For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Domestic Labour and the Feminist Movement in Italy since the 1970s"

by Costa, Mariarosa Dalla (1988)

Abstract

After a brief mention of the themes prevalent in the feminist movement in various countries, the article focuses on some questions which, starting with the centrality of housework in the feminist debate of the 1970s, formed a leitmotif of that period and the early 1980s: above all, the relationship between, on the one hand, the rejection of work as a political practice theorised, particularly in Italy in the 1970s, as a fundamental instrument of struggle and, on the other, women's availability/unavailability for work. Remaining within an approach which places the stress on women's behaviour, this issue is also analysed in the socio-political context of the early 1980s. Some fundamental moments are identified along the itinerary undertaken by women towards building an identity increasingly independent of a way-of-being functional to the unpaid reproduction of others: not only the rejection of marriage and procreation, but also, under some aspects, the great struggles centering on abortion, lesbianism and prostitution. But if, in this way, women have distanced themselves from a sacrificial role and if, as is happening increasingly with the so-called `technological revolution', the possibilities of reproduction at the mass level are becoming further restricted, what will become of human reproduction? What, the author wonders as a provocation, will become of love?

Key Passage

“Today we have once more reached a significant moment for women's work and the rejection of it. On the one hand, there is a confirmation of the trend towards rejection of the unpaid labour of reproduction in favour of an increasingly extensive availability for the market in waged labour. At the same time, not only has there been no significant revival of the birth or marriage rate, but the increase in the female workforce between 1977 and 1982 was almost double that among men: a rise of 872,000 for women, compared with 469,000 for men.” p. 31 ()

Keywords

Domestic Labor, Housework, Gendered Work, Feminism, Feminist Movement, Italian Context, European Context, Rejection Of Work, Reproductive Labor, Queer Politics, Sex Work, Poverty

Themes

Feminist Critiques of Work Centrality, Domestic Labour, Women and Work, Unpaid Labour

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