One for the Feminists

Hiring someone to clean your house:

Not okay–because it’s exploitative of other, often non-white women.

Okay–because why shouldn’t women be able to sell their labor and skills like men do?

34 thoughts on “One for the Feminists

  1. In an ideal society, all labor has dignity. It might be worth thinking about why someone would think one set of skills exploits while another category is ok to sell. “Women’s work” has been socially devalued to the point where the workers who do it are a) perceived as stuck/demeaned by definition and b) ridiculously underpaid.

    If you’ve got the money to do it and prefer not to do it yourself, hiring someone to clean your house should be as unproblematic as hiring someone to plumb your sink or cut your lawn. Care-work requires a lot of skill. If one compensates it accordingly, how is that exploitative? Offer living wages and don’t act like an ass (always unwise, but especially so when the victim of your aggression can piss on your dishes) and it should be a straightforward transaction.

  2. often non-white women.

    What does the non-white have to do with it? If the woman you are paying is an Eastern European who managed to avoid sex slavery to get to this country, that’s less exploitive?

    What about a formerly white affluent housewife who has shrugged off the impediments of the patriarchy but who is now nearly destitute?

    If you hire her to clean your house is that less exploitive than the woman of color or more?

  3. Oh my god. Kleinheider, is this your way of asking me if I’d be willing to hire Robin Smith to clean my house should she shrug (or be shrugged) off her job at the TNGOP?!

    Don’t tease a girl like that!

    No, the reason I ask that part of the question is that there’s an argument to be made that white women, of whom I am one, sometimes view housework as work to be done by someone not quite as great or important as them.

    I fall into the camp of folks who believe that a woman should be able to sell her labor and be fairly compensated for it. But I’m afraid I give more weight to that because the idea of someone, anyone, else coming into my house and cleaning my bathroom and sweeping my floors other than me makes me giddy.

  4. I think that it can be a good opportunity for a feminist to make sure that at least one person working as a housecleaner is not exploited by their employer. If you don’t employ a lady because you’re concerned that working that job is demeaning for her, she’s not suddenly going to get a job as a doctor or teacher or something. She’s going to find someone else to hire her, and they might very well exploit her. You’ll still be really privileged, probably especially compared to her, but you’ll be being as responsible as you can while being privileged I think.

  5. It’s always a good day when Tiny Pastures self-identifies as a feminist. (Hee!) In that ideal world without a long history of racial exploitation, a white woman hiring a black woman to clean house would be no more charged than a white woman hiring an Eastern European woman, or a hillbilly divorcee, or whatall. But we’re not in that world and we have to limp along with the history we’ve got.

    It’s none of my put-in, but there is another person living with you that could clean the bathroom you both use. Or does he have an unfortunate and heretofore undisclosed allergy to PineSol?

  6. Pay a decent wage, pay Social Security on those wages, treat the employee with respect. Then it’s not an exploitive relationship. And, if you think about it, it’s clear how paying a decent wage changes the potential power imbalance in the relationship (which ties in with Bridgett’s comment about the valuation of women’s work).

    Or swap housework for some task you don’t mind doing for someone else.

  7. Well–what bridgett said. But also, women like me would love to be able to do basic housework but can’t. It has nothing to do with housework being beneath me and everything to do with being beyond me. Of course I haven’t hired anybody. I just live in squalor.

  8. Exador, if you can find a man of any ethnicity or race willing to clean houses for what women customarily earn, you have my blessing to hire him. (Does this fall into the commenting category of “why aren’t you more worried about men and their needs?” Yes, I think it does.)

  9. Should every job pay a living wage? I grew up dirt poor, and I mean eating plain egg noodles for weeks at a time poor. We were too poor to afford Spam and had to eat Treat instead. I was lucky to have school lunches. People who grow up poor must either accept their lot, or find a way to fight their way out of poverty. In my experience, work ethic is the only way out. Remember that lot’s of hillbilly kids like me work shit jobs and get crapped on too. We serve your food, clean your houses, and check your luggage at hotels as well.I’m not a conservative and believe in fair play and health care for all. But we shouldn’t encourage people to do low end jobs their entire life.

