Coronavirus and Care Part 2: Bringing About Change

Coronavirus and Care Part 2: Bringing About Change

Women

Coronavirus and Care Part 2:

Bringing About Change

Protest sign advocating love

17th July 2020

 

This article forms part of our women and coronavirus series. Part One here.

 

Yesterday we started a discussion about how the coronavirus crisis is shining a light on the gendered nature of care work. The virus is also causing a shift in consciousness regarding the value of care work and caring principles to our lives. This appears a crucial time to harness the dialogues that are currently happening around care and achieve radical change in this area. In thinking about how to bring about change, several perspectives are helpful.

Firstly, I think the work of care feminists can offer crucial insights at this time. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, ethics of care, also called care ethics, is a feminist philosophical perspective that uses a relational and context-bound approach toward morality and decision making.

Care ethics emerged from the work of Carol Gilligan, a social and moral psychologist, in the 1980s. Gilligan researched the difference in male and female responses to moral dilemmas. Through experiments, she found that women tended to respond using a different voice of moral reasoning which she called the ‘voice of care’. This voice was based principally on values of relationship, and thinking that was contextual and narrative. By contrast, men tended to apply moral principles universally to different situations. Gilligan called this the ‘voice of justice’, and this ethical juxtaposition is sometimes referred to as the care-justice debate.

While assuming that women are more naturally caring than men has been criticised for being essentialist, it is worth pointing out that second-generation care feminists view care as central to human life, rather than linking it to gender. Care ethics has also been labelled apolitical and irrelevant beyond the domestic sphere. However, care feminist Joan Tronto understands care in much broader terms, defining it as ‘everything we do to maintain, continue and repair our world so that we can live in it as well as possible’.

Care ethics is fundamentally based upon relationships and interconnectedness, particularly the relationships of care-givers and receivers. This is fitting because the coronavirus has newly revealed our independence and the value of community and relationships. The care ethics perspective recognises the centrality of care in everyone’s lives (again, especially true in a global pandemic) and the need for care work to be adequately valued.

In yesterday’s article, I referred to a phenomenon known as the ‘care drain’, referring to the fact that the majority of women who make up care workers (particularly those in the most precarious, low-status jobs) are from migrant or ethnic minority backgrounds. Because feminist care ethics has a world view that is relational, contextual and narrative, centring on women’s and other marginalised groups’ experiences, it can be a useful lens through which to interrogate the structural issues and power relations at the heart of the feminisation of care and survival, and to seek to design better, more caring policies and politics as a result of this investigation.

Feminist care ethics recognises that a feminisation of care, both in formal and informal care work, is wrong due to the burden it places on women, but also because, according to Fiona Robinson, “men are not participating in this aspect of what it means to be a human being”.

A practical approach to combating this lack of participation can be seen in the work of photographer Johan Bävman. Featuring portraits of the small percentage of Swedish men who choose to stay at home with their child for at least six months, his Swedish Dads photo-exhibition used a care ethics approach to shift societal attitudes and values and cut through centuries of conditioning. Despite Sweden having one of the most generous parental leave systems in the world, enabling parents to stay at home with their child for 480 days (while receiving a state allowance), women were still using 95% of the leave days. It was not “until the Swedish state’s support of the photo project…that a new groundbreaking imagery of fatherhood emerged”. Swedish Dads has now been exhibited in 65 countries and has been turned into a successful book that is on its third edition.

This creative approach could be easily replicated in other contexts, i.e. to highlight other marginalised groups and voices and thereby achieve seismic shifts in societal norms. This is helpful as we begin to think of ways to embed the values of care in our society, and to orient our politics and policies towards more caring ethics.

Secondly, and relatedly, many other theorists besides care feminists have advocated for placing values of care (and love) at the epicentre of our politics and policies and suggested ways to bring this change about. The wisdom they offer is crucial too. Central to American philosopher Martha Nussbaum’s text, Political Emotions, is the idea that “loving values” such as compassion and commitment can guide action and inform policy. For example, Nussbaum visualises a health service built on ‘care, concern, and moral equality’, which ‘rather than shunting people from service to service would “wrap around people”, nurturing them throughout their lives.’ For Nussbaum, the media, public projects and artistic endeavour can play a crucial role in whatever governments do to express, and bring about, love in politics and the public sphere. Some of the valuable lessons to draw from Nussbaum’s work is love’s potential to be an inspiring value which binds people together and motivates collective action; and her attention to creativity as something which can bring forth love in a way that normal politics perhaps cannot.

