Women and the lack of time: time creates a gender gap that puts women at a disadvantage
The story we encounter is a narrative over periods of time, written largely by and from the point of view of men. It is an account of the economic, social, political and cultural structures that conceptualize the general morality of society. Gender is a construction of social and cultural interactions and time is a consequence of the same fusion.
The relationship between men and time was the norm placing women on the periphery as they experience time in contrast because society dictates women to view time in relation to their bodies and in reference to others. Society has always measured time in relation to the activities assigned to men. For example, the Mughal era is divided in history according to the reigns of different emperors.
Where does this paradigm place the question of women and their relationship to time? It wasn’t until the last decade that this uncharted territory began to be explored in trying to understand how time itself is gendered.
Time is one of the most precious resources, it is also deeply political. Conceptions of time have built up hierarchies of power within them, which determine how much time should be given to whom, who gets control, and the basis for its distribution. For example, the time we spend at work or the allocation of resources between different cities is determined by someone with the power.
As time is also measured in political terms with reference to men and their experiences with time, the time spent by women in unpaid work in a capitalist society is often invisible and set aside as an expression of female love and sacrifice.
Time: experienced differently by different genres
People experience time according to various criteria. There is a seasonal weather that is ideally associated with climate change. Ecological weather is usually measured with reference to melting glaciers or increasing greenhouse gases. Biological time is a concept relating to women, where time is measured with the onset of puberty and continues until menopause.
Men experience time in linear terms, which simply means that men measure time according to agency and can decide when to give time to what and to what extent. Women generally lack this luxury because they experience time in relational terms. This means that women put the needs of others before their own and therefore, for them, time is defined by the relationships in their lives. For example, that of a sister, a daughter, a wife, a daughter-in-law, a mother.
One of the things that comes to my mind about women and their schedules is a picture of a woman with many hands, holding an iron box in one, a kitchen utensil in the other, a children’s book in the third, his working papers in the fourth, and so on. The image of a “Multitasking” the woman is so glorified that the women themselves have internalized these traditional gender roles in the household.
We often admire the way women run the household, but no one ever thinks of sharing the burden with them. According to feminist theorists like Julia Kristeva, the way time is measured differs greatly for men and women. For men, time moves on and they experience new things. For example, they measure time based on monumental landmarks in their life such as buying a car, getting a promotion, etc.
Read also : Housework and the normalization of the “distraught man”
It also stems from a very masculine approach to the notion of time. But ‘women’s time‘is built according to their’biological clock‘. Traditional ideas about the female body as the only breeding ground are still prevalent today. Women are thus linked by and with their bodies, hence the conceptualization of their time in reference to their menstrual cycles. To cite a simple example, women who have their period plan a trip based on their cycle dates. Women’s time is also structured to follow a monotonous and recurring pattern of housework.
How Women Spend Their Time: A Look Inside the Household
The way men and women interact with time is radically different. Men have the privilege of detaching themselves from their household responsibilities. Men operate on what is considered profitable in materialistic terms. They are employed in organizations that operate according to state-sanctioned clock time, where certain signals like dongs represent interruptions in time.
Women, on the other hand, learned from an early age to internalize their role in the private sphere as primordial and to respond to the needs of their families, not allowing themselves time to reflect and introspection. It shows in the amount of work women have to do at all times when they are at home. That’s what we call mental load.
This means that women have to remember to do certain things – wash clothes, order vegetables, make family appointments, etc. It’s an ongoing workload, and is almost always invisible. This load ensures that women do not have free time to reflect and introspect or simply relax. Thus, women pass about opportunities in their workplace not because they lack creativity or skills, but because they never had the time.
Amidst all the physical labor, women are also expected to ‘give‘their time caring for infants and sick members of the house, adding emotional toil to their list. It is clear that women dedicate their time and space to others as well as their mental space.
It is because of the time women spend in their households in the form of unpaid and unrecognized work that men are productive in the economy. It is because their children do not to bother every minute while working as the parent caring for them.
This is why the balance between time and gender is never maintained. It will always weigh on the woman under the weight of the chores. Men, on the other hand, can lead a good life. The impact of this is visible if we analyze the Corona virus lockdown where women did all work around the home such as cooking and cleaning as well as the extra work of caring for the elderly and their work commitments.
Mental load along with emotional strain and physical labor often lead to burnout in women, a concept that is strongly gendered and not included in our vocabulary enough times.
Feminists and academics like Barbara Adams assert the need to deconstruct time in binary terms because there are many layered conceptions of time. Academics like Emily Apter envisioned time to break away from gender binaries and put forward the idea of gender neutral caregivers to ensure that the unfair allocation of time is dismantled.
Read also : Waste management: how women do all the work but remain undervalued
It is also important to understand the impact of the weather on the LGBTQIA + community. In addition, there is a need to come up with better tools to ensure economic justice for women who outsource their time and labor to different households in the role of domestic helper.
Therefore, it is relevant to think of time as a phenomenon that affects gender and intersectionality differently. We need to integrate surveys of the distribution of time with respect to intersectional parameters other than gender to truly understand the unbalanced nature of how it affects different people.
1. Valerie Bryson, Gender and the Politics of Time: Feminist Theory and Contemporary Debates.
2. Emily Apter, “The Time of Women” in Theory