My Vote, My Voice 2015 – Women’s Rights and Reproductive Labour

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The struggle of women and our current economic system are intertwined. To understand why, we must look at the two types of labour, reproductive and productive labour. Reproductive labour does not just mean having children; it is the labour associated with the private sphere which encompasses cooking, cleaning, child rearing and any other behaviour required by a human to sustain themselves and their family that they do not undertake for a wage. Under the current economic system the bulk of reproductive labour has been devalued as it is not contracted in the market and therefore not compensated with a wage. Women have throughout history had a forced connection to reproductive labour, being forced into the realm of the household. The women’s liberation movement has seen a migration of women to productive labour, where they receive a wage for their work. While this has improved the status of women in both the reproductive sphere and the workplace, presently many women are forced into both types of labour. This results in a double burden which furthers women’s subordinate status to men and creates a strong sense of guilt among many women who worry they cannot carry out their roles in both the workplace and private spheres to the necessary standard. I find it hard to theorise a solution that addresses both the importance of emancipating women from the traditional expectation that they focus mainly on reproduction and the idea that domestic work should possibly be included in the waged capitalist economy, as the latter campaign perhaps does not do enough to address the fact that there is an extra pressure on women to carry the majority of reproductive work. However, I think it is clear that something must be done to liberate women from the hardship of time consuming unwaged labour. This will require substantial institutional changes such as implementing childcare programs into workplaces and furthering paid paternity and maternity leave- to both encourage men to share the responsibility of private sphere work and to rightly compensate both parents for it. It is important to strike a balance between compensation and liberation for and from reproductive work, if we wish to achieve gender equality.

Lara, Year 11. University High School

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