Feminist and activist bell hooks also promotes love as a political process to transform systems of injustice such as capitalism, patriarchy, and racism. She writes that:

 

 

A love ethic emphasises the importance of service to others. Within the value system of the United States any task or job that is related to ‘service’ is devalued. Service strengthens our capacity to know compassion and deepens our insight. To serve another, I cannot see them as an object, I must see their subjecthood.’

Referencing Martin Luther King’s declaration, “I have decided to love”, hooks says she shares the belief and the conviction that it is in choosing love, and beginning with love as the ethical foundation for politics, that we are best placed to transform society in ways that enhance the collective good. In All About Love, she notes that “All the great social movements for freedom and justice in our society have promoted a love ethic”.

Both Nussbaum and hooks share a specific recognition of the importance of emotions and values as a galvanising and motivating force that can inspire collective action, and which can be harnessed to bring about change.

And Ireland’s 2015 Campaign for Marriage Equality shows that harnessing emotions and people’s positive values can indeed be a powerful tool for securing genuinely transformative change. Dr Gráinne Healy was the chair of the campaign which culminated in the successful marriage equality referendum. It was a historic result with 62% of the Irish population voting ‘Yes’ to same-sex marriage in a country that was traditionally considered one of the most socially conservative in Western Europe. 

Dr Healy has since published a best practice guide on values-based campaigning in the hope of enabling other activist groups to replicate her success. Her key findings are understanding the values at the core of your campaign, tell the human story and  connect with people’s emotions and core positive values:

 

Values based campaigning involves leveraging people’s emotions and connecting people with values they hold dear or to which they aspire. It connects individuals to groups or communities. It increases engagement of supporters. It attracts those open to moving towards your proposition, because they now understand that your proposition links to their values and their aspirations

During this pandemic, people are hosting and tuning in to webinars and Zoom calls as never before. This time of global pause offers a crucial opportunity to bring the personal stories and lived experiences of women and other marginalised groups to the fore, sharing them with different and more widespread audiences. This can open up fresh spaces for connection, collaboration, and exchange, bringing new actors to the table; and allowing groups to collectively mobilise around feminist, care-oriented, principles.

The success of the Swedish Dads Project and Ireland’s Marriage Equality campaign point to the value of interdisciplinary cooperation and creativity in bringing about change on the issue of care. It could be beneficial to explore combining  the perspective of feminist care ethics with other disciplines, especially creative ones. There is also merit in drawing upon broader sociological insights and social research in this endeavour. For instance, researching the values and messaging of love, care (or both) that will best connect individuals to the change we need to see. 

Already there is a strong counter-narrative of austerity politics and a return to the status-quo emerging. Economic stories are compelling, but so too are stories of care and love. Why not harness their power? The time is now.

 

 

 

 

 

Featured photo by Ben Mater

 

 

Coronavirus and Care: Redefining the Value of Care

Coronavirus and Care: Redefining the Value of Care

Women

Coronavirus and Care Part 1:

Redefining the Value of Care

Care worker with elderly person in a wheelchair
16th July 2020

 

This article forms part of our women and coronavirus series.

 

Every crisis presents a possibility. This crisis, the coronavirus crisis, is shining new light on care and its gendered nature. The good news is that, at the same time that women’s care burden is being exacerbated, society is waking up to the importance of care in our day-to-day lives and our flourishing as human beings. There is a crucial window of opportunity to harness this awareness and push for real change.

In late December 2019, Covid-19 arrived and the world as we knew it swiftly turned upside down. In our coronavirus-world, care (or lack thereof) is a critical issue. The pandemic proportions of this disease require enormous amounts of care at virtually every level of society.

While the virus has brought about an overarching care crisis, many people are experiencing crises in care that are not an inevitable result of the pandemic, but rather are directly linked to the unfit-for-purpose state of public infrastructure and the low value placed upon care in many countries.

For example, in Ireland, we witnessed our nursing homes become centres of a national catastrophe, rather than centres of caring for our elderly and most vulnerable citizens. There have been similar patterns in other congregated residential settings, such as Direct Provision centres.  There were issues with a lack of PPE for health-workers, reflective of a broader societal failure to protect the caregivers.

