Opinion: This pandemic threatens to undo what generations of feminists have fought for

Connecting the Dots – #YesThisIsAnArtsStory Repost from The Guardian

Moira Donegan | 21 May 2020

During this pandemic, a contracting economy, public health fears, and steadily reduced public services have shifted massive amounts of work and caregiving responsibilities to the home – and it is women who are picking up the slack. Even as lockdowns lift and the virus recedes, many of these needs that were previously met outside the home will still be left to families to try to meet within it, and women will be disproportionately affected. The result is a potentially long-term constricting of women’s lives to the domestic sphere. This threatens to undo a century’s worth of progress that women have made in claiming access to public life.

Some women are home because they’ve lost work. The economic recession that has been prompted by the pandemic has disproportionately hurt woman-dominated service industries, meaning that this time, unlike the 2008 recession, women make up the majority of the newly unemployed. In April, the unemployment rate climbed to 15.5% for women, with black women and Latinas facing even higher average unemployment rates.

With schools and daycares closed, responsibilities like childcare and eldercare that were once diffused out into public services or commercial enterprises are now reined in to the home. But waged work, for those women who still have it, continues apace, with few concessions towards the new reality. In the pandemic, women’s lives have become more burdened, smaller and less free. Everyone has a public health obligation to stay home, but only women have a socially enforced responsibility to take on disproportionate domestic work while they are there.