Blogs > Liberty and Power > Division of Household Labour

Oct 22, 2004 11:45 am

Division of Household Labour

I posted the following in the comments on Jim Otteson's post (below), but thought it was worth saying in the section for regular posts as well:

I don't think an asymmetrical division of household labour is a sign that something is necessarily wrong. But in light of the social expectations and practices that tend to encourage and reinforce this policy -- and in light of the more vulnerable position it tends to put women in -- I think it's reason for suspicion/concern. Whether that suspicion/concern is warranted in any particular case will depend on a variety of factors, but it's something that deserves attention. (As Foucault said when accused of seeing inimical power relations everywhere: "My point is not that everything is bad, but that everything is dangerous.")

As for whether, in those cases where the division is problematic or objectionable, it's "probably the man's fault" -- again, not necessarily. Men respond unconsciously to social pressures and expectations just as women do. The power relations about which feminists complain needn't be deliberately planned by anybody; to borrow a Hayekian (or really Fergusonian) phrase, they are often "the products of human action but not of human design."

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