Despite a prevailing narrative that the virus is ‘a great equaliser’, not everyone is being affected equally and experiences of the virus differ significantly. As in previous pandemics, like Ebola and Zika, the gendered impacts of this virus soon became apparent.   One of the main reasons for the different impact upon women is the fact that care work (or the labour of care) is highly gendered, whether it is paid or unpaid.

Already, women carry out two-thirds of all care work done around the world, and much of this work is either unpaid or poorly paid. There are studies which show the value of this work is about two-thirds of the total market economy (ca. 10.8 trillion US dollars each year).

In the formal care sector, women are disproportionately impacted by coronavirus as they make up over 70% of the global health and social care workforce, according to WHO figures, and are thus more likely to be exposed in their workplace. If one expands the definition of the care workforce to include other ‘caring’ occupations like cleaners and supermarket cashiers, EIGE data shows women make up 95% of cleaners and workers, and 82% of those working in supermarkets.

Women are also more likely to take on the burden of care at home, and globally women’s domestic burdens are increasing exponentially due to the virus. For these reasons, the pandemic has been called a crisis for feminism; and a need to work to shift the balance of care between women and men is evident. In Ireland, a recent CSO report found as follows:

 

“Women are more likely to report Covid-19 related childcare issues than men. More women than men are caring for a dependent family member or friend because of the crisis and a higher percentage of women are finding it more difficult to work from home with family around than men.”

A NWCI survey also found that 85% of Irish women have increased care responsibilities since COVID-19.

Of course, it is necessary to think deeper than ‘women’ as a single category. The NWCI recently said that Traveller women are twice as likely to be looking after home and family, for instance. And, of the women who make up care workers, particularly in the most precarious, low-status jobs, many are from migrant or ethnic minority backgrounds, something which care feminist Fiona Robinson has referred to as the ‘care drain’. In the UK, it recently emerged that one in three Britons pays a domestic cleaner,  and in 93% of cases they are female, and disproportionately women of colour or migrant workers. In Ireland, there are many migrant women workers in our home care sector and in the nursing home sector, some of whom are still living in Ireland’s direct provision system.

These women can face layers of discrimination and lack of access to proper services, as well as heightened risks of exposure to the virus due to their overcrowded living circumstances – yet another example of the failure to protect our caregivers!

These issues have deep roots and are embedded in a broader culture of structural discrimination with gender, racial, class and other dimensions. However, the worsening of these issues due to coronavirus has led to the positive view that the crisis makes them more visible, harder to ignore or sweep under the rug. Another positive is that the crisis is redefining the status of care work in our society. For instance, people in many countries have been lighting candles for and clapping care workers, acknowledging the vital work they do. There has been a societal redefinition of who the essential workers are: the food workers, social workers, cleaners, supermarket assistants, transport workers, home help workers, and those providing support for victims of domestic violence. Many are women.

The virus has revealed our interdependency as a society, and that our health depends on each other; and the value of community and relationships. The realisation that we are only as healthy and protected as our most vulnerable populations is contributing to a growing understanding of the structural challenges around care-giving and access to care in our societies. Undoubtedly, this is causing many people to realise they want to live in a more caring society, and that we need caring policies to flourish as human beings.

There has also been a redefinition of the leadership qualities that are desirable in a crisis, and beyond, with a shift towards praising qualities of care, compassion, and love discernible, prompted in part by the extreme divergence in political response by different national leaders, and public criticism to many of the measures being enacted. This has highlighted the severe problems that arise when politicians don’t ‘care’ about their citizens, including worrying roll-backs on human rights and women’s rights. And – likely due to the lack of women’s involvement in decision-making around the response efforts – many other countries, including Ireland, adopted what might be called ‘uncaring’ or unthinking policies towards women and minority groups – the initial lack of access to the COVID-19 Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme for women returning from maternity leave here is one example.

Already there is a strong counter-narrative of austerity politics and a return to the status-quo emerging. But coronavirus has shown us that we need policies that will unambiguously value care and care work, and that will work to redistribute care work more fairly; as well as politics which is modelled upon broader caring values such as care for the environment and a Green New Deal. This cannot be a mere topical ointment. It will be necessary to go deep and address the root causes of the feminisation of care and other forms of structural discrimination.

Many actors, including civil society organisations and women’s organisations, have been calling for gender-equal, even feminist policies, both as part of the pandemic-response and beyond. They are demanding transformation across many areas including care. With society waking up to the value of care work and of ‘caring’ as a desirable value in our politicians and their policies, this appears a pivotal moment to harness the dialogues that are happening around care and push to make these policies and politics a reality.

