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On “Femininity as a Technology”
For more than thirty years, Marxist feminists have been arguing that women’s unpaid labor (housework, reproduction, etc.) is a prerequisite for capitalist wage labor, surplus value extraction, and profit-making. Capital can extract surplus value from waged labor only because the wage laborer is supported by (extracts surplus value from) unwaged labor, mainly in the form of the wife. [But today,] we are all our own wives and moms, so to speak… Our smartphones wake us up, not our moms, just as emails accomplish a lot of the relational work (scheduling, reminding, checking in, etc.) conventionally performed by women.
Women are trained from a young age to perform this relational, caregiving, extra-shift work. Femininity–the gender ideal and norm–is the technology that helps women perform these tasks with ease and efficiency. Conforming to feminine ideals like cuteness, neatness, cleanliness, attention to (self)presentation, receptivity to others, and so on, trains you in the skills you need to accomplish feminized care/second+ shift work.
Now computers and phones have “regendered and re-classed” this labor to some degree, but girls and women “still relate to technology in specifically feminized ways” (Pinterest, s*lfies, etc). This post is really about the idea of smartphone-enabled hyperemployment (“if we are employed, we all work all the time”) and it ends on the question of whether the resulting shift in labor categories might lead to “solidarities that might really take care of all of us.” [Cyborgology]