Women still do the majority of household caring labour. But not only this, women’s caring labour has expanded to include care not just for families and their needs but also for the environment and sustainability. Some studies frame this as a form of inequality, another example of how the ‘dirty work’ of society gets lumped on to women, especially mothers.
My perspective on this is somewhat different. There is some environmental and sustainability care-work that I would like to do, but cannot, because I am not the person in charge of our everyday family routine. For example, I like to use less damaging cleaning products and clean more often. But if my husband voluntarily cleans something, it is normally with a high-strength product like Jif – sometimes even with evil plastic microbeads. Yet I’m hardly going to make a big fuss if I am not the one doing the shopping or if he is cleaning the bath. Sometimes I find this disempowering, because I can’t manage the household for environmental sustainability. I’ve talked to a few working men as well as women, and this seems to be a common theme. Should we feel sorry for women who spend extra time doing sustainability work, especially if it seems like drudgery? Or should we be understanding their important contributions as a form of environmental activism?
Mostly, I argue for the latter. And I have just drafted a paper developing this idea further.