Angela Davis, in her work “The Approaching Obsolescence of The Housework: A Working-Class Perspective (1981)”, wants to free a woman from household work, believing that it enslaves her. She proposes that the government should become responsible for housework and raising children, pointing out that a woman (as well as a man) should stop doing it completely concentrating on more important aspects of life. The question remains open how exactly the government would practically evaluate and pay for this work should this system be implemented. In my opinion, Angela Davis is too radical to the idea of family responsibilities, saying that woman’s work of cooking and raising children is very primitive and should be fully compensated by the government because it made exclusively for the government benefit.
Angela Davis has drawn my attention, probably, because I have come from Russia, growing up in the post-Soviet period. Davis’ radical-socialist ideas are a direct opposite of western individualism of that time. I believe that Davis was fascinated by the socialist ideas and the Soviet Union in particular, where the government steps in and helps an individual on each and every level. This, however, is not very accurate. Looking back at the Soviet system of “taking care” of people, there were definitely many positive sides to this approach. The Soviet government granted free early childcare to working parents (kindergartens), free school and higher education, free healthcare, and many other social bonuses that would fit into Davis’s idealization of socialism. In the early 1930s, the Soviet system even went as far as proposed that a member of the society shouldn’t even be spending time at home to prepare his food. Instead, a significant number of public dineries were open all over the country. This idea, however, didn’t last very long, and was soon abandoned. However, I must stress out that with all these services provided by the government a serious downside came – the government assumed near complete control over people lives: where you lived, where you worked, where you go to school, and even where you eat, was based on a government-controlled schedule. The system was so massive and so inflexible that very soon it started to weight down on the country, becoming a burden rather than a benefit. Some of the most progressive minds of the Soviet Union, who really wanted to contribute to their country, couldn’t, simply because the government-run system was too slow to accept any changes or try any innovations. Individuality was suppressed on every level. Eventually, the system collapsed under its own weight.
Drawing from my personal example, living now, almost 40 years after this paper was written, and being a student and full-time worker, I see my household as something very personal and very important for my own inner stability. The work, which Davis calls repetitive and degrading, I find to be very important and do not consider it to be inferior. For me, coking at home is extremely important, as the society outside is unable to provide her members with quality food. Essentially, we see sad results of mass eating outside of the home, which causes numerous problems for the modern population. Raising a child is even more important, as it requires intense attention and care from parents, which a society outside or government simply unable to provide. I disagree with Davis that children today are raised for the state or society; I believe that children are raised despite all the problems of society, and parents try to raise them to be different than society’s expectations in order to be better. Therefore, I think that housework shouldn’t be completely moved to the area of government responsibilities, and small “primitive” work done at home, can be very important on a personal level, almost the sacred part of a person’s life. Davis mentions that the division of responsibility between the family partners already exists, but she almost immediately rejects the idea of an equal share of the workload, saying that both partners are already very busy with their work outside, and should not be distracted by housework. I do not agree with her radicalism on the subject of a share of housework between partners. In my opinion, what the government should do is not do our housework for us, but instead to allow more time to address our household needs. I personally would be much happier at work, if I would know that I have more time to visit a store and enjoy the opportunity to choose and buy food by myself, instead of delegating it to some special government organizations. The importance of housework should not be undervalued, but instead must be accepted not just by women, but by men as well, and they should start advocating for right and time allowance to perform their household duties.
-- works cited --
Davis, Angela Y. “The Approaching Obsolescence of Housework: A Working-Class Perspective.” In Women, Race & Class, 1st Vintage Books ed. New York: Vintage Books, 1983.