April is the month each year when women’s wages catch up to the total earned by men in the previous calendar year. It takes us 4 more months to earn as much because, as we know, women are paid less for their work.
Women’s work, in the home especially, has historically been unpaid work. Exceptions include very real women’s work: sewing and laundering clothes for others. Women could traditionally stay at home with the children and still bring in some income by taking on washing and ironing. These tasks were commemorated and given value in the board game Monopoly by its creator (a woman, Elizabeth Magpie) making the iron and the thimble two of the tokens used in the game.
In an attempt to modernize the game, the current owner of Monopoly, Hasbro, eliminated the iron in 2013 and is now eliminating the thimble as well. What does this say about the value of women’s work? Maybe nothing, but, as Caille Millner, a columnist for the SF Chronicle, writes: “What could be more relevant in this moment than the erasure of women’s work?” She goes on to deconstruct the loss of these domestic icons in the board game as an indication that the values they represent, decent presentation and thrift (i.e., ironed clothes and mended socks) are no longer indicators of economic success. CEOs now wear t-shirts, no one irons anymore, and we outsource domestic labor to an underpaid class of workers.
She concludes with the prediction that “I haven’t seen any tokens rise in their place that are effective paths for people seeking better lives. Hasbro may soon discover this, too.”
Amen to that. Women’s work has value, but just 80% of the value of men’s work. Removing the value from traditional women’s domestic work is one more sign that women’s work may be losing visibility, too.
Angie King is the Coordinator of the SLO Chapter of NOW. You may write to Angie at firstname.lastname@example.org.