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Exploiting women to support yourself

(162 Posts)
Felascloak Sat 28-May-16 09:11:25

This is partly inspired by another thread and partly by an item on immigration I heard on women's hour a couple of weeks ago.
Women returning to work typically the use other people (usually women) to provide childcare, and maybe do cleaning/housekeeping. In some countries, so many women are emigrating to richer western countries to do these jobs that it leaves a care deficit in their home country, causing issues there.
I've read numerous arguments implying that middle class feminists have exploited working class women for their own benefit and this is anti-feminist.
For most women, being able to access childcare/cleaning etc is necessary to allow them to work at all. I also feel that if I was to pay e.g. a cleaner, I would be giving her an income so she wasn't financially dependent on her husband or on benefits. Maybe that's me trying to justify myself though.
I don't know what the answer is. I want to get my thoughts straight on this so wondered what others though?

Branleuse Sat 28-May-16 09:16:31

im sure employing someone as a cleaner wouldnt be full time, so its a bit unrealistic to expect that you would be enabling someone to be entirely self sufficient. Feminists do not have the responsibility of also dismantling all of capitalism, even if that is also a worthy cause.

OddBoots Sat 28-May-16 09:25:49

As someone who works in early years/childcare I can kind of see where this is coming from. From some conversations I have seen on here and elsewhere it feels like our pay is being held very low and the job undervalued given the responsibility, physicality and difficulty of the job because otherwise it would stop lower earners being able to go out to work and even higher earners would further resent the cost.

There are also parents who talk as if looking after their children is a privilege they miss out on (which I totally understand) so the people paid to care for their children should feel lucky to be doing it.

Cocoabutton Sat 28-May-16 09:33:56

Double bind, damned if you do, damned if you don't. As a single parent, I need childcare, and I am still paying off the debts incurred by early years care. I try to get a balance between what I can do myself and what I cannot.

Domestic work is overwhelmingly done by women and it is undervalued. That is the issue, not the individual ways women try to manage on a day to day basis.

TendonQueen Sat 28-May-16 09:39:46

So none of these middle class women have male partners who live with them and therefore also benefit from the cleaner, possibly pay towards the cleaner, and thus are also liable for any of the 'exploitation'? It's all the fault of the women? Ok hmm

LassWiTheDelicateAir Sat 28-May-16 09:49:27

I have no wish to dismantle capitalism. One of the problems I have with radical feminism is that politically it does seem to align with what I would see as extreme left wing politics. It's very keen on smashing the current system but I'm not sure what would be put in place- some sort of utopia where we all earn the same and wear unisex clothes? Hasn't really worked out too well has it where it has been tried.

I have employed nannies. In the early years they were fully trained women who had done a college course, latterly not a formally trained person. For the nannies' salaries I paid the same rate as what the Law Society recommended for second year trainees- not stellar but certainly not derisory.

At present I have a cleaner who comes once a week and a gardener once a fortnight. The cleaner is a woman, the gardener is a man.

Am I exploiting her but not him? I have had male cleaners- were they exploited? I was told once by a feminist that of course I was exploiting my cleaner but not the gardener because I respected the gardener's trade but not the cleaner. This was entirely made up by her.

Felascloak Sat 28-May-16 10:59:10

So none of these middle class women have male partners who live with them and therefore also benefit from the cleaner, possibly pay towards the cleaner, and thus are also liable for any of the 'exploitation'? It's all the fault of the women? Ok

Clearly men are also benefiting from this. As a feminist though, how do I avoid exploiting low paid labour when I want to work?

Totally agree with cocoa. That's how I feel. I want to be able to work but I also don't want to be taking advantage of other women.

The thought if lots of children in eastern Europe not seeing their mums because they have emigrated here to look after our children makes me feel a bit sad too. Although why that seems worse to me than their dad's coming here to be builders etc I don't know.

albertcampionscat Sat 28-May-16 11:04:53

If you don't want to exploit low paid labour then pay your cleaner more.

