Ellen Malos discusses wages for housework



Ellen Malos talks about the Wages for Housework campaign and her resistance to it.

Do you think that people (women or men) should be paid for doing their own domestic work?

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Strike! While the iron is hot! Wages for Housework poster 1 © Betsy Warrior

Strike! While the iron is hot! Wages for Housework poster 2 © Betsy Warrior



I had kind of been in some of the discussions about Wages for Housework and knew of people like Jean Gardiner and Sheila Rowbotham and so on and so forth, so had kind of got some ideas about the way I felt about it. And I remember particularly coming home once after having been to one of these meetings, and I had been sort of semi-attracted by the idea, but slightly wary of it as a, I couldn’t quite see where it went. And I remember coming back here and thinking, no, well actually, I don’t want Wages for Housework. [laughs] What I want is, not to have to do it all, so started thinking about that thing about sexual division of labour more clearly in a sort of, more personal way. I kind of thought, this is a very important distinction, the original formulation did not envisage wages for housework. It envisaged sort of accountability for housework if you like, a recognition of it as work and not as some kind of, natural emanation from being female, which somehow you just did, like you learnt to walk and talk, you learnt to do housework if you were a woman.

And those things that come out of the United Nations about analysing unpaid work and thinking about issues to do with unpaid work and whether you can incorporate a notion of housework with some kind of monetary value within GDP and I think all of those are different from wages for housework. Wages is about paying an individual to do a job, it’s not about evaluating the importance of a certain type of work, and those are two rather different things. And I just could not see really how you turned wages for housework into, particularly a revolutionary mechanism, which is what the Wages for Housework movement sees it as. And also, you know, some of the aspects of notions of wages for housework, about paying women money to put on make-up, yes, acknowledging that there are these extra tasks women do by and large need to do in order to make themselves saleable in the labour market, and it takes time, nevertheless, the idea of paying women to wear make-up and spend more time on their clothes just doesn’t seem to me to be either feasible or terribly revolutionary. So, you know, it was kind of thinking my way through those sorts of issues really. And especially when it came to the notion of the fact that women could take the wages and not do the work, and I thought, in your dreams, really. This is just not a practical or particularly useful way of, of looking at the issue.

Ellen Malos discusses wages for housework
24 - 26 October 2010
Sound recording
Sisterhood and After: The Women's Liberation Oral History Project
© British Library
Held by
British Library

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