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Precarias a la Deriva, “Close encounters in the second phase: The communication continuum: care-sex-attention”

December 14, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

“Close encounters in the second phase: The communication continuum: care-sex-attention”

Precarias a la Deriva

Nov. 2003 [link]

Ya, desde el famoso 11 de setiembre

Ya, en una guerra global permanente

Yo, que vivo en guerra cotidianamente

Yo salgo a las calles y digo que NO!

(to strike in A major, to the tune of “Yo te amo con la fuerza de los mares”)


In the months that followed the “Grand Show” of December of 2002, we began to give shape to what all of us understood as a second phase in our exploration of women’s precarious work.  Some moved to other places and no longer shared the day to day of Precarias in Madrid, others joined the group or proposed particular initiatives: the publication of a text in a book or a web page, participation in a conference, collaboration in a video, or else accompanied us in organizing processes or in a mobilization.[1] This coming and going makes room for a mode of networked cooperation which is not so much about belonging, in this case to the group of Precarias, as it is about opening a field of communication and fluid action – sometimes perhaps too diffuse – which we hope will become a means of constructing a new space of aggregation: the Laboratory of Women Workers.

Our comings and goings had already illuminated a series of problems, as much on the theoretical level – the concept itself of precariousness, for example – and on the methodological level – how shall we approach each other?  How, being sometimes so close and sometimes so far? – as in the question of how to generate conflict in environments which are invisible, fragile, private  or in environments which are more or less codified, such as the ones that opened up in the heat of the mobilizations during the invasion of Iraq[2]  or in diffuse environments like shopping malls, department stores, public transportation, etc.  We had important testimonies, many of them recorded and transcribed, and we had generated a series of tools, modest though they may be, such as the picket-survey, the Precarias mailing list, the accounts from the field and, in general, a practice of meticulous documentation with the intention of preserving and giving form to our reflections and our itineraries.  The experiential knowledge that we proposed through the ‘drifts’ had set us on track and had permitted us to expand our point of view almost vertiginously.  On the other hand, the consolidation of the network of contacts that had formed around the project of the drifts and the invitation to strike – the proto- Laboratory of Women Workers – was still in the bud, as were many of the utterances, slogans and hypotheses that we hoped to produce.  A few important drifts, in particular that of media production and that of sex work still had not been undertaken for various reasons, and we did not want to leave them up in the air.

In January of 2003 we participated in the conference Pensar en Precario (“Thinking Precariously”) organized by the CGT[3] and we once again encountered other persons and collectives that, like us, had been thinking this question over for some time: how to think about and organize that which some had begun to call the precarious class (precariat?) or social precariousness.[4]

So we designed what would be this second phase and we spoke of giving continuity to this project in three different but not unrelated ways: (1) a second cycle of drifts, (2) a series of workshops of collective reflection open to more people and (3) some interventions that would allow us to investigate possible forms of conflict.

In some ways, the drifts had opened a thrilling contact, a form of contagion and reflection which we did not want to give up, a method which moreover had not yet borne all its fruit.  An infinite method, given the intrinsic singularity of each route and its capacity to open and defamiliarize places.[5]

The workshops were a bid for a more leisurely encounter, as well as a means of reaffirming the relationships we were creating and a call to collective delirium, albeit planned.  The workshops were born, in some way, from the contacts or necessities which had come up throughout the drifts: why are we talking about women? What is in question in this so-called crisis of care?  Some of the workshops went rather quietly by, others, in particular the “Workshops on Globalized Care” really worked and permitted us to delve deeper into a complex field such as that of the conditions in which reproduction is realized on a global scale.  Last, the thorny question of conflict, riddled more by intuitions than anything else, was still there, irreverent, winking at us from the corner.  Infiltration, (industrial?) espionage, transvestitism, the rebellion of the machines, faulty labeling[6] and, of course, the “reclaim the streets” or the mobile surveying device all showed themselves to be pale hints of the possible.

The whole thing has, evidently, gotten more complicated as we’ve gone along and we’ve ended up involved in accompanying Hetaira[7] on its outings in the center of Madrid and in the Casa del Campo, in a series of self-interviews and dialogues with colleagues who we have run into along the way and, above all, in a publishing and audiovisual initiative which has centered our efforts in the last months of 2003 and which now is partially made flesh in the artifact you are holding in your hands.[8] Bon Appetit!


The drifts, as we explained in “First Stutterings”[9], are not limited to a route guided by a given experience of precariousness.  They are neither a mere stroll nor a planned activity.  Thus when we proposed approaching sex work we understood clearly that we could not just reproduce the role of “gawkers”, as one prostitute in the Casa del Campo called us, nor that of simple sympathizers.  For this reason we were thinking more of an exchange that would go beyond the future sex work drift.  At the moment, the exchange has taken the form of our participation in some of the activities of Hetaira[10], which has permitted us to approach street prostitution, a world unknown to us, and establish a link where there had been none.  We hope that this link becomes closer over time and that it becomes a cooperation which might contribute to connecting this stigmatized and harassed sector of work to other precarious realities with which it occasionally overlaps.

But first, might we ask again why sex work? We already knew, either from first or second hand experience, about the polemics that surround prostitution: those within the feminist movement[11] and those that habitually come up in public speech, for example in the media, so prone to prohibitionism.  The debate between abolitionists and the defenders of the rights of sex workers that — for those who do not know — have cost us great battles, schisms and much bad blood, seem to be at a dead end, and we are not going to be the ones to reproduce them here.  Some activists and scholars that are working in this field, prostitutes or otherwise, affirm that they are tired of warring against positions which are too narrow, deterministic and victimizing, and of feeling alone against the renewed wave of criminalization that is upon us and which strikes, first and foremost those sectors of society which are traditionally the most persecuted and marginalized.  The touchstone continues to be the rights of the workers, or in other words the recognition of this activity as work and therefore as generator of a series of rights (although these are in the process of being dismantled in almost all sectors) comparable to those which are acquired through other kinds of work, and not as violence or sexual slavery, as something over which no woman might have full power of decision, or as the epitome of patriarchal and capitalist domination.[12]

Traditionally this position has been defended, with various nuances, as much by bourgeois feminists as by socialist ones for whom prostitution was comparable to other unequal contracts which, like marriage, should be abolished, and whose abolishment was subordinate to socialist revolution.  While many women affirm their right to prostitute themselves and to be considered “like any other worker” – a horizon which is in the best of cases fuzzy and shifting – the arguments that try to inscribe prostitution (along with other social realities) in the patriarchal order lose centrality within a stagnant polemic.[13]

What the public consideration of sex work introduces is an argument phrased in moral terms.  Prostitution, they say, threatens the dignity of women converting their bodies in an object of commerce (and violence).[14] Nevertheless, when the activity is consensual we find ourselves in front of a crime with no victim from which we don’t really know very well who to protect society?  Public morals? Any considerations from the point of view of the professionals stays, within this perspective, quite out of the picture, and those who claim to be protecting end up victimizing.

On the other hand, the pragmatism that dominates regulationist discourse – in which participate, in varying ways, prostitutes, businesspeople that run places of prostitution, and some feminist organizations – limits them to consider the management of this activity, something that feminists allied to prostitutes years ago linked to a wider debate in which they included other questions which, over the years, have become less important.  Among these were sexual senses and practices, their historical transformations and their strategic contribution to gender.  This, which could be thought out very well from prostitution and the perspective of the prostitutes, not only concerned the women directly involved – no small thing – but all women.  The rights of prostitutes – the invention of new rights – like the rights of domestic workers, have stayed in the margins of legality and, therefore, of state regulation,[15] and their visibility as subjects has had to situate itself in the center of the debate. Moreover, prostitution or sex work is a privileged location from which to speak about the value and the changing dimensions of sex in patriarchal society.

What is clear is that 1) today sex work is a strategy for earning an income greater than that earned in other activities which many women choose among other bad or limited options (especially in the case of immigrants) and 2) the only thing that prohibitionist and redemptive proposals have achieved is to undermine the opportunity of the women who perform these services to gain a position of strength, thus submitting them to extra pressure and contributing to their stigmatization and invisibility.  The special sanitary and police controls, the segregation into particular parts of the city and the implantation of distinct levels of tolerance, obligatory registration, the penalization of pimps and clients and the fines for working in the street all augment this effect.

When they have been given a chance to speak, many prostitutes have affirmed their capacity to choose or at least their capacity to make a living in the manner which works best for them given the circumstances, and many agree that the worst of it is not the supposed indignity of the sexual exchange, for which they have developed adequate mechanisms of involvement (so adequate that, as Pateman observes, they deeply bother men who aspire to buy “real” sex), but precisely the conditions under which they work and the way that they are treated for the work they do.  This, as the testimonies of Mary-Loly indicate, is not new:

“Many times I could have left it but I never decided to.  Why?  Well, because I think that after so many years of moving around so freely, doing what you feel like, having money in your pocket with certain ease, its pretty hard to start working with a fixed schedule, with a boss that exploits you and a wage that never gets you decorously to the end of the month.  I have seen it with some married women who turn a few once and a while to get some extra money which their husbands don’t bring home” (J.R. Saiz Viadero Conversations with Mary-Loly. Forty years of prostitution in Spain. Barcelona, Ediciones 29, 1976.)

As Cristina Garaizabal explains, “If we don’t take into account the decisions that prostitutes make, if we victimize them thinking that they always work because they are forced to; if we consider that they are persons without capacity of decision  all this means never breaking with the patriarchal idea that women are weak and helpless creatures in need of protection and tutelage.”[16]


In any case and despite the state of the question in feminism, what is clear is that the scenario in which sex work is being debated is rapidly and profoundly changing, and that this should provoke a reopening of the dialogue in other terms.  Here are a few more points towards that end.

The consumption of goods and services of a sexual nature has augmented and diversified.[17] On the other hand, they are progressively being accepted by women.  As the professionals insist, the world of the sex industry is very diverse and in these moments its difficult to generalize.  The places, the services, the regime and the working conditions vary and depend, as they do in other activities, upon the situation (in terms of residency documents, race, place of origin, sex, age, family situation, etc.) of the person in question.

Another significant fact is that Spanish prostitutes and prostitutes from Western Europe in general are being progressively substituted by immigrants from Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.  Sex work is a feminine survival strategy inseparably joined to present migrations, and together with other escapes such as marriage or sexual tourism it shapes the new circuits of globalization.[18] Sex work is a flexible kind of work which could be, and in some cases is, autonomously managed, unregulated and intermittent.  In this sense, it is an opportunity for many people who find their access to a decent income and basic resources restricted on the one hand by the State (immigration laws) and on the other by the labor market.  Nevertheless, this same flexible and alegal character of sex work may deepen not only the stigma but also the precariousness that weighs upon workers.

