Domestic Duties

The word “domestic” has many layers. In the most basic form, the word domestic means contained and controlled. Animals that are domesticated means there is a form of containment and control over the animal. When the word “domestic” is applied to women it looks as though it is a form of control over women, sometimes that is the case. Women can be made to do “women’s word”, or “domestic work”. Men also are denied their right to do some of those domestic rolls. Being forced to do domestic duties is oppressive. When men are denied their desire to partake in domestic rolls, they are being sexual discriminated against. The activities that are considered domestic are things like cooking, cleaning, caring for children. The things that are domestic are often duties that need to be done, but the way in which the work load is handled is what can make it a feminist issue. When women do not have a choice, and are made to handle all of the duties women loose their voice. On the flip side of this women and men can redefine “domestic roles”. In redefining the functions of domestic activities people can renew what partaking in domestic activities mean. If a woman decides that she can be empowered in her ability to cook, or to be a mother, she can make a new claim on doing traditional roles. In the new claim she can take something that can be considered a form of control and turn it into power.
The feminists view the subject of domestic practices in many different ways. There is the idea that if a woman chooses to take on these duties that she is less than a woman because she is not taking advantages of the freedoms so many feminists in the past fought for. Another argument that feminists have about domesticity is that if a woman is being forced against her will to do these activities that she is being denied her rights as a woman. The reverse side of that argument is that women who are being denied their choice to do domestic activities are being denied some of their freedoms. Yet another argument is that if a woman chooses to be “domestic” and she feels empowered by her ability to do these activities than she is taking full advantage of her rights.
When domestic roles are used as a form of control in a family setting, woman loose can loose their agency. In the book What Night Brings the mother, Delia, is made to do all of the roles in the home. Due to her lack of say-so in the house, she never had the power to get her own job, or to even learn to drive. Her husband saw to it that she completely relied on him for all things out side of the house. In a situation like Delia’s the woman has no control. She has no power within her own house, regardless of the fact that she is in charge of keeping it in line. In this case the woman has no power, and the domestic roles she has to carry out are placed on her by an oppressor. Many woman are put in the same situation as Delia, Domesticity is what controls their lives.
Other women can be empowered by Domesticity. When women choose to do the activities within the house, it can become power. If a woman takes prides in her desire to do things that are considered “domestic” she has power over that household realm.

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Outline

I. Introduction to Domestic

A. What is “domestic”

1. To be contained

2. Practice of “traditional” household duties

3. Can be used to oppress or to empower

B. Some domestic activities

1. Cooking

2. Cleaning

3. Aspects of family/home life

II. Feminist view of Domestic activities

1. Wrong when forced, or when denied

2. When women choose to define domestic activities for themselves, they become empowered.

III. When used to oppress

A. Women can be made to do jobs

1. Cooking, cleaning, having children, caring for children

B. Example What Night Brings

IV. When used to empower

A. Women choose to redefine what it means to be domestic

1. Taking over the control of the house

V. Women can be empowered by the choices they make about domestic roles.


*Olivia Short