How to bring back the economic component of the women’s sphere?

To a large extent, the retreat of women from their own discrete sphere is driven by the stripping of its economic components due to various technological factors.  The question for conservatives is how to seriously and meaningfully deal with this aspect of the traditional women’s sphere instead of declaring that it either doesn’t matter or is a solved problem since an individual woman can “work from home” for her family’s financial benefit in limited, specific, idiosyncratic instances.

It’s a tough nut to crack, not least because certain economic things women did that were compatible with the domestic sphere as they lost their traditional trades were themselves only viable options due to mass media that evolved from technological advances.  I’m speaking of the numerous housewives and stay-at-home daughters who wrote to support or supplement their families’ incomes, of course.  But the markets they sold into would not have existed without the very technological forces that led us to the atomized, isolated housewives of the latter 20th and now 21st century.  And it’s so hard to communicate the loss, and the sheer amount of income they were responsible for.

Anyway this is an open sticky post for suggestions and discussion.  Will probably update occasionally with relevant links or posts as I run into them.

If your wife can’t stay home without generating income, she needs real work, not a blog or pyramid scheme

The title says it all.  Blame pregnancy brain for this placeholder of a post.  I shall return this one day when I’m a little less gum-brained, but I wanted to post a little at least about what I mean in the title.

To be blunt, if your wife has to make money while she’s at home or else you all have big financial problems and she can’t get a job outside the home for whatever reasons, then she needs to do something real for money.

Too many housewives who have to be economically viable beyond canning and couponing get caught up in the pursuit of professionalism in their work-at-home endeavors.  So they turn to monetized blogs and pyramid schemes because you “join networks” and “build inventory” and sometimes get to wear a business suit or go to a conference.  Such things are just traps, sucking money out of families that really need every dollar and further devaluing the actual work at home they could be doing for money.

Seamstress, egg lady, taking in other children, cooking for working parents, taking in hand washing: these are just a few of the real, normal, historical things housewives have done for money that can still be done even in isolated exurbs.  Mostly they don’t have corrosive and ongoing costs that are difficult to break out of and they scale up or down to individual families and the strengths of individual women.

There are other options beyond these, but the common theme is slightly more than what is done for one’s family, just enough excess to sell for a moderate profit.  Maybe not a “real job” where you sit at a desk and have meetings about synergy all day, but real work that is useful to one’s local community and one’s real bottom line.

Real Talk for SAHMs, Women’s Work edition

Contrary to popular belief even among SAHMs, women have have historically done more than bear children and provide infant and elderly care.  They also produced economically valuable goods (in addition to the children, I mean).  For thousands of years, women literally made the money. Cloth was as precious as gold and used as currency.  Even through the Industrial Revolution and the Pax Americana of the middle 20th century, women were still producing household goods as SAHMs, typically things like towels or bed linens.  Women also produced a lot of food and drink.  It was both the nuns and the monks who brewed, after all.

Female labor was economically productive for nearly the entirety of human history as a norm.  Not an exception, but the norm.  This is hard to understand in a world where people believe only alienated labor exists and that unalienated labor is a mythical construction.  The key difference between economically valuable male labor and economically valuable female labor is that the female labor has generally contained substantial unalienated components.  Someone more versed in Marx than myself might suppose that female labor cannot help but contain unalienated aspects.

The travail and despair of the modern SAHM is not so much that the alienated (economically productive) aspect of her labor has nearly disappeared, it is rather that nobody (not even her) is able to understand that unalienated labor is still labor, quite precious labor specifically because of its, let us say intimacy.

In a different economic system, one I cheerfully support (techno-distributism), the interwoven strands of alienation and unalienation could link back together in women’s work and they could be part of economic production again.  In a less mean version of the current system, the fact that female labor is currently almost 100% unalienated would not stop people from devaluing said labor.  The work of the SAHM would have value to her own family and local community even if it never brought in a penny of its own accord.

Though, one must ask, what is the value of making it possible for a man to earn higher and higher wages?  Surely it is a number larger than zero.  It is worth noting that no matter how small, primarily male industries like IT and construction have (nearly always female) secretaries.  Specialization has its own value in creating and maintaining the economic surpluses of civilization and dismissing the work of the modern SAHM because she doesn’t have to beat clothes against a rock is a perilous and ignorant thing to do.

The labor of the modern SAHM is shifted, not “saved”.  Her workload is moved around to different places than before labor-shifting machinery came along, but it’s not gone.  The cruel and petty meme that modern SAHMs don’t really have enough to keep them busy is simultaneously cruel and historically ridiculous.  The feminists, in blind squirrel fashion, are correct to note that women have been considered not busy enough for millennia.  It is nothing new as a criticism or snipe.  It’s just a way to get out of acknowledging that male and female labor are complements.

Nothing is gained by minimizing the importance of women’s work, or its potential economic, social and psychological benefits to marriages, families and communities.  Much, however, is lost, making the world of cake parties at the job and social life solely found at work outside the home look wonderful compared to being told what you do is nothing much and worth even less by even your fellow SAHMs.  That way lies madness and a lot of women running away from the hearth, home and hestia.  This is, in fact, the current situation.

Further, the isolation and dismissal make it even more difficult for modern SAHMs to be able to restore the hestia sufficiently and consistently enough to let men maximize their own production.  Yes, misogyny is economically depressive.  Female subjection is less economically productive than female submission.

Women’s work is not superior or inferior to men’s work, it is simply different work.  But it is not some pitiful rag end tacked on to the “real work” of teh menz either.  The fullness of God’s creation is reflected in respecting and understanding that women’s work is important, has been important and can regain its old importance and status if only people desire to follow God’s will and not give in to envy, jealousy, bitterness and despite.  

Bring back actual domestic engineering

Instead of having it be a sad joke to make SAHMs feel better about how low they are in status in modern society, conservatives could just pull all the old references about domestic efficiency and optimization and update them for life with dishwashers and iPads.  The lady-wife behind “Cheaper by the Dozen” was a groundbreaking engineer of the domestic, her entire life story is quite fascinating and an example of the memoryholing of women’s lives before Second Wave feminism.

There was much information that is not lost, but not accessed much about how to not overwork oneself or one’s household in performing domestic tasks, including after the industrial revolution’s labor-shifting devices were introduced.  There is already some “how to manage with dishwashers” domestic information out there.  The work of developing a corpus of the domestic is a wonderful use of the time of older conservative women, instead of silliness like starting the very wrongest kind of Tea Party.

Increase production of high quality small household goods

I recently tried to find clothespins so I could air-dry clothes to maintain their condition and help them last longer.  It was difficult going, but I did find a small family owned company that offered a decent product.

Conservatives need to consider business ventures revolving around producing small household goods like clotheslines, clothespins, small hand tools, small crafting kit, and the like.  There is a desperate need for high quality products that make home life more pleasant and help make household goods and clothing last longer.  As these household goods serve both male and female household stuff, businesses providing them provide the kind of infrastructure support for traditional living that is so badly needed.  It’s the sort of respectable work that won’t make anyone rich, but does provide family-supporting opportunities that conservatives need to have on offer.