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Woman's Estate by Juliet Mitchell

Woman's Estate by Juliet Mitchell

Author:Juliet Mitchell [Mitchell, Juliet]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Verso Books
Published: 2015-01-27T00:00:00+00:00


1. Production

The biological differentiation of the sexes into male and female and the division of labour that is based on this have seemed, throughout history, an interlocked necessity. Anatomically smaller and weaker, woman’s physiology and her psychobiological metabolism appear to render her a less useful member of a work-force. It is always stressed how, particularly in the early stages of social development, man’s physical superiority gave him the means of conquest over nature which was denied to women. Once woman was accorded the menial tasks involved in maintenance while man undertook conquest and creation, she became an aspect of the things preserved: private property and children. Marx, Engels, Bebel, De Beauvoir – the major socialist writers on the subject – link the confirmation and continuation of woman’s oppression after the establishment of her physical inferiority for hard manual work with the advent of private property. But woman’s physical weakness has never prevented her from performing work as such (quite apart from bringing up children) – only specific types of work, in specific societies. In Primitive, Ancient, Oriental, Medieval and Capitalist societies, the volume of work performed by women has always been considerable (it has usually been much more than this). It is only its form that is in question. Domestic labour, even today, is enormous if quantified in terms of productive labour.3 It has been calculated in Sweden, that 2,340 million hours a year are spent by women in housework compared with 1,290 million hours in industry. The Chase Manhattan Bank estimated a woman’s overall working week averaged 99.6 hours. In any case women’s physique alone has never permanently or even predominantly relegated them to menial domestic chores. In many peasant societies, women have worked in the fields as much as, or more than, men.



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