Professional women, childcare, and emotional labor in the pandemic
April 29, 2020 8:35 AM   Subscribe

When Mom’s Zoom Meeting Is the One That Has to Wait, New York Times. “It’s like our economy is this house of cards for women and it is just toppling down,” says Cecile Richards, a founder of SuperMajority, a new political organization aimed at energizing female voters. “All of the structural problems that we’ve all known intellectually you can now see in pretty much every woman’s daily life.”
posted by bile and syntax (64 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
 
Mod note: Couple of comments deleted. There are other threads about the primaries and the Biden accusation. This is about domestic division of labor and how stay-home orders are upending the solutions women had in place.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:01 AM on April 29, 2020 [22 favorites]


I don't even know where to start with this except to say that it is not tenable to "work from home" full-time while also caring for small children or other people with extreme care-giving needs, and maybe we need to stop pretending that it is. I don't know what that looks like, but this is not working.

And for what it's worth, this is only a little bit about emotional labor. It's about labor. It's about the work of caregiving, and the work of paid employment, and how they literally can't be done at the same time. I literally cannot work while I am spoon-feeding my mother lunch, because I only have two hands, and if they are putting food in my mother's mouth, they cannot also be typing emails.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:24 AM on April 29, 2020 [86 favorites]


I would very much like to see a comparable piece focused on men of (hetero) dual career relationships with children, without referencing this piece. Not as in a “life is hard for men at this time,” but with a critical eye to the unexamined biases in their construct of the current situation.
posted by Silvery Fish at 9:35 AM on April 29, 2020 [10 favorites]


They really just glossed over Mr Klein’s home setup and the super convenient reality that most of his clients are men so he’s hearing about how men are trying so hard.

I don’t have any kids but have noticed that my partner and I are doing things around the home in ways that frustrate me. It takes as much energy to pick someone’s socks off the floor as it does to find the person and ask them to pick up their clothes when they shed in the living room. And less time. We’ve definitely had conversations about crusty dishes and how just a little rinse can make our crappy dishwasher actually effective. And folding one’s own line dried clothes.

I’m definitely working fewer hours than I would if I didn’t notice all this crap, and that sucks because he makes more per hour, so my own saving and student loan repayment is definitely suffering. And yet I feel extremely fortunate to have work, and I am able to recognize the many many ways my partner is not just sufficient but is actually really really great. And I feel torn about how much more is ok to ask for.
posted by bilabial at 9:36 AM on April 29, 2020 [17 favorites]


And I feel torn about how much more is ok to ask for.

I mean... half?
posted by bile and syntax at 9:37 AM on April 29, 2020 [29 favorites]


I pretty much put my (male) job on hold so that I can tend my toddler while my (female) spouse can do more of her paid work.

I know I’m not the norm but it kinda sucks to see everyone acting like I don’t exist. Some couples do know to do things more equitably, but we don’t hear much about that.

I’m not going to write an article about it bc I have to go deal with my kid and make lunch for us all while mom is working.
posted by SaltySalticid at 9:39 AM on April 29, 2020 [17 favorites]


Yeah, you know what? Study after study after study shows that women do the lion's share of housework, childcare, elder care, and all other sorts of uncompensated domestic labor. If you are an exception to that rule then congratulations, you are an adequate human being. You aren't getting any cookies from me, and you don't get to derail the conversation. Maybe accept that this isn't about you and consider whether you are contributing anything to the discussion?
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:43 AM on April 29, 2020 [155 favorites]


My grandchild has a grandmother ten blocks away and we have self-quarantined so that we can treat the households as one for child care purposes. That said:
(a) the grandmother (that's me!) has a job too and luckily I can work in twenty-minute spurts here and there.
(b) the father gets coos and exclamations from coworkers when the baby makes an appearance in Zoom meetings.
(c) the mother gets annoyance from coworkers when the baby makes an appearance.
posted by Peach at 9:44 AM on April 29, 2020 [48 favorites]


"MacGyvering a career as a woman" is one of the best descriptions I have ever heard.

Whenever someone says "school isn't supposed to be babysitting" I hear "women shouldn't be exploiting the 'kids are in school' loophole to exist in the public sphere".
posted by Ralston McTodd at 9:45 AM on April 29, 2020 [40 favorites]


I pretty much put my (male) job on hold so that I can tend my toddler while my (female) spouse can do more of her paid work.

More or less the same here, and as you said, we're very much not the norm, so I'm quite fine with the focus on women. In fact spending time as a primary caregiver has given me so much rage at the unfairness of how women and "women's work" have been treated over the centuries.
posted by destrius at 9:46 AM on April 29, 2020 [27 favorites]


It was actually a relief when I got furloughed because two parents working from home with no childcare was so hard. I'm getting less money but life is so much better. 6am to 10pm non-stop work and childcare for both parents is really rough. And I only have the one kid who is not old enough for schooling, although I'm also pregnant.

