Are housewives’ citizens?

Being a housewife in our society is sometimes considered as luxury, as it usually means that the man in the house earns enough money to support the family. Housewives are envied, but are also often criticized. Before, the role of women was mainly to care for children, home, to cook…. Nevertheless, as society evolved, women began to work to support the family or their own needs. Many men see housewives as privileged people who can do whatever they want of their days. A survey has been conducted and shows that housewives are not inactive at all. Indeed, a housewife does on average 94 hours of work per week, which would correspond to a monthly salary of $6900. An active woman (work and house) makes 98 hours for a salary of $4100. Thus, this study shows that staying at home is not restful and not rewarded at its seems to be. Beyond the fictitious salary of a housewife, there is also the question of citizenship. This makes me bounce back on the book of Shklar “American citizenship” which explains that to be citizen, one must vote and be able to earn. She gives the example of slaves in her book and explains that because they do not have the opportunity to vote or earn, they are not citizens. Thus, slaves are not considered as belonging to society: they are excluded. What about the case of housewives? Can they vote? The answer is yes! Do they have the opportunity to earn? The answer to this question is more complex. According to Shklar, the answer would be no because they do not work outside the home, they do not receive wages and do not contribute to the society. Nevertheless, must these two conditions be met in order to be considered as a citizen?
I do not agree with Shklar. First of all, according to the 14th Amendment of the American Constitution, it is mentioned that “any person born or naturalized in the United States, subject to their jurisdiction, is a citizen of the United States and of the State in which he resides “. This amendment does not, in any way, refer to the two categories described by Shklar. Nevertheless, voting is considered as a right, but also a citizen’s duty. Everyone is free to vote or not, but the fact of having the right to vote is a characteristic of the citizen. As far as the right to work and earn is concerned, I do not think it has any place in the definition of citizenship. Indeed, it is not because one is unemployed, because the company for which one worked for example closed, that the person cannot be considered as a citizen anymore. Rather, it is about personal satisfaction, but also for being seen as a “normal person” by society. Indeed, who has ever heard that an unemployed person is lazy? Many of you I think. Nevertheless, are we aware of the reasons why the person is unemployed? Perhaps it is not his choice. Should his citizenship be withdrawn? I do not think so. For me, citizenship represents the fact of belonging to society, regardless of our standard of living, religion, social class, but also the fact of having rights and duties with the possibility of participating in the political life of our country. Shklar speaks about the concept of inclusion in his book but does the imposition of these conditions to be a citizen does not refer rather to an exclusion?


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8 Responses to Are housewives’ citizens?

  1. odessaclugston says:

    Hi! You bring up a really interesting counterargument to Shklar. Certainly there are communities of people, such as housewives, who are American citizens but are earning money. Other communities that align with this definition include people who are wealthy from inheritance but do not work, elderly people, and more. Yet, despite not fitting into Shklar’s definition of citizen, these people certainly do have an impact on our everyday life. Some of these groups have enough monetary clout to make a strong influence in our society, such as senior citizen groups who advocate for greater social security or wealthy communities who lobby against the estate tax. I think these people can still fall under Shklar’s definition, however, if we change the right to earn to the right to spend. Earning is simply about working, it’s about gaining enough financial capital to make decisions with dollars. Under this change of definition, the right to earn is less about working, making housewives potentially still considered citizens.

  2. wardog88 says:

    This topic is very divisive when it comes to who is under the criteria of a citizen, Shklar, has made a case for inclusion and right to earn however, based the constitution which does not have a section dealing working, only citizenship has merit there. This conversation gets lost in the cloud of ideologies and therefore is used by many as fodder for certain agendas, on one hand citizenship one’s mind is to include everybody a sort of globalist mindset seems like Shklar points in the this direction on the other when have those who put faith in the founding documents and what the law says to sides of a coin if you will. Using housewives discredits in some way those men who are single with kids and/or stay at home too, both women and men are subject to this example because it can happen this way. The stay at home parent does not always will it to be that way, a lot of citizens are under the circumstances for which there is only pushing through it and doing your best.

