Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Who Villanized "Woman's Work?"

Part, if not, a majority of my super awesome economic/political insight comes from the fact my profession requires many miles and many hours on the road. It gives you time to think when you get outside the range of talk radio and are too tired to sift through the country and Jesus stations out in the boonies to pick it up again. Of course my contemporaries and competitors do not have this advantage. Matter of fact they're disadvantaged being couped up in cubicles and offices, forced to study what their employers or grad school uberkommandants tell them to study and not what their brains might genuinely be curious about and things that might actually be interesting. And thus their brains decompose into automotonic (albeit highly mathematically inclined) mush.

So once again time for something that will be more interesting (and much more brief, pointed and useful) than anything you'll read out of the Journal of American Politcal Economy.

I was driving with Natasha during the Christmas season and of the many things she was saying, one piqued my interest - the amount of money she saved using coupons. I'm not talking about 30 cents here or there, but she managed to find sushi for two for $15. And it was good sushi.

This rekindled an observation I had in the never-to-be-solved arena of courting, marriage and men and women. And that observation is despite being villianized, degraded and shamed, activities that were traditionally considered "woman's work" were and still are vitally important to the family and society. Ergo, why were they villianized in the first place? Why were women "shamed" for being "housewives" or "stay at home moms?" And more importantly, WHO DETERMINED THEY WERE TO BE SHAMED IN THE FIRST PLACE?

First, look at what "traditional woman's work" entailed. For the most part it boiled down to three things;

1. Child rearing.
2. House keeping
3. (and this is where Natasha really made it interesting) increasing standards of living by becoming the procurer of consumables for the family.

These things are "trivial" compared to "man's work?" These things are "inferior" compared to "man's work?"

Second, if you look at them they are VITAL, just as vital as brining home the bacon. Rearing children is what prepares them for the real world and makes them productive functioning members of society. Not criminals. Just look at broken families and the correlation with crime, divorce, and other societal ailments.

Housekeeping is what supports the children, the wife and the husband (though men could do with just a cave and a hammock).

And clipping coupons, finding great deals, and making the most of the money increases the standards of living for the whole family. It's economically just as important to spend the money wisely as it was to earn it (making "woman's work" just as important as "men's work" as it is two sides of the same economic earning/consumption coin).

And third, it is arguably the simplest and most important example of the division of labor. If you want to be a DINK (double income, no kids), fine, then both people can work, enjoy life, drink martini's and go to town at Fredericks of Hollywood, but once you bring children into the equation,it behooves SOMEBODY (husband or wife) stay at home and do the "womanly duties." Not because the person who stays home is the lesser of the spouses, but because it just plain makes economic sense to.

Of course today we simply outsource the upbrining of children so that both spouses needn't be bothered with that nasty childrearing. You can kennel the kid at day care or school and afterschool activities and never have to suffer the inconvenience of spending any time with them. And (in an ironic sense) many women seem to pursue careers in industries where they simply seem to be taking care of other people's children, while ironically they have to work in the first place so they can pay the taxes and private sector child-caring services where essentially they're paying other women to take care of their kids (instead of just staying home to take care of their own children in the first place - which I plan on writing about in the future once I refine the thought a bit and pull some economic data).

Regardless, the larger point (and my sarcasm and cynicism aside), why did something so important and vital to society such as "traditional woman's work," regardless of who does it, get disregarded and villianized by society in the first place? And it leads me to a theory that is a bit black-helicopterish, but I am permitted one of those every once in a while.

Ergo, it's time to play Guess the Captain's Helicopter Conspiracy Theory!

I shall give you a couple clues and see if your line of reasoning doesn't come up with the same (thereby showing you I'm not completely insane).

1. The main drive to criminalize and minimize the vital importance of "woman's work" occurred during the 1960's, the peak of the cold war.

2. It mainly came from feminists quartered in the academian world.

3. Unless, I'm way off, I'm going to assume the importance of "woman's work" was so obvious to people at the time, conventional wisdom would never question the value of it.

