Greedy Goblin

Tuesday, June 2, 2015


A rare "unique Goblin philosophy" post that old readers miss since the GRR Goons campaign. Enjoy.

Type "housewife feminism" into Google and get 430K hits. A very heated topic, strangely almost exclusively women discussing it, not men like Gamergate and most anti-feminism topics. One side of these women say that housewives are oppressed, maybe by internalized sexism and should be liberated. They even created a new term, "wifework" for the unpaid work women have to do in a relationship. The other side claims that being not externally employed and working exclusively to provide background to their partner and children is a fulfillment of their life and it's their choice.

These complete opposite positions can't be both right. "wifework" is either demeaning slavery or a fulfilling career. The only thing accepted by both sides is the definition: the (ideal) housewife doesn't create anything of value outside of the house, she supports his partner to create something of value and supports her children to create value when grew up.

I believe one side is right for one household, the other for another, depending on the value of the partner. I mean we shall compare two scenarios:
  1. Adam and Betty are both working outside and supporting themselves (and their children) at home.
  2. Adam works harder outside since he has no work at home, as Betty is supporting him (and their children).
The decision is based on the simple question: which scenario creates more GDP? For the simple calculation let's take the OECD data: men put in about 5 hours a day on the job; women put in four. Women put 4 hours on housework and childcare, compared to only 2.7 hours for men. (Remember that you don't work every day but has to do housework on Weekends and Holidays too). If we'd reach complete equality, Adam and Betty would put 4.5 hours a day into outside work and 3.3 hours into housework. If Adam would do no housework but spend all this time working outside, his outside performance would be 173%, while Betty would perform at 0%. 173 is smaller than 200, so on average, the traditional feminists are right, it's better if housework is done equally and both of them work outside.

However we should consider the obvious fact that people are not equal and a highly qualified worker can create much more GDP than a less qualified, as represented by the extreme differences in salaries between CEOs and burger flippers. If Adam is capable of earning 16% more than Betty and willing to work in all the hours gained from Betty, the housewife scenario becomes preferable as 1.16*1.73 is bigger than 2.

With simpler words: if your partner is capable and willing to do something extraordinary and you're not, your best call is to enable this partner from the background. Being the housewife of a great politician or CEO or inventor is a fulfilling thing as you can see something much greater than you grow from your work. If your partner is an ordinary guy, doing housework for him would only enable him to spend more time in the bar or working more hours for crappy salary, therefore a demeaning thing.

Obviously the above logic lacks fixed gender roles, so for every housewife supporting a great man should be a house-husband supporting a great woman. There is a long way for that.


Phelps said...

I really don't care about GDP except as it effects me. I am recently married, and my wife is oworking only to pay off debt she had when we married. For us, the equation is

[pay received]-[aggravation required for pay]-[basic comfort level] = happiness

The good news is that both our comfort levels are actually pretty low, which would leave us a surplus with just my salary (once her debt is gone.) That means that if she stops working, she can do much more to make my life comfortable, while actually working less hours, counting "wifework". It also frees her up to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities from the home (we have several cottage industries in mind.)

When our BCL above goes down (because the debt is paid off) it is a lot easier for us to drop the ARfP faster than the PR by her quitting, and getting an overall happiness boost.

More money is always great, but it is not always worth the aggravation. It's often easier to boost efficiencies than revenue, especially at an individual level.

dobablo said...

"These complete opposite positions can't be both right. "wifework" is either demeaning slavery or a fulfilling career."

It is a question of who makes the decisions. Any career could considered be fulfilling or slavery depending upon if the decision was taken by oneself or unduly forced by outside factors.

"With simpler words: if your partner is capable and willing to do something extraordinary and you're not, your best call is to enable this partner from the background."

From Maslow, while it might make sense to take the most efficient role if finance was the only interest, once the basic requirements have been met for your Safety needs, that extra money has a marginal impact and love and belonging and esteem tiers start to become more important. Any relationship where one person has to sacrifice their tier 3 needs to support a partner's esteem and self-actualisation is clearly not one that is equitable.

Stan vanderVille said...

100% right.
The only thing open in this equation are costs caused by two fulltime jobs, i.e. Kindergarten, house cleaning service etc.
Also self motivation and the feeling of fulfillment is something, which might not be equal between housework and a job.

