Ehrenreich reponds to Yoshie

Doug Henwood dhenwood at
Fri Mar 24 14:41:14 PST 2000

[I forwarded some of the collective's remarks to Barbara Ehrenreich; she responded with this letter to Yoshie.]

Dear Yoshie,

I never said housework is a moral issue for women only. In fact, my essay in Harpers goes after women for dropping the ball in the struggle to get men to do their share. But it was women - feminists of the left - who made housework a political issue in the 70s and, yes, I do, in some sense, address myself to them.

I do agree, however, that it would be interesting to know what Mr. Zoe Baird was earning while paying his household help near the minimum wage. But (1) I had no way of finding out, and (2) Zoe's $500,000 makes my point, or at least sounds like a lot to me.

Also, in my Harpers piece, I propose alternative employment for current housecleaners: publicly subsidized cleaning for people who really need to have it done. As they say in the housecleaning industry, you missed that spot.

What truly worries me about your letter though is the sneering remarks about "noblesse oblige." Do you include every form of charity, every contribution to a good cause, as "noblesse oblige"? What a handy rationale!

If the wealth of the world is ever evenly distributed, or even just more evenly distributed, you and I, Yoshie, will no doubt end up with less of it than we now possess. (We will, however, get a lot more in the way of conviviality, hope, purpose, joy etc etc.) In the meantime, I find any argument that supports the present maldistribution - whether by praising capitalism or condemning individual giving - morally repulsive.


Barbara Ehrenreich

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