Womens’ Duties: Invisible Burden

We look at economic prosperity in terms of GDP and other means of measuring material production and consumption but this economic production is reliant on a form of work that is invisible to the standards metrics of economic production: reproductive labor.

Introduction

In “Our Mother’s Grief” by Bonnie Dill, she defines reproductive labor as labor done in the house associated with care-giving and domestic roles including cleaning, cooking, child care and other forms of domestic unpaid labor. On the other hand, there is productive labor that consists of work that one would do in return for a wage.

After WWII, it was found that women performed on average a month’s worth (~730 hours) of unpaid labor each year in addition to their professional careers. At the same time, real wages were falling (meaning inflation was increasing faster than wages), making it harder for single-earner households to make ends meet. . Around this time, women increasingly worked outside the home to compensate for the budget shortfall.

At Home

Today, over 75% of women are in the workforce. Needless to say, women’s roles have changed significantly since the days of the housewife acting as the nucleus to her family. However, men’s roles largely stayed the same. Women are expected to work a “second shift” at home after her day at work while the men can expect their after-work hours to be dedicated to leisure.

You know the scenario: both the mother and father come home from work, one having taken a detour to pick up their children from school and then the father kicks off his shoes, his loosens his tie and relaxes in front of the TV with a beer while the mom makes sure the kid(s) don’t bother their father and reminds them to do their homework and then starts on dinner.

During holidays, the same trend is seen across the extended family where the men and the boys sit and enjoy football while the women and girls gather in the kitchen and make sure the food is ready and everyone is fed. And we don’t need to ask why this is happening because we know: gender roles.

The term “second shift” is used to describe the unpaid labor that women perform in the form of household chores, child-rearing, etc., while also maintaining professional careers. In recent years, this disparity seems to be shrinking within younger couples. However, differences in expectations of what constitutes chores and childcare have kept this rift. For example,

“A father might feel that by taking his son to the baseball diamond three nights a week he is sharing in childcare. His wife, who spends much more time with their son than her husband, would probably not look at this so much as sharing as she would see it as a special outing and a time for father and son bonding.”

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When women take care of children over a weekend while the husband is away on a business trip is unremarkable– it’s expected of her as a parent –but a father taking care of children while his wife is away on a business trip then becomes babysitting.

A husband might go buy groceries once a week, therefore thinking that he’s contributed his fair share to the household but he shops using a grocery list– a list his wife has compiled over the week, of her being aware of what’s left in the fridge and pantry, knowing what foods the kids like/dislike/are allergic to, what meals she wants to cook based on time and effort needed, the nutritional value to make a balanced diet, etc. Sure, he goes out and buys the food, but the thought behind it and the know-how of how to run the household is still entirely the wife’s job. She might as well have the groceries delivered by Instacart and ended up with the same result.

All of these examples demonstrate how purely quantitative measures are insufficient to see the full picture when it comes to the difference of responsibility put onto each parent. It is apparent when children are far more affectionate and closer to their mothers even though their fathers feel like they share the caretaking of their children equally.

For men whose wives are frustrated with them for not being more proactive in family life, the issue isn’t that the men aren’t helping out at home, it’s that the women have to explicitly tell them to help out. Having to treat your adult partner like a child who can’t think for themselves is extremely frustrating, especially if you’re also working. Because then, it’s a lose-lose situation; if the wife keeps asking for the husband to do something, she’s a nag and he feels restricted but if she doesn’t, then she has to silently do all the work and either, the house is magically clean and dinner is miraculously ready by 6 pm every day or if she can’t keep up, then she’s burning herself out while feeling like she’s failing as the housemaker. In these cases, traditional gender roles work against women either way, hysterical for being upset and a bitch otherwise.

“…the issue isn’t that the husbands aren’t helping out at home, it’s that the wives have to tell them to help out…”

Fall from Grace: Feminization

Throughout history, women’s labor is seen as less valuable; you can see in the difference of compensation women receive for their work in comparison to men. Female-dominated professions (teachers, nurses, etc.) being seen as less “serious” or necessary than male-dominated fields(college professors, doctors, etc.).