I have actually been really pleased with how much my husband has stepped up. He's been really good about letting me get a kid-free hour every morning before starting work. I think it's been pretty clear how much I'm struggling with this pregnancy though. But even so, I'm really tired. Full time toddler care with no classes or kids museums or play dates is definitely more exhausting than my job.

Here's another NYT article about the same topic I read this morning: "I feel like I have five jobs."
posted by carolr at 9:48 AM on April 29, 2020 [4 favorites]


This Twitter thread is quite relevant, I think:
Throwing around my doctorate in education for a sec: I want all you parents to know that *literally no human beings ever in history* have been asked to educate kids & do adult work simultaneously the way you are now. The scientific term for what you're facing is "batshit insane."
posted by destrius at 9:51 AM on April 29, 2020 [94 favorites]


> I know I’m not the norm but it kinda sucks to see everyone acting like I don’t exist. Some couples do know to do things more equitably, but we don’t hear much about that.

I don't understand why you think everyone is acting as if you don't exist? Even in this article --which is explicitly about women who are struggling to find space and time to work from home -- there is a reference to a marriage with more equitable division of labor. "Ms. Valenzuela considers herself lucky because her children are young enough that she is avoiding home-school. And her husband had already taken on much of the household duties since she began her campaign last year." [emphasis mine]
posted by desuetude at 9:55 AM on April 29, 2020 [15 favorites]


I don't understand why you think everyone is acting as if you don't exist?

When you're used to being centered...
posted by bile and syntax at 10:07 AM on April 29, 2020 [65 favorites]


I want all you parents to know that *literally no human beings ever in history* have been asked to educate kids & do adult work simultaneously the way you are now.
Also, through most of human history, people have raised children in communities and relied on their communities to help them get through emergencies. Social distancing is necessary in this situation, but it totally flies in the face of most families' emergency coping strategies, which rely on coming together as a community to pool resources, including resources of time and attention. Usually, you would send your kids to the neighbor's house so you could get some work done, and then the neighbor's kids would come play at your house so she could have some time to do her stuff. Or you'd pay the teenager across the street to babysit for a couple of hours a day. Or you'd send the kids to their grandparents' house, if their grandparents were retired and in good shape. Or there would be a drop-off childcare center at your church. It's really unnatural for people to be dealing with stuff as totally isolated nuclear families, but that's how things are working for most of us, since we're supposed to be isolating at the level of the household.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:22 AM on April 29, 2020 [36 favorites]


The scientific term for what you're facing is "batshit insane."

Thank you, gusandrews. My already unbalanced division of labor has fallen apart, not helped by quarantine brain, and my kids not understanding why I can no longer remember All The Things. Trying to be the emotional/logistical engine for my family unit has left me pleading to my husband "Please. Parent." The incredulous look on his face was...not reassuring.
posted by MonkeyToes at 10:33 AM on April 29, 2020 [32 favorites]


Related article: The Gift of Good Enough: You don't have to win at quarantine, no matter what capitalism says:
You will be tired, angry and overwhelmed. You may not be inspired to do burpees or have soul-searching conversations. In your distraction, you might fall down on your social distancing game. And if that is the case, I urge you not to troll yourself for failing to “win at quarantine” and instead recognize that you survived another day in this unprecedented mess. And if you find the wherewithal to apologize to your kids for yelling before pulling up Peppa Pig on YouTube. Or you bring your husband a cup of coffee in bed so he can stare at his phone and ignore you and the makeshift preschool in the living room a little longer. Or you make a commitment to keeping your mask on your face (and not in your pocket) when you’re at the park pretending to exercise, then that’s good enough, I’m proud of you and I’m glad you’re here.
posted by Margalo Epps at 10:36 AM on April 29, 2020 [15 favorites]


I know that the article was about women with professional careers, but seems like they could have found a group where the "worst off" example wasn't a congresswoman who's a household name in Democratic Party leaning households.

Like, people who's extra bathroom in Los Angeles doesn't look like this. Or hell, people without an extra bathroom.
posted by sideshow at 10:40 AM on April 29, 2020 [15 favorites]


I mean... half?

yeah, I dunno, if you've been doing 80% of the work for years, kinda seems like you're owed more than an even split for a while.
posted by schadenfrau at 10:49 AM on April 29, 2020 [22 favorites]


It was actually a relief when I got furloughed because two parents working from home with no childcare was so hard.