There is a restrictive interaction between immigration law and sex work which has the effect of blocking possibilities of regularization and encouraging extortions and pressures of all kinds – among them those that threaten sexual liberty and freedom of movement – to which migrant women in sex work are exposed.

The trade in persons for sexual activities has increased, a trade that goes against the will of the women in question using extortion and violence and which, whether we like it or not, cohabits in many contexts with the free practice of prostitution.[19] It is important here to refine the distinction between (1) forced work (slavery), (2) debt-indentured work (partial slavery) (3) paid work (without debts related to migration) and (4) ‘autonomous’ work (more subject to self-organization of time, activity, place, etc.).  We are aware that these categories or regimes require a development which is, in turn, extremely controversial.[20]

Another important element is the incipient organization of prostitutes in Spain, derived in part from the fact that many of them, Latin Americans, come from countries in which there are unions of ‘love workers’ as they are called there.  An incipient organization has also been produced by brothel owners, motivated by their loss of profit to the competition in the street.


With some of these reflections and transformations in mind we initiated our approach to sex work.  In the summer of 2003 we joined Hetaira’s trips to the Casa del Campo[21] and the city center[22], we supported their mobilizations and planned a series of interviews and a first drift, in the beginning of November, which helped us to open the field of sex work – erotic telephone lines, peep shows, brothels, etc.- and made a modest contribution to the work which Hetaira has been doing for years around street prostitution.

It must be said that these trips with Hetaira took place in an especially difficult moment due to recent neighborhood protests and the general securitarian attitude of politicians and the police, as well as the sensationalism – sex, mafias, foreigners: what more could they ask for? – of the press.[23] The accounts of the trips show the complexity of street prostitution as well as our own confusions and fantasies – too morbid and exotic, too ingenuous and voluntaristic, too correct and useless – tinted, in any case, with an imaginary of pleasure and danger.

Street prostitution gets ever more complicated.  The organization of work is subject to the pressures of Mafiosi, gawkers, clients, police, neighbors and pimps.[24] Prices are dropping and are differential according to race, age and papers.  Those that work the street represent the lowest level and, in many cases, the most dependent, most oppressed and persecuted.

Prostitution, like domestic work, does no less than demonstrate the sexual and racial differentials that exist in a given moment.  But how do these mechanisms work?  Why are the Sub Saharans the “cheapest”? Why is the price of service dropping on the streets?  Why is the demand and the price going up for Spanish girls?  Why don’t they all go to the brothels to work?  To respond to these questions we have to take into account phenomena on scales as different as  new international and sexual division of labor, Spain’s immigration legislation and the policies to control migrant (and street) movements, the eroticization of hierarchy, racism and the complex mechanisms that are loosed when sex is sold as a service.  The analysis of this crossroads is difficult but we think that now, more than ever, it is essential.

One of the elements of pleasure, says one colleague, is to feel oneself desired, and this disappears when we buy sex, although it can be substituted if we can imagine, somehow, that the prostitute chooses and chooses us, that she does it “because she wants to” and not because “she has no choice,” that there exists, in fact, some feeling.[25] When this whole hodgepodge is set loose we are again assaulted by the possibility of thinking about sex and the practices of sex in a historical dimension as do Foucault and the feminists that inspire us, that is, as production (and not as mere domination), as a place of regulation and of government.  Thus we think about how sexuality has transformed in relation to femininity and masculinity, how sex services are specializing and becoming more sophisticated, and how all of this together with the invention of rights in a general context which is dominated by disarticulation and a particular one – that of sex work – which is characterized by imbalance and stigma.[26]

In our feminist perspective, the exercise of prostitution reproduces a theatralization of power; the man negotiates and buys the right to access the body of the woman and  to something more, something that can’t be separated from the other: a performance of sex with love, a normalized or an aberrant sexuality, equal or hierarchical, voluntary or forced, the compensation for a deficit of sex or affection, a companion, a mother, etc.  Many kinds of performance can be bought, one need look no further than the advertisements in the newspaper.  Prostitutes have always talked about how much their clients talk, their role as therapists or desired subjects, thus demystifying the generalization that would make violence or distain a guideline of sexual service.  Fantasies of dominion, of war, of the inversion of power, of the secret and its unveiling  as a client said on television: “Nobody gives so much for so little.” Sex work, as we said before, is a strategic place to reveal the sexuality – normal and deviant – of a particular historical moment, as well as the way in which this is linked to other dimensions of social identity.  Prostitutes and sex workers in general make explicit the performances of gender and the borders of being woman.

According to what some companions in this sector have told us[27], stratification depends in large measure upon the effect of reality or verisimilitude of the fiction, that is to say, the extent to which it approaches a non-mercantile sexual encounter.  Some men like to think that the worker is not working, that she is into it and that she gives her body and soul, as they say.  The fiction of the ‘students’ flat’ used to advertise brothels, the fiction of the independent woman or hostess who receives or accompanies gentlemen in high level prostitution, the migrant clients who want to be with Spanish girls, the anonymity of brothels and erotic telephone party-lines are manifestations of this fiction of equality, of normalcy.  Being white is another indicator of equality, distinct from the orientalism that women of other colors and origins offer, or the panorama of poverty and foreignness that is often intuited in the case of immigrant women.  Cybersex is an interesting phenomenon in this sense, especially because of the dislocation of identity which the net and other interfaces like the telephone make possible.[28] The opportunity to disguise sex for money through telephone messages registered in an answering machine contributes to dematerialize the exchange and assure a performance that is less carnal but more open to simulation.

And so what does all this mean?

This is precisely what we would like to continue exploring.  In any case, we don’t know if this tendency towards the “dissolution” of the traces of asymmetry – of sex, social origin, race, ethnicity, age, body standards and sexual identity – is dominant.  Evidently it coexists with others that value the fantasies of domination and submission or that are inspired in hierarchies of sex, race and origin.

What is clear is that these fantasies – be they of equality or domination/submission – are produced in the context of a social system that is hierarchalized in accord with certain axes, which we have tried in various ways to define.  The resulting stratification takes into consideration (1) the work regime (coerced, indentured, paid without debts and autonomous); (2) social, labor and geographic mobility; (3) the degree of exposure of the body (direct in the case of prostitution, semi-direct in massage, or indirect in peep shows and telephone lines); and (4) the organization of work (in flexible and networked enterprises like the chatlines or the larger brothels, or familiar structures like those of some other brothels, autonomy as in the case of some prostitutes, mafia systems, etc.). If we cross these categories of position and regime we have a fairly complex map of axes.

This map then begins to show us some singularities and common grounds.  It shows, for example, the similarity between certain kinds of sex work and other jobs in the field of communications, of commerce (in the big chain stores or in the small boutiques) or in domestic service (equally fragile in terms of legal status).  We are speaking about very similar enterprises.  With their advertising instruments, their systems of ‘controllers’, their receptionists in the role of contact person, supervisor, presenter, disseminator and accountant, their decentralized installations, their flexible hours, their tendency to occupy all the living time of the workers (as in the case of internal domestic workers), etc.  Although the social stigma is shared throughout the sector of the sex industry, it also has to do with the feminization of the activity, the invisibility and lack of esteem, features which sex work shares with other kinds of care and attention work.

Another dimension to be taken into account among the common grounds and singularities to be reinforced is the question of women’s identities.  As Laura AugustÌn has suggested, many do not think of themselves as ‘prostitutes’ or ‘sex workers’ but as women from this place or that place who “happen to be working temporarily in the sex industry to achieve a given end.  This means that they are less interested in questions of identity than in those that permit them to go on making money in the way they want, without harming or endangering them on the one hand, and without pitying them and trying to ‘save’ them on the other”(forthcoming). This  lack of definition or professional ambiguity, which we will also see among the telephone operators, is not here the product of deregulation but of the very condition of a ‘job’ which is confused with the very nature of the ‘bad woman.’ To this we attribute the expansive and diversifying character of the industry itself – it is difficult to distinguish between some ‘erotic’ services and other ‘sensual’ activities considered part of health care, or others in the realm of art and/or entertainment – and the entrance and exit flow of many women, especially migrants, who today look after children and tomorrow might do a week in the Casa de Campo.

Our notes, for the moment, are many and dispersed.  The accounts and impressions which we have pulled together suggest more questions than answers.  We have opened our ears during the trips with Hetaira, the interviews and a first drift with a friend who works in an erotic telephone line and another who is receptionist at a brothel, and we hope to continue opening them in the coming months.  In any case, this seems to us a good point of departure in a moment which seemed at first so overdetermined by the impasse in feminist debates.



The reflections arising from this workshop are presented in a text included in this volume,[29] so we will procure that these pages serve just as a invitation to situate ourselves in the place where this investigation began, at a particular crossroads: Crisis? Conflict? Transit?

The Workshop on Globalized Care was held in three sessions.  The participants were women each of whom was a mixture of some of these things: domestic workers and caregivers, migrants, scholars, activists, lawyers, social mediators, etc.  The first session was an effort to approach the present panorama of care: social transformations, feminist positions, the role of migration and immigration law, the legislation of domestic work, the situation of the labor market. Then later we got to thinking about a ‘caregivers’ uprising’, experiences which exist so far and others that could exist in the future.

The discussion, as always, got good and complicated because it is true that there are just too many things: (1) the history of the sexual division of labor and its present configuration; (2) the feminization of migratory flows and the ‘passing along of inequality’, (3) the legal framework which fixes the status of domestic work as subemployment and that of women as subalterns, (4) the content of this work: its temporal, spatial, subjective and other limits and (5) the fronts open for struggle.

To some extent our interest in globalized care is the same as that which motivates the whole institutional topic of “reconciliation of work and family life,” although we depart from different premises and move toward different conclusions.[30] For the moment we are going to call this a “crisis”: the mainstream reproductive scheme presently comes into conflict on one side with the pressure exerted by the deregulation of work (both masculine and feminine) and the lack of public services and, on the other, with the expectations that access to education, more or less stable employment, sexual self-determination and, in general, feminism’s position on the liberation of women has generated since the 1970s.[31]

“With the rupture of the Fordist family model, in which the social infrastructure of home and care was resolved through the exclusive dedication of women to this free work, we find ourselves confronted with a new scenario and with it the rupture of the old structure of care in which deferred reciprocity guaranteed that those who were cared for in their childhood and youth would be in the future the caretakers of their elders.” (from S.del RÌo and A.PÈrez Orozco, “La economia desde el feminismo: trabajos y cuidados” Rescoldos, n.7, 2002.)