There are two examples of this that I would like to talk about next: programmers and other CS-related jobs and teachers.

Working with computers on a large scale outside of experimental programs first started during WWII when they were used to compute things like ballistics trajectory in a much more rapidly and accurately fashion than human computers could. At that time, this job that involved working with these clunky machines and writing software and debugging them were conflated with women’s work and was thrown in with clerical work. This ensured that the job was low-prestige and low-paying.

Working in programming remained a women’s job for decades. Since the field was new and the men who came back from the war weren’t familiar with computers, women dominated the field until the 1980s. This shift was marked by the mass commercialization of personal computers. Now, everyone can have a computer at home! The marketing of these new computers favored boys and was seen as a boy’s toy, as many millennials and older Gen-Zers can relate to. They were marketed as a head start to a career as an astronaut or a scientist or a computer programmer. As more and more boys grew up pushed into this direction, the field slowly began to be more and more male-dominated. The narrative changed from programming being clerical work to something requiring intense logical and analytical skills which men are purported to naturally possess. As prestige went up due to this shift in perspective, so did the pay and here we are.

Education

Teachers are vital to a functioning society. After all, knowledge is power. At the beginning of this country’s history, getting a formal education was a privilege reserved for the well-to-do. Back in colonial times, teaching in America was seen as a temporary job until the teachers could find something better. Teachers were originally male-only and schools were reserved for boys to teach them arithmetics and other academic subjects while the girls were expected to receive their education at home with their mothers, learning domestic tasks.

After public education became widespread in the mid-20th century, however, women started working as primary educators. Like with secretarial work, it was considered one of the only acceptable professions for a woman of the time. Since working with young children was and is still considered a woman’s job in this society, women now account for nearly all primary school educators. In fact, despite being the one occupation where all of the country’s children has to come into extensive contact with, a blogger recalls that when offered a job as a primary school teacher, his response was, “Is that a real job? Am I just going to be a glorified babysitter?” For a job so important, the fact that it’s seen as an “easy” job and associated with women has kept their salary and prestige low.

However, there is a huge shift once you get to college and beyond. Even in the minds of students, female instructors are seen as “teacher” while male instructors are seen as “professor”. In one study of a sample of sociology students, it was found that the

“…students misattribute in an upward direction the level of education actually attained by male graduate student instructors, while they misattribute in a downward direction the level of formal education attained by women, even when the female faculty member is a full professor.”

[1]

Studies find that although the percentage of female faculty on campuses has increased in recent years, they are concentrated in the lower rungs of the ladder to tenure. This means that either the women are either leaving before they’re able to get tenure or they just aren’t promoted. Both of these point more to a hostile environment rather than the actual deficits in the merit of the women in academia because in the past couple of decades, the gender gap in educational attainment has narrowed significantly and most recently, surpassed male educational attainment in all levels of education.

Statistic: Percentage of the U.S. population who have completed four years of college or more from 1940 to 2019, by gender | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista

Master’s degrees earned in the United States by gender 1950-2019 (Cropped)

Counted in 1,000s. Females indicated by navy blue bars, males by light blue bars.

Published by Erin Duffin, Apr 23, 2020. In the academic year of 2019, it is expected that 489,000 female and 328,000 male students will earn a Master’s degree in the United States. These figures are a significant increase from the academic year of 1950 when 16,980 female students and 41,220 male students earned a Master’s degree.

Number of doctoral degrees earned in the United States from 1950 to 2019, by gender (Cropped)

Counted in 1,000s. Females indicated by navy blue bars, males by light blue bars.

In the academic year of 2016/17, about 84,650 male and 96,710 female students earned a doctoral degree in the United States.