Same. My partner still works outside the home (in healthcare, which is another stressor) and me trying to get 8 hours of work in every day while supervising three kids' schoolwork was absolutely miserable. Especially because, like many employers, mine was reluctant to allow WFH and so was micromanaging my work time and tasks completed. Of course, every task took longer than it "should," and the stress was snowballing.

I cried when I was furloughed, but not since.
posted by witchen at 10:54 AM on April 29, 2020 [9 favorites]


It's about labor.

Yes, this. There is also emotional labour involved. But I often have said okay, so you are hiring a nanny or choosing a daycare or looking at your child's teacher and that person says "I have a 35-45 hour a week job in a demanding career that I will also be doing at the same time, hope that's okay!!!"

You will not be okay with that.

That's what's happening right now.
posted by warriorqueen at 11:05 AM on April 29, 2020 [23 favorites]


Ms. Lurie and her clients are part of a generation of professional women who had arranged their domestic lives, however precariously, to enable full-time careers and parenthood. They are facing this crisis in the midst of high-intensity parenting years, and a crucial moment for growing and establishing their work. Now, able to set up shop remotely, but with schools closed and child care gone, the pandemic is forcing them to confront the bruising reality of gender dynamics as the country is trapped at home.

When the lockdowns started I immediately thought of this. How the myth of having it all is made possible by the tenuous and strategic outsourcing of domestic labor, often to other women, which allows us to delude ourselves into thinking we have gender equity at home -- and how quickly that illusion shatters when the housekeepers can't come in, the daycares are closed, and we are forced, every day, to confront just how little our spouses contribute to managing or doing domestic work.

Whoever made the memes about the boom of coronavirus babies nine months from now must not have female friends with kids, because all I can think about is the boom of coronavirus divorces with so many women realizing just how inequitable their relationships are and how little esteem their partners have for women's careers and ambitions. Every conference call I'm on some man wants a gold star for taking a child care 'shift' so his wife can work, too. Really, bro?
posted by stellaluna at 11:13 AM on April 29, 2020 [61 favorites]


I’m fortunate to work at a library that has been supportive and flexible about handling home needs and the appearance of toddler or non-human coworkers in online meetings. That said, the multiple jobs are visibly wearing people down. And it appears to be wearing down female colleagues across my university much more heavily than male colleagues... many of whom have grown strangely quiet on social media the last month. I hope this is because the men are doing more at home than previously, and I suppose it’s possible they’re blowing off steam in other ways, but I suspect it’s increased domestic inequity, at least in some cases.
posted by cupcakeninja at 11:18 AM on April 29, 2020 [1 favorite]


I feel a little guilty because the lockdown has actually made my life easier in this respect.

Before the lockdown my husband was working away from home 9-5 most days which left me as the mostly full-time caregiver to our baby while still trying to continue my own career (freelance). And, of course, doing the lion's share of chores and admin and household management. And waking up with the baby many times a night.

And every weekend I'd be like "okay I'm going to buckle down and get that client work done" and instead I'd lose half of it to chores and another fourth of it to napping because I was just so incredibly exhausted all the time.

Now his hours have been reduced hugely and he only has to leave the house a few hours a week, so he can take on a lot more of the childcare during the day, and I am finally getting some real time to work.

So it's weird. Things have finally gotten a little easier for me. But I'm also suddenly hearing all the women I know talk about the struggle of managing childcare and career under these circumstances, and it's making me realize that what I was trying to do before was actually impossible, it wasn't just me repeatedly failing.
posted by the turtle's teeth at 11:41 AM on April 29, 2020 [44 favorites]


I run a small tech company. About three quarters of my staff (including myself) are working from home with kids and we've been doing that for almost 7 weeks now. Everyone's been finding ways of coping and we've been doing our best to accommodate a fairly diverse set of needs. We've settled into having about half of the parents clocking in starting at noon or 1pm and finishing work when they have time in the evenings or on the weekends. We've let everyone know that we're not tying quantity of hours to promotions or bonuses. Miraculously, we've managed to get all of our essential work done as a group and haven't had to reschedule any deadlines - that could change if anyone got sick.

I've made it clear in writing that mental health days count as sick days, but I'm tempted to throw in a few extra "Covid-19 Staycation" days so that people take them. Coming in to the office is optional (for everyone) as long as schools are closed.

One of my employees, a single mom, is potty training her toddler in the midst of all this. Cameras are not mandatory, but that goes double for potty time.

I'm not sure what's going to happen as this drags on - this is entirely without historical precedent. I have no guidelines to follow. I don't know if what we're doing is sustainable if this lasts into 2021. People are managing, but I know they're also tired and worried.
posted by Alison at 11:59 AM on April 29, 2020 [19 favorites]


it's making me realize that what I was trying to do before was actually impossible, it wasn't just me repeatedly failing.

