Bread and Roses

September 12, 2021 By

Men don’t tend to be asked about how they juggle work and family life. They generally don’t tend to bring it up on their own accord either. If on a weekend away, it’s unlikely they’ll spend much time talking about how they organised everything at home in preparation for it.

Women do, though.

And it feels a bit wrong, somehow. We get annoyed with those who ask. And we question ourselves when we bring it up, too. Should we be talking about this? Should we not be talking about this? Is this what we are reduced to? Men don’t do this, right? It feels like we are not being taken seriously, like we are being judged whenever the topic is brought up. Just ask me about my work. Just ask me about the book I am writing. Just ask me about my win. Let’s just focus on ourselves for that weekend away.

Part of the reason is, of course, that that type of questioning does tend to be inherently sexist and judgemental. And our own conversations often tinged with guilt, annoyance, or frustration. Because the value that is put on what women do, tends to be low. And our sense of guilt and not being enough, high.

Imagine, though, if we as a society viewed women’s lives as important. Women’s realities as important. Imagine if women’s experiences were what formed the basis for our cultural canon, for our psychological development models, for our organisational models. Imagine what the world would look like then.

Then maybe everyone would be rewarded for wanting to satisfyingly juggle work and life. Then maybe affordable and accessible childcare, social supports and a properly functioning health system would be the norm. Instead of women spending their time and energy picking up the pieces. And then being punished for it.

But that’s not the case. Because for centuries, or even millennia, what women do has systematically been devalued and rendered unimportant. It’s been detached from of influence and power. And influence and power matters.

Because if you are lacking influence and power, any official narrative that talks about valuing what you do, what you contribute, what you experience, is at best meaningless and at worst gas-lighting. The Irish constitution is a prime example. There is constitutional value put on domestic work. An appreciation of it, on paper. In a society that then went on to ensure that, after confining women to the domestic sphere, that everything of importance happened elsewhere. A society that then went out of its way to strip women of any decision-making powers, not just in the public sphere but also in their private lives.

Things have, thankfully changed for the better. In most places. But we are nowhere near where we need to be. We are getting there in terms of social values, of attitudes, of looking for better ways to make it all work. But it still to a large extent comes down to influence and power. And that’s what we need to keep working towards. Otherwise it will still just be talk. Otherwise we are still just trying to convince others to do the right thing for us.

There are many ways in which we can do this. Elect more politicians who actually deem these issues important. Keep talking about them. Keep removing the stigmas that still linger around so many women’s experiences – practical ones, physical ones, mental ones. Promote more women to senior roles. But also don’t underestimate your ability to be the competent decision-maker you’re looking for in your own life. Your power to make intentional decisions about what you want, to not accept the status quo. To take the time to reflect on what you need and how to go about getting it.

Claim what you can. And value what you do.