to capital, as claims to skilled status have come to rely more and more on sex of the workers and less and less on the nature of the job.

The result is deeply contradictory for men workers, who thereby continually re-create for capital a group of 'inferior' workers who can be used to undercut them. But as well as this, the identification of 'women's work' with unskilled work has masked the process through which capitalist work in general has become more routinized, more deadening, more a denial of the humanity of those who perform it. The segregation of women's work from men's conceals from many men workers the ways in which we are all becoming 'women workers' now; all subject to (in Harry Braverman's phrase) a 'degradation of labour' which gives to all jobs the classic features of women's employment.

As feminists we face two tasks. The first is to re-think economic categories in the light of feminism; 'economics' cannot be left unchallenged by the feminist critique. Capitalist production relations develop in and through confrontations between capital and workers, and the form which these confrontations take is often dictated by the deep divisions within the working class between men and women. Gender hierarchy enters directly into the development of capitalist relations, and a Marxism which fails to recognize this will not be sufficient for us. The second task is to reorganize economic struggles themselves--a task which has long been understood by feminists who find themselves in an uneasy alliance with a trade union tradition whose concern with differentials, with the maintenance of existing skill hierarchies, seems to leave little space for feminist politics. We might suggest that it is only when the socialist movement has been freed from its ideology of masculine skills that it will be able to confront the nature of capitalist work itself, and make the transformation of that work the focus of a future strategy. Perhaps then--in a struggle to claim for both men and women the lives now given over, day-by-day, year-by-year, to the crippling dictates of capitalist production--a new basis for sexual unity might begin to be forged.


Notes
1.
This process of identification of women with lack of skill seems if anything to be increasing. To give just one example; in 1911 women performed 24 per cent of all skilled jobs and 15.5 per cent of all unskilled; by 1971 they performed only 13.5 per cent of skilled manual work and just over 37 per cent of the unskilled ( Bain and Price, 1972; cited in Hakim, 1978).

-328-

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