What Happens When Women Stop Working Low-Paid, Flexible Jobs?

An Excerpt from the Newsletter.

It’s no surprise that a female writer, not a male one, imagined that a system of house elves who prepare meals, clean robes, sweep hearths — all the annoying, time consuming, boring, but essential tasks of life — so other magical beings can fly around on their broom sticks without worry. House elves are unpaid and dressed in rags, but the wizards rationalize their exploitation, JK Rowling writes, by saying that the elves are driven by their passion to serve their masters. 

It’s not hard to draw a line from Rowling’s fictional house elves to the very real women who do those thankless tasks within their homes. Sociologists write about the Second Shift of cooking, cleaning, and childcare that women do, after they return from a full day of work. Men might “help out,” but women take on the bigger burden. 

That second class status in homes has been replicated in the workplace. In banking, women handle the contracts for the stockbrokers. In publishing, they correct the commas and footnotes for male writers and take orders from the mostly male management. In higher education, they are the majority of adjunct professors, who now compose 75 percent of the professoriate. In education, they are the non-unionized, contingent substitute teachers, bus drivers, special education aides, and lunch aides. 

What happens when those low-wage, invisible workers suddenly refuse to do those jobs? The systems collapses.

Read the rest here.

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