Feminists have demonstrated how the ideological dichotomy between home and work has helped to subordinate women. This critique is part of a larger feminist project of shattering the mythical separation of public and private spheres that has justified women's exclusion from the market, sheltered male violence from public scrutiny, and disqualified women's needs from public support. This critique overlooks, however, how work inside the home is itself the subject of an ideological split. Domestic labor is divided into two aspects-the spiritual and the menial. Some work in the home is considered spiritual: it is valued highly because it is thought to be essential to the proper functioning of the household and the moral upbringing of children. Other domestic work is considered menial: it is devalued because it is strenuous and unpleasant and is thought to require little moral or intellectual skill. While the ideological opposition of home and work distinguishes men from women, the ideological distinction between spiritual and menial housework fosters inequality among women. Spiritual housework is associated with privileged white women; menial housework is associated with minority, immigrant, and working class women. Recent welfare reform laws, which require poor women to leave home to assume menial jobs, highlight the importance of identifying and shattering this dichotomy in women's domestic labor.
Dorothy E. Roberts,
SPIRITUAL AND MENIAL HOUSEWORK,
Yale J.L. & Feminism
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/yjlf/vol9/iss1/6