Yes, a coworker and I were discussing yesterday how once something is happening to the entire nation at once it's so much harder to blame yourself when it happens to you. Currently that's applying to unemployment, work-life imbalance, depression and anxiety...
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 12:00 PM on April 29, 2020 [23 favorites]


Hawaii's feminist Post-Covid-19 Economic Recovery Proposal seems apt here.
posted by progosk at 12:05 PM on April 29, 2020 [11 favorites]


My partner and I are each doing 1/2 day of childcare and 1/2 day of work, and it sucks for all of us. I think that we are exceptional in that neither of us expects me (the woman) to pick up the extra, and that has been true since the kid was a small baby. Of course, my kid wants me above all others right now, and handing her off at lunchtime is often dramatic.

I think he is struggling with only having 1/2 a work day more than I am, but we both understand that the child is more important than either job, per se, and that in the event a direct conflict arises, the job loses out on our full attention and engagement.

We are so lucky to be able to make this calculation. My office has explicitly told me it's okay to not work full time right now and his college has given faculty pretty wide latitude in how they want to run classes online. He's also taught online before (what up hurricane Katrina) and has a realistic grasp of what is possible and what the students might be able to accomplish while their lives are turned upside down.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 12:15 PM on April 29, 2020 [7 favorites]


There is a recent AskMe with additional links and comments that also seem relevant to the discussion here: Articles/anec-data dealing with COVID-19 working/parenting at home?
posted by katra at 12:47 PM on April 29, 2020 [1 favorite]


My ex and I split last year and he has had primary custody. But working from home, with no access to childcare, meant that had to flip. And now I have primary custody as my job is the more flexible - lecturing hours are non-negotiable but the rest gets done in fits and starts - but he does one or two days a week if he can. And takes her for the weekend as well.

I'm lucky because he was a stay at home dad for years when she was little. Worked PT at times as well. He is an absolutely engaged father and as much as we aren't suited for marriage, he is a good co-parent and understands just how fucking draining and hard this is for me. Not just because I'm teaching and writing three books and getting our ADHD child to do her schoolwork and moving house and doing intensive therapy, but because nobody is meant to do this, in this way. Nobody is meant to sleep and work in the same small bedroom with a child who cannot stop talking and asking questions while doing highly intellectual labour and also deep emotional work and also trying to keep a household above the filth line.

Last night on my way to sleep I felt really bad for shutting down the conversation my kid wanted to have at 830pm about her book. I was so tired. I was tired of thinking and remembering and trying to help her focus. And I tried reminding myself that it's okay all of this is a fucking mess. Today I have to get all the info up for my students for their final, deal with all the bizarre outliers from the first bit of assessment, constantly remind my kid to focus on her work, feed us both, tidy the kitchen, probably pack up a bunch of my stuff. And today is an easy day.
posted by geek anachronism at 1:02 PM on April 29, 2020 [17 favorites]


Whoever made the memes about the boom of coronavirus babies nine months from now must not have female friends with kids, because all I can think about is the boom of coronavirus divorces

[both-is-good.gif]

We'll see both a wave of pregnancies (hopefully not to full baby-boom levels) and a swarm of breakups of various sorts. I'm hoping that a lot of women tell their friends and communities, "I'm leaving him because when the world was falling apart, he couldn't be bothered to change diapers or do the dishes. Don't let him give you that 'I'll help when it really matters' line."
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 1:05 PM on April 29, 2020 [14 favorites]


I am living this and really surprised at how sad I am about it. I dropped my engineering job to part time so I could keep up at home, the job I've worked so hard to be successful and accepted at, that pays significantly better than my husband's job. Even though my husband is wonderful and doing everything right and working so, so hard, somehow when it comes down to it, it's my career that is taking the hit.
posted by beandip at 1:14 PM on April 29, 2020 [26 favorites]


This burden is also falling on the kids. In a family with multiple children, it is the oldest girl who is most likely to be tasked with household labor, but often times it's whoever is old enough, who is able to drive etc. For my students whose parents are essential workers, they are now the stay-at-home guardian for a younger sibling or the part-time home health aide who has to make sure that a grandparent takes their medication for a chronic illness.
posted by spamandkimchi at 1:51 PM on April 29, 2020 [23 favorites]


Not to dismiss or derail what the article says. All that is mentioned is sadly very true and unfortunately the norm in most situations. But, I did want to just say how this entire situation has exposed what a house of cards our society is built on. Especially how much of that "emotional labor" in the form of our mental health is being siphoned off before it even gets to the family obligations.