Thanks for beeing back with no "grrr goons" posts :-)

Gevlon said...

@Dobablo: Most people would be more fulfilled if his profession would be film star, game developer or heart surgeon. They have to deal with the fact that they aren't qualified or need the money to eat so can't afford to learn for another 10 years to qualify.

Most people can't do their dream job, so they have to settle with something less. They can either perceive it as slavery or find meaning in this. My point is that there is meaning in the housewife "profession", assuming your partner is doing something great.

Anonymous said...

Your argument doesn't consider that housework can be done together and at the same time which results in activity with your partner, even if it's just housework. This can be more beneficial to the relationship than one partner working alone at his job for 10+ hours a day and the other partner preparing food, cleaning the house etc all day.

You are absolutely right about your point how to create more GDP but that isn't necessarily the right decision for every couple. In the end we are humans and not machines.

maxim said...

Feminism has always been about power dynamics. The concept of equal rights only entered into it as a vehicle of power dynamics - and is currently being largely abandoned in favour of guilt-tripping men into agreeing with less-than-equal rights.

The way to work with people (of any gender) that exhibit too much love for power-plays (including feminism) is to let them the have the power, while simultaneously making it clear as to responsibilities that are going to come with the power is given up in the partner's favour.

I am not sure GDP is the right way to measure it. I can imagine great many situations where optimising GDP generation is detrimental to long-term health, stability and satisfaction of the relationship to both partners. GDP as a metric suffers both from being too narrow (as all money metrics are) and being too broad [GDP makes sense as a statistic, not as an individual-level metric).

Anonymous said...

Most people can't do their dream job, so they have to settle with something less.

I don't have a dream job and don't have a dream salary.
I wouldn't even know what a dream job is. Some meaning in my work would be a start. But about any work is meaningless. All the service jobs are borderline worthless. I sit in tech support and IT hotline and have to answer to people within research (people with PhDs). On a daily basis I question how some of those morons ever could have reached Dr. titles and call them selves professors.

Back to topic I would rather support someone great/meaningful than to do this bullshit salary-career-train any longer. But I'm a male contradictory very clean, not attractive nor a particular skilled cook. So. Nope. It's cheaper to pay for a house-help or escort. So it's "Slavery for Salary" all the way till my death.

And what about the sex? My guess is that it's a point on the repetitive household shores for a lot of people (mostly women to be gender stereotypical correct).

Behnid Arcani said...

The obvious flaw in your reasoning is that husbands can't have children, or breast feed those children at a young age. In these situations, it simply isn't feasible for the work load to be split in half. Mothers need to stay at home... and generally prefer to in the early months after pregnancy. From my experience: baby wants to eat when baby wants to eat. Not when a work schedule will allow it.

High costs of childcare mean that mothers tend to find it difficult to go into anything but part-time work until the kids are able to enter full time education. This means that mothers tend to be 4 or more years behind in experience when compared to husbands, who usually are back to work after two weeks of paternity leave.

You can see this effect quite clearly in the official numbers ( The gap between men and women's average salary jumps hugely as age goes up, but university graduates will have roughly equivalent salaries. When we get to typical child bearing age, the difference occurs. The gap at the younger age is most likely caused by women tending to not go into the higher paid STEM jobs (

These numbers are for the UK though. Your own country may differ.

So... I'd like to see some numbers for housework separated by age groups. I haven't really got the time to sift through all the hard data cited in the article, and the key points seems to summarize for entire lifetimes. It simply doesn't specify age ranges for unpaid work hours. If we break it up by age group, we might see the hours being much closer together at younger ages, then separating at about 25-30 years old.

Other than that, your reasoning is good, and I agree. Supporting the partner with the higher earning potential seems best.

Ulrik said...

In Norway, kids start in Kindergarten when they're about a year old. It's also expected that the father will be the stay-at-home parent for part of that first year (split about 65-35 in favor of the mother).

When society supports it, it's perfectly feasible to have Equal opportunities for both sexes even taking birth into account. Note that the "two parent" model is not the only Natural model, communal child care may have been the norm for prehistoric humans - the tribe raises all their children together.