Even those of us who aren’t in academia have at least some inkling of what women who aspire to high academics face; we may be guilty of some of these behaviors, too. For example, when we see the title Dr. in front of a person’s name, the assumption is more often than not, male but there’s no reason why to think that way; the data demonstrate that women are just as if not more capable of completing doctoral degrees than men. This brings us back to the thought that women are thought to inherently to be inferior and the work she does also suffer the same prejudice. As we’ll talk about in the next section, this is partially why there is still a gender wage gap despite women having caught up in qualifications.

Employment & Promotion

Today, increased access to education & expanding civil rights means that this gap is lessening. However, the old patterns still persists; employers are less likely to hire/promote women because they perceive women as not being as competent & dedicated to their jobs. This creates a cycle unto perpetuity where this preconception makes it less likely for women to be hired and promoted, therefore leading to the lack of women of prominence in the field which, in our pseudo-meritocratic society, is interpreted as women either not working hard enough or were just not suited for high-powered careers and then they don’t get hired and so, the cycle continues.

The persistence of gender roles of women being the primary homemaker means that women who want to start a family will often have to choose b/t career & family. After all, she doesn’t have much choice. If her partner doesn’t bother to be responsible for their half of the household, then her choices are to either let everything go to shit or to step up and shoulder it all herself.

The recent idea of a supermom who embodies the careerwoman/mother balance is not sustainable. It’s not healthy to expect someone to work during the day and then be the primary housemaker once she gets home. It’s doubly unfair that she has to shoulder this burden when there should be an equally responsible adult in the house. This disparity and subsequent choice of having to choose between family and career further perpetuate the chain of events that lead to women not being as likely to make it as far in their careers as men of equal qualifications. You can also see this historically where once working women got married, they were often let go because it is assumed that the woman would have to dedicate herself to the domestic sphere and would no longer serve as a good employee because of this split dedication. This sentiment has continued until today when women are face questions like, “Are you married?”, or “Do you have/plan to have children?”

Further exasperating this disparity, paid or even unpaid parental leave is seldom offered in the US. However, just the institution of mandatory maternity leave won’t be enough because it still suggests that women should be the primary caretakers of children. It will also incentivise employers to avoid hiring women. What countries like Iceland have done is to implement both a paid maternity and paternity leave, establishing that a father’s time at home and with his family should be just as normal and essential as the mother’s.

Another factor that we have yet to talk about is the threat of female encroachment into a traditionally male space. Fields like those in STEM are notoriously known for being “boys’ clubs” that are actively hostile to women. Studies have also shown that high-achieving women are penalised for their achievements because their ambition/accolades are seen as being negatively correlated with her “likeability”. Even if affirmative action and anti-discrimination laws even out the rate at which women get hired, the level of harassment she has to endure to stay in her job means that women rarely last long enough to be seen in the upper levels of these industries.

While there is no single easy answer to address all the manifestations of the lack of respect and importance placed on women’s labor, we are aware of the root causes. Of course, it’s not easy to change an entire country’s mind especially if there are powerful people who benefit from the status quo, but we are slowly making progress. Just by being aware of and able to educate others, this cycle can be pointed out and stopped.


I hope you guys learned something interesting today.

Leave a comment, like and follow for more! Let me know if you like these long-form papers and if you have any thoughts or burning questions. I’ll be back next month! See you then!

As a disclaimer because there’s bound to be people who take it personally: not all men are guilty of leaving their partners hanging and I certainly didn’t mention anything about any other types of relationships besides one of a married/living together heterosexual couple so it’s safe to assume that the contents of this article do not apply necessarily to those other relationships.

Further Reading

[1] Miller, J., & Chamberlin, M. (2000). Women Are Teachers, Men Are Professors: A Study of Student Perceptions. Teaching Sociology, 28(4), 283-298. Retrieved April 28, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/1318580

Children and Gender Inequality: Evidence from Denmark

[Repost] What is a Woman Worth?