But let us go bit by bit.  By hegemonic reproductive scheme we understand the nuclear patriarchal family with a strong sexual division of work which determines the division between the public and the private, production and reproduction; it is indubitably a white, middle class family, legitimate heir to the bourgeois family of the 19th century, and extended as a model (attention, as a model, not necessarily as an experience) to almost all other layers of society throughout the first half of the 20th century.  This scheme maximizes biological and social reproduction, in Bourdieu’s sense, both that which has to do with the transmission of inheritance and that which has to do with the care of offspring in intimate collaboration with the State and with the maintenance of the moral order.  In Francoist Spain, this model was colored by the special hue of an authoritarian welfare State[32], the moral and institutional predominance of the Catholic religion and the propaganda about women as “angels of the home”.  The crisis of this model began in the PostFrancoist period and has become more acute in the last decades.[33] ‘Crisis’ here does not suggest that sexual division does not continue to be produced, that previously women of the lower class were not subjected to an intensive model of work outside and inside the home, that this model is deployed in the same ways in different contexts (for example in the rural context) or that the same things happen everywhere at the same time. The nuances are important, nevertheless it seems pertinent to us to speak of a hegemonic model and to clarify that when we talk about the sexual division of work we do not assume that women do not work outside of the house but we do see that reproduction ceases to take place primarily in the bosom of the extended family and that, from the 18th century onwards in Europe a series of collective services are established that, leaning upon the family and upon women, are oriented towards educating, pacifying and integrating the population and quiet the danger that in that period, and in others thereafter, the popular classes have represented.[34] We needn’t mention that this model has been object of successive crises and readaptations; for example, after the two World Wars.

One of the elements of the current crisis, deregulation, has to do on the one hand with the loss of masculine employment in the 1980s and, on the other, with the growing expansion, fragmentation and diversification of employment niches for women, no longer in administration or manufacture but in the service sector: cleaners, caretakers, servants, waitresses, shop keepers, telephone operators, advertisers, beauticians, sex workers, escorts, etc., a sector in which, as we know, work is ever more precarious.

The second aspect of this crisis, the absence of public service, has to do with the development of the so-called “Mediterranean” welfare State, called ‘Mediterranean’ because it sounds nicer than ‘rudimentary’ or ‘familyist’.  This means that reproduction is in the hands of women, frequently in the ‘double work-day’ regime, and that only in the absence of a woman will the State intervene.  Services are, especially in the field of care, a complement to the action of women.  Homes with resources will contract another woman, probably immigrant, to externalize part of this work.  And this is where other dimensions enter into play, like immigration regulations: the fact, for example, that migration law rests upon discriminatory phenomena that are unjustifiable from any Euro-orthodox point of view such as the pre-assignation by law of certain jobs (domestic service) to certain population groups (foreign women) in function of their sex and their condition as aliens.  If all those European declarations really held any water these phenomena would be considered attacks against human rights.

The third element, the generalization of feminism, forms part of the subjective horizon of Spanish women and constitutes a popular and populist tool in the hands of most parties and some brands.  The acceptance of women’s autonomy as an idea has been disseminated and individualized.[35] Despite this it bumps up against feelings of stress and difficulty when one undertakes independence (young people in their parents’ houses, married women unsatisfied with their husbands or women charged with dependents), maternity, education, equality in promotions or the division of work.  Autonomy, despite its effects upon self-esteem, ends up being little more than an ideal towards which one can barely even tend, something for “superwomen”, something which may even be annoying to the extent that it is unreachable.  To these aspects we must add another key factor: the aging of the population[36] which together with the falling birth rate is provoking a situation of uncertainty and, as the media say, of social alarm which in the coming years may modify or at least nuance the criminalizing discourses on immigration in favor of others which place more emphasis upon the profitable character of the migrants as a labor force, and even more dangerous, as a procreative force necessary in just proportions.  Probably we will witness a combination of both orientations.

All these elements form part of our debates, but in the last months something has changed in us.  Perhaps its that we’re getting older or that talking about these things in the first person reminds us that we too will be caretakers and eventually, cared for.  Or not? To varying degrees some of us already care for the people we live with, ourselves, and in a still rather lax way, members of our families.  Almost none of us have children, nor could we.  One of us has them on the other side of the pond and manages one of her households from a distance, with all the uncertainty which that represents.  But, let’s see, what options do we have?  Many of us are mortified by the thought of living with our families, even by the thought of having to care for them; we’ll see how our elders get along.  We flee from emotional blackmail and affirm our desire to maintain relationships which are free, that is to say, based upon affect and not obligation.  Nevertheless these same relationships – more insecure to the extent that they don’t produce guarantees nor are subject to formal contracts – do not produce frameworks – resources, spaces or bonds – for care.  Okay, we haven’t married, we have constructed other kinds of units for cohabitation but  how will we deal with the need for care in these environments?  Will we go back to the family?  To which family, if we are the youngest members?  To the partners, for those that have them?  Will we have partners?  Speaking in the first person together has its risks.  We look back to the family even when it is not grabbing our chin and turning our face, and its difficult for us to think of each other as caretakers, or of the few institutions which we generate as facilities for care.  Look out: the hardcore of care is not tea and cake on a depressive afternoon.


As we began to talk about these questions we came up against the situation of some of us, migrants in domestic service and in care work.  In “First Stutterings” we refer to the transfer of much reproductive work to migrants.  This has various consequences which arise from one problem: reproductive work has not been distributed and the conditions of employment make the work of ‘native’ women more difficult.  That homes do not have “wives” does not mean that things do not have to get done; what is more, they say that in modern homes despite or precisely because of all kinds of technological advances the amount of work is greater.  Although income frequently is not especially high, many heterosexual (and homosexual, we imagine) couples avoid the conflict: they contract someone (by the hour) and they are even.  If there are children and two salaries, even if the salaries are precarious and/or flexible, the solution, besides the grandmother, is clear.  This gives rise to a “demand”, a niche for precarious women’s work which corresponds perfectly to the “supply”: that of migrant women who are looking for work or life alternatives in the centers of global capitalism and who cannot opt for other jobs.[37] So there we have the pull and the push.  And, from our point of view, what should be insisted upon is the pull: the structure of the Spanish labor market with its explosion of submerged work, underemployment and unemployment.  This is especially the case now that, under the neoliberal lens, the impoverishment of the Third World is increasingly regarded as an incapacity to develop and thus something that countries should take care of themselves.

The buying power of middle class households is dropping, and with it the salaries of those who pick up the kid from school, look after the baby, clean and cook, fix up the house, the office or the lobby, take grandma for a stroll or do the babysitting.  Those who have more resources or want special services – upper class families, companies, institutions – take advantage of the general conditions of a sector at the margin of legality, or what is worse, with a legal structure that nurtures abuses.  The demand for live-in and day workers, as L. Oso explains, depends upon whether the family has small children; for the middle class sector the live-in worker costs almost the same and does so much more. Single family homes in the periphery of the big city have space enough to lodge a live-in, the architects have designed them that way.  Professional couples without children, in the interest of intimacy and affective peace, opt for an ‘assistant’.[38]

the jobs that came up the most were as a live-in, taking care of children, with four, five kids in incredible conditions.  What comes up the most is live-in work because – just imagine, if they are looking for day workers and they pay them 80,000 pesetas for example, and they pay 90,000 to a live-in – with a live-in you have a slave, because the majority of live-in work, I don’t know if there are exceptions because one can’t generalize everything, but in most cases they think they are the owners of the person who is there as a live-in.  The person who contracts you thinks they’re paying you well, they’re giving you a house, they’re giving you food, and using uniforms, and treating you as an inferior  So they see the case as: Which is a better deal for me, to have a live-in or a day worker?  Clearly the live-in.  So the number of jobs available for day work goes down and now there’s barely no day work to be had.  There are very few jobs and only in conditions in which the people say: I don’t want to have somebody, because I don’t feel like it, I don’t have the liberty – but for these reasons, not because of the exploitation but because they say: I can’t, because of personal conditions, intimacy and so on, or they don’t have space to have a live-in.  But in general right now it is live-in work that’s available, either with elderly people or with children. (domestic worker, Globalized Care Workshop I )

This niche, especially in the case of those who work by the hour – generally Spanish women but also immigrants with work permits – has clearly been perceived by service companies.  Many workers, seeing how fragile and unpredictable their situations are, opt to sell part of their salary to these growing companies.

It is, without a doubt, a complicated situation, as some women told us during the sessions of the workshop:

The other day a colleague at my job, I work in a place where, well, people are hard-working and have had a period of more or less decent salaries and a certain status, basically middle class, anyway this woman has two children and a husband who works in a company traveling, and the kids are fourteen and eighteen and they’re driving her crazy, and now her mother is alone and since she fell down the other day she can’t be left alone.  A woman who was widowed young and so she has been very independent since she was quite young so my friend said to me, “I just don’t know what to do” and I said, “But this is appalling, nobody can live like this.” So she was thinking about taking a vacation to be with her mother in July and then her mother would go with the other sister in August, but this is too much, no? So then she thought about tele-assistance, but tele-assistance is no good because what her mother really needs is company.  That is, the problem isn’t just taking care of an elderly person who in a given moment might hurt herself and then the ambulance would have to come, its that what she is suffering, and to some extent what she is looking for is company and affection.  So she looks at the problem and in the end she will make a contract in which she pays a shit salary – because that’s the way it is – to another woman.  There is this whole sector of working people who find themselves in this juncture when the kids are still not grown, the parents are already old, and they are stuck in between with men who don’t collaborate and as I see it, even if they do collaborate the pressure that exists in the labor market is such that that wouldn’t solve the problem either, so when there is not a collective resolution of “we are going to do this for whatever” then everyone fends for themselves however they can, and one of the alternatives is to contract another woman. (Feminist activist and working mother, Globalized Care Workshop III)

To this we must add a central question which we already pointed out in our first stutterings and which is intermixed in each and every one of the aspects which we have gone through above and to which we will continue to refer throughout this book: affect. The literature on the “global chains of affection”, which we will address later, reconstructs the bonds of care in which migrant women link the family members and people being cared for in the country of origin, the families for which they presently work, and the affective relationships they establish in the places where they live.  It is not exactly a transfer – those that are mothers continue to act as mothers although in a different way, they continue to be university graduates although they work in domestic service; rather it is a reordering or renegotiation of roles and, in this sense, of identities.[39] Among these renegotiations, something has happened and is happening in the Spanish context with the caretaker grandmas, who are so important and of whom so little is spoken.