How could such a paradigm shift be achieved?

 

Coronavirus and Care Part Two will be published tomorrow.

 

 

Featured photo by Dominik Lange

 

 

Why We Need Feminist Leadership in a Pandemic (And Beyond)

Why We Need Feminist Leadership in a Pandemic (And Beyond)

Let’s begin with some stark statistics. 49.55% of the global population is female. Yet, the global participation rate of women in national parliaments is 24%. Fewer than 10% of countries are led by women. 

 

The good news? Many of these women leaders are fast becoming household names (for the right reasons) due to their calm and creative handling of politics, including during the coronavirus crisis. 

 

A recent Forbes article discussed the common denominator in countries with the best coronavirus response: women leaders. It highlighted how the approaches of Angela Merkel in Germany, Tsai Ing-wen in Taiwan, Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand, Katrín Jakobsdóttir in Iceland, Sanna Marin (the world’s youngest Head of State) in Finland, Mette Frederiksen in Denmark, and Erna Solberg in Norway are “gifting us an attractive alternative way of wielding power”

 

Ardern in particular has been praised for her leadership style as well as for her proactive action in moving swiftly to lockdown her country (when there were only six cases) and making all those entering the country observe a strict quarantine regime. As a result of this decisive ‘elimination strategy’, New Zealand has had an extremely low number of deaths. Ardern’s proactive strategy is very different from  the more reactive decision-making strategies many other countries are following. 

 

While time will ultimately decide which countries emerge on top of the coronavirus league tables, the signs are positive that countries with women at the helm will have some of the best outcomes. 

 

Women are often said to bring different leadership qualities to the table, and the Forbes article highlights the leadership lessons these women have been teaching us: truth, decisiveness, positive use of technology and social media, care, compassion – even ‘love’, demonstrating how these characteristics have been revealed through their words and actions. 

 

These approaches can be contrasted with those displayed by some male leaders who have been stealing the Covid-spotlight recently: Donald Trump in the U.S., Boris Johnson in the U.K., Jair Bolsanaro in Brazil, Viktor Orban in Hungary, Vladamir Putin in Russia. These leaders have been using the Covid-19 crisis as a power grab opportunity, and have gambled with the health of their citizens in the process. 

 

Times of crisis can act as a focus for what is truly important, on a political as well as an individual level. Covid-19 has exposed the deep-rooted structural issues underpinning our social, political and economic systems. It has helped shine a light on many ‘silent pandemics’ which have been lurking below the surface: the public health emergency, the domestic violence epidemic, and poverty crises even in seemingly ‘rich’ countries. It has shown how we are emphatically not ‘all in this together’, with inequities of gender, race, ethnicity and sexuality (among others) greatly contributing to vulnerability to, and experiences of, the outbreak.

 

Many different types of leadership are  being modelled for us right now. This is a globally significant time to take stock and (re)evaluate – what kind of politics do we want to have post-this? 

 

Leila Billing’s recent article, ‘What does Feminist Leadership look like in a Pandemic’, explores what feminist leadership can offer us: an intersectional focus (a recognition that ‘we’re only as safe – or empowered – as the most vulnerable among us’), which also aims to make the invisible (the silent pandemics, the power asymmetries, the inequities) visible. Billing emphasises the need to imagine alternative visions for our society, and to create cultures based upon mutual care. 

 

Many countries have already begun implementing feminist foreign and domestic policies – this is something that deserves renewed attention as we rebuild post-Covid-19. The National Women’s Council of Ireland, for instance, has just published a Feminist Future Programme For Government document, calling on the next government to significantly invest in public services (including comprehensive public childcare) and infrastructure – an effort which deserves our support. This is not to say that all existing ‘feminist’ policies are perfect – far from it (many display inconsistencies) – however, they are a crucial starting point in imagining a more inclusive future for all. 

 

The unique experience of women at this time can help to inform gender-proof Covid-19 solutions, and inspire a vision for a post-coronavirus society. It is essential that we celebrate the achievements of female leaders in their handling of this crisis, ensuring that care, compassion and creativity become the cornerstone of politics in the future. 

