Rad Reading: "The Approaching Obsolescence of Housework: A Working-Class Perspective"

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Image via Wikimedia Commons

by Abaki Beck

Text: “The Approaching Obsolescence of Housework: A Working-Class Perspective” (from the book Women Race and Class)

Author: Angela Y. Davis

Quote to Highlight: “Black women... had to become strong, for their families and communities needed their strength to survive. Evidence of the accumulated strengths of Black women have forged through work, work and more work can be discovered in the contributions of the many outstanding female leaders who have emerged within the Black community. Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Ida Wells and Rosa Parks are not exceptional Black women as much as they are epitomes of Black womanhood.”

Quick Summary: In this essay, Angela Y. Davis explores the concept of “housework” within the broader discussion of feminism and capitalist critique. Her essential argument is that housework is boring and disempowering, and that in order for women to truly be liberated from it, it must become socialized (like providing free public childcare). Davis argues that unlike white women, black women have the “double burden” of performing this unpaid domestic labor as well as working outside of the household. Black women have always worked more than white women to support their families and communities. Thus, stereotypes about "weakness" applied to white housewives are not applied to black women, who have historically worked outside of the home much more than white women; indeed, some of this work has been providing childcare and housework for white women. Liberation from patriarchy thus looks different for white women than for black women. Though discussions of "housework"  in feminism may seem dated, this is an interesting piece exploring issues about what work is valued, the role race plays in sexist stereotypes/expectations, and why women should be invested in radically challenging capitalism. 

File it under: Women of color feminisms, socialism, capitalist critique

Type of text: Academic text, quotes theorists

Find the full book at your local bookstore or library or read the essay HERE

POC Online Classroom celebrates the intellectual tradition and knowledge production of marginalized communities. Rad Reading is a series that highlights texts to read, writers to support, and ideas to discuss. We post every Tuesday!