HOMEMAKERS: The Forgotten Workers by Rae AndrÉ

HOMEMAKERS: The Forgotten Workers

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Homemaking,"" psychologist AndrÉ informs us, ""has become a low-status, low security, low power job."" The solution? To increase homemakers' status ""to the point where one can reasonably assert that they have achieved equality with other workers."" But despite her call for a new ideology of housework, AndrÉ seems to have little conception of what actually comprises status (if it were simply ""social contribution,"" as she implies, then morticians might come in tops). She also is unclear as to whether housework should be minimized, or glorified. At one point she approvingly quotes Wilma Scott Heide's dismissive forecast that, in the future, ""Homemaking will be a part-time occupation for all those people who inhabit a shared domicile""; at another point she also lauds those men who, converted to her new ideology, ""will stand alongside their women and say to the world, 'I too am a homemaker.'"" This confusion makes the book weak on theory--a deficiency to which AndrÉ's surprisingly vague (and condescending) description of psychological research findings contributes. Concluding a discussion of whether career women or homemakers exeprience more satisfaction, she writes: ""Who is right? The argument is unsettled. . . . Then who cares? I'm not so sure."" Her sociological survey of women's position in five societies (roughly two pages per society) is equally naive. The Somali woman, for example, ""is anything but the stereotype of the dependent homemaker."" She travels 30 miles alone; she eats only milk and camel meat. ""And yet, for all her uniqueness. . . the Somali woman has much in common with other women in the world."" What is of value is the practice discussion of alternatives, from the tax and social-security benefits of homemakers hiring homemakers to broader social legislation for displaced homemakers. AndrÉ advises homemakers to look to NOW, which has an established, operating task force on homemaking, rather than to the Martha Movement, which has limited membership, questionable financial backing (Avon, McDonald's), and a dubious outlook (one lead article in its official publication was entitled ""Tips for Making Money at Home""). So if it's a handful of practical steps and suggestions you're looking for, you'll find it here. But if it's understanding of a timely yet perplexing social issue, no. A good intellectual dusting needed.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1981
Publisher: Univ. of Chicago Press