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Silvia Federici: “They say it is love. We say it is unwaged work.”



In the Boston Review, Jill Richards interviews influential theorist and radical feminist Silvia Federici. Federici reflects on the groundbreaking Wages for Housework campaign she help found in the 1970. She also comments on how modern technology like the internet has changed how grassroots organizing is done. Here’s an excerpt from the interview:

Silvia Federici: Our analysis of violence against women hinged on seeing housework as a form of capitalist production, and analyzing the role of the wage in constructing the whole family’s organization. We argued that violence is always latent in the family because, through the wage, the state delegates to the husband the power to supervise and control the work of the wife, and the power to penalize her in case she does not perform. I would describe it as a sort of indirect rule: the state mediates the control over women through the man and his wage. It is not for nothing that in the 1970s, women on welfare called the state “The Man”!

This explains why domestic violence has been tolerated for so long and rarely treated by the state as a crime. We began to even see rape as a form of domestic discipline. It is a way of regulating women’s time and space: You should not be out at night alone without your husband, you should be in your house with your children, doing housework, preparing for the next day, etc. If you are out, then be prepared, you know. The threat of rape is an unspoken discipline on women’s time and space.

Image of Silvia Federici via Silvia Federici