What is ‘housework’, and what changes are occurring in this area of work today?
Broadly speaking, the term ‘housework’ is used to describe the management of the home, which ‘involves a range of activities, the purpose of which is to maintain household members’ (Hatt 1997: 39). Hatt discusses how the industrial revolution and the rise of capitalism created a tidal wave of mass social change; causing production to shift from within the household to the factory. The home is now the site of the ‘reproduction’ of labour, a role which has become strongly gendered; shaped by social policies and ideologies that maintain gender roles(Malos, 1980, Cooke, 2009). There have been a lot of significant changes occurring in the area of housework since
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The gendered division of labour and the gender stereotypes in respect to housework and domestic labour that we identify with today are a product of the capitalist society that we live in. Prior to the industrial revolution the home was itself a site of production for subsistence, and men and women shared domestic labour tasks, despite the fact that they had clearly defined roles both parties still made a near equal contribution to the well-being of the family (Hatt, 1997). Small scale production was also still prevalent in most working class homes at the beginning of the industrial revolution however, as consumption and production patterns changed and capitalism absorbed society and the state, the home became a site for the ‘reproduction’ of labour power (Malos, 1980). As Meillassoux (1972) argued this was the backbone of capitalist society as men were needed for their labour power, and women were encouraged to support the existing workforce; and provide and raise the future workforce (the children); by doing unpaid work in the form of ‘housework’. Malos (1980) argued that several social policies emerged in the wake of capitalism which drove women and children out of the realm of production; and the welfare state further supported that a woman’s place was in the home. Malos also recognised how unequal pay, education and employment opportunities kept women out of the labour market. The film Far from Heaven, Haynes (2002) illustrates how ideologies of femininity,