Capitalism & Patriarchy: Best Buds For Life

What have women been telling me?

threads combining into a story

I am now half way through my PhD. Theoretically, I should have some kind of idea what is going on.What have all of these women been saying to me over the last 18 months? What are the common threads that weave the disparate and varied stories together?

I don’t know. 

That can’t be true can it? I ask, aloud, rhetorically.

Nonsense, I answer myself, faking confidence.

The women you have spoken to have all been building something different from what they had before. For some of them, this was the actual timber and cladding of the tiny house itself. For others, it was a new kind of life, a new way of spending their time and relating to others.

new flowers symbolise a new start

For many (most?) of these women, a tiny house was the only conceivable way that they could realistically make these changes in their lives.

Eco Concerns

They wanted to use more renewable energy and less fossil fuel. If you live in rented accommodation, this is not a choice you can make. Today, most people under the age of forty rent.

If you want solar panels or  a composting toilet or a wind turbine, you need to have a home of your own to put them in. Traditional brick and mortar homes are out of the price range of almost all single women and plenty of couples too. A tiny house costs roughly 20% of the average traditional house.  Tiny houses were the affordable solution to reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

capitalism relies on fossil fuels

Consumption Concerns

They wanted to buy less stuff because they realised that the promises of consumerism were at best empty and at worst lies.

They didn’t feel better when they got new shoes, or a new car, or a bigger house. By living tiny, they curtailed the amount of storage space available and forced their own behaviours to fit into this new more constrained space.

It is fascinating to me that so many women speak of the constraint they felt in their lives whilst living in a ‘big’ house, and the expansion they felt in their lives when they lived in a ‘small’ house.

capitalism demands consumption

Work Concerns

What is the mechanism that underpins this sense of expansion in a smaller home? Is it an economic one?

  • Bigger house –> higher bills –> more time working –> most people don’t love their jobs –> life feels constrained.


  • Smaller house –> lower bills –> less time working or less anxiety around losing job / changing career to lower paid but more meaningful one –> tiny house residents more likely to be happy with their employment situation? –> life feels expanded.

capitalism demands long work hours from most people

Capitalism & Patriarchy, Best Buds For Life

I wonder if tiny house residents are trying to live inside the capitalist economy that we have, whilst resisting the mechanisms of capitalism as much as they are able.

Are they also trying to resist patriarchy and gender norms? I can’t work out if capitalism is the handmaiden of patriarchy or the other way around, or if that is even a useful question.

I remember one woman telling me that she and her husband built their tiny house so they they could each work part time rather than full time. They were planning on having children and wanted to make sure they each could co-parent equally.

If they hadn’t have been able to reduce their cost of living, and therefore their working hours, then the highest earner would have been compelled to stay in the paid labour market, whilst it would make more sense for the lower earner to do the unpaid work of child care. In their situation, as in so many hetero couples situation, the male was the highest earner.

patriarchal gender norms define the family

Which Came First?

This really clearly illustrates how work place norms reinforce gender norms. But isn’t it due to misogyny that that men are on aggregate paid more than women? It would be pretty handy to know if ‘solving’ hatred of the feminine would solve this problem.

As it is, this essay has been a bright ream of questions that I do not know the answer to. I suppose this is appropriate since ‘not knowing answers to questions’ makes up 98% of doing a PhD.

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