All the questions derived from this global readjustment are interesting to us.  Not as a conflict between women or from a perspective of blame (the liberation of some at the price of oppression of others), a vision which can be perceived in some feminist statements: those which have interpreted postcolonial criticism as an intonation of mea culpa, appealing in the end to individual goodwill. Nor, in the opposite direction, do we see this readjustment as an engine driving the anxiety and the vengeance of real legitimate caretakers against sadistic foreigners: see the recent scandal which the press made about the abuse by an Ecuadorian live-in of the blond twins of an absent white mother.  Rather we are interested in these questions as a dynamic which contributes to the reconfiguration of households, families, the sense of intimacy and of the private, the ways of loving, of caring and of managing affect.  They interest us also in their connection with sexuality, with an affective continuum which has always been present and which distributes functions as wife, lover, caretaker, sexual servant, companion, mother, contracted wife, etc.  They interest us, finally, because the capacity to make alliances and the capacity of the most vulnerable sectors of women to demand negotiation and introduce conflict is what will assure better conditions for all.  It is a question of rooting out, once and for all, the idea of loyal or disloyal competition, the clauses of national priority as an excuse to nurture precarization and ethnification, and sexual difference as an argument for “specialization” in the lowest ranks.  Capital fragments the social in order to subtract value, we aggregate to elevate it and to move it into other places.  Without a doubt, we find ourselves in a force field, a field in which the symbolic is being created and life practices determined.  Its time to intervene.  In the end, in one way or another, we are talking about the daily life of each and every one of us.


And in terms of strategy  what can we say?  We have discussed long and hard, this way and that.  Really, as a friend from the Feminist Assembly of Madrid says, we have already been thinking this over for a long time, this question of putting life, the sustainability of life, in the center, although we have not yet come upon the solutions or better, the ways, in which to put this invisible conflict into the public space.[40] Perhaps we are getting close.  Quantify, valorize, visibilize, withdraw, mercantilize, abolish, industrialize, share, salarize the social economy, reconcile, fight for a domestic social salary

The scenario we are sketching here evidently has little to do with policies of ‘reconciliation’ which see institutional feminism and the measures designed in its name as tools forming part of the great narrative of women’s progressive liberation.  Our analysis is different.  It is primarily global, in the sense that it contemplates the reality of as many women as possible – housewives, workers, from both shores, paid or not, married or not, legal or illegalized, in unions which are recognized or those which are not, etc. – as a whole and in relation, as ambiguous and conflictive as this may be.  It is worthless for us to talk about reconciliation or even of valorization if we do not also talk about distribution or division, or better yet, of cooperation and conciliation for all in fair conditions.  Worthless if when we speak of the home we do not also speak of the precarization of existence and of employment and vice versa.  As some critical positions have indicated, the debate on the reconciliation of home and work departs from inadequate premises (it is women who have to do the reconciling) and either avoids crucial questions (such as that of migrant work, that of the legal forms of union and of citizenship, that of precarious and feminine conditions of work) or directs conflicts towards positions of pacification in which inequalities are justified.

The situation of social services and their progressive privatization, as is explained in an interview included in this book, not only does not auger well but predicts serious losses.  The distribution of housework is very limited and faces many difficulties due to the resistance of men, the lack of resources and the flexibilization of employment.  Women who work in the domestic and care sector have not witnessed any reform in an almost feudal labor legislation.[41] Instead, they have seen how their living conditions have gotten worse amid the flourishing of service companies and immigration policies as well as the traditional difficulty of forcing negotiation in these sectors.

The strategy of visibilizing, valorizing and even quantifying[42] is fundamental, but to this we must add the analysis of precarious work and migration, as until very recently these efforts were based upon the model of a “typical” (and “native”) woman, home and employment.  These analyses are not always accompanied by reflections which permit a politicization of our lives, which favor the articulation of knowledges, change and collective conflict.  The so-called social economy – the third sector – is sometimes a perversely perfect partner to the opportunities for accumulation offered by the (no longer so) “new sites of employment” and the recent forms of subcontracting. This is accentuated even more in the case of women.  The idea of a social salary, about which we spoke in the national feminist encounter in Cordoba in 2000 and in other meetings, is an opportunity to adjust the debates about work and life. It may, however, leave untouched the question of value, salary and conditions (experienced by domestic employees) and the limits of cooperation (which all of us experience in our homes).

On the other hand, talking about affect necessarily implies getting past the framework of employment or even of work and entering into the realm of relation, something inseparable from any activity but particularly essential in the activities we are talking about.  We are caretakers, all of us, but moreover we need to be cared for, we like it and we have a right to it.  But the affect that we seek should not be a question of minimums, of obligation and guilt, of dependence. Rather it should be a free affect, although (today) this might be linked to a salary, and for it to be free it must be just.  Affect, as we well know, is not a panacea, and it is not good enough to talk about it in general terms.  Love has qualities, and it is a part of social relations which must be constructed and deconstructed: love, service, work, solidarity, etc.  For this reason the struggles that are related to affect, such as those in the fields of nursing or education, are not strictly labor struggles but citizen as well as personal struggles.  They are struggles against daily wars.  And the challenge which we confront in these workshops is just that: to transform care into a social claim which modifies affect and converts it into an abundant common good.  Something which has been a constant challenge for feminism, and which the neoliberal offensive of recent years has converted into an emergency.

The struggles of caretakers – of housewives in impoverished countries, immigrants, social workers – are still just beginning, and the burgeoning experiences point to an aggregation that could interrupt the atomization and precarization of personal services, the degradation of the public and the anguish and juggling-acts required by family commitments.[43] The struggles of (under)cared-for people, which have been significantly organized in some countries of the Third World (and have barely existed in Europe, with the possible exception of France), represent the other side of the same problems: resources, quality and cooperation.  In this sense, the conflicts produced by migrants and those who work in questions of care, conflicts grounded in work but above all in citizenship, in the imaginary and in lifestyle, demand a greater degree of elaboration and confluence.



In April of 2003 we drifted through the circuits of media precariousness.  Media: graphic design, employment related to cultural and media production, temporary jobs in the industry of the spectacle, staff called “creative”, publicity, corporate design, campaigns and promotion of brands  yes, yes, the production of logos.  Work on codes: translation, language, correction of proofs, editing, investigating, contacting and consulting from the home computer, free-lance in the media, artists without ring or rank, regulars at the casting calls as intermittent workers in the world of the spectacle, etc.  Key words:  creativity, vocation, connectivity, autonomy, flexibility, merit, proof, realization, professionalism, mobility, (self)education, stress, ‘free’ schedule, projects  some talk funny and say things like “to have some issues on the table” or “monitoring” or “cultural units” or other similar things.  If you look carefully, those who work in immaterial production are not telephone operators or chain-workers but nevertheless on occasions the tasks of communication, control of semiotic flows and management overlap and the only thing left are the features, symbolically very powerful, of a certain prestige and a certain satisfaction provided by creation, if not of ‘authorship’ then at least of ‘collaboration’, but lest you forget: casual.[44]

Thus we establish a line of continuity between our first drift[45] with the ‘manipulators of codes’ and this new drift in the media together with some precarious workers at the National Radio: one with a contract as “intern”- recently dismissed – and the other with a contract “by job”, both of them products of a special Master’s program offered by the National Communications Entity.  We also went hand in hand with a student of images who works in fits and starts in the world of audiovisuals and participates in starving cooperative projects, and, lastly, with a promising young talent in a highly precarized mass production company: Sogecine, which pertains, together with CNN+, Canal+, Canal Digital Satellite, Sogepack and a long list of others, to the company Sogecable.

We take the public transport with Angela and Monica to the Spanish National Television and Radio, with its ministerial hallways from another era, nothing to do with the studios we’ve seen in Hollywood movies; we move through the network visiting various little companies in the audiovisual sector, the kind of places where Alejandra has been working and which have given her little leeway to act; we sneak into the central building of a subsidiary of a subsidiary of a leading company to chat with Carolina about the backstage of mainstream cinema.  On the way home we stopped for a beer to think over all this production of signs but ended up trapped in a conversation with a fan about how Jennifer LÛpez works making beds in a luxury hotel in Manhattan and meets an aggressive executive while disguised as a grand dame and so on and so forth.

The jobs in this field are not specifically feminine though they are “feminized” in the sense that Haraway gives this term.  Our interest in them has to do with three things: (1) their component of attention (something which they share, for example, with telephone operators, social workers and caregivers) and of image/performance (something which, leaving aside the glamour, puts them alongside retail workers in chain stores), (2) their capacity to generate imaginary and, in this sense, to conform gender, or in Teresa de Lauretis’s words, their function as technologies of gender and (3) the growing number of women who work in these sectors.  Evidently here there are key differences in contact with the public, the exposure or visibility that the media or culture industry has compared, for example, to translation.  We are talking about a vast field which we will have to learn to delimit as we investigate.

In our first stutterings we made a survey of these points: of the working conditions in small new networked companies, in which it is not a question of major companies externalizing and contracting other companies but rather of major companies directly converting their former departments into subsidiaries, and thus liberating themselves from the obligation to respect labor agreements.  We have also talked about the maximization of knowledge, affective resources and – in the case of the media, publicity and culture industry more than anywhere – of connectivity, without this translating into income or stability.  We have talked about other types of contracts which predominate at the lowest levels: internships, practica, contracts by job or no contract at all.  And we have discussed the flexibility of schedules, the meager salaries and rights, the lack of delimitation of tasks, the polyvalence, the diffuse hierarchies oriented to promote self regulation, etc.[46]


Aside from all of the above, there is something particular about this kind of work, although this something is present in varying degrees in all kinds of activities: social value and relational value.  These jobs one does out of vocation and as an investment in oneself.  Therefore the learning process (free) never ends and the result, the work itself, is in many cases a nexus of connections and possibilities one must know how to maximize.[47]

These connections and possibilities are associated with technology and (self)education (such as in programming or design), inventive, intellectual or performative tasks (such as in fashion or the art world) and in the realms of power and public influence (such as the cinema, the media and advertisement).  Connectivity, the client’s portfolio, and the contacts one establishes for future projects constitute central elements in what Eve Chiapello and Luc Boltanski have exhaustively characterized as the city by projects, whose precedents are art criticism and scientific investigation.  This city they oppose to others such as the domestic, the commercial, the inspired, the industrial or the city of renown, with any of which the city by projects may coexist.

