As a woman in today’s society, there is an unending list of ideals we must achieve. We must be thin, we must be curvaceous, we must be educated, we must not be intimidating, we must be polite, we must not be aggressive, we must be sexy, we must not be promiscuous etc. In short, we must conform to an infinite list of double-standards that set women up to fail. Because let’s be honest, how can you win when you’re being punished for something you’ve been told to do? You can’t. While many of these ideals are about temperament or personality or looks, some take a more concrete form in society. One of the more concrete examples is the economically troubling dichotomy that pushes women to be in the workforce while simultaneously commanding they be sole caretaker of the home. Now it’s time to kick off your shoes and relax a little because we’re about to critically evaluate the age-old feminist issue of the “Second Shift.”
The Second Shift, also known as the Double Burden refers to, “the workload of people who work to earn money, but who are also responsible for significant amounts of unpaid domestic labor.” This unpaid domestic labor largely falls upon the shoulders of women who work long hours outside of the home and are also expected to do the majority of household labor. These outdated ideals of women as domestic laborers are not solely influenced by tradition and sexism, but also capitalism. Capitalism inherently devalues domestic labor because it is not compensated, therefore placing it subsequent to work that is done outside the home. Not only this, but the false notion that unpaid domestic work is less valuable than paid labor creates a social climate that is that is not conducive to the equality of the sexes, rather, an atmosphere that does not allow women to readily overcome gender inequalities on account that domestic work is still largely seen as a “woman’s job.” This idea that capitalism exacerbates social issues is easy to visualize. Imagine all the cleaning ads marketed towards women, all the cooking appliances marketed to female homemakers or advertisements about baby products that only feature women as caretakers. Capitalism markets sexist labor dichotomies because they sell, which in effect, only more deeply ingrains our beliefs about women in the home.
At this point you may be thinking, “This is ridiculous. These days 70% of women with children under the age of 18 participate in the labor force!” You’re totally right; but this statistic does not represent the amount of unpaid labor women are still expected to maintain. In America, women spend over half as much time as men participating in unpaid domestic work, and even worse, this gendered work inequality is taught to children as they grow up. A recent study reports, “The difference starts early: American girls ages 10 to 17 spend two more hours than boys on chores each week, and boys are 15 percent more likely to be paid for doing chores.” This sets the precedent early that men’s work is always deserving of pay and women’s is not. When the amount of women’s domestic labor decreases only two hours a day, women are more likely to participate in the work force, increase education and the health of children increases. The solution is simple. If we work together to develop a society where the burden of domestic work is equal between men and women, the world will be a happier, healthier place.