Yale Law School
A woman washes a kitchen floor. She puts the mop away and drives to the comer market. She consults a shopping list, and purchases groceries from it, carefully choosing the least expensive options. A four-year-old child is tugging at her leg while she does this, and she tries to entertain him, talking to him about the mopped floor, the grocery items. When she returns from the store, she prepares lunch from what she has brought home with her. She and the child both eat lunch. After lunch, she and the child collect laundry and she runs a load. She takes the garbage out to the curb. Then she reads him a story. They play a game where she comes up with a word, and he tries to name its opposite. Sometimes there is no opposite, and that is particularly funny to both of them. She has done housework. There is no way to tell from this description whether these activities were market or non-market, whether her work is a commodity or not. Would it help to categorize her work if you knew the location? Is this her home? Suppose that she is a paid domestic worker, and this housework is a commodity. She leaves her employer's home. She goes home and does exactly the same thing there, but this time she is preparing dinner. The second child is her own. Whether these activities are viewed as a commodity is contextual, not activity-based.
Katharine B. Silbaugh,
Commodification and Women's Household Labor
Yale Journal of Law and Feminism
Available at: https://scholarship.law.bu.edu/faculty_scholarship/1676