Sunday, January 10, 2010

Rachel Swirsky Connects Some Dots

Over on Big Other, Aqueductista Rachel Swirsky has posted “We know he’s busy, but why didn’t she clean the house?”, thoughts on challenges faced by female writers , which links and responds to Jeff VanderMeer's Gender Roles and Writing, another interesting post. Here's a bit of what Rachel writes:
Another time gap that feminists sometimes talk about is the beauty gap. Setting aside the pressure on women to be beautiful, let’s just look at the pressure on both sexes to maintain an appearance that’s considered acceptable. The amount of effort involved for men to maintain an appearance that will be seen as acceptable is lower than the amount of effort involved for women to maintain an acceptable appearance. Some of this is because women are judged more harshly than men; some of it is because femininity has been defined in ways that require more labor. Either way, most people can’t just opt out of grooming standards — one may be able to eschew vanity, but looking less than acceptable can impair social and professional opportunities. For a full-time, at-home writer like me, this isn’t a big deal; I just skip it on days when I’m staying in the home office. But most writers have a day job, and men and women who work outside the home need to put in time to look presentable — a task which takes more time for women than for men.

There are any number of ways that systemic sexism interferes with women’s careers, but one of the most direct is time. Time spent on housework is time not spent on writing. Time spent on hair and clothes and makeup is time not spent on writing. If women put in more of this time (and overall in America, they do), then that’s fewer woman-hours that are available for writing stories. When we start to address unequal representation in magazines, it’s important to ask questions on the editorial level, the content level, the submissions level, and so on — but it’s also important to interrogate the gendered ways in which sexism blocks opportunities for writing to occur in the first place.

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