    I went to work in a summer program for poor youths at 13 mowing lawns for the state of Texas at $3.35 an hour. I worked full time in high school and helped my mother pay the bills. Then in my twenties I did lot’s of low-level jobs: room service waiter, server, cook, painter, construction, etc. I finally used the customer service skills I developed as a server to become a cell phone salesman back in the big money days of early cellular. I became the youngest sales manager in U.S. Cellular history at 25. In all of those shit jobs, I worked every extra shift offered, didn’t complain and worked harder than everyone around me. I didn’t want to spend my entire life eating Treat. The struggle is the point folks. Finding the drive in yourself to want more than your beginnings and to move up and work hard is the way out of poverty. Accepting your lot is the mistake too many poor folk make.

    Moreover, there is room to grow in all fields if you work hard. Many Walmart managers, I’ve known several, don’t have college degrees. Working at McDonald’s as a cook pays shit as it should, but if you outwork the other employees, store manager can pay six figures.

    Should such jobs pay a person a living wage, or be a starter job on the way up to more? Why should a big-box store have to pay high salaries for clerks and such jobs? Eventually , I put myself through college and grad school and am now a professor. Now my job pays pretty well, has time off to write, and has a future.

    Immigrant folk, most of whom are of color, have always began in low-end jobs. But note how many of them work their way out and open businesses: my favorite Mexican eatery in Oak Ridge is run by former waiters and bus boys who saved money over twenty years to open their own place. The convenience store I go to is owned by three Algerian men who worked at a supermarket for five years, lived in shit hole, and saved the money to open up their own business. They now own two pizza parlors as well.

    My current favorite student is Mexican and works herself silly to overcome not speaking and writing English very well. Her parents, who work in a mushroom factory, simply will not let her drop out and fail. They know what happens to uneducated folks in America.

  10. Casey, I can only assume that the fumes from your construction job or perhaps the radiation from the cell phones got to you because I don’t know how else to explain the fact that you seem to believe that there’s something okay about people working and not being able to make it on their salaries.

    It’s such a complete disconnect I almost don’t know how to explain it, so I will just reiterate–you’re saying that there’s nothing wrong with people who work not being able to eat.

    You’re welcome to argue that position, but good lord, it’s so stupid as to hurt my heart. Especially because it’s so clear from what you say right here that you both believe that poor people, like you were, deserve what’s heaped on them and that the only reason you, yourself, didn’t deserve the shit you were forced to eat, is that you were somehow better.

    I don’t believe anyone deserves to eat shit. I reject that basic premise. I’m impressed at the things people who have so little are able to do with that, but that doesn’t make it okay that they have so little.

    And I do think that I have an obligation to ask myself if the way I’m moving through the world, in the balance, is more on the side of helping fewer people eat shit than on the side of benefiting from some people’s ability to survive on it.

  11. I forgot to add in my long rant that my hillbilly sister married into the second richest family in Wichita, Kansas, land of the rich by the way. The richest is Charles Koch.

    Her Mexican maid of twenty years, whose husband is a carpet cleaner, put their three kids through college doing shit jobs. One of their kids is now a lawyer and the other two are doctors. Not a bad American tale.

  12. Aunt B.

    Wow, I thought You were bright, now you’re calling me stupid for pointing out that low-end jobs shouldn’t pay that well? Remember that Iived the life sweety. I can only assume that you’ve lived a privilidged life and don’t know shit about how the world really works.

    I certainly don’t need your help undestanding the world.

  13. Okay, I’ll say this more calmly: how could you read that I think poor people deserve their lot? I don’t think that at all. It sucks to grow up with nothing. I can remember my mother crying as she tried to explain that Santa didn’t love rich kids more than me. That I hadn’t been bad, but that Santa had run out before getting to my house.

    I was talking about how the world actually works. Complaining about being poor does nothing. Working your ass off changes your lot in life.

    Maybe, just a guess, you don’t know what it is like to be poor. I’d love it if we could just take care of people, but the best thing poor folk can do is work their way out. That doesn’t make me crazy it makes me practical.