For my wife and I, we pride ourselves on being equal partners and this whole thing has been a struggle even splitting the load. My wife has to be in the office every other week leaving me as the defacto teacher, lunch guy, referee, and do a full time job on top of it all. When my wife is off work, it's somewhat manageable, but hard. However, the weeks it's just me I'm overwhelmed, and my poor wife comes home to a mentally exhausted shell of a husband. I don't even want to think what a single mother or wife an inequitable situation would have to deal with.

The sad thing is when this is all said and done, and we all try to take a vacation to recharge and recover. I fully expect we will all get, "Sorry, you just had a months long one at home and are needed here to get things "back to normal". Anyway, apologies, just needed to vent.
posted by remo at 2:02 PM on April 29, 2020 [9 favorites]


(c) the mother gets annoyance from coworkers when the baby makes an appearance.

One of husband's (female) directs has a baby, and whenever she (the baby) makes an inevitable baby noise during a call, he warmly addresses her by name and responds like she just contributed to the topic at hand. Hearing that made me smile.
posted by Ruki at 2:06 PM on April 29, 2020 [38 favorites]


the boom of coronavirus babies nine months from now

likely due to birth control shortages, limited or nonexistent access to healthcare, and coercion, than courtesy of re-ignited passion under quarantine. Even for relationships faring well under lockdown, it will be a select group able to address the looming global-wide Depression with 'another mouth to feed, that's the ticket' as their response.
posted by Iris Gambol at 2:28 PM on April 29, 2020 [34 favorites]


Yeah IDK about women without kids but pretty much everything I read from women with kids sounds like they are feeling pretty opposite of sexy.
posted by nakedmolerats at 2:31 PM on April 29, 2020 [7 favorites]


Don't worry, women without kids aren't showering, either.
posted by asperity at 2:43 PM on April 29, 2020 [35 favorites]


Hawaii's feminist Post-Covid-19 Economic Recovery Proposal seems apt here.

progosk, thank you so much for linking to that interview and proposal. That deserves to be an FPP. I grew up in Hawai'i, and my folks still live there. I agree with the interviewer that Hawai'i is uniquely positioned - demographically, economically, and culturally - to introduce the first recovery plan of this kind. May there be many more!

Even if the proposal ultimately gains little traction, it's still hugely valuable, in part because it suggests that the pandemic conditions are bringing about a rapid and long-overdue shift in the Overton window. I'm adding it to my list of mood-booster reading to help counter pandemic-news-induced despair.
posted by velvet winter at 5:19 PM on April 29, 2020 [5 favorites]


What this whole pandemic is showing is how much of the U.S. economy can’t work unless a vast amount of unpaid or underpaid caregiving and domestic work goes on.

And what this pandemic is showing, in the U.S., is how many couples papered over a fundamental imbalance of domestic labor by buying the illusion of parity via childcare help, house cleaners, laundry service and take-out food; sure, Dad wasn’t doing a load of laundry when he rolled in the door at 7 p.m. but neither was Mom, so it was okay. Now that more of that work has to happen in-house, and more of it is falling on one partner’s shoulders while the other whistles on his way into his closed-door home office, all the inequality is riiiiiiight there.
posted by sobell at 6:38 PM on April 29, 2020 [23 favorites]


Last week I had a video conference all-staff meeting in which a bunch of my male colleagues told our male CIO that remote work has been going great for them and has even improved their productivity. I listened to the meeting on headphones with my laptop next to me while hanging laundry in the basement (because my dryer broke the day before shelter in place), triaging my kid’s constant questions on how to use his clunky distance learning apps, calming his technology-induced meltdowns, fending off his demands for more snacks, and trying not to glare at my husband through the closed door of his basement office while he was on his own conference call. He refuses to multi-task during calls, which seems like extreme male privilege, though I guess if my conference calls involved detailed discussions about mathematical equations and optical measurements I would not attempt to do laundry at the same time. It still is unfair that I am the one who has to deal with the bulk of the homework meltdowns and school tech support.

Anyway, only two women spoke up during my meeting. One acknowledged that while it was hard to work with small children at home, she was thankful to still have a paycheck (see identical comment upthread!). The other woman warned that it would be unrealistic to expect this increased productivity to last post-pandemic because people will start taking vacations again. I was not going to be the mom who spoke up during the all-IT meeting to emphasize just how insane this whole situation is right now. The CIO proceeded with the meeting, and the men all joked about wearing hats on camera to disguise their need for haircuts. Har har har.

When our workplaces (led by men) fail to acknowledge that things right now are NOT the same as normal remote work, and then they increase the pace of work, people (mostly moms) who are struggling to keep up are less likely to speak up. I certainly feel that way. Though last week when a male colleague called me at the end of the afternoon I purposely did not tell my kid to stop practicing piano. If I have to work while listening to my kid plunk out the Titanic theme song a dozen times in a row, so can my colleague calling after 4:30pm.

