all the single ladies

June 15, 2013 § 4 Comments

Why capital doesn’t like single women:

A woman of marriageable age who is neither wife nor mother, or who for some reason does not become fully a part of the housework labor-force, is under-employed. In other words, she carries out housework in a more limited way than her potential work capacity would allow. Hence single mothers — who do not reproduce a husband/male worker — are under-employed; so is a married woman with no children, who reproduces only a husband; and so also is the divorced, separated or widowed woman who has not remarried. The woman who is of marriageable age but remains single is, however, “non-employed”: she reproduces neither husband nor children. (“Unemployed” cannot really be used here, because every woman living under capitalism who does not live on unearned income, must always reproduce at least her own labor-power.)

From Leopoldina Fortunati’s The Arcane of Reproduction: Housework, Prostitution, Labor and Capital.

Let’s get #reproducingneitherhusbandnorchildren trending on Twitter!

I’m too dumb for Fortunati but I press on. I was bingeing on Trixie Belden books and Josephine Tey mysteries for the last week because I needed comfort reading, where I wanted to read and couldn’t read and so I read things where everything followed a convention, a formula. And so, dear reader, I discovered that you must not go from Trixie Belden to Italian autonomist marxist feminism just like that — you gotta ease into it.

Despite that, Fortunati is, as the kids say, blowing my mind. (Do the kids still say that?)

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§ 4 Responses to all the single ladies

  • Eitan says:

    Reblogged this on Right Eye of the Dragon and commented:
    Hmm, I wonder how possible it is to work at uh, maximum efficiency during pregnancy. Labour pains, etc?

    • Subashini says:

      It is Fortunati’s argument that under capitalism, reproduction is work. As she writes a little bit further on from the passage I quoted in my post: “Capital has not expropriated the woman from the ownership of her body. But it has expropriated her possibility to control it, or more specifically, to control her uterus … It is this great technological innovation introduced by capital–the “mechanization” of the woman’s body–that is under consideration here. A woman no longer uses her body, her body is a means of work and uses her.”

  • >I discovered that you must not go from Trixie Belden to Italian autonomist marxist feminism just like that — you gotta ease into it.<

    What, your momma never taught you that?

    It's interesting: I've never, ever felt judged for remaining child-free and single, and I always thought that was either because it's not as expected in hyperurban areas like New York, or that maybe we'd grown out of it as a culture. It was only upon this reading that it crossed my mind that perhaps I'd escaped this fate wasn't just the urban factor but the fact that I'm a serial monogamist to the point of ridiculousness, and that I have a culinary background–in pastry, nonetheless. My lack of child-rearing label can be excused because of the quantified labor I performed in a traditionally feminine realm. Hmm.

    • Subashini says:

      Gonna have some words with my momma!

      Did I mention that the Fortunati book is dense? It’s very slim but I’m still not done with it and my head hurts and *whine*. But you made me think of this in another way–the lack of concern trolling, as it were, for women who appear as “serial monogamists”, to use your term … maybe because it appears as though the end-goal is socially-acceptable reproduction? (Regardless of the woman’s actual intentions.)

      But on a structural level it makes a lot of sense that the celebration of the single girl, or whatever, doesn’t really erase the condemnation/marginalisation, the economic/societal push to mate or to pair up and reproduce, despite material circumstances that make this very hard for the majority. But Fortunati’s whole book is an elaboration of this argument, and I really recommend it, especially to get a handle on how she lays out the theoretical framework for housework and prostitution being complementary modes of (re)production.

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