Valuing domestic work

The Scholar & The Feminist Online, a journal of the Barnard Center for Research on Women (what, what BC02!) has an awesome new edition out on Valuing Domestic Work that includes writing by Saskia Sassen, Arlie Russell Hochschild, Ai-jen Poo and so many other amazing women. Gisela Fosada introduces the issue:

The daily, commonplace devaluation and exploitation of domestic workers…is often unnoticed by many of us who have learned to accept the status quo. Imagine if your middle-class buddy suddenly faced termination without severance pay or unpaid holidays, vacation or sick days in her job. What if she worked 70-80 hours per week with pay below the minimum wage and without compensation for overtime? What does it mean that so little attention is paid to the fact that an entire sector of labor is structured in this draconian fashion? And what would our society do without the labor of the countless women, predominantly women of color, who, as our contributors note, make all other work possible?

There is also some great video content, including this video: Women and Work: Building Solidarity with America’s Vulnerable Workers:

A transcript doesn’t appear to be available–an irony given that women workers with disabilities also face many of the issues discussed in this edition of the journal, and more.

Join the Conversation

  • Comrade Kevin

    Our class privilege often prevents us from seeing how dehumanizing such work is.


    Your class privilege – not everybody here is upper class (there are working class people on this site too, you know!)

  • cattrack2

    Labor laws exist for a reason. Time to enforce them.

  • bradley

    What if she worked 70-80 hours per week with pay below the minimum wage and without compensation for overtime?

    Then she should consider giving up that job.


    Easy for you to say.
    But, if you’re an undocumented immigrant – or hell, even a documented immigrant – you may not have that option (particularly if you’re employer sponsored you and/or trafficked you into this country and may be holding your passport hostage).
    Also, if it’s common in the domestic service industry to have 70 hour weeks with subminiumum wage pay, (and apparently it is) does it even make sense to quit one job to take another that’s going to be just as bad?
    Beyond that, if you’re working with kids, you bond with them and they bond with you – so it’s perfectly understandable why a domestic worker wouldn’t be so quick to walk away from a job.
    And let’s go even further – why should a worker be obligated to leave a bad job?
    Wouldn’t it be fairer for the employer to be compelled to make the job a good job?
    I certainly think so!