In summary, fuck the patriarchy. Burn it all down.
posted by Maarika at 8:37 PM on April 29, 2020 [64 favorites]


“What everyone is doing is impossible and crazy.” But whenever the chaos subsides, he said, “this has to reshape our views of gender in a meaningful way.”

So the proposed solution is for all of us to think differently about gender, when the problem is that working people in America work too many hours, don't get paid enough, have no security, and no time for their families and lives. Turning everyone into a liberal feminist isn't a realistic way to think about confronting these problems. It's so unclear who or what is being blamed in this article, besides some vague notion of patriarchy.

said she viewed the pandemic as sending feminism back to the “1950s with women stuck at home.”

And this is just a weird thing to say. Yes the situation is such that more women are stuck at home now, but I think that's where the similarities end. The article might even bother to tell us *how* we should reshape our views about gender, or explain how the pandemic has harmed feminism as a political project. But no, all we get is:

“We will have to all have a better sense of what we are asking our partners to do.”
posted by mammal at 9:04 PM on April 29, 2020 [1 favorite]


I think the discussion about this topic tends to mix up two different issues: working from home, and the closure of domestic support systems like childcare, schools and housekeeping. I had been working from home for several months before all this began, and it was in general working really well for me. But that was totally different from what I'm faced with now: taking care of two young kids and housework is more than a full time job, and expecting people to do their other work on top of that is crazy.
posted by destrius at 12:29 AM on April 30, 2020 [5 favorites]


Also, this is totally a feminist issue: the fundamental problem is that domestic work, having traditionally been done by women, is not valued as actual work. Hence, the powers that be appear to assume that it is possible to do that work along with "real" work with no effect on productivity.

Consider for example, if a war was about to break out and all the men got drafted to go train to be soldiers. But while training they were expected to still keep up with their regular work. Nobody would hesitate to call that batshit insane. Why the difference? Because taking care of home and kids is not valued (and measured) as work.
posted by destrius at 12:41 AM on April 30, 2020 [36 favorites]


Turning everyone into a liberal feminist isn't a realistic way to think about confronting these problems.

Says a man. (I'm also a man, FWIW).
posted by ambrosen at 1:40 AM on April 30, 2020 [8 favorites]


And if you find the wherewithal to apologize to your kids for yelling before pulling up Peppa Pig on YouTube. Or you bring your husband a cup of coffee in bed so he can stare at his phone and ignore you and the makeshift preschool in the living room a little longer. Or you make a commitment to keeping your mask on your face (and not in your pocket) when you’re at the park pretending to exercise, then that’s good enough, I’m proud of you

Wait what? One of these things is not like the others: apologising to kids you yelled at, wearing a mask, and enabling your husband to not pull his weight?!?
posted by lollusc at 2:19 AM on April 30, 2020 [13 favorites]


So the proposed solution is for all of us to think differently about gender, when the problem is that working people in America work too many hours, don't get paid enough, have no security, and no time for their families and lives. Turning everyone into a liberal feminist isn't a realistic way to think about confronting these problems.

ummm.... pretty sure that calling out "the problem is that working people in America work too many hours, don't get paid enough, have no security, and no time for their families and lives" is what liberal feminism has been doing for a while now
posted by kokaku at 6:15 AM on April 30, 2020 [11 favorites]


Yeah, this is exactly why feminism (why the qualifier "liberal? what other kind are you setting that against?) should benefit everyone. Work/life balance, underpay for the grind of work, no time for family life - these issues affect everyone, but feminism is the only system of thought I can think of offhand that takes those issues as central to the problem of living. I guess left thought does too, but socialism without feminism ain't shit.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 6:20 AM on April 30, 2020 [9 favorites]


ummm.... pretty sure that calling out "the problem is that working people in America work too many hours, don't get paid enough, have no security, and no time for their families and lives" is what liberal feminism has been doing for a while now

Yes, along with pointing out how the impacts of long hours, low pay, low security, etc., have different impacts on different people. Women are impacted differently than men, plus all of the layers of intersectionality that apply to people's specific situations. As was just commented above, solutions to these issues don't just help the people most affected -- they help all of us.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:22 AM on April 30, 2020 [6 favorites]


Wait what? One of these things is not like the others

In the article, she picked a fight, late at night, with her spouse. I'm presuming this was early morning apology coffee, with permission to relax in bed for a bit. It did not appear to be a normal morning.

I liked the general message of we will mess up, be crabby with our loved ones, but we'll also apologize and it's okay that we're not at our best.
posted by Margalo Epps at 7:22 AM on April 30, 2020 [4 favorites]


Yeah, this is exactly why feminism (why the qualifier "liberal? what other kind are you setting that against?) should benefit everyone.

