Tuesday, August 13, 2013

'Women's work' (and why it's a dodgy idea)

I've a new column for the Sydney Morning Herald's 'Life and Style' today, 'No room for politics at the kitchen sink'.

I'm examining the idea of 'women's work', and demonstrating why it's a dodgy idea. A sample:
The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that women still spend six times as long as men doing laundry, three times as long doing housework, and more than twice as long on food preparation and cleaning up. They also do most of the kid-wrangling.
For heterosexual couples, this state of affairs is often built on a shaky premise: that these jobs are "naturally" for one sex. It is part of a neat metaphysical incision in reality: between masculine and feminine. Changing engine oil is masculine; a nappy, feminine. Chopping a tree branch is masculine; a cucumber, feminine. Carrying a weapon is masculine; an infant, feminine. 
Even when workplaces have family-friendly policies, men are unlikely to contribute to household management – partly because it's seen as "unmanly", by staff or management, to give up wage-earning labour for changing nappies. According to an Australian study by Michael Bittman, less than a quarter of surveyed fathers worked flexibly for family reasons. 
As a result, many women suffer the "double burden": the demands and anxieties of employment and those of cooking, cleaning, night feeds, nits. The result is chronic frustration, exhaustion and often profound resentment: that unpaid, often undervalued labour, is somehow theirs by default.
(Image: John Cecil Clay/Wikipedia Commons)

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