“In a reticulated world, social life is composed of the successive multiplication of encounters and connections with diverse groups.  The encounters are temporary but can be reactivated, and are realized occasionally at great social, professional, geographical and cultural distances.  The project is the occasion and the pretext for the connection, temporarily uniting dissimilar people and presenting itself as a strongly activated extremity of the network during a relatively short period of time, but which permits the forging of more enduring links which, although they remain inactive for a while, will always be available.” (p.155, El nuevo espiritu del capitalismo, Madrid, Akal, 2002)

The rhetoric of projects presents a base for evaluation: merit; and the technique for measuring it: the test period.

What I see in radio and in the media in general is that you work as if you were on display, I don’t know, imagine someone who works in an office and for two hours a day she gets filmed.  In these two hours she would really make it look as if she were doing something, she would take pains to shine. So I see that since we have two hours a day in which our work is exposed, in which we are really being evaluated, we have to put our shoulders to the grindstone. Its not like having some papers which, in some other job, you might say ‘I’ll do these tomorrow.’ In this job you really can’t, its that at six o’clock I am live on the air and I have to say something.  So yes you take work home with you, I take all the magazines home with me and I underline them in the subway, and before sleeping.  Its been a long time since I’ve read a book because I read all the music magazines in bed and then I crash.  Now no, somebody gave me a book for my birthday and I decided ‘I’m going to leave the magazines and read a book ” (Drift through the Media, first stop.)

The generalized orientation towards communication as a process is fundamental.  It is no longer a matter of the old subject-object or emission-message-reception schemes, now it is a different and much more sophisticated model inspired in pragmatism, semiotics, ethnomethodology and symbolic interactionism.  In this orientation shared and unshared codes are put into play, the meaningless and the misunderstood, the implicit, the performative and the illocutionary force, the mediation and translation of some signs to others, gestures and, in general, incarnation, expectations, tastes and habits.  Thus the features of the information regime[48] – fragmentation, preeminence of the visual, modular assemblage, synopsis, des/recontextualization, interchangeability, integrity, motion sensitivity – do not form static and discreet functional units as in the industrial period but rather units that are reversible and recombinable, also in function of feedback processes: market studies, polls, call-ins, audience levels and sale of associated products, etc.

Carolina told us all this in relation to her job in the production department of Sogecine.  Speaking, for example, of how to project an hypothetical feminine audience:

in fact I think Sogecine has a reputation for being very sexist, sexist and masculine.  Then, I have such funny examples  they call you once in a while to see a preview; you are what they call a ‘target’, the intended audience  so you’re a woman from 18-35 years old, and they’re going to show you a preview and you’re supposed to cry like a woman from 18-35 years (they don’t say that, they just assume it) and then they show you some horrible cutesy thing, and then when I tell them that I think its hideous, I think its horribly cutesy, they respond: You’re just a tomboy, get out of here, somebody find a different girl (Media drift, third stop).

We came across this little example of personal feedback which provided us with some keys for thinking about the lines of symbolic reproduction – montage yes, but always of the same thing – and the devices of self-regulation which those of us who work in the manipulation of mass codes develop.  Carolina commented that this could even produce a gap in the tasks of mediation, for example, between the film and the translation which the producer makes of it in the preview. This labor of mediation is oriented to the average, the majority, the commercial, what we know works and what we already have under control.  And, what is more, it is not determined by a boss; in Sogecine there are more bosses than employees.  The orientation could be determined by anyone: from the author of the script to the developer, the one who designs the poster or who organizes the debut

But the matter goes beyond just this; it is a task of inventing majorities, of converting minorities into majorities, of codification of difference as a commodity.  We refer to a circuit, not a one-way relationship.

It is in their interest that I be here, if it weren’t I wouldn’t be here.  I don’t have commercial tastes, and that is just what interests them, moreover, here I think its even more extreme, but in Canal + for example, Canal+Television is producing tons of different programs, directed to a very different public, and in which they are looking for a lot of innovation, much more than here, because this is already a much riskier business and so you have to cover your back more, and not take too many risks.  With a TV program if you don’t it and its not working then you stop it and that’s that.  But here if something doesn’t do well in the box-offices you’re running the risk that they shut down the whole company for next year, you know?  I think that in this terrain you can’t explore much, not from here, maybe from television you can create a lot more.  And then lets not kid ourselves, TV doesn’t have anything like the audiences the movies have, its much more mainstream, and it’s a much more immediate kind of consumption.  A movie, from the time you begin it until it is made a year goes by, and maybe in a given moment there’s a demand for something, but in two years when it is finally finished it doesn’t work anymore, or it does  Its much more difficult from there to see the effect they have.  “Los lunes al sol” (Mondays in the sun) for example, nobody imagined that it was going to be such a success.  Nobody.  In fact when it was released the provisions – it was distributed by Sogepak, the distributor here – the provisions were for two hundred, three hundred million in box-office, and now its already made 1500.  One can’t know (Media drift, third stop)

But then, if we are talking about a circuit, we have the audiences who occasionally escape expectations or produce real innovations which later might be mediated, as has occurred with the hybrid culture of rap or with Mexican soap-operas, whose Latin American cultural keys have been recodified in the global market.  The media conglomerates, with their tendency to centralize control and management, somehow coexist with the multiple and scattered productive processes, including the points of flight, with forms of collaboration and exchange between the entities intended to facilitate co-production and third, with the often ambivalent character of audience mobilization.  These interpret and use the media in different local contexts and turn, for that purpose, to different frames of reference.  Such that not everything can be foreseen.

Thus the experiences in the universe of information are contradictory.  Those who read globalization solely in terms of homogenization and cultural imperialism forget the frequency of (contradictory) tendencies towards diversification, hybridization, dislocation and decentralization of references, the formation of new transnational and virtual communities, the ease (if not the equality) of access to and manipulation of the tools and codes of information, the relevance of local and alternative media and the lines of interaction.

Indymedia provides a good example of the orientation which confrontation will take from now on: “Don’t hate the media, become the media” say those who inhabit the digital experience and manage to mock the restrictions of the cables.  Creative impulses and technological intimacy produce notable crises in the manipulators of codes; our guides spoke extensively about this throughout the drift.  The possibility of putting creativity somewhere else; detaching it from one circuit to plug it into another is a desire and a frustration we should keep very much in mind.


In spite of the insistence upon access and the proliferation and diversification of points of emission, reception, circulation and reproduction, there are also problems with representations and in this sense our politics, as Stuart Hall suggests, must be (de)constructive, especially when we are faced with the hegemonic images of gender.

So let us clarify that this dilemma has nothing to do with the dichotomy form/content, which today is too rudimentary.  We are talking about the articulation of knowledges, technÈ, discursivities and sociabilities in the information regime.  Cyberfeminism has captured this reformulation of the problem by analyzing the material and symbolic links between technoscience and technoculture and the rhetorics of gender.  Some of the accounts in this book make reference to this question.  Besides pointing out certain limits to information-utopias, cyberactivists are indicating – without any concessions to nostalgia – the pitfalls of multiple and polymorphic reincarnations in virtual space.  The informatics of domination promises new monsters and new stories, but nevertheless this, like technological mediation itself, is far from guaranteeing us a postmodern humanity.  Just ask Trinity.

We continue with this question of the technologies of gender.  In our chance encounters we have talked about the Jennifer LopÈz, humble youth, habitually of Latin or Italian origin, who cleans rooms and fantasizes of a sudden and amorous social ascent; the same story as Pretty Woman – from whore to impeccable lady- and as that most unpleasant film An Officer and a Gentleman in which an industrial worker dreams of, and finally becomes, the fiancÈe of a guy from West Point with whom she walks out of the factory arm in arm in the final scene.  Alright, we could cite other sexed, sexualized and racialized mass representations, cut from the same pattern.  Moreover we have come across the new constructivist spirit of Nike[49] and other gender fantasies – those the sex workers have told us about, for example – whose materiality is in direct relation with the social and economic value they put into play.  Technified visibility – overexposure and the dissolving borders of privacy –  the immediacy and growing autonomy of communication and culture with respect to identifiable, countable facts all have a lot to do with the new ways of objectifying the body of women in close-ups, fragmentation and in mechanisms of shock and anesthesia.  The mutations of sensorium, which Benjamin analyzed with reference to technical reproduction and the possibilities of montage, have intensified and now we enter a new phase.  In the words of our gurus: “When the digital is  political”.

The historical transformations of identities and gender relations in the media do not leave much room for optimism, although we know that what happens on the reception side can be a whole different story.  And about production, including feminist production, there is a lot to be said.  In parallel, the introduction of parodic discursivities, with Madonna in the lead, throughout the last years, has opened new horizons which have awakened great enthusiasm in some feminist circles.  Post-feminism, queer theory, post-pornography, prosthetic feminism: by reclaiming the reflexive and constructive character of gender identities they make manifest the artifice, the inscription and subversion of codes.  Our capacities.


As  we explained at the beginning of this text, our comings and goings have illuminated some paths for political action.  We will attempt to order this a bit, speaking from the midst of the process.

First of all, and thanks to the workshops we conducted on ‘Globalized Care’ we have managed to work out a few points of attack.  The crisis of care, or better, the political articulation of this fact, which from one or the other side of the sea effects all of us, is one of those points.  We don’t think there is a simple way of posing the question, a single formula like a social salary, salaries for housewives, distribution of tasks, or anything like that.  Any solutions will have to be combined.  This is a submerged and many-legged conflict, involving immigration policy, the conception of social services, work conditions, family structure, affect  which we will have to take on as a whole but with attention to its specificities.

Facing securitarian and criminalizing discourses from both the Right and the Left we must thematize security as a collective good, centered in the sustainability of existence.  The media doesn’t talk about this question, the politicians even less.  Once in a while a sociologist appears, alluding to the population pyramid or the changes in the forms of the family.  Others, progressive ones, begin to argue against the government that in fact we need migrants, but we still haven’t freed ourselves from the their instrumentalization: we need them, yes, but as a work force and as uteruses for procreation.

In the midst of all this, there are sectors which are on the warpath, among them the service companies but also the insurance companies which are seeing how dependency policies can be fit in as an alternative, for those who can afford them, to the public system of pensions.  All of this is little discussed, and the overexploitation of women in (family or salaried) regimes of care work is even discussed even less.  The terms of the sexual contract are in play and we would like to contribute to making them explicit and, above all, politicizing them.

