If you do most of the housework and childcare in your household, I encourage you to join me in striking against doing any of it on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2020. If you can.
International Women’s Day has been celebrated in countries around the world for over 100 years and marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. What better day to acknowledge the value of the free labor women do in the home. And its impact on their earnings. Not to mention its impact on a woman’s ability to realize her full potential in this lifetime.
According to one study, women spend about 4.5 hours per day performing unpaid labor that “produces” future workers and consumers. That’s 1,642.5 hours per year. According to another, 70% of men with incomes in the top 1% have stay-at-home spouses who manage the household. The UN estimates the value of unpaid care and domestic work at 10 to 39 per cent of Gross Domestic Product.
Speaking personally, I spend roughly 4 hours a day managing our household. It’s not just the dishes, the laundry, the cleaning. It’s planning the childcare — which I’m privileged enough to afford — so I can work outside the home. It’s calendaring the kids’ activities. Grocery shopping. Clothes shopping. Making dinner. Dealing with teachers. Ensuring homework gets done. Planning vacations, school breaks, family gatherings. Taking kids to the doctor. Driving them to activities.
How do we get our partners (if we have them) to share in this work more equitably? The economist Diane Elson came up with a three-part framework. She dubbed it the 3 Rs: recognize, reduce, redistribute. Striking is one way to accomplish the first R — recognition.
But what would really happen if we went on strike? Would the undone housework get done? Or would the dirty dishes just pile up in the sink? Would the strike have to last longer than a day before our partners finally pitched in? Would it take two days? More? Would it take a mess so big that the disarray forced capitulation? Could we hold out long enough to let our households slide to that point?
However long we strike, it will highlight just how much unpaid labor we do. Maybe that will help redistribute it. And by redistributing it, maybe we can close the gender pay gap sooner than in the predicted 200 years. Maybe it will also help us to stop expecting women to shoulder a disproportionate amount of this work. And most importantly, maybe, just maybe, we can finally give the women in our lives an equal opportunity to realize all that they can become in theirs.