  14. Having been one of those poor-ass hillbilly kids as well, anybody I hire to work in my home will be paid a wage that reflects the skill they bring to the job and the professionalism I expect from them. I don’t think that an adequate salary is a disincentive to hard work — if anything, I’m working even harder now that I’m making professor wages. I guess I think that people inclined to aspire would be better served by reasonable wages and working conditions, more loyal to their employers, and more productive.

  15. Settle down, there, kid. Many of us know the joys of a Welfare Christmas. We just haven’t all drawn the same conclusions you have.

  16. Well said Bridgett. I have no issue with paying people deserve a basic wage that allows them to eat. Saying that was what I was arguing makes Aunt B. look just as ideologically-driven as any far-right loon. But you aren’t going to pay a house cleaner $40,000 a year plus an awesome benefit package are you?

    Having grown up hillbilly and poor you must also have many cousins like my lazy-assed ones who don’t work hard. Anyone who has ever managed other people can tell you that there are many poor folk who lack work ethic and fail because of themeselves.

  17. Bridgett,

    I only brought up the poor Christmas to be equally rude to Aunt B. as she was to me. The point was to tell her that she obviously grew up with money and doesn’t know what she is talking about. I dont’ feel noble for having been poor and don’t judge poor folk. I also respect your opinions, but think I’ve lost the same respect for our rich girl host.

    And, I don’t think I’m better than other poor folk who didn’t make it. I’m lucky because my mom made reading a big part of my life and educated me well at home. I was more effective than other poor folk because she taught me to work hard and value education despite starting poor.

  18. Our “rich girl host” can speak for herself, but you should really check her archives before you draw your conclusions about who she is and where she comes from. (Or, to put it in historical terms, don’t let your interpretation outrun your evidence base.)

    Being quick to tell people to kiss your overcoming ass might have served you well on the road out of poverty, but if you’re like me, you’ll find that it gets to be a gun that fires itself. Take that for whatever that’s worth.

  19. The point was to tell her that she obviously grew up with money and doesn’t know what she is talking about.

    Are you kidding me? “Rich girl host”? Can you at least read some of the other entries here before you make claims like that?

  20. There’s some really circular reasoning going on here: Certain jobs are badly paid; that makes them shit jobs; people should want to work at jobs that aren’t shit jobs; therefore keep these jobs poorly paid so that the workers will have an incentive to get other jobs. Um, but if we paid people who work at those jobs better they wouldn’t be shit jobs, and the people working at them wouldn’t be working at shit jobs. It’s not the content of the work that is used to shame the worker, it’s how that work is valued, both monetarily and in social status.

  21. I don’t see hiring someone to clean your home as exploitative. I would hire someone if I could find someone I like who will clean how I want and not break stuff. I have a tip from a friend and I’m considering it since I just feel like life’s too short to spend my limited free time away from the office scrubbing my bathtub and sweeping up cat hair from my floors.

    I also feel life’s too short to bust my ass out in the yard every two weeks mowing and edging, so I hire a man to do that (recommended by a neighbor). I don’t feel like I’m exploiting him, either. He charges me a rate (it went up this year); I pay it. It’s what he chooses to do and frankly, I’m rather jealous at times of his freedom as I’m chained to this desk. Same for the (mostly) women who clean homes.

    Incidentally, the lawn guy and both women I’ve had in the past clean my home were all white. Just kinda happened; I didn’t hire white people on purpose (one housecleaner was my mom).

  22. All right, first of all, Casey, I was just teasing you. I’m sorry you took it as rude, but whatever. I meant it in an affectionate way. I won’t make that mistake again.

    Second, the post did say “One for the feminists” which is a huge hint that, if you come in here and try to make it all about the menz–either by coming in to impart your vast dudely knowledge or by fretting about whether we’ve given enough consideration to your plight–it’s going to be seen as ridiculous and therefore worthy of ridicule.

    Thirdly, everyone else, this has given me a lot to mull over in my private jet as I jaunt off to Paris for shopping and frolicking on the Seine with limber youngsters while draped in diamonds and the fur of albino baby seals, so thanks.

