Women's Work [en]

Women’s Work : The First 20,000 Years : Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times by Elisabeth Wayland Barber is a book of Aleika’s that I read in India, and that I started reading again this afternoon during Akirno’s nap.

This book is definately a must-read for anybody interested in gender issues, textiles, prehistory, anthropology or women.

Elisabeth Wayland Barber’s account of women’s work with textiles throughout the times makes a fascinating read. It is amazing how much information from our past can be deduced from a few bits of string or cloth.

The author’s basic assumption is that the division of labour between men and women is mainly related to childbearing. I think that in today’s rush towards equality, this is an issue which is sometimes rather hastily walked past by some – especially in this age of formula bottles, cribs, pacifiers, prams, nurseries and tv-baby-sitting.

Certainly, a woman doing the same job as a man should earn the same salary. There is no question for me about that. I don’t either think that women should stay at home doing nothing but cook and sew and raise the children. But women and men will never occupy the same place in society. Some jobs will always be occupied by men rather than women. Women will always bear and nurse the children.

A man with a young child can technically hold a management job which keeps him in the office 70 hours a week. A woman with a nursing baby can difficultly do the same thing, can she? And even if she did so before her maternity break, how much time will go by before she is up to it again? And – maybe more important – what consequences are there for the child’s development when her mother goes rushing back to her busy life after 12 small weeks of mat’ leave?

Do you still wonder that more men than women occupy this kind of position? I don’t.

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