I honestly tend to think that "liberal" is a stand-in here for "cis straight" because as a queer woman / afab nongendered person, feminism for me is different.

This is not an attempt to derail, just to point out that queer people are a marked category and have to talk about queer feminism, lesbian feminism, trans feminism, but when cis straight women talk about feminism, they just say "feminism" as though their perspective is neutral and universal.
posted by bile and syntax at 7:31 AM on April 30, 2020 [12 favorites]


Related : Pandemic, Parents, and Schools by Siderea.
So schools refuse to address their child-caring function and parents refuse to admit their need for childcare, and everyone is comfortably agreed that the economic role our system of schooling serves in our society is just never to be spoken of or admitted to exist. Schools and schooling are only ever discussed or addressed in terms of schools' educational function. [...]

The effect of closing the physical schools has been to split apart the childcare and the educational functions of schooling. The educational function at least theoretically can be virtualized, but by and large the childcare function required physical custody of children.

It's hard to replace a function of a system you know know or won't admit exists.
posted by What is E. T. short for? at 7:46 AM on April 30, 2020 [17 favorites]


bile and syntax, thank you for that. I think I read "liberal feminism" in the comment under discussion less as a linking of ideas that decenters mainstream cis white feminism and more as a phrase that links "feminism" (a questionable undertaking) with "liberalism" (a BAD WORD in the US, which as someone not raised here I've always found strange.) But intersectional critiques of liberalism and of mainstream feminism are super real.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 7:56 AM on April 30, 2020 [2 favorites]


I think this is definitely primarily an issue for women who are partnered with men, and more so for women who are partnered with men and have children. But I don't have kids, and I'm not partnered with a man, and I am seeing it play out like whoa in my current eldercare situation. My father and brother are also present, but everyone seems to expect me to be responsible for all sorts of household management stuff, as well as a lot of my mother's care needs. It's not just my family: doctors, social workers, home health aides, my parents' friends, all sorts of people think that as the daughter, I'm just naturally going to be in charge of that stuff. This is not necessarily stuff that you can avoid by not having kids or being romantically involved with men.
"liberal feminism" is also often used in a derogatory sense by certain groups of class-analysis-first leftists as a way of dismissing feminist concerns that they generally feel don't fit into their "class before anything else" view of the world.
Which is ironic, because a lot thinking on this stuff has been done by Marxist feminists, but it somehow doesn't seem to have penetrated the mainstream American left.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:43 AM on April 30, 2020 [17 favorites]


I mean- to add on to what A&C said- I'm a Queer Adult, no kids, no partner, live with my 75+ parents and have been sheltering in place now with them for almost 2 full months. And I live with them normally so this isn't too bad- but I'm normally out of the house working 40-50 hours a weeks. Of the two Mom v. Dad, mom understands the situation very well, and as designated young person who can go outside, is letting me handle deliveries and grocery stuff and household stuff as best as I can and is not undermining me/criticizing me if stuff is out. She's gotten very 'were-in-this-together!'
Dad is acting like a fucking toddler. The emotional labor I have to do to placate him in the best of times is super fucking annoying, but when I'm trying to keep the house and it's very varied due to allergies and health conditions diets running on a budget- (Oh did I mention I'm the cook? yeah.) having dad chime in with "Check if they have lamb! I'd like lamb!" "Get some spicy peppers!" (He can't eat those anymore they make him super sick) "oooh look for 'fancy thing'", is driving me crazy. It's so small potatoes compared to the other stuff other AFAB folks are going through but caretaking for male relatives is often just as gender/assigned sex dependant and It's driving me mad.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 8:58 AM on April 30, 2020 [24 favorites]


This is not necessarily stuff that you can avoid by not having kids or being romantically involved with men.

I totally hear this and have definitely had this experience (my mom died while I was in college; at the end of that semester I came home to the house in disarray and my dad and brother both expecting me to clean it - my brother flipped his shit when I told him to do his own laundry as it wasn't my problem) but for me in this particular situation I've just got the cats, and since I'm immunocompromised my friends and my dad have made clear that I'm not to run my own errands unless I can get curbside pickup or delivery. So I'm in the position where I have to lean on other people, and... most of the people who have volunteered to help me are women and/or afab, though not by a huge margin.
posted by bile and syntax at 9:09 AM on April 30, 2020 [5 favorites]


My wife and I discussed this and realized that anecdotally in both of our zoom meetings over the past month we've only seen children pop up on women's webcams. I have heard men discuss their children, but they do not appear. And I would even say those men are probably/mostly wanting to be egalitarian, even, but it's a broad cultural pattern that even children learn that if mom is at home, mom is on mom duty.
posted by nakedmolerats at 10:42 AM on April 30, 2020 [5 favorites]


all sorts of people think that as the daughter, I'm just naturally going to be in charge of that stuff.

