Housework is work. Why don’t we value it?

For millenia, labor division was sex-based and crystal clear. Men mostly worked to create things or for wages: farming, blacksmithing, soldiering, trades. Women, once they were married, raised children and worked in the home, cooking and cleaning. It was the sensible division, since women prior to reliable prophylactics were very often limited by pregnancy or infant care in what they could do. Men, without the responsibility of direct care for babies, were more free to range away from the home.

There were women who produced things, clothing or household goods, medical products, and foods, or who took over their husbands’ work when he died or was disabled. But most women did work that was crucial for keeping the family fed and clothed and healthy. Why, though, is this work so undervalued? Why does the women’s rights movement seek primarily to free women from “drudgery,” instead of empowering them to take pride in this unpaid but oh-so-important role?

The answer is simple: labor economics.

Historical Background

Without technology, humans are limited in the amount of work they can do. A man can only plow so much field in the course of a day, and a woman can only plant so many vegetables. Even when the family’s children were pressed into service, there was a limit to how much they could do. The first solution for alleviating this limitation was slavery. A man could nearly double his plowable field area if he employed a slave to do more labor for him. A woman could get more housework done if she had a slave, too.

But the difference was in scalability. A man with a thousand slaves could run an immense estate efficiently, producing resources well in excess of what he could use. With this excess, he created wealth, which gave him power; through largess or trade, his excess wealth allowed him to lead groups or cities or countries. The wealthiest men often became kings.

A woman with a thousand slaves to help with her work, on the other hand, would have been hindered. While housework is hard work, it is not scalable. There is a limit to how much can be done, and when you have “help” beyond that limit, the help gets in the way and becomes a hindrance that consumes resources. Women, therefore, could measure their slaves in tens or less, and often found that daughters or daughters-in-law provided more than enough extra labor to run the home effectively. Only in household tasks that resulted in a product – dairy work, for instance – was extra labor efficiently scalable.

This set a historical pattern: men who controlled more men had power and continued working. Women who controlled more women had a limited amount of power, and were often able to become idle or to support their husbands’ powerbuilding in social or material ways. We see this today among the wealthy, where husbands work for high levels of resources while wives entertain or network, their seeming idleness often adding real value to their spouses’ work – but, as so often happens with women’s work, invisibly.

Today

Because of this pattern, women’s work has been historically devalued. Domestic workers are paid minimally for physically demanding tasks, and those we entrust with the care of our children often earn minimum wage. Part of this is due to the economic necessity of valuing labor in terms of money – resources generated. Jobs that generate more resources are generally more valued. Women’s work rarely generates resources, and therefore it’s devalued. Part, however, is just social habit.

The result, in terms of feminism, has been the wholesale rejection of traditional female values and work in favor of men’s values and work. For a couple of decades, women who chose to stay home and care for their families felt shamed by the women’s rights movement, as if they were failures as women. Even today, there are women’s rights activists who sneer at women who choose this path. Instead, women are encouraged to take on male roles, working for resources and building power in traditionally masculine ways.

This has a multitude of effects, not all of which can be seen yet. First, by devaluing women’s work, we are discouraging men from taking on those roles as women move into masculine roles. Women, as a result, have a few choices: do both their own traditional work AND work in a resource-generating career; hire help; do less domestic work and instead outsource some tasks, like cooking, to modern resources like restaurants or frozen prepared dinners; stay single; or take on the even-more-thankless-today position of traditional housewife.

Like dominos, these choices lead to more results. Women who work essentially double roles are less able to do either. Child-rearing suffers, and women are at a disadvantage compared to men in their professional positions. This is one of the main reasons, I think, that women often make less than men – because they are less able to take advantage of opportunities or work later, they are less likely to advance or earn collegiate respect. Add that to time taken off for childbearing or child care, and women are at distinct professional disadvantages not of anyone’s making.

Women who outsource cooking often eat less healthy; since the family generally eat what Mom brings in, the whole family tends to be less healthy. Women who outsource child-rearing are less involved in their children and more likely to have weaker maternal bonds – and I don’t care what studies say, this is an obvious truth. Women who outsource home cleaning have to spend resources they’ve earned to pay wages, and because of generally lower statuses at work, the resources they must spend are often a relatively high percentage of their incomes.  Women who stay single do not give us that next generation we depend on to carry our civilization forward and care for our elderly.