HapShawl Sat 28-May-16 11:19:18

"some sort of utopia where we all earn the same and wear unisex clothes"

I'm not sure any radical feminist has ever suggested that this is what utopia looks like, but no matter

As others have said, there are several strands to the problem, amongst which are the fact that caring and cleaning work are devalued, and the fact that it is seen as the woman of the household outsourcing her responsibilities that are nothing to do with any man she might live with. No one raises an eyebrow at people outsourcing home, garden, car maintenance etc. Just the things that women are traditionally responsible for

LassWiTheDelicateAir Sat 28-May-16 11:31:50

No one raises an eyebrow at people outsourcing home, garden, car maintenance etc. Just the things that women are traditionally responsible for

Who is raising eyebrows? In my experience the only raised eyebrows I've had to deal with are threads like this and the feminist who accused me of exploiting my cleaner but not my gardener.

I asked about what radical feminists would put in place once they had smashed capitalism. It doesn't seem to be addressed. Communist societies haven't exactly worked have they?

Felascloak Sat 28-May-16 11:34:28

We don't have a cleaner albert. If we did, I doubt we would be able to afford to pay enough over the minimum to make a difference.

When we looked at nurseries I did use a more expensive one but then switched to a cheaper one. Both paid their staff min wage and had high staff turnover but the owner of the more expensive one was relocating to a mansion in France hmm

"No one raises an eyebrow at people outsourcing home, garden, car maintenance etc. Just the things that women are traditionally responsible for". Interesting and good point. Although builders/car mechanics seem to be making a better living than care assistants.

HapShawl Sat 28-May-16 11:40:48

"Although builders/car mechanics seem to be making a better living than care assistants"

Well exactly - it's valued as a trade and expertise, unlike care work

caroldecker Sat 28-May-16 11:51:56

Pay them more and don't employ any East Europeans then they can stay in poverty with their children.

thecatfromjapan Sat 28-May-16 11:55:31

I took albert to be making a universal point, not speaking to you personally.

I agree with campion and the poster who said you can hardly expect to take down capitalism in one, fell move.

Two points: you have to accept that (sometimes huge) power inequalities inhere between women. These may be structural but sometimes we will be brought face to face with them. Yes, sometimes, as women, we exploit other women. Often, we won't want to and may struggle against that (eg. By paying the cleaner more; by paying more for childcare).
We may realise that is a partial solution and un satisfying, so we may widen our struggle ( campaign for state- subsidised childcare) and then widen it still (protest against unfair working conditions in the developing world).
It is unlikely any of those will dismantle capitalism overnight.
But, there again, nothing will change if we don't try.

Point 2: don't just look at the women!!!! In whose interest is it to bewail middle class women exploiting working class women?
The childcare example is crucial. Are the female exploiters exploiting the child carers for a laugh? Are they making millions doing it? Are we missing something?
By concentrating on the exploitation of child carers by working women(!) you miss a whole discussion about fathers, the individualisation of having children, the triple burden most women now have , ....

Masses, basically.

thecatfromjapan Sat 28-May-16 11:57:29

For what it's worth, I think this area is HUGE. I think it's going to get bigger, too, as more working women are expected to care for the elderly.

It's massively under theorised.

StealthPolarBear Sat 28-May-16 12:11:02

Tendon that was going to be exact my point.
The crux of the matter is that cleaning and caring is seen as women's responsibility - either to perform or to outsource to another woman. The statements in the op make this assumption.

AHellOfABird Sat 28-May-16 12:20:41

Both men and women do jobs with a variety of salaries and skill levels (not necessarily directly correlated).

Defining child care and cleaning as women's "expected" work enables this to be seen as one woman exploiting another, in some way to "avoid" what is rightfully her job. And because the work itself is devalued, is supposed to be the women's interstitial responsibility, there is judgement from some for laziness/exploitation.

I'm posting from a taxi; we can all drive, driving isn't overly skilled work, yet no one feels I am exploiting my taxi driver.

TheWindInThePillows Sat 28-May-16 12:23:02

Are you sure lots of Eastern European women with children are leaving them at home to come over here? Undoubtedly there are really poor areas in EE, but in general, even in the poorest countries, there are some benefits/state accommodation of parents with children/state education/healthcare service and people are in general, not that dissimilar to many Western countries. There are very poor services for those with mental health problems, but they are not coming here to work; there are also communities such as Roma which are poorer than the average non-Roma person in those EE but again, I don't know of any working long-term here and leaving children behind them, they have freedom of movement and tend to prefer to move as a family, like most immigrants.

