Women regularly lend themselves to a huge amount of emotional labor, a burden that, however ripe of individual and social consequences, goes widely unacknowledged. The caretaker role they are assigned invariably has them trapped in a lose-lose situation. We stand to lose something from fulfilling unfair expectations that we take at heart everybody else’s mental hygiene and deal with a disproportionate share of the work required to maintain it.
It is not a question of lack of commitment or expertise, but rather a deeply unequal system – from implicit biases to unequal support for their careers.
Acknowledgement of the burden of emotional labor as well as of the necessity for an equal division of it certainly results from an account of social relations that is aware of the role of gender. As such, it cannot prescind from an understanding that, both in the public and private spheres, individuals are driven to perform pre-conceived roles according to their social status – and the source of these roles are historical processes whose legitimacy is not a given but needs to be called into question.
With all the talking of women aspiring to more prestigious positions, we should mention that (a few women) successfully breaking the glass ceiling would not yet amount to gender equality being achieved. The illusion of emancipation for the few reveals a further, hidden reality of oppression, as for some women the gap will be inevitably wider than for others. This cannot go unsaid, for women’s struggle cannot be itself seen as exclusive, as if it only concerned women already in the position to bargain and make claims. From academia to manufacturing to rural areas around the globe, the fight will be as multifaceted as it is uniting.
In this video, Alice Pinheiro Walla shares with us her impressions on women’s care work in contemporary society. The concept of care work became especially relevant during the 1980s. Her view: women and other minorities should not only reappropriate spaces and opportunities they have long been denied, but also create new ones in order to rebalance power across social groups according to more egalitarian criteria.