As this letter addresses my statement as IAW President, I first must say that I consider the accusation made against my metaphor far-fetched. However, Hon. President Manganara does provide a valuable analysis of the situation of unpaid women's work in the home which deserves more attention as well as conversation here. I look forward to reading suggestions in the comments on what concrete measures could be taken on the international level to remedy this problem.
Alison Brown, IAW President
Reaction on Alison Brown's first President's Letter
I circulate a comment on Alison’s first letter as President of IAW to our membership which has to do with the definition of the concept of care and the housekeeping activities linked to it. In my opinion the definition is based on a position that has nothing to do with feminism as it aims at enforcing the traditional role of women within the family and not only that. It aims at extending this role and the housekeeping activities that are linked to it at all levels of government and industry where women might be working. In other words, working women will not work under the same conditions with men. They will be asked to promote the traditional women’s role at the level of their work which will not be based on their qualifications and knowledge but on traditional stereotypes and norms. This is a very conservative and unacceptable approach to the role of women to say the least.
Unpaid and domestic work refers to non-remunerated activities performed within the household for its maintenance and well-being such as child care, looking after aged parents etc.
However, we have to realize that gender equality objectives are hindered by increased care responsibilities and this must be brought to the attention of all women and men. Measures should be taken to give an end to this unacceptable situation Women’s movements have fought since long for the recognition of unpaid domestic work and for its reduction through the provision of public services and infrastructure. They have also fought for the redistribution of unpaid domestic work so that men can share more of this burden.
The unequal distribution of caring responsibilities is linked to discriminatory social institutions and stereotypes based on traditional gender roles. The systems and structures of our world based on millennia of male domination are holding back women in all areas. Gender inequality in unpaid care work is the missing link in the analysis of gender gaps in labor outcomes, such as labor force participation, wages, job quality etc. Globally therefore the expectation that women should be the main providers of unpaid care work is socially constructed and enforced by gender norms and stereotypes. Governments should tackle these norms as a first step in redistributing responsibilities for care between women and men. They should also implement policies favorable to burden sharing. What should be done to build this world better? Time has come to develop counter strategies from a feminist perspective. Economies are not gender neutral and women’s experiences should be at the center of economic analyses as feminist economists are saying. We need to redefine our economy. We need new concepts to bring into the heart of the understanding of the economy. Care economy is one such concept. Unpaid care sustains families and communities on a day-to-day basis and from one generation to the next. So care makes society function. Yet unpaid care work remains, invisible, undervalued and neglected in economic and social policy making. The other concept we should integrate into our understanding of economy is reproductive economy which is the key to the continuation of the social order. We should therefore all work for a feminist economic model which is not solely based on economic growth which reproduces gender inequalities but one that prioritizes people over profits. We need a genuine transformation of the global order that cannot happen unless we acknowledge, support and share the collective burden of reproductive labor and care work in our health and social systems.