Analects of the Core: Romero on domestic employees in the USA

Domestic service reveals the contradiction in a a feminism that pushed for women’s involvement outside the home, yet failed to make men take responsibility for household labor. Employed middle- and upper-middle class women escaped the double day syndrome by hiring poor women of color to perform housework and child care, and this was characterized as progress. Some feminists defined domestic service as progressive because traditional women’s work moved into the labor market and became paid work. However, this definition neglects the inescapable fact that when women hire other women at low wages to do housework, both employees and employers remain women. As employers, women continued to accept responsibility for housework even if they supervised domestics who performed the actual labor. If we accept domestic service as central to women’s oppression, the contradiction, as Linda Martin and Kerry Segrave have pointed out, is that “every time the housewife or working woman buys freedom for herself with a domestic, that very same freedom is denied to the domestic, for the maid must go home and do her own housework.

– from page 128 of Maid in the U.S.A. by Mary Romero. This study of the circumstances of domestic employees in the United States is being read this semester in CC204, as part of a unit on gender inequality.

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