Sheila de Rosa

Sheila de Rosa / News / Sun 27 Jan 2019



Women's work is a term used particularly in the West to indicate work that is believed to be exclusively the domain of women and is associated with particular jobs for women. It is particularly used with regard to work that a mother or wife will perform within a family and household.

The term, women's work, may indicate a role with children as defined by nature in that only women are biologically capable of performing them: pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding.

It may also refer to professions that involve child-centred functions like midwife and wet nurse. Women's work may refer to roles involved with raising children, particularly within the home like nappy changing and related hygiene activities like toilet training, bathing, clothing, feeding, monitoring, and education.

Referring to women’s work may also include functions such as that of teacher, nurse, governess, nanny, care worker and au pair, and may also refer to roles related to housekeeping such as cooking, sewing, ironing, and cleaning and may also refer to professions that include these functions such as maid and cook.

Though much of women's work is indoors, some is outdoors such as fetching water, grocery shopping or food foraging, and gardening.

When women leave the domestic environment their work has usually been involved with the low-status micro-processes of textiles production like spinning the yarns, weaving the yarns, sewing the material and selling the clothes; secretarial work like typing, shorthand, telephonists, accounts, post office; the production of miniature components like micro-chips, valves, cogs, wheels. Women were supposed to be the insignificant and inconspicuous, invisible and unconnected element, kept apart by demands of home, family and husbands, isolated in this way they couldn’t organise themselves into communities, unions, self-help or pressure groups after the fashion of men.

Middle-class jobs like teaching and nursing were there only until their marriages, and always working under the guidance of a patriarchal hierarchies of doctors, headmasters and managers.

Those women, the guerrillas in their midst, were missed, ignored or overlooked. Those apparently well-behaved creatures who spent their time making lists, detailing procedures, typing, sorting, coding, folding, switching, transmitting, receiving, wrapping, packaging, licking the envelopes were sentient, intelligent and thinking all along.

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