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Luca Mic

English Language IV TI
American English
Assignment: 800/1,000-word article: Women at work in Argentina

The dirty job: Women and domestic work

Over the last two centuries, women have conquered their right to vote, got
access to higher education, and even made their way to public office in Latin America
only, there are currently four female presidents, and the numbers are on the rise. Most
treasured of all, for the first time, they were able to get a paid job. No matter how it
looked, this was no accident: there were numerous social and economic factors
supporting the process, as industrialization and capitalist expansion, among others.
Whatever the causes, the outcome meant for many women a small step towards
independence. Or a giant leap; for independence was, first and foremost, financial.
The labor market, on its part, welcomed with open arms this massive inflow of
productive resources, especially since it also created an interesting lot of new
consumers: women who earned their own money and got to choose where, when and
how they wanted to spend it, without regard to their husbands. Thousands of Norahs
confronted their Torvalds, put their foot in and plunged head-first into the working
world. The sweet little birds flew out of the cage and into the open air. But that was not
the whole of the story.
What this tale of emancipation failed to mention was that the recently acquired
ability to fly free did not by any means relieve the working birds of their cage chores, as
they still would be expected to sweep, dust and clean, do the laundry, make the beds and
cook supper, just as they did before. The moral, if there is one, would be that the issue
of women at work goes hand in hand with that of women and domestic work.
In fancy words, domestic work is all about reproducing the material conditions
of existence in connection with a household. To the layperson, it means that the business
of survival is not only about bringing home the bacon but also about cooking it, serving
it and doing the dishes afterwards. Seen that way, it would seem that is not really money
what makes the world go round, but homemakers. Their securing the toilet paper and
taking out the garbage enables the rest of the people in the household to devote their
time and energy to moneymaking.

That being said, the importance of homemaking is now out of the question. Just
as a famous congressman once said: Its a dirty job, but somebody has to do it. The
problem is that almost invariably that somebody is a woman a housewife, as its very
name denounces it. Truth be told, there have been some efforts to avoid gender marking
on account of political correctness, which resulted in euphemisms like homemaker or
domestic engineer. But though labels might have changed, the situation they describe
has not: dealing with the mop has been always and still is a womans business.
It makes really no difference if the housewife actually has another job outside
the house or not, since most of the times she will still be in charge of a large portion of
the household chores. And that makes the whole business a far cry from a simple shareout of responsibilities. Now, the thing to notice is that nobody talks about it, and not
because the family members are subjected to a vow of silence, but because the
arrangement is taken for granted.
Of course that domestic work might be outsourced. Sure enough it might be the
cleaning lady the one scraping the toilet instead. That is a housewifes perfect getaway
to spare herself the dirty job and at the same time remain clean-handed and free of
charge. Yet the housework will still be on her plate, as she will most probably be doing
all of the managing anyway. Rather than solving the problem, it looks like sweeping it
under the rug.
In this scenario, it comes of no surprise to hear a number of voices being raised
for a change. Some advocate assigning a monetary value to domestic tasks. It is an offer
no one can refuse, they claim, as it will improve the perceived value of unpaid domestic
work in the eyes of society. Not less important, it will also allow to estimate its impact
into the GDP, which will in turn give it an economic specific weight.
Others view the previous approach as either impracticable or distorting, due to
issues like mens wages being higher than womens, or paid domestic workers wages
being comparatively low. As a result, they decided on measuring the usage of time
instead. For them, this method will bring into the open how each member of the
household distributes their time and how much of it allocates to domestic tasks. There
have been a few surveys so far, and the ratios are astonishing.
In short, it is evident that domestic work is a central element when discussing
women at work. But for it to be factored in, there is much more to be done. In that

sense, the Latin American Parliament, a consultative assembly integrated by the

countries parliaments, urged on the governments laws that guarantee joint
responsibility in domestic work and labor policies that contribute to it, for example,
paternity leaves. The implicit assumptions around domestic work and its tacit
connection with women have gone unnoticed for too many years. Challenging the
conventions and increasing visibility is a great start to ratting it out.

923 words