Any guesses young intrepid junior, deputy, official and otherwise economists?


Anonymous said...

The obvious conclusion is that it is to do with spreading Communism, or just trying to destroy the evil, Capitalist, decadent West by weakening the family unit, devaluing feminity and undercutting masculinity.

Of course, if that was not the reason then its one of the consequences (intended or not).

Or else it was a ploy by bitter academic feminists justify themselves and their choices and make them sound attractive. All feminist rhetoric seems to boil down to a cry for attention.

I feel I am missing what you are thinking of though.

- Breeze

Anonymous said...

Hello Captain,

In manosphere it is common knowledge that feminism and communism are one and the same.

Fred R. said...

I'm not sure if this follows your reasoning, but I always assumed that the reason women were driven into the paid work force was to give an increase in GDP by increasing the work force, and then by consequence, convert the unpaid "women's work" into paid, GDP-increasing work, by hiring maids, nannys and day care workers.

This kind of growth is completely unsustainable. Most of the women occupied service careers, and increased C. The "socialism is okey-dokey" attitude that grew allowed G to grow, and allowed government to start making rules that made it hard for evil corporations to invest, so I decreased.

So GDP increased, but in a way that disguised the fact that the growth was not sustainable. It is not yet acceptable to produce a similar increase in GDP by forcing children or seniors into the work force (yet!), so a loosening of the banking and credit system was needed to keep C and G growing.

But, money had to be borrowed because nothing of value was actually being produced in the Western world, so money had to be borrowed, from .... RED CHINA!

What Communism could not achieve through physical warfare it is achieving through economic and social warfare.

Anonymous said...

Could it be that by bringing homemaking and child rearing into the taxable economy, there is greater revenue, and the opportunity to insert greater governmental influence to the process than would otherwise be the case? Did I win?

Here's something similar - agricultural operations used to be family enterprises with multiple concurrent ventures, cows, pigs, chickens, garden, field crops and a spattering of orchard, depending on the location. There was usually one item that constituted the bulk of sales from the enterprise, e.g. a dairy, a piggery, selling eggs, whatever. It was related to me by a farmer quite some time ago that numerous forces (extension economists for one) encouraged capitalization and specialization at the expense of diversity and self sufficiency. The change caused farmers to focus on cash flow and purchase their groceries at the supermarket like the rest. In short, the non-taxable part of the economy came out of the shadows for examination by accountants and the IRS.

Naw - having been around gov't for quite some time, generally speaking the employees are self serving idiots that pragmatic to a near criminal fault and can't cooperate between three of them to do one thing they're tasked with. Policy setters might be that malicious and have the authority to make those things happen over time, but the rank and file - no way as the competence isn't there.

bethesdaguy said...

You're right, it's them gad durn pinko commies!

Oh, and I also blame Archie's daughter, whose brain was warped by that horny pollack meathead.

Wasn't he a commie too? Yeah!

... I knew it...

Anonymous said...

It was the former Soviet Union who supported Stalin's famous useful idiots in the femisist movement.

PeppermintPanda said...

If you pay attention to feminists you will notice that their definitions on the acceptable roles for women are as rigid as the roles they were fighting against in the first place. Traditionally married women were expected to stay home, there were jobs that were acceptable for women to do (nurse, teacher, and secretary for example), and there were professions which were thought of as "Men's Jobs" that were completely unacceptable for women to do; and most modern feminists expect women to do these traditional "Men's Jobs", will accept the traditional professions of women, and see being a homemaker as being a completely unacceptable profession. The reason this is so problematic is that if feminists were actually about empowering women they would want to enable women to do whatever profession they wanted, and would probably want to emphasize the value of work that women traditionally did that was historically minimized or under-appreciated.