 

 

 

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

 

 

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Miss Representation (2011) Reveals a Glaring Reality Still Relevant in 2020

The documentary film, Miss Representation, came out in 2011, yet it remains shockingly resonant today in 2020. The film exposes how mainstream media and culture contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. As an American woman, Miss Representation strongly resonates with me, but its message is relevant to women and girls everywhere.

Women and the Military: Harmful ‘Feminist’ Recruitment and Whitmore

The British Army has a poor track record when it comes to women’s rights. With this in mind, it is clear why many were sceptical of Whitmore defending her collaboration with the army in the name of feminist discourse. While the British Army’s use of feminist language in their PR campaigns could be interpreted as a sign of progress, it is important to question the intentions behind this move and, most importantly, who benefits from it.

Tampon Taboo: The Ad Ban that Displayed the Existing Social Stigma of Periods

The Tampax and Tea ad was banned in July as a result of only 84 complaints. It is maddening to think that anyone could call Tampons and Tea demeaning to women yet have no issue with the majority of unrealistic adverts for menstrual products.

Misconceptions of ‘The Pandemic as the Greatest Equaliser’ – Growing Challenges to Gender Equality in the Workplace during the Covid-19 Crisis

Many of us have heard the common phrase, ‘covid is the great equaliser’, being used to express our shared experience and hardship of the impact of the pandemic. However, upon reflection, our individual lived experiences of the pandemic cannot be described as anyway close to equal. One perhaps unexpected inequality that has been amplified during the pandemic is gender inequality.

Covid-19 and the Heightened Risks in Human Trafficking

Today, July 30th 2020, marks the United Nations’ World Day against Trafficking in Persons, established to raise awareness about the plight of victims and to promote and protect their rights. Experts have warned that the Covid-19 crisis has put human trafficking victims at risk of further exploitation.

Period Poverty is an Unknown Consequence of Coronavirus Shutdowns

Covid-19 has aggravated existing societal inequalities. One issue which has been brought to light is that of period poverty. Period poverty exists and is exacerbated by Covid-19 and the virus has revealed the cracks in our system. One of these cracks is the lack of support and supplies for people who have periods.

Mother Earth’s Call to Action – Earth Day 2020

Mother Earth’s Call to Action – Earth Day 2020

Today, 22nd April, is International Mother Earth Day but this is an Earth Day unlike any other. With events moving online due to the coronavirus, this year’s 50th anniversary event is the first-ever Digital Earth Day. This Mother Earth Day also coincides with the Super Year of Biodiversity, begging the question – are we really taking care of our Earth? 

 

Mother Earth is a delicately balanced ecosystem supporting a diverse array of species, including our own. While biological diversity is an indicator of the Earth’s health, its loss is “a benchmark of humanity’s current failure to understand that we are an inextricable part of Nature”, according to the UN Harmony with Nature initiative. 

 

The UN’s environment chief, Inger Anderson, recently said that coronavirus is nature ‘sending us a message’ and that, while short-term efforts need to prevent the virus’s spread, the long-term response must tackle habitat and biodiversity loss. Otherwise, it is feared that the coronavirus outbreak may just be the beginning of mass pandemics.  

 

We are living in the ‘Anthropocene’ – the so-called age of man; a human-influenced age defined by our massive impact on the planet. Biodiversity loss in the 21st century has been termed the “sixth extinction” as humanity has wiped out 60% of animal populations since 1970

 

Now, research is emerging that humanity’s destruction of biodiversity actually creates the conditions for new viruses and diseases such as Covid-19 to arise. This is because zoonotic diseases (diseases which spread from animals to humans) emerge from “biodiversity hot-spots” like tropical rainforests and bushmeat markets. Our destruction and disruption of complex ecosystems through human activities like mining, logging, and road-building causes us to come into contact with animals (some of which we also trap or eat), shaking the virus loose from its natural hosts. Our globalised world, with its constant movement of goods and people, then provides the perfect conditions for the virus to travel further and faster than ever before.  

 

Thus, while coronavirus is a human tragedy on a massive scale, it is not an unpredictable event but a reflection of our failure to care for our planetary home. In the same way that coronavirus is exposing the fact that we have a global public health emergency, it highlights how we have a planetary health emergency, too. 

 

Like any healthcare system, planetary health depends on its ‘health care workers’, including environmental human rights defenders who are at the frontline of environmental protection. Many are indigenous peoples, frequently women, struggling to protect their lands, environment and rights from corporate interests. This is often at great risk to their lives as governments turn a blind eye to the violence and intimidation they face; even despite research showing that protecting the land and rights of indigenous peoples is the best way to keep forests standing, and thereby reduce biodiversity loss  and habitat loss. 