In short, by devaluing women’s work and encouraging women to be more like men, we’ve short-circuited our entire civilization. Many of the things that are breaking down today are due to the mismanagement of the women’s movement by people who did not think ahead.

I’m not saying women who work outside the home are bad; I was one of those women for years, and today much of my work in-home takes just as much time away from my domestic responsibilities as work outside the home would. What I am saying is that we need to reassess what we’re doing here. Women’s traditional work is much more valuable to all of us than we have been led to believe. We need to find ways to value it more as a society and as individuals.

The Democrats’ War on Women

The Democrats, in this election cycle, are claiming that the Republicans are waging a war on women. This is projection – the Democrats are in fact waging a war to enslave women to their own purposes and needs. Ideally, the Democrats want women to feel trapped into voting for them. In order to do this, they are using a number of very, very old tactics – the sorts of tactics that historically have always been used to entrap women.

Fear

The first and most obvious tactic is fear. Women are told to be afraid because government under the Republicans won’t be able to take care of them. They are told to not trust the men in their lives; men will fail them. The Republicans, they are told, will not protect them from violence; special legislation must be passed to ensure women are safe. Special legislation must be passed to ensure women are treated fairly and equitably in the workplace.  If we don’t legislate everything concerning women, this line of argument goes, women will be cheated by those lousy, stinking Republican men. Even women’s health, they are told, is something Republicans don’t care about.

Infantilization

The Democrats, in most of their arguments using fear, are also infantilizing women; that is, they are treating them as if they have to be cared for like children. Because women can’t control themselves sexually or protect themselves from situations where they might be sexually victimized, they must be provided with free contraceptives – so they won’t be “punished” with a baby. Because women don’t have a voice for themselves at work, they must have Daddy Government legislating equal pay. Obama’s Life of Julia is a perfect example of cradle-to-grave women’s infantilization – at every stage of her life, a female viewer is told, she must be protected and supported by government.

Notice there is no equivalent presentation to the Life of Julia designed for men. Why? Because men don’t need the kind of protection women do? Because men owe it to women to pay for their government services? I’m not sure, but the lack of a Life of John is certainly uncomfortable. Sorry, but I don’t need government services more than a guy does. Just because I have a uterus does not make me less capable.

Anyway.

Flattery

Men have used flattery on women to get what they want since words were invented. The Democrats have taken up that tactic and expanded on it. This is perhaps easier to illustrate than to describe. Here’s an example:

In an article for CNN, Jack Schlossberg makes the following statements: “[Lilly] Ledbetter, the face of the fight for women’s equality, reminded us all just how far we have come in the last four years. . . . my sisters would scoff if my work was ever called equal to theirs. . . .  Michelle Obama reminded Americans that her most important title is still ‘Mom in Chief.'” In her groundbreaking book The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan lambasted men putting women on a pedestal and adored by men. It led, she said, to women being viewed as something other than human. Schlossberg does precisely what she said not to do: flattered women for working harder than men, set “mom” above and beyond men, included men in the fight for women’s equality as if that feminine glory would rub off on them. It was naked flattery, and women should find it offensive rather than attractive.

Lies

Lies are the simplest form of manipulation. The Democrats tell women that the government will always be there for them, if they just ensure the Democrats always win. Sensible people look at the debt and our budget deficit and our downward-spiraling economy and say “Oh, really?” For some reason, however, women who plan to vote Democrat are not doing that. They are not questioning clearly-fallacious statements. They are instead blindly, faithfully following.

Love

Love was a surprisingly common word at the Democrat National Convention this year. Over and over, the speakers told women, “We love you!” True or not, it always has an emotional impact on women, and we are susceptible to manipulation when that word is used.

Sex

Perhaps the most stunning thing I saw at the party conventions this year was the spectacle of a dozen or so people, male and female, dressed up as giant pink vaginas at the RNC. I’m sure it was done to shock. I hope it was not a tacit admission that this is the only way Democrats see women – as walking, talking vaginas. Be that as it may:

This year’s Democrat National Convention was absolutely saturated with sex, even though it never was explicit about it. Women’s health has been reduced to whether or not they can get their hands on chemical birth control medications. Never mind that women are more likely to be obese and diabetic, that we are more susceptible to having brittle bones, we are more likely to have certain mental health issues like depression and eating disorders. No, apparently this year the Democrats decided that women’s health was all about sex.