Yes, this. And if there isn't a daughter, the default position goes to the daughter-in-law. Or if no daughter-in-law, the sister, the sister-in-law, the niece, the niece-in-law, the granddaughter(-in-law). I see elderly patients come to their appointments with convolutedly distant female relatives, because their husband or son just can't make it. It's not just generational: women who develop a serious illness are more likely to be institutionalized, because male spouses are less willing to take on uncompensated care at home.

I recently wrote a paper on caregiver burden/strain in chronic disease. Rejected from three different journals so far; all the rejections have cited as the reason for rejection: biased sample because all the caregivers who were interviewed were women. I want to write back "Who tf do you think is doing the caregiving???"
posted by basalganglia at 11:50 AM on April 30, 2020 [46 favorites]


> wife and I discussed this and realized that anecdotally in both of our zoom meetings over the past month we've only seen children pop up on women's webcams.

My daughter needed to get something from the room-that-is-currently-the-home-office, and was shy about it because Mr Corpse was doing video calls for work. I tried to convince her that, by walking in and taking her papers from the printer, she would be doing her part to make home life more visible in the corporate world and thus it would be a blow in the fight for feminism and greater accessibility at work for everyone. (Really I just didn't want to get off Animal Crossing to grab her papers for her.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:11 PM on April 30, 2020 [18 favorites]


https://www.lastwordonnothing.com/2020/04/29/how-the-pandemic-turned-working-moms-into-mommy-pig/#more-21645

God bless the strong matriarchal lineage I come from - my grandmother hated housework - nagged my grandfather to buy her a farm so that she could spend the days supervising the workers rather than being in the kitchen. My greatgrandmother was banished, along with half a dozen of her younger children, while my greatgrandfather was imprisoned by the German invaders in 1939 and she re-established an equivalent milling business by the end of the war.

I was taught that part of running anything - business, household, union, club, etc - was learning how to hire good people and dividing up the work so that everyone earned their pay. It was not the responsibility of the worker to identify how they earned their keep - it was MY responsibility as the employer to find them meaningful work that supported their wages.

For two millenia we have heard, "The harvest is rich, but the workers are few."
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 12:23 AM on May 1, 2020 [1 favorite]


My wife and I discussed this and realized that anecdotally in both of our zoom meetings over the past month we've only seen children pop up on women's webcams.

That's interesting. I think I'm having the opposite experience (although I can't rule out that I'm noticing men's kids in camera and not noticing women's because of stereotype expectations). I have certainly had two men in meetings in just the last 24 hours with young kids on screen in the background, who they had to tend to once or twice during the meeting (and who they apologised for). I don't recall seeing that with any of my female colleagues. Instead, many female colleagues have just not been available for meetings at all the last few weeks, or rarely and only at odd times of day.

My guess was that the men are not as concerned that doing visible childcare on camera will make them look "unprofessional" to their colleagues, while women are much more worried about the potential damage to the way they are viewed.

But if this pattern isn't one other people are seeing, I'll have to rethink my assumptions.
posted by lollusc at 1:05 AM on May 1, 2020 [4 favorites]


But if this pattern isn't one other people are seeing, I'll have to rethink my assumptions.

What you are describing is what I have seen, but I don't know that I would draw generalizations from the calls I have been on -- it's been mostly with men, and the men with children are mostly in fairly senior positions (i.e., everyone else on the call has to wait until they are done with their parenting moment), so the decisions about how to handle visible children are going to be different than in most other situations.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:48 AM on May 1, 2020 [4 favorites]


I was taught that part of running anything - business, household, union, club, etc - was learning how to hire good people and dividing up the work so that everyone earned their pay. It was not the responsibility of the worker to identify how they earned their keep - it was MY responsibility as the employer to find them meaningful work that supported their wages.

Isn't the idea that wives, as part of their assumed responsibility of "running the household," can ensure that husbands do their share by giving them lists of specific tasks to do part of the entire problem, though? I don't want to have to tell my partner to take out the trash; I just want him to notice the trash and realize that it needs taking out and just *do* it.
posted by naoko at 10:55 AM on May 1, 2020 [7 favorites]


it's been mostly with men, and the men with children are mostly in fairly senior positions (i.e., everyone else on the call has to wait until they are done with their parenting moment),

Good point. All the cases I've seen it lately, the man has been the most senior person in the meeting
posted by lollusc at 12:43 AM on May 2, 2020


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