Women’s Work

This was inspired by a posting to an OBOD egroup I’m on. The initial posting raised the issue of the value of things that are traditionally woman’s work – the home making, child raising, meal crafting, nest building skills that enrich life. As we’re talking about healing women, this seemed like a topic to explore.

Plenty of women still stay home to raise children. Some raise children and hold time jobs – part time, full time. The last lot of statistics I saw on the subject suggest that even women who work full time bear the brunt of the childcare and housework. Women’s work. And there are still men out there who would find it undignified to do such tasks. I’ve met them, and heard stories. Plenty of cultures still view women’s work as lesser. Part of this is because it does not earn money, and out there in the ‘real’ world, money talks, loudly.

I think a chunk of the problem stems from the fact that governments are interested in money, not wellbeing. Economic activities, that generate money and government revenue are given priority, are talked up like they’re the only things that matter. The only meangingful work, in this context, becomes paid work. If the unpaid work falls to the women, the status of women is reduced, in this mindset. It isn’t clever, it doesn’t help and it needs resisting.

Men need to know how to take care of themselves, and their offspring. Division of labour is fine, so long as its fair. The only way forward is to teach our sons, (and our husbands if needs be) how to do these things. A boy who grows up able to cook and clean, and to take pride in that, is not going to deigrate those skills in later life.

The unpaid work that enhances life, feeds the soul, encourages wellness, both mental and physical, but does not involve an exchange of money, is not fashionable. It is ‘drudgery’. This is wrong. People (usually women) who stay home to care for sick children, parents, spouses etc, save governments a fortune and largely go unrecognized. A clever and dilligent housekeeper (of either gender) can make a house run on a lot less money, stretch the resources further, reduce the effects of poverty. A parent who undserstand nutrition and can make good food raises healthier children. 

If I do something from scratch, I save money – be that in making soup, or handkerchiefs, or cutting wood for the fire. I improve the economic situation of my household. But the prevailing culture does not value such things. The current culture encourages ‘labour saving devices’, ‘disposable’ ‘pre-packaged’. Plenty of that is aimed at ‘making life easier for mum’. It costs households. It has a terrible environmental impact. Disposable nappies, anyone? But no one will pay you to scrub terry towels by hand. There is no kudos in it. Instead, you become the person who spends hours each week scrubbing human shit off fabric. It’s heroic work, and needs to be treated as such.

In our culture, money equates to respect. We need to challenge that. We need to respect the people who work for their families and communities, who volunteer, raise children, mop up, and prop up. We also need to stand up for the men who are proud to be fathers, unafraid of laundry, equal to the challenges of nest building.

The process of recognising and valuing what is traditionally ‘women’s work’ is also a process of getting away from the horrors of gender stereotyping. It’s a protest against rabid consumerism, and systems that encourage people to spend all their waking hours working so that money can move round in the ‘growth’ process that obsesses governments. It is actually a very radical thing to be doing, and necessary, if we are to improve our relationship with the planet.

4 thoughts on “Women’s Work”

  1. I left a 20year marriage because of this. I worked full-time outside the home, came home, continued to work until I feel exhausted in bed at 10pm, to get back up at 5am to start all over again. My spouse, at the time, thought that anything to do with the house was my job or ‘wifely’ duty. I finally woke up and decided I didn’t need to live like this. I am doing so much better now, my child is much happier, and my ex-spouse sees what he has lost, which is sad, but such is life.

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