There is a huge youth drain in EE countries as the young twenty somethings come to Western countries (not just UK, Germany, France, Canada) and get jobs- and yes, typical entry jobs are cleaning and care work, as they don't require quals. I know lots of well-educated degree level EE single people doing these type of jobs.

My cleaner is not from EE but another European country with a high unemployment rate, she only came to the UK less than a year ago and loves it here as her business collapsed and within a couple of weeks, all of her family (her, father, older dd) have found work as cleaners and as a bar manager, they think the UK is great in terms of mobility/employment opportunities and already the dd has been promoted at work, so they are happy to pay the bills/have jobs again.

Is that exploitative? Capitalism certainly hasn't favoured them, but personally I think they are enterprising and sensible people who have done the best for their family in the circumstances they find themselves in. I don't know anyone leaving their children behind, I know lots of immigrant families and when they move, in general the whole family comes and benefits economically, as whilst one is working as a cleaner, they may also be studying quals/training/another gets a more professional job.

AHellOfABird Sat 28-May-16 12:25:21

Paying your cleaner more may be a. Option; most people have many fewer cleaner hours than working hours per week.

Childcare costs are usually incurred during working hours (plus commuting hourS) - it is neither possible norcecinomically rational to pay a childcarer in gross pay more than one parent's net pay.

PurpleDaisies Sat 28-May-16 12:29:48

If you don't want to exploit low paid labour then pay your cleaner more.

Exactly this. My cleaner is lovely, I pay her properly for providing a valuable service. Not as much as o charge for maths tuition but it isn't a skilled job.

thecatfromjapan Sat 28-May-16 12:38:12

I think it's interesting that, despite women having been in the workforce in large numbers for some time now, the de-gendering of 'women's work' just hasn't happened.

It is still done largely by women, it's still under-valued, and it's often invisible!

Yes, to previous poster who has pointed out that it is the gendering of this work that it enables it to be theorised as women outsourcing their (expected) roles to be performed by other women.

'Women's work' has proved to be remarkably intransigent. This suggests that it is a huge necessity in the functioning of capitalism. And is therefore never, ever as simple as one woman exploiting another to enable herself. Yes, there is an uncomfortable element of that but, I would say, it is far outweighed by the far larger system of exploitation in which it takes place.

HapShawl Sat 28-May-16 12:53:24

Actually I think cleaning IS a skilled job. i know it's not categorised as such politically/socially, but therein lies some of the problem

EBearhug Sat 28-May-16 12:57:48

When my mother got a cleaner, he was...he, a man. (Coincidentally, someone I'd been at school with, though that didn't click till some weeks in.)

I think this is more about what is traditionally women's work being undervalued (I've said at work before, we'd miss the cleaners if they went a lot sooner than we'do miss most other people.)

No one raises an eyebrow at men who get a cleaner; why should they at women? I know lots of women who work hard outside the home. Why should they be expected to spend their spare time doing chores, if someone else can do it and they can afford to pay for it? Men aren't expected to do that usually. We should pay those who do those jobs well enough for doing it. As I have got older and had more spare cash, I am more inclined to pay people to do the things I don't want to spend my limited spare time doing, but still need doing. The money I earn is then helping others to have an income. (Admittedly a pretty small income in my case - I mostly only outsource car-related stuff, as I like gardening, and I don't care about living with a bit of dust.)

EBearhug Sat 28-May-16 12:58:48

I think cleaning IS a skilled job.

I agree.

LassWiTheDelicateAir Sat 28-May-16 13:00:17

I don't think "the de-gendering of women's work" is advanced by the OP's opening post.

Why is paying a cleaner to do cleaning automatically seen as one woman paying another woman to do women's work.?

Somebody has to clean my house and look after the garden - neither my husband nor I have the time or the inclination to do the cleaning and neither the time, inclination or knowledge to do the gardening so someone else has to. We don't have a joint account- the cleaner and the gardener get paid by whichever of us has the right cash on the days they come, failing which a squabble about whose turn it is to go to the cash machine.

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