One of the ways women are routinely devalued in our society is by being expected to perform unpaid labor — work that, whether or not it's traditionally defined as "work," requires time and energy, yet yields no monetary compensation. While we often talk about how women make less money for the same work, we don't always recognize that when we use a less narrow, stereotypically masculine definition of "work," women are actually doing a lot of work that pays nothing. If we really want economic equality, we need to start compensating the unpaid labor women do, stop making them do it, or at least expect men to do the same amount of it.
Why unpaid labor a problem, though? Well, because not compensating people for their labor sends the message that their labor is worthless, and because it puts women at an economic disadvantage. Which, by the way, they're already at, since women make about 80 percent of what men do at best (for women of color, the figure is even lower) and pay higher prices for the same products.
To illustrate, here are some everyday ways women are expected to perform free labor that we may not even think about. If you've been asking this kind of labor of women, challenge yourself to demand less of it and take on more of it yourself.
Many of us grew up in "traditional" households where our moms handled the majority of the housework, and as a consequence of this gender role, we may as adults end up expecting the women in our lives to do the same. One Unicef report found that even as children, girls spend 40 percent more time than boys doing chores.
The great majority of the work involved in childcare still falls on women, even when they're also working outside the home, according to Working Mother Research Institute survey. This is largely due to stereotypes that women are naturally more nurturing, which also can deprive men of the chance to find fulfillment as parents.
3. Elder Care
The expectation that women care for others doesn't end after the kids leave the house. A study presented at the 2014 annual meeting of the American Sociological Association found that daughters spend twice as much time caring for parents as sons.
4. Providing Emotional Support
Of course, we should all support our friends when they're having problems. But a problem occurs when women are disproportionately expected to provide this support, especially when it's requested in ways that infringe on their boundaries.
5. Explaining Social Justice
The burden to explain feminism and other social justice issues often falls on women, people of color, and other marginalized groups. While this makes a certain amount of sense because these people have personal experience with these issues, privileged people should do whatever research they can themselves, keeping in mind that the person they're talking to probably receives the same questions over and over again.
6. Relationship Upkeep
In relationships between men and women, the women are often the ones who end up initiating serious discussions about the relationship and talking about problems the couple's having. This work is crucial and shouldn't be left to one person.
7. Dealing With Misogyny
It takes a lot out of you to constantly worry about your safety on the street, gracefully brush off sexist remarks in the workplace (or call them out in a way that won't get you fired), and either cater to beauty ideals or defy them and risk disapproval. In this way, women are constantly doing unpaid labor, and it can affect their ability to all forms of labor every day.