What really made me question the goals of modern feminists was discussions I have had with many women who decided to stay home with their children until they entered school. Most of these women made the decision because they didn't earn enough working to see a significant enough financial benefit from putting their child in day care in order to work, and this lack of financial advantage allowed them to do what they wanted to do in the first place and stay home with their children. Many feminists I have talked to are pushing for Universal Child Care citing that women often claim financial reasons for staying home with their children, but they fail to ever mention that many of these women want to stay home and can only justify it if they don't see significant financial gain from working.

Matt H said...

The Soviets (with a huge assist from academia's useful idiots and Marxist fellow travellers).

Sure, I could see that. Playing long-term by undermining one of the West's key core strengths (ie. the strong nuclear family) which would have many repercussions. I suppose the great push for legalized abortion and 'liberalized' divorce laws would fall into the same scheme hatched by the (heh) mother country.

I like your helicopter thinking Cappy Cap.

And you're totally right about the value added by a stay at home parent (in the realms of economics, child rearing, and martini name a few).

minuteman said...

Long time reader, but I have never commented before. perhaps being off work or christmas I have too much time on my hands.

My theory for why this happened is that by getting women into the labour force, you can effectively double the labour supply. If the labour supply doubles, the cost of labour will be cut in half. Its not just a coincidence that most families need two incomes to have the same standard of living that their parents had with one.

GloriousLudwigvan said...

The value society places on consumables - travel, plasma screen TVs - has gone up relative to the value society places on rearing children and keeping a family together. So it is more costly for a woman to stay at home and rear children. Hence, she has to go out and work, so that the standard of living for herself (measured in consumables) remains high.

It is due to skewed incentives, and a systemic issue with Western societies.

Hot Sam said...

Wow, this is quite a topic worthy of a Masters thesis. If Women's Studies programs had any conservatives, or at least people with intellectual honesty, they'd address this.

On aspect is that of comparative advantage. For ancient and medieval man, woman had a comparative advantage in child rearing because...well, they had breasts. They are also nurturing by nature. Research has shown they possess superior fine motor skills, on average, making them better at things like sewing, knitting, etc. Men who were generally larger, stronger, and faster had a comparative advantage in hunting and fighting. If might makes right, and back then it often did, then the strongest men and hence men in general made the rules. The people who did the hard physical and dangerous labor deserved the biggest cuts of meat, and others had to prepare it for them. Women had to be protected from being ravaged by other men. So naturally there came about a system of male dominance.

It was the rise of intellectual capital and World War II that changed everything. Women's minds are no less sharp and in many ways they are more disciplined learners. In a world where information and knowledge is power, women are at least men's equals. So the comparative advantage of men at bringing home thebacon disappeared.

World War II required women (and blacks) to work in factories. This opened up new worlds for them where they got good wages, aqcuired wealth, and became economically independent. It was in the post-WWII era that they began to realize and flex their political muscle.

Feminists harp that "feminism is the radical idea that women are equal." Actually, they have the radical idea that women are superior.

Women still have the comparative advantage in "women's work". It's just performed by lower class women. Going back more than a thousand years, though, affluent women out-sourced the difficult "women's work" for a life of tea and cookies.

You don't find many men or boys applying for nanny jobs.

women prefer stability and good working conditions, two characteristics that generally lead to lower pay. This is changing. Women are now earning higher pay, but suffering more heart attacks. Tradeoffs.

There are now more women in college than men. They graduate at higher rates. Unfortunately, they still don't often choose the hard sciences. And even when they do, it's in the "nurturing" fields of medicine and teaching.

feminists were right that women deserved better. But they were wrong in believing that women needed special favors to advance. They are wrong now that women earn less because of sexism. Almost all of the variation in women's pay has been explained by factors other than sex. And affirmative action and male sexism act in women's favor in many cases.

women still live longer and enjoy lower rates of unemployment and workplace deaths. They are far less frequently victims of murder and assault, despite the feminazi lies.

but the biggest mistake of feminists is that they won't acknowledge men and women ARE different. We have different capabilities and different preferences.

