[Marxism] The hard life of upper class women

LouPaulsen LouPaulsen at comcast.net
Thu Jun 24 00:13:05 MDT 2004

----- Original Message -----
From: "Philip Ferguson" <plf13 at student.canterbury.ac.nz>
To: <marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu>

> Lou Paulsen (in response to the argument of Ian and myself that middle
> and upper class women can and do escape housework):
> >Yes, but note that it is generally the upper-class woman, not the
> upper-class man, who has the responsibility for hiring the nanny. . .
> And that task must be pure hell!  (I'll refrain from saying anything
> like, "Do you know how *white* this sounds?)
> But I do wonder what a migrant working class woman, doing three cleaning
> jobs a day to keep her family in food, shelter and clothing, would make
> of this kind of "Marxism".

I suppose it would depend on how much of the context of my remark you allow
her to see, and on whether she gets to hear my rebuttal of your straw-man
argument.  Where was I arguing that upper-class women have a "hard life"
because they have to hire nannies and servants and their husbands don't help
out?  I don't recall saying such a thing.

Let me try to simplify things.  I am arguing that there is a social rule -
in the United States, anyway - that says that taking care of the children is
"women's work".  I argue that this rule is oppressive to women.  It is VERY
oppressive to working-class women who have to take care of their own
children and other people's children as well.  It has much less effect on
those women who can hire other women's labour.  Who disputes that?  Now, if
I read you correctly, you would take the position that this should not
really be thought of as a rule that is oppressive to women.  You would argue
that this is a rule which is oppressive only to working-class women, because
ruling-class women can buy their way out of the effects of it.  The
upper-class women is not merely "less oppressed", she is NOT oppressed.
That is how I am understanding you.

Similarly, if there were a law that women could not drive, you might argue
that upper-class women are not affected by it because they can hire
chauffeurs, whereas working-class women have to walk long distances.  If
there were a law that women couldn't vote, you could argue that upper-class
women aren't affected by it because they can buy working-class men's votes
in one way or another, and in any case they have a pleasant life anyhow, so
what do they need to vote for?  I could go on in this vein coming up with
more extreme examples.  I am not sure at what point you would cry foul.
Eventually I think I could come up with something so patriarchal, so
pre-capitalist, that you would say, "Yes, that is an example of the
oppression of all women, and of course Marxists would oppose it."  Maybe the
ban on women driving would do it.  But then I would ask, "How are you going
to draw an essentially arbitrary distinction, saying that the upper-class
woman who must hire a chauffeur, or take taxis, IS oppressed, but the
upper-class woman who must hire nannies is NOT oppressed?"  Or, more
fundamentally, "What has it gained you, and what has it lost you, to insist
on denying that certain practices really are 'oppressive of women', bearing
in mind that the effects of this oppression depend a great deal on class?"

Lou Paulsen

More information about the Marxism mailing list