, she continues to hold Prospect Park up as an example of creativity, possibility and beauty. Her eyes crinkled behind her mask.
And of people. I am very excited about people. There is still joy, I see it — there is still a lot of beauty in this world. And I hope it prevails over those who only want to control and tear it apart. She Already Knew. Supported by.Woman want sex Silvis
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