But that’s because sex makes a fantastic argument tool. It is visceral and real. Everyone has an opinion about it, generally that it’s a good thing and we should have more of it without fear. It is closely associated with love and bonding. And it is a strong human drive, perhaps the strongest outside of fear.

God

At one point, women were the guardians of religious freedom. While ministers were mostly men, everyone understood that the church centered around women. Women organized fund-raisers. Women provided the volunteer labor that was critical to the church’s functioning, women made up the social networks, women motivated their families to attend church, and women determined whether a new church survived or failed.

No more. The Democrats have chosen to reject God, as was clearly evidenced by their vote against the inclusion of “God” in their platform (and yes, the moderator stated that the ayes had it – anyone with a half a brain could easily tell that the ayes did NOT have it.) Moreover, in the “fight” to ensure women’s contraception is paid for by their workplace insurance companies, the Democrats are telling women that they are more important than religion, and quite possibly that they are more important than God – if of course there is a God, which they by no means admit.

That goes right back to flattery and putting women on a pedestal. It’s the sort of argument women should never pay attention to.

***

Republicans, of course, are not innocent of using these tactics against women. Perhaps the most common argument used this year at the Republican National Convention was the glorification of women as mothers. Yet the Republicans treated women as sensible adults, and gave them a fair and equal voice at the convention. They did not assume women were incapable of caring for themselves, or of making appropriate decisions about budgeting for birth control. They did not put women on a pedestal for the most part (again, with the “mom” exception.) They did not use different arguments for women than they did for men, or for any other classification of people. Instead, they spoke to women as Americans, intelligent people capable of making a clear decision.

I didn’t see a single thing to make me think Republicans are waging a war against women.

What Is Conservative Feminism?

Feminism purports to speak for all women. Well, as it’s practiced today, it does not speak for me, nor does it speak for millions of strong conservative women. This blog is an attempt to bring some definition to the unique philosophy of strong conservative women. There are a number of topics I want to discuss here, and have others talk about. We have a great deal of unexplored ground to cover.

Let’s start with the following topics:

Feminist roots. Conservative feminism looks to the late Victorian feminists like Susan B. Anthony for our guidance, rather than to post-1960s feminists like Betty Friedan or Gloria Steinem. This blog will investigate some of that lost history and forgotten philosophy.

Family-centric rather than individual-centric. Conservative feminists acknowledge and embrace the importance of being a wife and mother, and expect men to likewise embrace their values of husband and father.

Dedicated to women having free choices in their futures. Whether a woman wants to be a housewife or POTUS, she should feel free to pursue that dream.

Acknowledgement that women cannot “do it all”. Women are not superbeings. When they try to have everything all at once, especially without a plan, some aspect or aspects of their lives will necessarily suffer. When we fail at “doing it all,” we should never feel like failures.

Self-limitation of our sexuality. Women have been told our sexuality is just like a man’s. It isn’t. Our sex is wrapped much more tightly to a sense of security, and we are uniquely vulnerable to being controlled through sex even while we think we are in charge. This is perhaps the most critical and most delicate issue conservative feminism needs to address, and I will be doing a lot of addressing and studying of it.

Rejection of the concept of abortion as a simple choice. It is not. Having an abortion may have serious mental health consequences, partly because it is a rejection and betrayal of our self-value as protector of children. Not having one may be equally destructive, as it takes away a portion of our freedom to be autonomous. The best choice lies in learning to appropriately take charge of our sexuality in a post-birth control society.

Recognition that men are different — and vive le difference!! They communicate differently, they bond differently, and they think differently. Conservative feminists love men for their masculinity and do not seek to transform them into girly-men. Embracing our role as the ultimate protectors of our children. We bear them and rear them, children of both sexes. It is part of our subconscious self-image that we are the mothers and nurturers.

Sisterhood. Women around the world need help. Western conservative women are uniquely qualified to provide them solidarity.

Recognizing and taking control of our power — as consumers, as sexual beings, as the family’s core. Men, businesses, and governments should never be able to hijack our personal power.

All these topics are valid issues we as women, and as conservatives, should be discussing frankly and openly. We are not, except for a few exceptional women. Let’s sit down, have some coffee, and chat among ourselves. Let’s also keep it positive and look for solutions, not gripe about problems.

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