ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Domesticity and Its Substitute

Lockdown and Beyond

During the lockdown, the heightened burden of domestic work has been shouldered by women. This article analyses the class dimension involved in domestic work, namely the devolving of the bulk of such work by upper-class women onto domestic workers. The persistent vulnerability of domestic workers during the lockdown and its later phase is examined. The undervaluation and feminisation of paid domestic work has reinforced the gendered image of housework. In the situation of lockdown, wherein paid domestic “help” was unavailable, upper-class women were easily pushed back into gendered domesticity, proving the inadequacy of paid domestic services as a solution to mundane, back-breaking household work. The necessity of transforming the private nature of domestic work, which is more in the direct interest of workers than compared to their richer counterparts, is also further explored.

The months of April and May 2020 have exposed women to a high quantum of routine, back-breaking and mundane housework. The sudden enhan­ced exposure to such work has ­undoub­tedly reasserted the segmented status of women within households. A keen sense of gender division has enve­loped the daily lives of the majority of women even within the upper class, revea­ling that they cannot expect equal treatment for merely belonging to the same class as their male relatives. Accor­ding to some sources, the resulting friction has contributed to a spike in marital discord and domestic vio­lence during the lockdown period. In the emerging literature on the rising burden of housework for women, apart from recognition of the fact that the lockdown has resulted in all the family members staying back at home, the more crucial factor identified is the unavailability of domestic workers (EPW Engage 2020). Such literature, ­argues that with the entire burden of enhanced housework falling on the shoulders of women, their inability to “deliver” has cost them in terms of growing verbal and physical abuse. It is also speculated that the pressures of working from home have added to the aggression of male relatives—an opinion that is based on rising complaints of domestic violence registered with bodies like the National Commission for Women. What is, of course, missing in these analyses of women’s domesticity and the lockdown is the underlying class angle, namely the dynamics by which upper-class women have been subletting housework to the domestic worker, and the wider repercussions of this on women in general.

Upper-class Domesticity

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Updated On : 16th Jun, 2021
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