How to repay the laborers who help you succeed

Laundry

Labor Day is a good time to remember that labor comes in many forms, and that women often face a labor paradox. In The Feminine Mystique, Betty Friedan told housewives that they would find power and freedom in professional spheres by accessing same jobs that men had long held. The problem with her analysis was that it left out, well, most women. As bell hooks notes in her critique of Friedan: 

“She did not discuss who would be called in to take care of the children and maintain the home if more women like herself were freed from their house labor and given equal access with white men to the professions.” 

Friedan might not have said it aloud, but the people who picked up the slack were generally not husbands or partners suddenly willing to split household responsibilities 50/50. If anyone was picking up the reins in the domestic sphere, it was usually working class women, especially women of color and immigrants. These laborers rarely shared the economic gains that more elite, economically privileged women saw from corporate careers -- even when the same nannies and housecleaners played a huge role in enabling white-collar women to advance.

If you consider yourself financially comfortable and also hire domestic help, here’s one idea for sharing your success: 

Every time you get a raise, give your household worker(s) a proportional raise.

For nannies and cleaning service providers, this can mean increasing the hourly rates or monthly stipends you have set up with them. For people like apartment building supers and NYC doormen/women, you can add a percentage raise to the holiday tips you usually give. 

Happy belated Labor Day to workers of all stripes!


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