I can't explain the frugality. I don't know many male coupon clippers but I'm certainly a bargain seeker. Finding bargains is all about the opportunity cost of your time, not gender per se.

If feminine behavior is mostly socialization, I wonder why so many gay men adopt these female stereotypes. Either the gays have chosen their lifestyle and they're masquerading as women, or they were born with feminine characteristics and their choices reveal an innate feature of womanhood.

Mrs. Bob said...

One of the more positive aspects of the feminist movement is not in my opinion so much that woman's work was sub par. It is that woman were in a precarious financial and societal situation. If a man did not pull his economic weight so to speak by providing, or perhaps he was a philanderer, or he was abusive etc. The wife had very little means by which to support the family or leave a bad situation. The benefits of the feminist situation is that woman no longer have to be stuck in a bad situation. The negative impact of this is no fault divorce where women if they get annoyed with men can divorce them on a whim and men can do the same so there is no societal stability to base a shared economic division of labor. So being a being a house wife is a great risk. I am running into that wall myself right now. I think very strongly of being able to stay home and take care of my son, but by doing so I am taking time off from my career thereby devaluing my college education and future employment prospects. If something happens to me then I am back to square one financially, making minimum wage. Anyhow that is how I see the situation.

Eowyn said...

Side note: what is "villianized"? I think you mean to imply that this work is somehow made a villain?

(Interestingly, the term villain derives from the feudal term for serf, i.e. one tied to the land.)

Sorry; I know it's a nitpick, but ... it's hard to read an interesting article while simultaneously gritting my teeth.

CSPB said...

When the wife stayed home she primarily listened to her husband and communed with other women in a similar situation. The nature that women seek consensus with each other, reinforced the family. These values were taught in the family and preserved by the family.

The nuclear family was the building block of Western Civilization and the Marxists took a slow approach to socialism. Get women out of the house so you can teach children new ideas. Offer women something of apparent value, to reduce their dependence on men and the influence of men. Redefine the family and then redefinition of society follows. This also serves to undermine religious values, since women will be against men and children become pawns and can be indoctrinated in the state run schools.

Marty said...

I took a Feminist Psychology class as an undergrad, and in that class they made the point that feminism was wrong. It's not that women should have their own careers and should act like men, it was that men should spend more time with their families and be less focused on a career, like women. The ideal family, in this light, would be one where one of the two parents had a FT job, the other a PT job. The FT job parent wouldn't work more than 40 hours a week, assuring there's plenty of time for the family. And the PT parent would spend no more than 20 hours a week at their jobs. It didn't matter which gender worked what job.

It was rather refreshing to hear it, as both profs were women, and had families. They pointed to pre-industrial societies, where parents often spent almost all their time around their children (working the little bastards in the fields, in the kitchens, or hunting/gathering, of course), as nearly ideal.

They also pointed out that the factory model of work in the industrial revolution, pre-WWII, where one parent would work 50-80 hours a week, was a disaster for the family structure.

It was hard to argue with them. The rest of the class wasn't quite as enlightening.

Captain Capitalism said...

The communist plant/agent theory was the one I was looking for.

It almost seems too coincidental that feminism and marxism are so inexorably intertwined and where most of what modern day feminists spout has nothing to do with the benefit of women as much as it had to do with socialism and the transfer of wealth, representing nothing of the Susan B Anthony sort.

It would not surprise me if communist agents were sent here during the 50's and 60's to infiltrate among other things, academia wherein destructive (yet self-serving and highly selfish theories) were spouted to be made attractive to weaker spoiled minds and taught to college kids.

Whether that was the case or not, is a moot point. The damage has already been done.

Anonymous said...

And for most part, those commie plants/agents were damn ugly, too.

Mr. Enns said...

(You mention housekeeping. Part of that is hostessing: keeping a house that is ready to invite the neighborhood kids into after school or friends for tea. When people lament the loss of "community", look here.)

