A Woman’s Place In A Pandemic

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“A woman’s place is in the house” remains a misogynistic message echoed by remnants of western societies and, despite feminist movements proving largely successful in balancing scales of inequality between genders, still remains as a dominant rhetoric in dictating gender roles. Women, as well as those identifying as predominantly feminine, are largely viewed as social facilitators – a figure in which to nurture children and ensure others needs are adhered to. The assumption of less ability in regards to skilled labour remains with the ever-looming glass ceiling working in cohesion with insufficient educational opportunities and the perceived priority of child-bearing.

Closely interlinked, a lack of representation within decision-making institutions exists. This occurs within inanimate household settings to the top-down law enforcement bodies such as national government. Speaking of Number 10, here proclaims residency of our reportedly sexist Prime Minister, Boris Johnson who – if he was to ever come across this piece of text – would scoff at the mention of the patriarchy.

We must delve into the application of this gender role within our current pandemic – COVID-19. With school out for.. both spring and summer, an additional chore of providing and aiding in core education as well as – a mirroring of the lifestyles of women in existence fifty to one hundred years ago – childcare and housekeeping, has been awarded to today’s female army.

A report carried out by The London School of Economics confirms that pre-existing disparities have been compounded in regards to home production needs, exacerbated by the helping hands of an extended family unable to extend reach beyond the figurative government shielding. Even within symmetric situations amongst married, heterosexual couples, a report entitled ‘Women’s work, housework, and childcare before and during COVID-19’ by Voxeu find that distribution of housework and childcare remains unequal with increased participation from men typically only occurring when their partners remain in full-time employment. We look to women in the workplace to illustrate injustices within employment. Over-representation of females in sectors hit hard by the pandemic such as hospitality, sales and manufacturing see mass-unemployment as well as heightened exposure to our modern-world plague through female-dominated fields inclusive of healthcare and social work. This ties hand-in-hand with elitist perspectives in regards to job roles mentioned – portrayals of tokenism in the form of a few claps on our doorsteps do not translate into a feasible currency which supports and promotes livelihoods.

Analysis of COVID-centred decision making reveals that less than one-third of parliament is made up of women; lack of representation leads to responses absent of true gender lens. Gendered issues fall short of acknowledgement; inclusive of domestic violence, inappropriate workplace policy and, by default, the continued trickle-down of unequal power relations within cross-scale, cross-level governance in regards to the workplace, home and communities. Ultimately, when women have less power in decision making, there is less of a chance of their needs being met. This may resonate to many as common sense, however; often when a shift in focus occurs to prioritise capitalism as well as the upholding of tradition and power, oppressed peoples are commonly left to be overlooked.

To recognise systemic inequalities and how these shape decision making, disparities in privilege, perceived and objective risks as well as individual self-image and responsibilities is to begin to start the process of re-assigning equal power relations and dismantling oppression. Are we able to further redistribute social responsibility through both domestic and wider decision making regarding gender roles imagined by a toxic, patriarchal society years before the current day? Can adequate acknowledgement and safety-net policies provide as sufficient in ensuring financial and professional struggles are mitigated? Finally, are we able to ensure fair representation is appropriately decided and received as influential for both national and international institutions? The continuous push for feminist reform is required to ensure that societal alterations in response to global pandemics do not further deepen and highlight gender inequality but instead, provide an inclusive recovery.

Emma Hubberstey

Image: Getty Images.