  23. I agree with Lesley. Why is exploitive at all to hire someone? Aren’t they exploiting your lazy ass to make money.

    If I see my neighbor’s wife cheating on her husband and make her clean my house so I don’t tell her husband, that’s exploitive.

  24. HIring someone to clean is not exploitive.
    Hiring someone to clean and paying non-livable wages because you know they are a)desperate for any work they can get or b)unable to work because of criminal history/immigration status is exploitive.
    The myth that everyone could be rich and well educated if only they woudl work harder is one of the root problems demeaning necessary, but low or unskilled, labor jobs (think: custodians, house cleaners, child care workers). If everyone got an advanced education, that would NOT lead to everyone being well paid. IT would lead to a lot of people with advanced eductions working low paying “shit jobs.”
    Instead, we need to respect those people in those necessary, low-payign jobs enough to make sure “low-paying” does nto mean “starvation wages.”
    Those of us in middle or upper class income brackets need to remember what Tyler Durden said in “Fight Club” We DEPEND on these people to support our lifestyles. We should not f&%* with them.

  25. Then Aunt B., you have my apology. And the rich girl taunts, were just as you say ribbing you. How would I know how rich you did, or did not grow up.

    My only point was that “poor” is a frame of mind that a person can choose to wallow in or combat. I’m a laid back person in real life and can take a joke, they just don’t read that way online all of the time.

  26. Ok, how much is OK to pay someone for menial labor? I would think a huge factor in determining that is YOUR ABILITY TO PAY. (not screaming, too lazy for HTML)

    From time to time, I hire labor. Its always for some mindless work. I pay well above minimum wage, in fact, at least twice that. I don’t offer any benefits other than food and drink. Sometimes, though, I get calls from people…”have any work?” I may, from time to time, say, sure, but i can only pay 8 bucks an hour. If they accept, we’ve reached a mutually beneficial arrangement, have we not?

    Casey, I agree that some work is worth less than other work, and the truth of the matter is if we make (espescially) small business owners pay more than a job is worth, they will likely do without that position anyway. That said, why is it I never see any discussion as to my original point, that is, if X corporation has hundreds of stores, and is obscenely profitable, why can’t we draw some arbitrary line that says basic employee compensation should represent X percentage of labor costs? (Assuming, of course, you factor in salaried employees)

    Seems very doable to me.

  27. Then there’s the difference between choosing to pay a ‘living wage’ and having the government come along and tell you what they think you should be paying.

  28. Right Exador…because, before labor laws, the working class were treated SO fairly in the market.
    Read The Jungle.
    Read abotu child labor in factries.
    Read about women and chidlren dying of “fossey-jaw” while not being paid enough to maintain their slum dwellings.
    Yes. I think some government regulation ABSOLUTELY required.

  29. I am willing to pay the going market rate for a good male housekeeper–clothes and ethnicity optional.

    I grew up with a housekeeper/nanny and she was the good old white widow lady that needed some cash income. We weren’t rich by any means, but her costs were less than daycare for two children and we got to stay home. Straight up economics.

    A good friend of mine in Atlanta has a full time live in nanny and she’s an older white lady as well. I’m pretty sure that nanny makes more than I do.

    It’s a free market economy. You tell me what you charge for your service and I’ll figure out if I can afford it. Plain and simple. Don’t confuse guilt with exploitation.

  30. I’m a white feminist who now teaches philosophy but did her time in fast food and house cleaning jobs.

    I hire a housecleaner who works for herself. She sets her own schedule and rates. She is able to make a decent living while taking care of her kids and going to school. I know she goes to school because I met her when she was my student in an evening ethics class.

    I make other sacrifices to be able to afford her, and it is worth every penny.

    Services do a lot of exploiting, so look for someone who works for herself — so you know she keeps 100% of her salary.

    In terms of what you do in your home — pick up your junk so she can clean — she’s a cleaning person and not a personal maid. i spend at least an hour before she comes.

  31. It’s not exploitative if you both come to the transaction equally empowered. If you can name a rate and I can opt in or out according to my ability or willingness to pay it’s all good. If I pay you half of what you deserve because I will otherwise report you to INS then it’s all bad.

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