When the Wages for Housework (WFH) campaign exploded onto the international feminist stage, it sparked the first debate on unwaged caring labour that women are forced into due to the social roles they are expected to perform. It demanded money from the State as compensation for the labour that was not merely a “role” that women were performing, but formed the backbone of the economy due to the physical and emotional investment made by women into housework.
“All I knew was that the basic weakness of women was that we did work that was unwaged and that payment for that work was absolutely central to our autonomy- to our right to have children and our right not to have children, to pay equity”, says Selma.
It was the 1972 seminal publication, The Power of Women and the Subversion of the Community, co-written with the feminist Mariarosa Dalla Costa, that first theorised housework and caring work as unwaged labour that women are forced to do; the very labour whose output supports the working class and through it, the market economy. Soon after, Selma James launched into praxis.
In fact, in May of 2015, the tongue-in-cheek Twitter hashtag #GiveYourMoneyToWomen went viral. Initiated by Lauren Chief Elk, it highlighted how women’s time and attention is often taken for granted, and suggested that if it were in such high demand, perhaps it deserved to be paid for.