I’ve seen many posts about how calling something “Women’s Work” is Misogyny. It is not. The concept of “Women’s work” and “Men’s work” isn’t sexism or Misogyny or Misandry. It’s just old fashioned. There is this thing call division of labor that has allowed humans to become the dominant species on the planet. It has allowed us to be so enormously productive that people are now questioning if we can sustain this level of productivity without depleting the world of natural resources. “Women’s Work” isn’t sexism, it’s just holding to an outdated and non-functional division of labor.
So, where does the belief that calling something “Women’s work” is misogyny come from? There are two versions of history. Two possibilities for how the division of labor occurred.
First, the feminist version. There is a patriarchy that benefits men. Men get to make all the choices and have all the power. Men chose for themselves the best jobs. Men chose for themselves the jobs with the greatest status and wages. Men, being privileged had first choice as to what jobs they wanted. Women, being 2nd class citizens, where relegated to the work that men didn’t want to do. Women where forced into the crap jobs that where left over after men had their pick. I find this to be a rather dystopian version of history. It assumes that men had much more power than men ever really had and that women had less power than they really had. It also assumes that “Women’s Work” the work that women have done for centuries has little to no value.
The second version of history is rather more believable. That this division of labor was a mutual agreement between men and women. Men did work that played to their strengths. Women did work that played to their strengths. For men, this meant heavy lifting and dangerous jobs. For women this meant tedious work in safe places. Women get pregnant. For all intents and purposes this is a disability. Pregnancy makes it hard to bend over and do all sorts of other physical tasks. Some women late in pregnancy can’t even stand up on their own, their abdomens are too distended to do simple tasks like roll over or sit up. Because of this women got the light duty work. Laundry, cooking, cleaning, child care and homemaking are light duty work that can be done even with a disability. Men got the heavy lifting and dangerous jobs. Men plowed the fields and split the firewood. Men built the house and defended the homestead. I wouldn’t call these choice jobs. Laundry sounds much more choice than logging.
So what changed? Well the industrial revolution happened. Men’s work, being outside the home got industrialized. This meant that men didn’t literally bring home the bacon any more. They made the money, money that was used to buy bacon. This money was seen as power, not a sacrifice of power. Men earned the money, so had the power regardless of how that money was spent. At the same time women’s work was becoming trivial. Washing machines, vacuum cleaners, refrigerators and all sorts of other home appliances where invented that turned Women’s work from a 40 hour a week job to a 4 hour a week job.
After several thousand years of a fair division of labor, things really where unbalanced. Men really did have the choice jobs and women had the crap jobs. Men where productive members of society, and women had to spend 40 hours doing 4 hours worth of work. If in 1958 you looked at the situation in 1958 and only 1958 then it would look like men had stolen all of the choice jobs and relegated women to the crap jobs. The division of labor was no longer fair and reasonable. The theory of “Patriarchy” emerged to explain this unreasonable division of labor.
People still talking about “Women’s work” are not misogynists. They are simply people that are not up to date. They are people that are 0.01% of human history behind the times, at least in the western world. In places like India and rural China, These people are more than 0.01% behind the times in terms of technology and infrastructure. In many places the gendered division of labor that is dysfunction in The US and Canada is still very functional.