I think "women's work" lost prestige in the early 1900's for much the same reason as science gained prestige. Many fields had experienced startling progress. In science, engineering, manufacturing and medicine, progress meant productivity. In the home, progress (gas/electric ovens, washing machines, fabric, sewing machines) meant leisure time. The whispers were of laziness.

Where leisure time meant the rise of the hospital auxiliary (or block-watch or home-schooling, etc.) this was unjustified. Where it meant the rise of soap-operas, the whispers had some merit.

Also in the 1900's, the growth of corporations, the entertainment industry and government made it so that big-shots in the working world were increasingly powerful and prestigious. "Women's work" offers less opportunity for power over strangers.

Women's liberation of the 70's was largely about envy of "Mad Men" style power and astronaut style prestige.

Unfortunately, the gains in power and prestige are zero-sum games (every gain is another's loss). The costs in community and family are not (every loss is lost.)

Anonymous said...

Not a bad read, but...

spell check, spell check, spell check.

Really no excuse not to and increases the quality of your written argument.

Captain Capitalism said...

Eh, as long as people catch my drift, I really don't care.

besides, life's too short to worry about spell check.

langmann said...

@ anonymous: I think what Captain was saying is that the marginal return of running a spell checker is an opportunity cost.

@ Captain: I think for the most part feminism is simply mythology in today's world. In the old days it was bears and dragons in the woods. Now its the evil "capitalist". Soviet families were also nuclear, it was the only way to survive.

grerp said...

Captain, if this comes through twice, please delete.

I think that the exodus from the home had many factors, one of which Pete E mentions - that housework had gotten so much easier by the 1960s. It really did not require an entire week to accomplish laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc. We forget how truly arduous it used to be without vacuums, running water, central heat, gas, electricity, and all that. I find it interesting to watch modern people try to confront it on programs like 1900 House. They are overwhelmed by how long it took to get so little done.

Second, you really can't have the exodus of so many women of childbearing age without reliable birth control. The pill is behind so much of the success of feminism. A woman's dependence on her own fertility kept her in marriage, chaste, etc., for the most part, because the consequences of extramarital sex could be so terrible. It also kept her at home because if she thought there might be another baby in another year or two she was unlikely to get a full-time job outside the home, except in dire circumstances. She was unlikely to plan out a career, either, unless she thought there was a good chance of spinsterhood.

We also must remember that the nuclear family, stay-at-home mother ideal of the 1950s was a new thing. Before the technological gains of the early 20th century and the jump-started post-war economy, women didn't have the leisure to do light housekeeping and then invite the neighbors over for cards. They worked on farms, in factories, in service. They also lived in multigenerational situations. Grandparents would watch toddlers while mother sold fruit on the street or did piece work. As the other generations aged, the younger ones would then care for their needs.

As to who orchestrated the exodus, I'm not sure. We should examine who had the most to benefit. First, there are the women who coveted the positions of successful and educated men. Then there are the women who hated being at home because they were bored by the work or lack of society. Feminists either made up these groups or manipulated them. Were they the original instigators, though? I don't know. I did a paper once on propaganda found in women's magazines before, during, and after WWII. It was striking how much difference there was in advertisements, stories, advice, and articles for women from 1942 to 1946. The earlier ones praised women who got out of the home and went to do their duty. The later ones encouraged them to go back home and give a job to a man who needed it. Some of it was subtle, some of it was blatant.

During the 1960s many things converged. As I mentioned, one was the pill. Another was that the booming economy was producing a plethora of non-necessity products that companies and advertisers wanted to sell but families could not afford on one income. I would assume that the top men in those luxury and other goods companies promoted women's "liberation" from the home because in the short term they would well profit, and in the long term they wouldn't be around to see the fallout. I'm sure many of them were cynical or disinterested in the good of society, but I also think that if they could have seen a preview of what we have become today, they might have made different choices. But the cat's out of the bag now. Only families with at least a comfortable income can afford a parent at home, and many women are sold on the idea that it should not be them.

