In my psyche this image has been conceived but because of what is defined as unpaid labour, has resided in my subconscious. I am giving myself permission for it to take birth in light of the she-cessions of 2020.
I am privileged to blend my past with my future, and photography with my lived knowledge in this context.
This is my home; it is just a corner of my home. Other rooms have been rolled with the freshest of paint, looking like the ground after a fresh snow fall, trimmed with pine, the scent of the woods I run to for solace. This image, in what looks like chaos, is in fact a decade of life. This is the room where my children learned to crawl, walk, and babble. A corner of space created in the imagination, reading books, playing, and the draping of blanket.
During those moments they ripped off wallpaper as they ventured to lands unknown. They would run full speed to anyone who was seated, giving them the warmest hug, nudging the chair little by little over time, creating this void. This in truth may be a broken wall, but in time is the symbol of love.
Why then does this image titled Unpaid Labour leave the viewer with a sense of despair?
It is portraying the wear and tear from constant giving which eventually strips the sense of self; left with the equation one is only valued by their accumulation of their labor. For all the light shed on this topic why are we still advocating for change?
Is it possible, that the inequality stems from a regression to the state of nature?
When a baby is born, that child is so helpless, so in need of nutrition, care, and love. If only discussed from a biological perspective, not discriminate of gender, caring for a newborn in the first three months consumes every aspect of a person’s life! This in itself is not an understatement. Contrary of any romanticism individuals may have about this time, despite representation, whether breast feeding or bottle feeding, your life is diminished purely to providing sustenance, shelter, and love. It becomes a fable that balance can be had at that stage of life for a caregiver. The balance is reset merely in those three months, time not privy to sex, gender, or social contract.
If the caregiver has the support from a secondary individual, it seems that person reverts to the protector. Protector of security, protector of shelter, protector of survival. No matter how equal the division in unpaid labour was before the birth of a child it seems to all be reset once the cycle of life continues. The more unbalanced these role’s beforehand, the more divided these roles becomes. The primary caregiver can only recognize the further imbalance once a balance has been found for them as individuals. This timeline is not concrete, varying degrees based on the economic status and resources that individual has.
In the reading A Female Approach to Peacekeeping, Carvaja refers to the behaviour of men when the presence of women is not significant in the lives.
“’When female soldiers are present, the situation is closer to real life, and as a result the men tend to behave,’ said Gerard J. DeGroot, a history professor at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland who has written books about women in the military. ‘Any conflict where you have an all-male army, it’s like a holiday from reality. If you inject women into that situation, they do have a civilizing effect.’”
This compounds the idea those identifying as female will always be mothers to the masculine gender. When female energy has presence, are ability to maintain a balance to fight inequality is essential. But it seems when time demands us to look to our future, whether in our children, our career, or simply ourselves, men slip back to the state of nature. Where this future will go is partly determined by the steppingstones we lay down.
“what I believed in, I wish to behold” Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre. (2)