 

Ironically, in Brazil, the coronavirus is weakening protection for the rainforest and the people living there, despite it being exactly this destruction and loss of habitat that allows zoonotic diseases to escape. This example illustrates just how much we, as a species, have become disconnected from nature, and from the reality that we depend on Mother Earth for our collective survival. 

 

Asking if coronavirus is ‘good or bad’ for biodiversity and habitat loss or for climate change is perhaps the wrong question. But this doesn’t mean that there is no right answer. We need to pay attention to the connection between the wellbeing of humans, other living beings, and Mother Earth – and to imagine how we can rebuild a post-coronavirus society that is safe for everyone and for our planet.   

 

For suggestions on how you can join the call to action on International Mother Earth Day, see https://www.stand.ie/earth-day-celebration-activities/. There are loads of different events to get involved in, including virtual panel discussions on women and the environment, and global conversations with indigenous people who are on the frontlines of environmental protection

 

 

Photo by Dennis Jarvis on Flickr

 

 

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#SecondHandSeptember: A Sustainable Fashion Story with @Traashion

WE’RE HALFWAY THROUGH #SECONDHANDSEPTEMBER! 👕👗👖 Are you sticking to your commitments? We chat with the amazing Instagram slow fashion advocate Alba Mullen, aka @traashion, whose words and wisdom will inspire you on your own journey to sustainable fashion.

#SecondHandSeptember: 10 Sustainable Fashion Labels You Should Get Behind

This Second Hand September, check out our list of 10 sustainable fashion brands worth investing in – able, tentree, boden, kotn, thought clothing, ref jeans, girlfriend collective, cuyana, amour vert, everlane.

Friendship SPO: ‘Nothing will happen if voices from the field aren’t put on a plateau’

Runa Khan, Founder & Executive Director of Friendship SPO talked to us ahead of this year’s STAND Student Festival about climate migration and Friendship’s work in empowering at-risk communities who face environmental and human rights issues.

PPE: “The Protector and the Polluter”

Masks and gloves play a vital role in protecting the public against contracting Covid-19. The growing concern PPE is its role in creating waste and damaging our environment. With daily life now accommodating to new health policies the more we throw away PPE the more we will have to deal with waste.

Sustainable Fashion and YOU

If we want to shop in an environmentally friendly way, pay fair wages to the workers and use fewer resources in the production process, we have to pay more.
However, there is another solution: sustainable fashion.

The Emerald Isle? Taking a Closer Look at Dublin’s Biodiversity

With people realizing the importance of nature and green spaces during their confinement in lockdown, and it being the International Day for Biological Diversity, let’s see how Dublin city stacks up.

Let’s Talk About Coronavirus And Women

Let’s Talk About Coronavirus And Women

Like most things in life, coronavirus has a gendered impact. Previous experience with viruses like Ebola and Zika has shown how these crises tend to have particularly harmful effects on women and girls and reinforce gender inequality.  

 

Now, although it is early days, we can see similar patterns emerging regarding the coronavirus – including within Ireland. While initial data indicates that women are less susceptible to the virus than men, there are several key reasons why women are impacted more by this coronavirus. 

 

Firstly, front-line health professionals and workers are more likely to be women, which means women are more likely to be exposed to this virus (with all of the related impacts on their health, wealth and wellbeing). Globally, around 70% of the global health workforce are women. 

 

Secondly, women are more likely to be casual or part-time workers without sick leave or other work entitlements putting them at a higher risk of wage loss or unemployment.  This is especially the case for low income or migrant women who tend to be employed in hospitality, retail or other service industries. Women’s wages also take longer to recover than men’s after crises – as evidenced during the Ebola crisis. 

 

Thirdly, the coronavirus is being called a ‘disaster for feminism’ by The Atlantic – because as children are sent home, decisions will have to be made regarding who will mind them. This will likely mean a considerable increase in the volume of unpaid work carried out by women. Women are also likely to be responsible for looking after COVID-19 patients at home. It is feared that women’s work and incomes will suffer more than men’s during this period ‘making women’s independence a silent victim of the pandemic’. Globally, girl’s schooling will also be disproportionately impacted by school closures (including in non-obvious ways, e.g. moves to teleschooling due to the digital divide issues many women face).  

