Blog 4: A Woman’s Economic Status

Charlotte Perkins Gilman from Women and Economics (1898) describes the traditional division of labor in the household leads to exploitation of women by men.  She argues this leaves women to economically dependent on men.  All living things are economically dependent on others but all living things pay for what they get except women.  The housework women perform is part of her functional duty.  Their economic status has no relation to their domestic labors.  Poorer women do the most work and richer women do the least work because they can hire someone else.  She further argues motherhood is not an exchangeable commodity because women aren’t paid based on the care they give and this leaves married women without children no economic status.  Women’s economic dependence on men leaves them to be focused on getting married than being a productive citizen and giving up their talents and capabilities.  Without men, a community would fail economically to a greater extent than if it were to remove its female workers.  Charlotte Gilman argues as far to say all human progress has been accomplished by men and women have been left behind without any social relation but the sex-relation they have lived.

Charlotte Perkins has a valid theory of the traditional division of labor.  If a man decides to leave his wife, the woman has nothing to show for the housework she has done.  She would have to find a way to support herself and her children.  While his wife has been doing housework and caring for children, her husband has gained experience in his field of work and can continue to support himself.  Once the husband leaves, economically the woman has nothing which shows her economic status was never hers.  It is important for a woman to receive an education to have her own means to not only support herself but to be a part of society.  I also feel the women could feel more fulfilled having a career which determines her own economic status.  Women would have to cut back on housework and caring for children if working full-time but this should be compensated by men. After all, It is their house and their children too.  Much of human progress has been accomplished by men but this will change since more women are in the work force now more than ever.

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4 responses to “Blog 4: A Woman’s Economic Status

  1. I agree that Charlotte Perkins has a valid theory of the traditional division of labor. For centuries men and women have been ascribed to their societal roles. Since the hunter and gatherer society women have performed tasks at home such as cooking, cleaning, and taking care of children while the men took on outside roles of hunting and gathering food. This by any means is not a new concept. But as society and technology has risen to an increase of population; bigger job divisions were created. Perkins points out that a woman does housework and children and has experience in this but, cant put it on a resume. If the man decides to leave her she is left with no experience in fields of work, leaving the women economically with nothing. As society is changing we see this less and less but, in older generations such as our parents and grandparents; women household role is common. For my grandmother waking up at 5 am and making her husband and children breakfast, cleaning, and taking them to their activities was more important than finding a career. Though she worked part time it is in my belief she never reached her career potential. She had to take careers lower than her potential because of the lack of experience and flexibility. When children grew up she maintained full time jobs but, beneath a pay of her equivalence. She accepted society’s ideas of women staying home, my mother also stayed home and worked only part time. My mother though returned to work when her children were of the age they could take care of themselves. I agree with Perkins that women should obtain education so they can support themselves and will feel more fulfilled if they have a career in which they determine there own economic status. Sadly in our society money is valued and paper determines how well you can support your family. In this system higher education is valued, although that does not mean it is necessary but, it sure does make job search easier. With a career background a woman does not have to rely on a man to take care of her child economically. In edition if men helped child rearing and didn’t let society tell them it is not only a woman’s job but theirs too perhaps an even trade and happiness will exist. Yes women are more in the work field today but, the invisible glass ceiling still permits women from making what they are worth. We are still catching up but, there is a remarkable difference between my views and those 30 years or older. In America women are being more accepted and are viewed more and more every year as equals. Though only a few days ago was I asked “out” by a 21 year old male from Ireland that owns a construction company here in America. After asking me out on a date after he asked my mother permission to he inquired me about college. He was shocked I would go to college and told me travel and children could be in my horizon if I were to marry an Irish. For him at 21 he is already running a company and looking for marriage. I was taken aback and told him about how it was important for me to have my own career. He couldn’t imagine the need for that, and said my cooking and cleaning would come along once I was married. I obviously turned the date down because chauvinism is not my thing. Later that day my friend who is male and i went to get ice cream. Fighting to pay for the ice cream, I stuck out my bills first. The girl at the register instead took my friends and said that boys were the one supposed to pay, that this is the only way. So as though I do agree we are getting to a better place in society with women a lot of traditions and norms of our society intact make it still difficult. I also have friends that date men just for money and accept there boyfriend paying for everything. With tradition held like this and cultural norms of men paying and taking care of women society leads to contradiction and ignorance. I believe as Perkins does that this will change but, it may be a long road until women are actually seen as economically equal or capable. Before women psychologists who studied cognitive abilities even great thinkers like Darwin and his cousin Galton believed women intelligence was lower. It is relativley a new idea that women can achieve the same. Hidden sexism exists and outside new york it only gets worse. With more job tasks being created and more women pursuing higher careers human progress is not just being created by men. Whether men stay home as Perkins suggests, or if jobs fit needs of mothers availability women would have a better chance at retaining and finding challenging and fulfilling work. They also wont be trapped in a marriage they don’t feel happy in, and will be on a more even level with men in contributing economically. If women keep moving forward society ideas and values will better.

  2. Hi Stephanie, this is quite a substantial “comment.” Why don’t you re-post as a proper blog post (after breaking it up into paragraphs) so that others can read it? Lots of interesting observations and insights here.

  3. Lots of keen observations, Rosemarie. The status of “care” in our society is quite remarkable, at least as far as value is expressed in economic terms. When care doesn’t go unnoticed and unpaid, it’s typically underpaid even when performed as a job/profession. Think of nannies, housekeepers, and social workers, nurses and teachers — all fields where women predominate.

    It’s interesting to think about how variable — across history and across countries — the gender division of labor as well as property rights are. Even within the US, there’s been a lot of change over recent decades with respect to the division of property in the event of divorce. Laws vary by state; however. the kind of spousal support and care for children you discuss are seen in many states as entitling female caregivers to roughly “half” of the accumulated household wealth on dissolution of the marriage. Though they’re rare, stay-at-home dads are a growing phenomenon, especially at a time with such high unemployment. In Europe, especially Scandinavia, it’s even more prevalent and parental benefits and obligations are highly egalitarian.

  4. Charlotte Perkins theory of the traditional division of labor is absolutely still valid even in today’s world. Many women are dependent on their husbands; therefore, if their husband leaves the woman is economically left with nothing. However, like you said today more and more women are entering the workforce which shows that there has been some progression regarding where women stand in the world after all.

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