Hege Roll-Hansen:

Gender, statistics and politics. Housework and the occupied population in the Norwegian census (1920–1940)

This article deals with the development of the Norwegian census in the inter-war period, with respect to how the statistical system collected and processed information concerning married women and their work. In the 1920s and 30s the census formed an important part of the social infrastructure, providing essential information for political planning and government. The compilation, processing and presentation of demographic facts should not be considered as a neutral process, but as a complex practice of producing social knowledge. A main contention of the article is that a family principle was used to structure the tables of population statistics and that the influence of this principle increased throughout the period. This result challenges a common assumption in the history of statistics, that by the beginning of the 20th century the national censuses were structured according to a principle of the individual. The proposed «gendered logic» of population statistics is discussed in connection with several important political issues in the fields of welfare and gender politics.

Keywords: Housework, census, gender, occupied population, family principle, principle of the individual, welfare state


Gro Hagemann:

The kitchen as a societal project

This article analyses interest in kitchen modernisation in order to understand the knowledge, motivation and expectations driving mid-20th century kitchen entrepreneurs. During the decades before and after World War II, and across political divisions, professional boundaries and social status, modernised kitchens appear to have been regarded as a crucial element in the making of a modern society. There seems to have been a common understanding that the kitchen had to be transformed and the housework relieved in order to secure future prosperity and well-being. Kitchen interiors had to be completely renewed, electric household equipment purchased, and working methods altered. A considerable number of experts and entrepreneurs with varying competence and interest took part in this process. However, it was not a unified process pursuing common goals. Even if modernity was the common language of the time and some fields of knowledge were more powerful than others, different projects of modernization were definitely involved. Dissimilar discourses were in play from one expert group to another, sometimes with a mutually reinforcing or weakening effect. Although the conventional gender division of labour was hardly ever contested and the kitchen was regarded as a female zone, modernisation projects were definitely happening.

Keywords: Gender, consumer society, history, housework, kitchen, marketing, interior architecture, postwar period


Anne Marit Myrstad:

Stupid men and bad women. What housewives were given to laugh at in the Norwegian "Housewife films"

From 1953 until 1972, Norwegian housewives were invited to local cinemas to watch "Housewife films". These hour-long films were collections of several, relatively long, educational commercials, supplemented with entertainment breaks. The commercials concerned objects and methods that promised to improve housework tasks, and thus served to tighten the bond between housework and woman. In the entertainment breaks, however, the ambiguities and incoherencies in this gendered discourse of housework are questioned. This article focuses on this invitation to women’s laughter. The main topics that the housewives were invited to laugh at, are discussed and an understanding of humour as an’ inverted image’ is used to reveal inconsistencies in the discourses of ‘the serious world’ (Mulkay 1988:212). While a man making a mess in the kitchen is a dominant theme of humour in the early phase, critic of women’s ‘failures’, for instance excessive shopping, evaporates as the object of laughter in the sixties. Changes in the objects of humour over time are thus identified and tentatively related to cultural changes in general.

Keywords: Housewife, commercials, humour, discourse, women’s laughter, male comedian, 1950s and 1960s, women’s history


Øystein Gullvåg Holter:

The great Domestic Labour Debate, 1975–1985

This paper describes the international Domestic Labour Debate in the 1970s and 80s, involving feminists, Marxists and liberal economists, and highlights Norwegian contributions to the debate. It argues that the debate did not solve the puzzle of a presumably gender-blind capitalism that nevertheless operates in deeply gendered ways, nor did it manage to uncover the "basic code" behind the oppression of women. Yet it succeeded in dismantling the naturalized conception of domestic work and paved the way for feminist theory and research. In view of recent research showing the persistence of material and economic barriers to gender equality, knowledge of the Domestic Labour Debate remains important.

Keywords: Domestic labour, housework, breadwinner role, Marxism and feminism, gender, exploitation


Helene Aarseth:

Housework in limbo? Emotional investments in the post female homemaker family

Several decades after the decline of the homemaker-breadwinner family, women still identify with and invest in the practices and imaginaries of the female homemaker. These persistent emotional investments in housework and mothering are the object of this article. Feminist researchers tend to view these emotional investments as a problem. Changes in the gender division of work would require an increase in reflexivity and a rejection of deep-seated meanings and motivations related to homemaking. Drawing on an in-depth longitudinal narrative interview study of gender-equal, dual career couples, the article argues against this claim. Reflexive change does not necessarily require that personal meaning and emotional investments related to housework are rejected. In the place of reflexive distance, I depict a reflexive refiguration of these meanings. By way of this refiguration, the "feeling for homemaking" could be liberated from a gendered imaginary and replaced by de-gendered motivations. However, the same refiguration could also be a source of rationalization and disregard towards certain parts of homemaking in the post homemaker family, thus paving the way for increased outsourcing.

Keywords: Housework, dual career families, gender equality, female homemaker, reflexivity, reflexive change


Kristin Alsos og Line Eldring:

Migrant domestic work – beyond regulation regimes?

The topic of this article is the regulatory framework for paid domestic work and services, and the conditions for those who carry out this work. While in the past housemaids came from the rural areas of Norway, today’s domestic workers tend to be migrants. In the article we look closer at the regulatory framework for domestic workers with regard to wages and working conditions, and the current situation for domestic workers in Norway. We focus particularly on migrant domestic workers from Poland – both with regard to the regulatory framework and their actual wage and working conditions. In view of legal developments in Norway during the last century, we discuss the viability of today’s regulatory regime for paid domestic work. The analysis presented in the article is based on studies of legal documents and other relevant texts, data from the "Polonia" survey and qualitative interviews with Polish domestic workers.

Keywords: Migrant workers, domestic work, pay, working conditions, regulatory framework, minimum wage

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