And then there is our fascination with the world of sex-work which we have been encountering bit by bit, and which once again situates us in a complex map in which we have to look at migration policy and labor rights, but also rights in the realm of the imaginary.  There is a continuum here, which for the moment we are calling Care-Sex-Attention,  and which encompasses much of the activity in all of the sectors we have investigated.  Affect, its quantities and qualities, is at the center of a chain which connects places, circuits, families, populations, etc.  These chains are producing phenomena and strategies as diverse as virtually arranged marriages, sex tourism, marriage as a means of passing along rights, the ethnification of sex and of care, the formation of multiple and transnational households.

In our self-evaluation retreat (and football tournament) of October 2003 we sketched out a grid of categories and types of work.  The grid was immense and kept growing and we only managed to fill in one row of it, which we had to divide into sub-categories and annotate with thousands of notes in the margin.  In any case, the intention of the grid was to overlay and compare the realities of feminized precarious work.  Complexity – just look at how po-mo we are! – attacks any structuralist attempt; but even so we continue to think about elaborating hypotheses, making statements which, without renouncing complexity, can express what is happening to us.

Second, we have talked about the need to produce slogans which are able to bring all these points together.  Past slogans have become too limited for us, too general, too vague.  Permitting ourselves a delirious brainstorm in the last session of the ‘Globalized Care’ workshops, we realized that some of these slogans could take us into spaces as ambivalent but as necessary demanding the ability to have and raise children, while at the same time taking up the radical discourses of the family as a device of control, dependence and blame of women.  Shocking, no?

Third, the necessity of constructing points of aggregation against atomization and solitude is clear. Curiously, our process of wandering the city has led us to value more the denied right to territorialize ourselves.  If this territorialization cannot take place in a mobile and changing work place, then we will have to construct more open and diffuse spaces within this city-enterprise.  The Laboratorio de Trabajadoras that we are considering constructing would be an operative place/moment to come together with our conflicts, our resources (legal resources, work, information, mutual care and support, housing, etc.), our information and our sociability.  To produce agitation and reflection.  A good idea, and a difficult one: at the moment we are thinking about it, not only the practical aspects but particularly the capacity this might have to construct itself as a means of attracting, connecting and mobilizing sectors as different as domestic workers and telephone operators.  One of the branches of this project would be a documentation center about precariousness in the feminine.

Fourth, we hope to strengthen the local and international alliances we have established in the process so far.  The book and the video which we have just published are meant as a means to this end.  We will use the video to return to the spaces we have passed through in the past year or so, to the health center and the community center, in the plaza and in cyberspace, to the European Social Forum and to the neighborhood school in order to keep open the conversations we have begun.

Fifth, we underline the importance of public utterances and visibility: if we want to break social atomization, we have to intervene with strength in the public sphere, circulate other statements, produce massive events which place precariousness as a conflict upon the table, linking it to the questions of care and sexuality.  One concrete proposal in this direction would be to construct forms of intervention, perhaps using guerrilla communication as some friends are already doing.  We hope to act in the fields of care and of sex-work in alliance with other groups of women like Las Tejedoras, domestic workers, telephone operators we know, the Feminist Assembly, Hetaira and other groups.  And beyond the local, in the European space: with MAIZ,[50] with the women linked to the NextGenderation Network,[51] and in general with those women that have approached us and with whom we may yet converge.  The drift which we did about job-hunting in the major chain stores in times of war gave us a few hints as to where to begin in a terrain as unexplored as that of job interviews or the filters of personnel selection.

For the moment, we detect three types of latent conflicts (or conflicts which exist but are invisible or individual): 1) generalized absenteeism from non-professional work (telemarketing, chain-store retail and service); 2) the demand for other contents and other forms within the precarious professions (nursing, communications) and; 3) the demand for recognition in the traditionally invisible sectors (domestic and sex work).  The hybridization of these types must be taken into account, and our strategies must be drawn from the resources, modalities and opportunities that these particular kinds of work provide.  We have seen a few interesting experiments in this direction, from the rebel call-shop workers to the media workers who have used the tools they have at hand to project other messages.  This is a challenge to investigate further in the very nature of these kinds of work, their strong and weak points, their common connections in a personal politics of the city/citizenship.

Another proposal which is out there has to do with the idea of constructing a May Day of the socially precarious in Madrid: that is, a moment of eruption in the streets of Madrid, taking advantage of the symbolic weight of the 1st of May but directed to reapropriating this weight, working together with all the groups in the city which are in these moments trying to think about and act from and against precariousness: an eruption intended as a form of expression for all these atypical workers, semi-workers and non-workers who, despite all this, are weaving the social fabric every day. There have already been a few steps in this direction in our immediate circles, though, it must be said, not always with much success.

And sixth, we begin to consciously encounter the need to mobilize common economic and infrastructural resources. We want to be able to ‘free’[52] people, just like the parties do: free from illegality, free from precariousness.  We could organize a marriage agency, we can disobey, falsify, pirate, shelter and whatever else occurs to us.  The proposal of the Laboratorio de Trabajadores space, as well as almost any other proposal, requires money, and money, well…  We don’t want to fall into the star system, touring and talking and not developing the local network that is so important to us, nor do we want to fall into the dependency of subventions.  In short, we’re thinking these things over, all to the tune of “Pasta Ya!”[53]

The resources we’re concerned about are as much immaterial and affective as they are material. Our bid is to construct a pro comun.  To do this it is necessary to collectivize knowledge and networks, breaking the logic of individual maximization to which the intellectual agencies of the city of renown have accustomed us.

One thing leads to another.  From drifts to more drifts, from workshops to thousands more dialogues and debates, demonstrations, public spaces, the possibility – beyond a politics of the gesture to one of daily gestures – to accumulate density, history, links, narration, territory  to be continued.

[1] We have collaborated with http://www.centrodearte.com/plantillas/Revista/Proyectos/plt_portada_proyecto_5.asp?id_proyecto=9&id_revista=13 , with the video artist Maria Ruido in http://www.sindominio.net/karakola/cuerpos_de_produccion.htm and ´Totalworkª, http://www.sindominio.net/karakola/precarias/totalwork.htm; similarly we have supported an encounter between collectives of migrant women in Europe (MAIZ, Austria; Anacaona, Belgium; AMDE, Spain and others) http://www.servus.at/maiz/oeffentlichkeit.html and participated in the conference “Thinking Precariously” http://www.euskalherria.indymedia.org/eu/2003/01/3501.shtml, etc.

[2] The mobilizations against the war in Spain were massive, with millions of people in the street blocking all normal activity for a few days.  We participated in this extraordinary collective outpouring with enthusiasm and amazement, but also with discomfort: the slogans and images used to protest the war were often deeply homophobic and sexist, the debates on the strategies of protest often stagnant, and the vision of war – where it happens, who it effects- often very limited.  To intervene in this moment we created OperaciÛn Rosa, asking ‘What is your strike?  What is your war?’ : http://www.sindominio.net/karakola/rosa/operacionrosa.htm

[3] ComisiÛn General de Trabajadores, General Comission of Workers, one of the more radical of the major national unions in Spain.

[4] “The precarious class is to postFordism what the proletariat was to Fordism: flexible workers, part-time and casual, freelance, are the new social group that requires and reproduces the postindustrial neoliberal transformation of the economy.  It is the critical mass that emerges from the vortex of capitalist globalization, while factories and demolished neighborhoods are replaced by offices and malls. They are the service workers in supermarkets and chain stores, the cognitive workers that operate in the information industry, the people whose freelance work pushes them to extreme forms of self exploitation.  Our lives become precarious under the imperative of flexibility.” http://www.chainworkers.org

[5] In fact, on one occasion we designed a drift which we never actually got to do in which we would follow the steps of a guided drift but would introduce certain components of action: the basic idea was to sit in a group on folding chairs in various public spaces – in the metro, in a bar terrace, in a plaza, in a department store, etc. – thus transforming the space by being in it.

[6] This simple method already had one rehearsal during the women’s actions in the notorious – feeble – Transatlantic Social Forum celebrated during the Spanish presidency of the EU in 2002.  On that occasion we took up a campaign launched by the Eskalera Karakola in 1999 and went to relabel the garments of a Bershka (Inditex) store with phrases like “Standardized anorexic size” or “100% exploitive work”.

[7] A Madrid organization for the rights of sex workers.

[8] This article is a chapter in the book A la deriva por los circuitos de la precariedad feminina. Traficantes de SueÒos, Madrid, 2004.

[9] http://www.sindominio.net/karakola/precarias/balbuceos-english.htm

[10] http://www.hetaira.info. about LICIT in Barcelona: http://www.ub.es/geocrit/sn-94-100.htm.

[11] As some will remember, the National Feminist Conference of Santiago de Compostela in 1989 represented one of the key moments in Spain in the emergence of a conflict over pornography, sexual fantasies, prostitution and sex work in general, a debate which in the end, as some feminist theorists have suggested, brings us back to questioning feminist conceptions of sexuality and violence.  Already at the beginning of the 80s, when the feminist movement in Spain was just gaining speed, initiatives arose in some European countries to legalize prostitutes’ unions, but at the time there was no real connection between prostitutes and feminists in the Spanish State, and the dominant feminist perspective viewed prostitutes as victims of the patriarchal system who should be reintegrated into work and society. The connection of some sectors of the movement with prostitutes would come later on.  In 1990 the First Encounter on Prostitution, Sexuality, Pornography and Emotional Dependencies was organized by the Coordinator for Catalonia with the participation of the Italian sex worker Carla Corso.  Also in Madrid, in 1990, a debate was organized about these questions and was later published.  “What is emerging in this new focus is an incipient, and very suggestive, movement in favor of prostitutes’ rights, with local organizations and international links.  The new understanding is based upon the notion of a common problematic, full of solidarity and free from paternalisms  ’because the prostitutes make the same demands as the feminists (and all women): they aspire to the right to work, to receive protection from violence, to a full and self determined sexual life, and these are the important questions for feminism, so the struggle is one and the same.’” Marjan Sax in R. Osborne, ed. Las prostitutas: una voz propia (CrÛnica de un encuentro), Barcelona, Icaria, 1991.  See also the volume Debates feministas edited by the Committee Against Aggression and the Coordinator of Women from Neighborhoods and Villages of the Feminist Movement in 1991.  After this thrilling period of debates and conflicts another duller one began, full of institutional pronouncements in the integrationist spirit and against violence and trafficking in persons, distant from the position of recognizing the rights of sex workers.  Thus the congresses of prostitutes went one way and the declarations of the institutions and the women’s’ groups, with a few exceptions, went the other.  In the Community of Madrid, and under the ultraconservative government of the Popular Party, various clearly abolitionist public events have occurred. At the beginning of 2000 some workshops and encounters were held more or less in favor of prostitutes’ rights.  Meanwhile the political visibility and support for prostitutes provided by groups like Hetaira in Madrid and Licit in Barcelona have consolidated and new groups and alliances have sprung up.  At the same time there has emerged, albeit timidly, a debate about regulation through the constitution of a committee in the Senate which has invited some feminists (M.J.Miranda y R.Osborne) to speak. They have demonstrated the impossibility of opening any kind of debate which does not include the protagonists.  The interventions of this committee can be seen at http://www.izquierda-unida.es/actividades/mujer/actualidad/actosenado.pdf, 2002.