 

Fourthly, domestic and sexual violence rise during crises like these – termed the ‘silent epidemic’. Not all homes are safe, and so women are at heightened risk of controlling behaviour, verbal abuse and violence during times of quarantine and lockdown. Rights groups in Ireland have been working to draw attention to these issues

 

Fifthly, women face challenges in accessing the services they need, including sexual and reproductive services and services for maternal care. During the Ebola crisis, more women died of obstetric complications than the disease, but these secondary deaths attract less attention

 

I could continue because there are so many ways in which women are impacted differently to men – but I will stop there. However, it must be emphasised that already-disadvantaged women, including migrant women, homeless women, and women in direct provision, face double layers of discrimination and have more limited access to healthcare and protective items than the general population. During this time of collective stress and uncertainty, we can perhaps experience greater solidarity with these women whose daily experience already involves a high degree of stress from their living conditions and uncertainty about their futures. 

 

In Ireland, groups like the NWCI and Women’s Aid are doing Trojan work to remind women they are not alone during this time and making sure key supports for women are continued. Recent confirmations from the Irish government that it is safe for migrants (documented and undocumented) to access essential services are also essential. However, more needs to be done by our government to ensure the most vulnerable are protected during this crisis.

 

The increased burden faced by women during COVID19 highlights the ways in which women are disadvantaged within our society – still saddled with the brunt of unpaid care work and domestic work, at heightened risk of domestic violence and abuse, and faced with gender gaps at work and at home. 

 

While one might expect the unique experiences of women at times like these to mean they will be included in decision-making around the crisis, and in gender-proofing our decision-making, this is unfortunately not the case; in fact, gender issues are being largely ignored. And, valuable opportunities are being missed to gather data or conduct research on the gendered-impact of the coronavirus which could help us better prepare for future epidemics. 

 

As we face into the uncertainty of the coronavirus crisis, it is important that we do not treat gender as a side issue – there is too much at stake. Rather, we might see this as a crucial opportunity for leadership based on principles of intersectionality and mutual care. 

 

More to come from STAND on how the coronavirus impacts women over the next few weeks and months – stay tuned. 

 

 

Photo by Tumisu from Pixabay

 

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!

 

 

 

Miss Representation (2011) Reveals a Glaring Reality Still Relevant in 2020

The documentary film, Miss Representation, came out in 2011, yet it remains shockingly resonant today in 2020. The film exposes how mainstream media and culture contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. As an American woman, Miss Representation strongly resonates with me, but its message is relevant to women and girls everywhere.

Women and the Military: Harmful ‘Feminist’ Recruitment and Whitmore

The British Army has a poor track record when it comes to women’s rights. With this in mind, it is clear why many were sceptical of Whitmore defending her collaboration with the army in the name of feminist discourse. While the British Army’s use of feminist language in their PR campaigns could be interpreted as a sign of progress, it is important to question the intentions behind this move and, most importantly, who benefits from it.

Tampon Taboo: The Ad Ban that Displayed the Existing Social Stigma of Periods

The Tampax and Tea ad was banned in July as a result of only 84 complaints. It is maddening to think that anyone could call Tampons and Tea demeaning to women yet have no issue with the majority of unrealistic adverts for menstrual products.

Misconceptions of ‘The Pandemic as the Greatest Equaliser’ – Growing Challenges to Gender Equality in the Workplace during the Covid-19 Crisis

Many of us have heard the common phrase, ‘covid is the great equaliser’, being used to express our shared experience and hardship of the impact of the pandemic. However, upon reflection, our individual lived experiences of the pandemic cannot be described as anyway close to equal. One perhaps unexpected inequality that has been amplified during the pandemic is gender inequality.

Covid-19 and the Heightened Risks in Human Trafficking

Today, July 30th 2020, marks the United Nations’ World Day against Trafficking in Persons, established to raise awareness about the plight of victims and to promote and protect their rights. Experts have warned that the Covid-19 crisis has put human trafficking victims at risk of further exploitation.

Period Poverty is an Unknown Consequence of Coronavirus Shutdowns

Covid-19 has aggravated existing societal inequalities. One issue which has been brought to light is that of period poverty. Period poverty exists and is exacerbated by Covid-19 and the virus has revealed the cracks in our system. One of these cracks is the lack of support and supplies for people who have periods.