Feminism has often seen work as the opportunity for women’s emancipation, and historically there have been few long-term social revolutions with more impact than women’s mass inclusion into the workforce. However, if we remain uncritical of the exploitative dimensions of this work, then there will be no gender equality for anyone.Which echoes this passage, from One Dimensional Woman (again, my mini-review is here):
No discussion of the current fortunes of women can take place outside of a discussion of work. The inclusion of women into the labor force has brought about unprecedented changes in the way we understand the 'role' of women, the capacity of women to live independent lives and the way in which women participate in the economy more generally. Of course, women have always worked, that is to say, raised children, tended to the home, grown crops, etc., and how different the history of the world would have been had this been from the start been regarded as labor to be rewarded. Nevertheless, as Marx notes, it is only when women enter work 'outside the sphere of the domestic economy' that transformations in relations between the sexes, the composition of families and so on, really start to happen.No doubt this sounds uncontroversial and is orthodox Marxism and widely held to be the mainstream of feminism, but I'm confused by the assumption that it is entering the workforce that will lead to the emancipation of women. Emancipation from what? Liberation from what? Presumably from being tied to homemaking and childrearing. Except that it's not as if entering the workforce has meant that women, on balance, have not remained primarily in charge of maintaining the home and of rearing children. Their work there has remained under-valued, indeed has been increasingly devalued, only now they very likely have some other crap job on top of it (or possibly even a "good" job, most things considered, but even so). It seems to me that entering the workforce has had the collective effect of reinforcing the liberal order, particularly since too rarely have the "exploitative dimensions" of the work in question been examined, and since it has been without a necessary revaluation, a correct valuation, of reproductive work. The fact is, when it became necessary, capital was perfectly happy for women to "enter the workforce", knowing full well that the revolutionary potential for the move was minimal at best.