No matter how many times one hears about these statistics and these anecdotes about what it’s like to be a woman, the issue doesn’t become less real. These issues didn’t become a thing all of a sudden. It only seems so overstated because it wasn’t even deemed a real problem and ignored. When you hear so many of the same things from over half of our population, you’d think people would pay attention and see things for what it is but the same machinations that prevented 1992’s Year of Woman from coming to fruition is also at work now, once again, pushing back against a wave of voices that demand change. Our generation isn’t as idealistic or as naive as those before us. We know what’s up. This upcoming election is critical. Either way, we will break ground or live to see the old ways buried.

Excerpt:

In that same Atlantic Article, Fear of a Female President, I’d sent my father, author Peter Beinart makes the case that there is a clear link between how women are viewed and how they are treated. Hillary was hatedin large part because women are hated.

In 2010, researchers Victoria L. Brescoll and Tyler G. Okimoto conducted a study in which they asked respondents about a fictional male state senator and a fictional female state senator. They described both as “ambitious” and found  that the respondents’ views of the male senator did not change when they described him as such, but, when thinking about the female state senator, both men and women “experienced feelings of moral outrage.”

In 2008 Psychologists Jennifer K. Bosson and Joseph Vandello coined the term “precarious manhood.” Their body of research posits that manhood is something to be earned—a status that must continuously be asserted for fear of losing it. While womanhood is perceived as biological, manhood is determined by social achievements, power, status, and aggression. And men are keenly aware of this.

While womanhood is perceived as biological, manhood is determined by social achievements, power, status, and aggression. And men are keenly aware of this.

Merchandise sold in and around the arenas where Trump hosted his rallies read: Don’t be a pussy. Vote for TrumpFinally, someone with balls; and Life’s a bitch: don’t vote for one. And of course, the rallying cry of the right: Lock her up.

We assumed the “her” meant Hillary. But now the chants continue, some two years later. Over the summer, a group of high school students began chanting “Lock her up” at a leadership conference for young conservatives while Attorney General Jeff Sessions addressed the crowd. He laughed and repeated the words back. Call me crazy (and some will), but the “her” feels bigger than one woman. The “her” seems to refer to female ambition, female autonomy, female power.

If manhood is something men must constantly prove, the policies men shape cannot possibly be immune to their need to exert dominance and power. To codify that dominance into law.

Link to full article here.

Why #WomenBoycottTwitter and Other Social Media Protests Don’t Work

What good is a social media protest if nothing is accomplished?

Some of you that are avid users of Twitter may have heard about the #WomenBoycottTwitter protest on the 13th (I know, I’m late), and some of you may have even partaken in the protest. Or you may not have heard of it at all, which makes sense as well. As a quick debriefing, it’s a protest to promote the voices of women who have experienced sexual harassment and assault, after a famous actress was banned from the site for 12 hours due to her disclosing information on her harassment from a movie producer. Women were asked to stay off of the platform for 24 hours to get their point across. While the reasoning for the protest was justified, there are a variety of reasons why we shouldn’t turn to social media for social justice.

Participation

One thing that makes a protest most effective are the numbers. The more people that are participating, the more people are willing to listen. Simple. But asking for a protest of such a large magnitude (asking ALL women to not go on Twitter), there’s virtually no way to get such a high amount of participation for the protest to be deemed successful. In fact, a considerable amount of women had heavy interactions on the platform that day, as a protest to the protest. Wild, I know.

These dissenters have stated that women of color, and even women that aren’t famous, have always endured such things on the media site, and no one decided to take a stand for them. So there is a sense of discrimination involved in this movement that left a bad taste in certain people’s mouths, and rightfully so.

With this, there is also something detached about social media. Seeing a nice, human face attached to a statement is much more powerful, and makes it easier to conceptualize the reasoning behind the movement because there is a humane aspect involved. People can easily turn off the app, but they can’t turn off someone’s true voice.

