While the first flight attendants were male and many early airlines had a ban on hiring women, flight attending would eventually become a quintessentially female occupation. Airline marketers exploited the presence of these female flight attendants. Based on my reading — especially Phil Tiemeyer‘s Plane Queer and Kathleen Barry’s history of flight attendants’ labor activism — there seem to have been three stages.
By Barbara J. Risman, Professor and Head, Department of Sociology, University of Illinois at Chicago
There is no debate about the remarkable lack of men as child care workers. This occurrence of apparent gender stereotypes driving one man away from the profession illustrates some core issues in the continuing saga of a somewhat stalled gender revolution. Another illustration of the state of current gender politics is a Stanford educated lawyer, once her husband’s mentor in a law firm, describing herself as the mom-in-chief.
A brief response to Chris Land’s and Steffen Bohm’s Short Essay: “They are exploiting us! Why we all work for Facebbok for free”
The gist of the essay is the following hypothesis: The users of Facebook produce value in the same way as wage workers produce it. Hence, Facebook exploits users by expropriating this value.
Although I have a great respect for Land’s and Bohm’s good intentions and sympathize with their anti Facebook sentiments their claim that Facebook exploits users by extracting value from them is wrong.
Facebook definitely exploits someone. But whom? The answer is: the total world wage labor which is exchanged with capital (variable capital), including its own workers. This is Marx’s definition of productive labor under capitalism. From the point of view of capital only the labor that produces value and surplus value is productive. Only, in this limited sense productive labor is equated with the wage labor, whether material or immaterial, which is exchanged with capital. Otherwise, all labor as far as it is a purposeful activity is productive, because it produces something, whether material or immaterial.
The stockmarket floatation of Facebook brings together a range of issues in how we understand work and the creation of economic value but we should be careful not to overstate the novelty and conflate the newness of the media with the basic economic logic at work here. As Chris Prener suggests in his post, ‘Facebook may represent a new frontier for work and labor where even leisure activity can be exploited for the generation of profit’, but is this really so new?
In their now classic study of traditional media, Manufacturing Consent, Herman and Chomsky explain the basic business model of newspapers as being the production of an audience for advertising. Their analysis suggests the counter-intuitive notion that publishers’ main product is not the newspaper, which they sell to their readers, but the production of an audience of readers, which they sell to advertisers. In short, the readership is their product. This explains why newspapers will often offer a significant discount for students, as this enables them to catch future affluent consumers early on as they establish their media consumption habits. In its more extreme variants, this can lead to the thesis that even watching television can be understood as a form of labor, as by watching TV you produce the audience, which is the broadcaster’s main product – an idea that was neatly captured in an Adbusters’ video a few years ago.