  3. bohumilak says:

    This post seems interesting. When thinking about the housewives or wealthy people from inheritance, we have to admit that they have right to earn and right to work. The fact that they are not doing that is something else. It is of course partial counterargument to Shklar, those people earned without working. I cannot see any reason why shouldn’t mothers, housewives generally or others mentioned be considered as citizens. It should be like that but of course every time we want to find a backing for our argument, we will eventually manage. If we tried to find a proof that Shklar says those mentioned are citizens for particular reason. We would probably manage.

  4. landonsabori says:

    I never really thought about housewives in this type of context before. With Shklars argument it really makes this a different topic of discussion when it comes to earning and voting. I think that when it comes to voting there is no doubt that housewives can vote. The main discussion is when it comes to earning how is it supposed to be looked at. The stats that were brought up opened up a different perspective and makes it look as if being a stay at home mom you would make more money. My mother would always tell me “being a stay at home mom is a full time job” which I could agree with. I noticed how much mothers have to do and how demanding it is. So i would disagree with Shklar because I would consider at housewive an earning career even though it does not mean to make a salary.

  5. bealpeyton says:

    Shklar, to me, makes many arguments that seem to be either odd or incomplete. She, for whatever reason, largely ignores the immense effect that laws and institutions have on one’s citizenship status, in favor of interpersonal relationships and societal perception. Additionally, and similarly to your post, simply having the “ability” to vote and to earn is something that varies greatly. In the South, up until the 1960s, many African Americans had “the right” to vote, but that right was curtailed in dozens of ways. “Housewives,” have the right to vote, as well as the right to earn either through their husbands or in their own right; however, if there is no proper maternity care or leave, childcare and daycare, access to birth control and abortion services, equal pay and, additionally, compensation for domestic labor, then how can it be said that not only housewives, but women as a whole, truly have the right to earn? Great post!

  6. courtneymonus says:

    This is an interesting point. In Shklar’s voting argument she talks about how having the right to vote is important because even if you do not participate in it, having the right to be politically active is what makes you a citizen. I took this argument and also applied it to her earning argument. I would consider stay at home parent’s citizens, for the fact that they do have the right to earn. Majority of the people who are stay at home parents choose to do it because they want to be there and spend their time raising their kids. Just because they are not earning does not mean that they cannot and if they really wanted to, at any time they could start working again. Also like you stated, just because they stay at home all day does not mean that they are not doing work. There is a lot to be done around the house so they are working on tasks, they are just not getting paid for it. It is ultimately up to the family and if they can support themselves on one income then the other partner should not be knocked down for wanting to stay at home.

  7. jisthelamb says:

    As you stated in your submission, a housewife does on average 94 hours of work per week, which would correspond to a monthly salary of $6900. Seems like these housewives are very proactive. However, according to Shklar, because they are not working and earning as a way to contribute to society, they may not fit the category of a standing citizen. However, the US housewife can vote and may I add, she is working and earning at a domestic level within the home. If we take a closer look at the productive housewife, she is definitely contributing to the welfare of her family, including the kids, husband, household responsibilities. She also contributes to her husbands needs, and assuming he is the one bringing in the bacon, he is providing economic and domestic needs such as shelter, food, necessities, bills, etc. If the productive housewife is meeting the needs of the children by raising, teaching, discipline, clothing, bathing and feeding, I would say she is contributing to their welfare. When the productive wife is meeting the needs of her husband such as intimate, partnership, feeding, cleaning, clothing and other needs unmentioned, then yes she is contributing to him, and he is contributing to society but not in the exact terms of Shklar.

  8. rustlingwinds says:

    Hello! I appreciated your post and would like to focus my comment on the interpretation of “the right to earn”, as Shklar words it. As you noted, housewives are commonly not earning and because of this you examined whether or not Shklar would view them as full-fledged citizens. During the Shklar reading I largely focused on her use of the word “right”. It is true she definitely prefers if people are earning and using their right to work (and vote), but just because you don’t use a right does not mean you don’t have that right (if you truly have the opportunity to use it). The housewife still maintains the right to earn, but is not using that right, she is still a citizen and has the opportunity to not only earn, but to vote. Now, there is an argument I could make on women’s lack of equal pay which may entail lesser citizenship, but that is for another post/comment.

    Thank you for sharing! It is interesting to look at different groups of citizens from Shklar’s point of view and attempt to infer how she would feel about their citizenship status.

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