So sure, a few people may be able to note when a few of their girl friends aren’t active that day, but that notice would quickly dissipate once they see nothing else of it on their timeline, or when they see that their other female friend is logged on, or even when that person logs off themselves.

Relevance & Approach

The main issue that prompted the protest was the banning of Rose McGowan (the said famous actress) from Twitter for 12 hours after she called out Harvey Weinstein (the said famous producer) for sexual harassment. So the solution to women being silenced is to…silence themselves? This sounds counterproductive in all senses of the word. And only for a mere 24 hours? Most people sleep through a third of that. To use such a pressing issue, and propose such a small, easy task as a “combatant”…

It reduces the impact in scale, and makes it seem like a much more trivial matter than it really is.

So what exactly are people’s intentions when they decide to not engage on a platform for a day, or when they employ catchy hashtags? To raise awareness for an issue that they would like to be discussed. Sure. But often times, there is an element of hypocrisy involved in such actions…

How many people that have made a post with #BlackLivesMatter have actually been to a real-life BLM protest? How many people did anything further than typing out #BringBackOurGirls in 2014? While social media is a growing platform for raising awareness of different issues, it fosters a diffusion of responsibility. People write these hashtags so that someone else can do something, instead of taking it upon themselves.

So you may think this article is just condemning a growing form of activism that solicits social justice, but that is simply not the case. I am condemning those people that do this, but do not take it further. That do this, and do not include others in this vision that they wish to achieve.  Do not just stay plastered behind a screen, go out and do something. Proudly show your face to your oppressors and let it be known that you want this right, and that you will have it. It’s so easy to type a few characters, but to actually mobilize is a sign of somebody who truly shares the sentiment that they preach.

Now, as I feel like we as a society have lost a sense of what true activism really is, here is a short list of brazen luminaries that took much more potent approaches to combating their oppressors 🙂

Sojourner Truth and her infamous “Ain’t I A Woman?” speech

sojourner-truth-AB

Source: http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/sojourner-truth

What she fought for: African American civil rights

“[Intellect] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or negro’s rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure-full?” – Sojourner Truth

14th Dalai Lama and his Five-Point Peace Plan Proposal

Dalai_Lama-wallpaper

Source: http://www.tibetanjournal.com/index.php/2012/11/13/five-point-peace-plan-h-h-the-dalai-lama/

What he fought for: liberation of Tibet and its people

It is my sincere desire, as well as that of the Tibetan people, to restore to Tibet her invaluable role, by converting the entire country – comprising the three provinces of U-Tsang, Kham and Amdo – once more into a place of stability, peace and harmony.” – 14th Dalai Lama

Malala Yousafzai and her book I Am Malala

UN-PAKISTAN-MALALA

Source: http://time.com/3338883/malala-yousafzai/

What she fought for: women’s rights to education

“How can we do that? You were the one who said that if we believe in something greater than our lives, then our voices will only multiply ever if we are dead. We can’t disown our campaign!” – Malala Yousafzai, as a response to her father who proposed they stop their human rights campaigns

Martin Luther King Jr. and his “I Have A Dream” speech

mlk pic

Source: http://old.seattletimes.com/special/mlk/

What he fought for: African American civil rights

“Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Nelson Mandela and his “Black Man In A White Man’s Court” speech

Nelson_Mandela_Hero-E

Source: http://www.history.com/topics/nelson-mandela

What he fought for: civil rights of black South Africans

“Why is it that no African in the history of this country has ever had the honour of being tried by his own kith and kin, by his own flesh and blood?

I will tell Your Worship why: the real purpose of this rigid colour-bar is to ensure that the justice dispensed by the courts should conform to the policy of the country, however much that policy might be in conflict with the norms of justice accepted in judiciaries throughout the civilised world.” – Nelson Mandela

What do you think of the protest and of other social media protests? Do you think they’ve worked?

Source of featured image: https://camdencivilrightsproject.com/2015/10/15/social-media-as-a-tool-for-protest/