What I think is most problematic is what an absent mother does to kids. Babies aren't the only ones who need supervision. Teens get into a lot of trouble between the time school lets out and the time parents get home. Life wrecking trouble.

The Rat said...

What about all those calculations of the value of housework? You know the ones where they say that a woman's work around the house is worth $180,000 a year? Of course that assumes you hire a full time housekeeper, another full time child minder, and a full time cook, and so on. Of course the calculations are utter bullshit but the idea is that "women's work" is undervalued. What's undervalued is people's IQ, apparently.

Anna said...

Excellent point as usual.

A couple of additional points:

- When Feminists say "women didn't get to (have to) work..." this is kind of false, as other commenters have pointed out. Women have always had to work their butts off, just like men. All the women on both sides of my family, as far back as we can discover, have all had to work.

-When Feminists say "women didn't get to choose a career..." this is also kind of false. Neither men nor women got to choose a career until very recently in history (GI Bill?) Indeed, the concept of a career is a relatively new one.

-It has been said that women in Soviet Block countries regarded their forced outside-the-home labor as oppression. They wanted to be free to stay home and raise their kids. They think it is weird that Western women think that staying home is oppression.

For the record, although I work as a consulting engineer, if anyone ever called me a Feminist, I would take it as an insult.

Do you read Dalrock at all?
I am also a fan of The Art of Manliness blog.

CJ said...

It's villain spelled v-i-l-l-A-I-n. And you should probably find another word, such as denigrate or demonize. Other than that, good post.

MrUNIVAC said...

Cappy Cap - google the Frankfurt School, and Herbert Marcuse, and you'll find your theory is not far off from the truth...

Anonymous said...

vilify or demonize work better than villainized.

Also, Plato was the first Western thinker who discussed destroying the family unit, something Marxist thinkers sorta ran with, and it was really instituted in Hiler's Germany.

Rosalys said...

This is part of the deliberate and calculated plan to destroy western civilization so that it can be replaced by the socialist Utopia. "Utopian for whom?" you may ask. Why it will be Utopia for the ruling class, our betters and our keepers who are all knowing, all powerful and all loving. The fact that we will as a result be living in hell on earth is beside the point; we will just have to learn to be grateful for the crumbs tossed our way!

This is what happens when you turn away from God.

Geoarrge said...

What I think it really boils down to is the fact that if you really want to remake society according to your utopian vision, you must at some point get to the children.

As long as parents are allowed to raise their own children it is possible that they might not be raised in line with your utopian vision.

Therefore, the parents must be put into a situation in which they must give their kids over to the State. An efficient way to do that would be to teach young women that they must pursue careers outside the home to be "liberated", and then raise income taxes so they have to stay out in the workplace to sustain their standard of living. Having both parents out working thus ensures that the State will have plenty of time to work on the kids, mainly through the public school system.

Zilla said...

Excellent piece, Captain! I just 'discovered' your blog today and I really like it - I'm adding it to my blogroll here:

I agree with some of the other commenters that leftist feminism is the concubine of marxist ideology which must destroy the traditional family in order to further it's wicked and destructive agenda.

I recently wrote at my own blog about how the so called 'feminists' not only fail to help women but actually hurt them and suggested a new term for women who aren't afraid of the things which come naturally to us as females. You can read about it here:

I'm "just" a housewife/stay at home mom and I believe that in being this I am doing the best thing for my family, even though it means we have to sacrifice a lot of material things because I'm not out making money. I'd rather not pay a stranger to give my children the care that they can get from me if I stay home. If IO worked, it would barely pay for childcare which would kind of defeat the purpose of me getting a job and not only the kids, but my husband would suffer to because there would be no more delicious dinners waiting for him when he comes home from work.
Natasha sounds like a terrific lady & she is blessed to have a husband who respects her skills.

Anonymous said...

Look into the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to see an even larger assault on the family.

Then go to and see what you can do to defeat it.