Sentenced to everyday life
Articles suggest that it is now possible to have a nanny to look after your children, a person to clean your house or do your garden, as well as an agency to arrange your social life, your holidays, someone to let the washing-machine repair person to come into your house when you are at work, buy presents for your children and your spouse and so on. Indeed, lifestyle managers and consultants from companies such as the London-based TimeEnergyNetwork, which will run your household, co-ordinating all these sub-contractors to undertake your domestic chores.
- Mummy, I want to be a Housewife, The Times Higher Education by Catherine Hakim, 26 April 1996
- Feature Article: Do women want to stay at home?
Defining the Housewife: Contemporary Feminism
A major debate, ostensibly concerned with women’s participation in the labour market, was initiated by the article by Catherine Hakim, titled ‘ Five Feminist Myths about Women’s Employment’, published in the British Journal of Sociology 1995. Hakim insisted that the issue rested on the question of whether or not all women ‘reject the role of full-time homemaker; that they seek to participate in the labour market on exactly the same basis as men’. She claimed that she had once thought that women would ‘flodd into wage work on a full-time basis if at all possible’. She argued that feminists needed to recognise that not all women want to work full-time and indeed, many do want to stay at home.
Hakim published a book in 2000, Work-Lifestyle Choices in the 21st Century, which has contributed to her controversial status among feminists in the UK, the US and Australia. The conservative Prime Minister, John Howard is reported by the Australian press as being most impressed by Hakim’s work as as adopting her argument that women can be divided into three groups:
- Home -centered
Hakim argues that a number of historical changes, common to all developed societies since the 1960s, have made it possible for women to make lifestyle choices about how they wish to handle the demands and opportunities of family and work life. And women, she says, are heterogeneous in how they make these choices. Hakim argues that the largest group are those who are ‘adaptive’. They want to combine work and family but are not totally committed to a working career and wish to move in and out of the workforce at different times in their lives.
‘Woman is doomed to the continuation of the species and the care of the home i.e immanence’ – Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex (1949). She claimed that the housewife wears herself out marking time in the endless repetition of her work and in waging a furious war against dirt and life itself for the rubbish and mess it creates. De Beauvoir argues that their engagement in these activities prevents women from achieving or pursuing self-actualisation or self-realisation. Women does not have control over the meaning of her life in her hands, she can only seek to create some sort of dignity out of her vassalage.
In Ann Oakley’s Housewife (1974),she claimed that most women in modern industrialised societies shared the experience of beign a housewife. The primacy of the housewife role in women’s lives today, she argued, plays a major part in hampering progress towards sex equality. By the end of her book, she concluded that the housewife role must be abolished. ‘Housework’, she announced, ‘is work directly opposed to the possibility of human self-actualisation’.
Here is a comment from Just_Jane, a professional flickr user on this photo:
To be a real housewife is a privilege.
you are saving a lot of money, no baby sitter , no laundry bill. no housecleaner no cook. I did that for many years and the best was that Mommy was always at home when the children came from school. no key for my children, and alwasy plenty of time for fun and games.
The children who’s Mom is working, are paying the price. Look at the modern youth… drugs and violence.. and never learned to love..
Catherine Hakim is senior research fellow, London School of Economics. Dr Catherine Hakim, senior research fellow at the London School of Economics, has warned that the Government’s new Single Equality Bill will discriminate against men, since all the measures needed to give women equality have already been enacted and the remaining disparity in pay is due to the fact that only one-quarter of women are fixated on careers to the exclusion of family life.
“The feminist myth that all or most women would be just as careerist as men, if only they were given the opportunity, has been exploded,” says Dr Hakim
The bar that forced women to resign their jobs on marriage, particularly in the white-collar occupations of teaching and clerical work, had the function of forcing wives to become economically dependent on their husbands. It also reinforced the “normality” of a rigid sexual division of labour in the household, with breadwinning the exclusive responsibility of the husband while care of the home and family was allocated to the wife. It is as well to remember that although the marriage bar was gradually eliminated after the second world war, it did not become illegal until the Equal Pay Act and the Sex Discrimination Act came into force around 20 years ago
These unexpected, even unwelcome, findings were reviewed in my article “Five feminist myths about women’s employment”, in the September 1995 BJS, which went on to ponder why feminist social science had got it so wrong, whether feminists have fallen into the trap of inventing “convenient facts” just as men have done for centuries.
Academic critical response was immediate. Even before my paper was published, a critical comment signed by 11 social scientists was accepted by the BJS editor. A full debate on the “Myths” article was eventually published in the March 1996 issue, with two separate critical comments followed by my response, “The sexual division of labour and women’s heterogeneity”, which presented further evidence from attitude surveys on men’s and women’s sex-role attitudes across Europe. I argued that sex differentials in employment experience in Western Europe are nowadays due to personal choice as much as to sex discrimination. Sociologists and economists have overlooked the fact that most women, as well as men, still accept and even prefer differentiated sex roles. The argument is being labelled “preference theory”.