Building an Authentic Community of Practice


[5] Capitalism’s Unpaid Debt to Women

The mainstream notions that men are the sole protectors and providers of a “nuclear family” is the most commonly held cultural attitude that upholds an ethic of domination. It posits that the only correct family structure is one in which a heterosexual, cisgender man is superior to a heterosexual, cisgender woman. The man is supposed to be the primary breadwinner who goes out, works a 9-5 job, and earns a check while the woman stays at home to take care of the house and the kids. Providing for the family financially is the justification for why the man is superior to the woman. But this family structure is only sustainable through the devaluation of domestic labor that is often labelled as “woman’s work.” Women are already dehumanized as a lesser group of human beings that are portrayed as less deserving of their rights to individual agency, financial independence, and respect in the workplace. In our capitalist economy, women’s contributions of domestic labor are so devalued that they are completely unpaid.

Yet, It is only with her* work in the home, that he is capable of maintaining the work done outside of the home. It is only because she* tends to the children, that he can be virtually absent throughout the day and still have children to come back to at the end of it. Not only that, but when we zoom out to the macro-level view in which households across an entire country are operating under this same structure, society as a whole could not function without the domestic work that women do. Arguably, domestic work is even more important than any day job because it is the very work that reproduces society on a daily basis. Capitalism would not have human capital to capitalize off of if women weren’t doing the lion’s share of reproducing society. But by the exploitative nature of capitalism, it is in capitalist interest to perpetuate an ethic of domination within existing family structures. If a capitalist society can justify why men are superior to women in the family, then they benefit from not having to pay women for their work. Better yet, by rewarding men with privileges such as higher pays and more career advancement opportunities than compared to (and at the expense of) women in the workplace, a capitalist society can also justify coercing men out of their families to expend their life time, energy, and labor to serve their private economic interests—thereby profiting off of the separation of families from each other and people from their communities while never letting their workforce ever see even a fraction of the money they make.

My experience with growing up as a girl and being socialized to do more chores than my brother checks out with aspects of this dominant ideology. But even back then, I feel like I challenged this ideology by being the more outspoken and assertive daughter. I was the first to stand up to my parents when defending myself or my brother from harassment. I also think this one-dimensional way of seeing “protection” and “providing” is flat and stale. My mother used to monitor every aspect of our health, from doctor’s appointments to transportation back home from school. Is that not considered protection? And how about this dichotomy of work split between two parents? We lived with my grandmother who fed us with delicious home-cooked food and catered to our emotional needs. Is that not providing? That’s why I think I could never be disillusioned to follow this ethic of domination and neither do my friends. Women, men, nonbinary friends alike, we keep each other accountable to not do additional labor that we are not paid for and/or which takes away our peace. We also have loving and enriching platonic friendships with each other no matter our gender identities or sexual orientations, because not all beautiful relationships are romantic ones and loving communities exist. So the next question about gender/sexuality that I would like to confront is how do I help create a working and learning environment that not only accepts but accommodates my peers whose identities do not conform to the status quo.