[12] Some have chosen to read this as a confrontation between demanding rights as workers or as women.

[13] Carole Pateman has approached the question of the (temporary) prostitution contract revising some of the most relevant arguments.  For this author, the question is to determine the singularity of this contract in the bosom of patriarchal societies, something which has to do with the fact that those who offer this service are mostly women and that this goes hand in hand with the construction of sexual identity, that is to say, the construction of femininity and masculinity (and no longer of sex or the body).  According to her, this shapes a special kind of subordination (different from the contracts in which work-force is sold, or those that take place in other largely feminized sectors of work).  It is also distinct from marriage or surrogate motherhood, although it maintains a certain relationship with these sexual contracts.  The key, according to her, is that these services incarnate patriarchal meanings since what is acquired is sexual subjection or the right to command over the prostitute (something which includes sex but is not limited to it).  What is certain, and in this lies our difference from Pateman, is that what is acquired in most cases is not real subjection but, shall we say, a fiction – a performance of submission, of desire, of weakness or of any number of other things – which is subject to negotiation.  And as in all negotiation, the terms are directly related to the strength which each side has in any given moment.  For the moment we will retain the idea that for this author prostitution establishes a master-servant relationship and an access, in this case commodified, to womens’ bodies.  In her revision of Pateman’s arguments, Fraser distinguishes between a social level and a cultural or symbolic one.  In the first, it is more than doubtful that the contract seals the control of the client and the annulation of the woman who, on the contrary, maintains considerable control over the sexual transaction and enjoys total autonomy outside of it (in contrast to the case of marriage).  Moreover, if we revise the arguments of Patemen in light of our reflections on feminized precariousness we will see that many of her explanations don’t serve us, and that the presumption of dependence and submission in sex work, in reality, is not so, or at least is lesser relative to in other areas.  For Fraser the difficulty is not in the contractual relationship but rather in the sphere of the symbolic, and it is there that prostitution reveals the fragility of gender “I suggest – says Fraser – that that which frequently is sold in late capitalist society is a masculine fantasy of ‘masculine sexual right’, a fantasy which implies its precariousness in reality. Far from acquiring the power to command the prostitute, what the client obtains is a performed scenario of that power.” (p. 307).  Thus these fantasies strike up against, on the one hand, contractual practice and, on the other, a wide range of different associations which are not limited to master-servant, masculinity-femininity, sex-violence, and it is here where our exploration might open new paths.  What we would like to hold on to from Pateman is her mistrust of the liberal contractualists, presently incarnated in the businessmen in favor of regulation, those for whom contractual liberty disregards social conditions; among others, the difficulty of establishing just contracts (not to mention free or voluntary) in the context of a labor market which is profoundly hierarchalized by sex, race and origin.

[14] As Elena Laurrari explains, from the 1980s on we witnessed an expansion of the figure of the victim in penal law, something which already had an important tradition in critical criminology which speaks of ‘crimes without victims’.  “Dozens of victims appeared the victim of drugs was the user himself, the victim of the traffic in sex between adults was the prostitute, the victim of pornography the women, etc.  A sort of consensus was created around the necessity of ‘intervening’, rejecting the idea of ‘free’ subjects.” One of the results of this expansion was ‘stealing conflict from the victim”.  The same argumentation valid for considering something a crime can be used in considering work; if work is a form of retribution in order to guarantee a decent existence, prostitution cannot be work.  Pateman, C. El Contrato Sexual, Barcelona, Anthropos, 1995.  Fraser, N. Iustitia interrupta. Reflexiones criticas desde la posicion ‘postsocialista’ Santa Fe de Bogota, Siglo del Hombre ed., Universidad de los Andes, 1997.

[15] As M.J. Miranda explained in her intervention before the Senate committee, the argument for regulation departs from the category of “victimless law”, defined by E.M.Schur: “A voluntary transaction or exchange between adults of goods and services which are in strong demand and are proscribed by the law.” This definition excludes, as is obvious, child prostitution, forced prostitution and is part of the basis of present law in Spain and in most European countries.  Those who call themselves “sex workers” (like, for example, The International Committee for Prostitutes’ Rights), supported by groups of feminists and people in the sex business, demand, nevertheless, one step more: as an economic activity with ‘strong demand’, it requires a regulation which guarantees: 1) the decriminalization of voluntary prostitution between adults, 2) the regulation of relations between third parties (clients and businesspeople) in accord with commercial, labor and fiscal laws and other regulations of economic activities in general, 3) the strict application of penal laws against fraud, coercion, violence, sexual abuse of children, child labor, racism and crimes against sexual liberty, wherever these might be produced, be they domestic or international, and whether they involve prostitution or not, 4) the respect of human rights and civil liberties, including the freedom of expression, to travel, to emigrate, to work, to marry, to have children, as well as coverage of risks of unemployment, health and housing, 5) right to asylum for all those who are accused in their country of a ‘status crime’ such as prostitution or homosexuality,  6) freedom to choose a work place, within the administrative regulations applicable to all types of economic activity and 7) right to association and collective work.  Evidently the agenda of the businesspeople is not identical to that of the prostitutes’ rights groups.  The electronic reference is in footnote 7.

[16] Garaizabal, C. http://www.pensamientocritico.org/crigar0703.htm 2003.

[17] Colectivo IOE, Mujer, inmigracion y trabajo, Ministerio de Trabajo y Asuntos Sociales, Madrid, 2001; Proyecto Cles, Barcelona, Paris, Turin. Intervenciones sobre la prostitution extracomunitaria, Torino, Edizioni Formazione 80, 2002; Agustin, L. “Trabajar en la industria del sexo”  in http://www.nodo50.org/mujeresred/laura_agustin-1.html, y “Cruzafronteras atrevidas: otra vision de las mujeres migrantes” in Martin, M. Miranda, M.J. y Vega, C. Delitos y fronteras. Mujeres extrajeras en prision, Madrid, Ediciones Complutense (forthcoming).

[18] Sassen, S.  Contrageografias de la globalizaciÛn, Madrid, Traficantes de SueÒos, 2003 y Gregorio, C. y Agrela, B. (eds.), Mujeres de un solo mundo: globalizaciÛn y multiculturalismo, Granada, Universidad de Grenada, 2002.

[19] “But, unless we catalog as Mafiosi all the bankers, bosses, businessmen and other people who take advantage of the needs of people to accumulate money, it is convenient to distinguish the networks which facilitate the illegal entrance of immigrants from the mafias.  The term ‘mafia’ refers to those organized structures that extort people, using blackmail, coercion and violence, to oblige them to do something against their will. And this, although we see it in some cases, can not be applied to describe the form by which most immigrants enter our country”, Miranda, M.J. 2002, nota 7.  As to the activity, we refer to the following fragment: “ ‘Things have changed a lot,’ she assures me. ‘Now there’s just delinquency.  Before they paid between seven and eight thousand (pesetas) in bed.  Now these girls (she makes a gesture to indicate the Ecuadorians and Rumanians on the opposite sidewalk) don’t make more than fifteen euros.  That’s no good.’  Nevertheless it bothers her a lot that people talk about mafias.  ‘There are no mafias here.  There are some hucksters around.  But there aren’t mafias, not of Rumanians or Russians or anybody.  And if you want to see what there is, hang around here, but at different hours, for a while, so that you see who comes and goes.  These women’ she says to me, pointing to the Rumanians, they’re not being used by any mafia.  They have their pimps like everybody else.’ ‘They have their husbands,’ adds M.” (sex work drift)

[20] About this see for example the latest audiovisual work of Ursula Beimann, Remote Sensing, in which a sometimes diffuse link is established between migration strategies, immigration policies, market conditions and mafia-type organizations: http://www.geobodies.org/video/sensing/sensing.html.

[21] A large park outside the center of Madrid where ‘street’ prostitution has concentrated since  being largely pushed out of the city center.

[22] Hetaira (Madrid organization for the rights of sex workers) has a mobile unit which serves as a means of establishing a network of contacts, combining support, assistance, sociability and agitation.  From this unit women are contacted, information and resources are disseminated, and a point of reference for collectively dealing with difficulties and promoting political claims is visibilized.  The advantages of this organizational practice are evident when life and work conditions are extremely instable and when women are working in different parts of the city.  The connections are there, they exist as a product of street work itself, but as in other sectors the connections are insufficient as they exist alongside competition and, here more than anywhere given the alegal status of street prostitution, mistrust and harassment by police and other extortionists.

[23] Given the current situation both in the Casa del Campo and the city center, Hetaira has repeatedly demanded that the municipal government convoke a Forum for Prostitution.

[24] And between the two of them they begin to tell the story, much faster than my head is able to process: that there are almost no independent prostitutes, that almost all of them, including the Spanish girls, have pimps, and that the Rumanians are part of Russian and Bosnio-Kosovar and Ukrainian mafias which have women pimps (who go with the girls in the Casa del Campo and supervise and control them, beating and abusing them when necessary). It seems that they demand that they make an impossible amount of money each day, an amount which ‘can’t be made in the Casa del Campo’ as E. says.  And yesterday they beat up a girl, a girl they are always abusing, they always make her stand in the sun and yesterday they hit her, they began stabbing her with a stick in the stomach.  Today she didn’t come to work.  S. tried to intervene in the beating to help the girl, but they threatened to cut off her legs for getting involved in something that was none of her business, but she wasn’t afraid, she says, and she called the police so that at least they don’t beat anyone up in front of her.  E. is afraid, she tells how the mafias killed a national policeman, and if they can do that to a policeman what couldn’t they do to her( ) They tell us in a flood of words, accompanied by a thousand gestures, body and soul and everything.  They talk about how there are no clean relations anymore, now the Rumanians don’t demand that clients use condoms, and then the other day what happens? A client comes for a complete and almost takes off the condom, but we’re not all the same, she says, and then this happens.  We can’t be giving blowjobs without a condom.  What really makes her angry is the question of the meeting with the mayor.  She expresses herself with incomparable clarity, she has it all very clear, she’s been working here for a long time, but she would get nervous, and she’s stood up for them before and she’s sick of standing up all alone and its that all the hookers have pimps or mafias and she doesn’t want to go all alone again.  No, but anyway, there are the others from Calle de la Montera (in the city center), there is C., yeah, she knows her, well, then she begins to get more enthusiastic and says that she would take Gallardon (the mayor) to take a stroll through the Casa del Campo and see what’s going on there, she would show him, yeah, how its all full of gawkers and among the gawkers some are robbers and they wait and watch you do a few cars and then loiter around near you, never losing sight of your purse.  And then the police that are patrolling and stop the cars where they are working, making it impossible to work.  And the Ukrainian mafias now have started robbing the clients’ luxury cars when the girl finishes her service ( ) and there are the Rumanian girls that both the mafia guys and the municipal police rape, and the police also rape the transsexuals and the transvestites, and then if they don’t let them they threaten to arrest them, the papers, deportation  Yes, she is going to go to the meeting, she’ll wait to see what they say, let the others talk, you’ve got to hear everything to be able to talk clearly.  And then she’ll say that police yes, but on motorcycles, that way they give some security but without bothering too much, its that now they sell parts of the Casa del Campo, they sell the rights to some pimp (from the account: “See, remember and five fingers” sex work trip).

