Power to the sisters and therefore the class!

As long as there has been the working class, women have been striking. From the textile mills of early industrial capitalism, to the agricultural fields, maquiladoras and sweatshops, and the stratospheric circuits of high-tech manufacturing of today, women have played a critical role in the struggle inside the “abode of production.” But they’ve also struggled outside the workplace, and pushed us to expand what we think work is and where it takes place in society.

In 1972, feminists in Italy launched a global campaign demanding wages for their housework. The message was clear: women, as housewives, are laborers and their labor is necessary to the full functioning of society. Therefore, they ought to be paid for their services. The demand was less about compensation and more about changing the way we think about housework, reproduction, and capitalist relations at a planetary scale. The apparently “naturalized” gendered relations that structure it are crucial terrains of struggle for fundamentally exposing and exploding the capitalist imposition of this work and therefore all work.

Two quotes from Silvia Federici’s landmark essay “Wages Against Housework” articulate this point:

“…not only has housework been imposed on women, but it has been transformed into a natural attribute of our female physique and personality, an internal need, an aspiration, supposedly coming from the depth of our female character. Housework had to be transformed into a natural attribute rather than be recognized as a social contract because from the beginning of capital’s scheme for women this work was destined to be unwaged. Capital had to convince us that it is a natural, unavoidable and even fulfilling activity to make us accept our unwaged work.”

And later in the essay:

“If we start from this analysis we can see the revolutionary implications of the demand for wages for housework. It is the demand by which our nature ends and our struggle begins because just to want wages for housework means to refuse that work as the expression of our nature, and therefore to refuse precisely the female role that capital has invented for us.”

Today, as capital and its many reactionary formations—from liberal democratic to authoritarian and fascist regimes the world over—use violence and intimidation to overcome their own crises and attempt to roll back even the most modest gains made by the feminist movement of the last several decades, women everywhere are saying they won’t go quietly back to their "hidden sphere." They're taking to the streets, the squares, and their neighborhoods in protest not just against a devastating gendered and racialized wage gap, but in order to refuse the exploitation and oppression inherent in the very wage/unwage hierarchy that suppresses all working class activity.

Common Notions supports the international women's strike and offers our publications to anyone looking to deepen their understanding of today’s women's strike and its history. The autonomist feminists we've had the good fortune of working with have produced groundbreaking analyses of the various mediations of women and capital, from the welfare state to the current global division of reproductive labor.

You can read more about these powerful women and their work on our website:

Sex, Race, and Class: The Perspective of Winning: A Selection of Writings 1952–2011 by Selma James

Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle by Silvia Federici

Family, Welfare, and the State: Between Progressivism and the New Deal by Mariarosa Dalla Costa

Autonomist Feminist Publications