[25] On the bench in front some African girls are preparing themselves.  They arrange each other’s straps, adjust their miniskirts, they put on makeup for a long time.  A boy of about twenty with his dog passes by them.  After a while he approaches them and talks to one.  They seem to know each other.  He chats with the group, too, and then goes back to talking to the first one.  Then he leaves, as if he were angry.  He walks fast and pulls on his dog to hurry up.  He stops a minute to talk to a security guard.  The African girl approaches him again.  The boy goes to talk to her again.  After a while they separate violently “You take it up the ass a lot, eh black girl? You don’t talk to me and then you ask me for a light?” She goes away and sits down.  He goes up to her again.  He squats down and leans against her knees.  I see a story that has been repeated throughout these days.  That of a man, normally young, who really is looking for a girlfriend.  He wants her to be beautiful, but also available, and not to cause too many problems.  What is evident is that he is looking for her.  And he is easily hooked.  It is the story of that boy that went up to L., the Albanian girl, it is the story of this boy, and it is the many stories that they told me that night (sex work trip).

[26] All of this is well related in “No hay polla que le calce” and other accounts of experiences in Montera and Casa de Campo; http://www.sindominio.net/karakola/precarias.htm

[27] See the accounts and interviews included in this volume

[28] This perspective has been explored by studies in cyberfeminism and postgender: in relation to erotic telephone lines: http://www.echonyc.com/~women/Issue17/boon.html

[29] “Cuidados Globalizados” in A la deriva por los circuitos de la precariedad feminina.  Soon to be translated.

[30] On reconciliation: Consejo de la Mujer, Conciliar la vida. Tiempo y servicios para la igualdad, CAM, 2003; particularly, Tobio, E. “ConciliaciÛn o contradicciÛn: cÛmo hacen las madres trabajadoras” and Garcia C., “OrganisaciÛn del trabajo y autonomÌa personal. Apuntes para un debate sobre flexibilidad y conciliaciÛn” in this volume.

[31] Marug·n, B. and Vega, C. “Gobernar la violencia. Notas para un an·lisis de la rearticulaciÛn del patriarcado”, PolÌtica y Sociedad, vol. 39, pp. 415-435, 2002.

[32] On the Spanish welfare State: Giner, S. and Sarasa, S. (eds) Buen gobierno y polÌtica social, Barcelona, Ariel, 1997 and Adelantado, J. (coord.)Cambios en el Estado de Bienestar. PolÌticas sociales y desigualdades en EspaÒa, Barcelona, Icaria, 2000.  For a general vision with statistics on the changes in the family: del Campo, S. and RodrÌguez-Brioso, M. “La gran transformaciÛn de la familia espaÒola durante la segunda mitad del siglo XX” Reis, 100, 2002, pp.103-165

[33] Some comparative data for the debate: (1) the longevity of Europeans grows (the life expectancy is 75 for men and 81.2 for women, 82.7 for Spanish women); (2) the birth rate drops, especially in Spain (although it must be noted that it has increased slightly in the last two years); (3) marriages decrease (2.2 million in 1980 and only 1.9 million in 2000); (4) divorces increase (from 0.5 to 0.7 million in the same years); (5) extramarital birth increases (twenty years ago only one in every ten births was out of wedlock, now it is almost one in every three, although lowest rates are in Spain: 14% in Spain as opposed to 27.2% in Europe), from E.L.de Espinosa, “EspaÒa y la poblaciÛn europea” El Pais, 6 December 2001.

[34] Jacques Dozelot explains how the crisis of the family was produced in the ancien regime.  The relation between State and family powers changes; the family organizes itself more flexibly, and a sense of autonomy and protection of its members arises  (p.51-95); La policÌa de las familias, Valencia, Pre-Textos, 1998.

[35] Vega, C. “Interroger le fÈminisme: action, violence et gouvernementalitÈ” Multitudes. Feminismes, Queer, Multitudes. Exils, Paris, 2003.  Online at http://www.sindominio.net/karakola/texts.htm

[36] Presently in Spain some 7 million people (17.1% of the population) are more than 65 years old, and according to the scenarios projected by the INE they may reach 9.4 million (21.7%) in 2025 and 12.8 million (31%) in 2050.

[37] This has been amply analyzed in the literature on the interaction between the structure of the labor market in Spain and immigration laws.  For example in S.Gil “PolÌticas p˙blicas como tecnologÌas de gobierno.  Las polÌticas de inmigrantes y las figuras de la inmigraciÛn” in Aguirre, M. and Clavijo, C. (eds.) PolÌticas p˙blicas y Estado de bienestar en EspaÒa: las migraciones. Informe 2002. FUHEM, Madrid. As S. Parella Rubio explains, “ the ‘institutional framework’ itself not only legally delimits the so-called ethno-stratification, but moreover it participates in the configuration of a labor market which for the migrant work force is strongly sexed, relegating women to typically ‘feminine’ activities, most susceptable to invisibility and exploitation.  This situation has clear repercussions upon the composition of migratory flows and migratory strategies, exercising a pull which serves to make migrant women pioneers in the migratory chain, knowing that Spanish migratory policies offer them greater possibilities than men to regularize their legal situation.” (p. 286), “El trasvase de desigualdades de clase y etnia entre mujeres: los servicios de proximidad” Papers, 60, 2000.

[38] C. Catarino and L.Oso “La inmigraciÛn feminina en Madrid y Lisboa: hacia una etnizaciÛn del servicio domestico y de las empresas de limpieza”, Papers60, 2000.

[39] L. AgustÌn (forthcoming) laments that this perspective has not been developed more when talking about sex work.

[40] For part of these debates within the Spanish feminist movement, see Feminismo es y sera Records of the 2000 Feminist Meeting, Cordoba.

[41] On European legislation and other questions related to the domestic sector: H.Lutz “At your service Madame! Domestic servants, Past and Present. Gender, Class, Ethnicity and Profession” http://www.vifu.de/new/areas/migration/projects/lutz.html

The articles published in the two volumes produced by the International Women’s University (ifu) can also be consulted in: VV.AA, Crossing Borders and Shifting Boundaries. Gender on the move and Gender, Identities and Networks Leske+Budrich, Opladen, 2002.

[42] Along these lines are some important contributions such as those of Cristina Carrasco, Soledad Murillo or Arantxa RodrÌguez, among others.  Useful reflections can be found in the notes of the recent conference “Caring has a cost: the costs and benefits of caring” 2003, http://www.sare-emakunde.com

[43] Some references on migrants’ struggles in the domestic field are:

http://www.solidar.org, http://www.kalayaan.org, http://www.cfmw.org.  Here we should also point out the struggles for survival of women in Latin America and the emerging citizen struggles that thematize questions of resources and care such as that of the movements of women from the periphery in France, with the slogan: “ni putes ni soumises” or the network of migrant and autochthonous women in Tuscany, “Punto di Partenza”

[44] Neither are they technicians in the strict sense – the builders of networks, programmers, specialists in hardware or software, etc.- nevertheless, once more, it is not always easy or convenient to distinguish, as the experience of HackLabs and Indymedia have shown, between the tasks linked to communication, information and technology.

[45] Described and discussed elsewhere in this volume.

[46] In this sense, Monica’s words of some months ago have become providential now that she is back on the street:  Yea, we don’t last long.  Because they cover the vacation time of others and then that’s it, right?  In this sense I’m priviledged because at my age I am presenting a program and that’s very unusual, but also all I’ve had to sweat to get here I don’t believe it, sometimes I thinks its worth all the effort and sometimes I wonder why – more than effort, because I’m hard working and I put effort into it like nobody – but why so much anxiety, always this knot in the stomach wondering whats going to happen tomorrow, you take one step on the stairway and the stairway gets more gigantic, the next step is two meters higher.  I have managed to get something that very few others have gotten, that is a contract.  And now I have to get them to make me the next one, and that’s the test (Drift through the Media, first stop.)

[47] And then I started making videobooks for castings, and there a girl I did a book for put me in contact with the producer for whom I now do occasional jobs.  I got there  and the guy said they were looking for someone to count on occasionally.  I accepted and the first thing I did was learn to use the program on their computer, and that was great because I got to learn a program I wouldn’t have learned anywhere else.  They didn’t pay me, I did stuff but really I did almost nothing for the company.  I don’t feel like I worked for free, I feel like I used the resources of a place and invented little jobs for myself.  Then another girl arrived, and I found out that she occasionally (because everything here is occasional) filmed things, theater pieces, etc.  And the thing with this girl was funny because suddenly we were both wanting to stay with the company – all of this very subtle, because all of this you percieve just on the level of noting that something is strange.  At first everything went fine, we both learned to use the program, its tricks.  Then she began to edit a play on the computer, and I started to help her, but I realized that she would get paid for it.  And I was working free for her.  So it wasn’t even the boss that was taking advantage of me, but her.  I talked to her and she offered me money, but I declined, and then as always I went on vacation- something I will never renounce- and when I got back was the worst part (Drift through the Media, second stop.)

[48] Gonzalo Abril, TeorÌa General de la Informacion, Madrid, C·tedra, 1997.

[49] See the chapter “First Stutterings of Precarias a la Deriva

[50] http://maiz.at/cms/front_content.php

[51] http://www.nextgenderation.net

[52] In Spanish the word liberar has the double meaning of ‘setting free’ in general and of ‘freeing someone up’ to do political (party or union) work: that is, paying them for their hours of activism.

[53] Money Now!

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