• Meredith Busch

Coronavirus and the Future History of Women

The world has changed so much lately, with devastating losses due to COVID-19. Interestingly, the entire world has been pushed to stay home and shelter-in-place. This got me thinking...I've spent a lot of time studying Victorian women and their gilded cage, the home.

Now, we've made it to the 100th anniversary of American women's right to vote and everyone has been forced back into the confines of their homes. Only this time, it wasn't ideological, it was done out of necessity. And not only were women sent home, so were men. And children. Suddenly, people everywhere have adapted to spending all of their time with their loved ones at home. What's been on my mind is... who's doing what in the home?


Who's cooking? Who's cleaning? Who's playing with the kids? Who's doing the yardwork? Is the constant presence of both sexes in the home evolving our roles, or are we going back into a more nuclear family with clearly defined roles? I honestly don't know.


What I can see from my friends' social media accounts is that women are cooking and baking...me too! The sudden necessity of taking care of myself has thrust me into a different kind of women's history, the hobbies and habits of women on the homestead, or during the depression, from a bygone, more self-sufficient era. It's made me rethink some of my personal prejudices on "women's work" in the home. It feels great to make a blanket from a spool of yarn (or 12), to make jam from scratch, to bake a pie and let it sit overnight, to dry rose petals into potpourri, plant vegetables, arrange flowers, and cook and cook and cook for the man I love (and mostly for me).

So...is it degrading to do women's work? No, but I'm not being degraded. I am being valued for my mind and skills by my day job, for my conversation, thoughts, and ideas by my partner, and for my intellect by my university, AND for these other things, I am more than appreciated. It's not a confined space for me, but an opportunity to accomplish new things. Have I had to clean the house? Nope. That's been done by the man in my house. Has he cooked for me? Yes.


Has everyone's at-home life melded into a continual flow of duties and accomplishments, blurring the lines between gender-traditional roles? In my house, we just do what we're willing and able to do. That's been very gratifying for me. That kind of equity is the kind of thing women's dreams were made of years ago. How lucky we are, even in these difficult times to not be confined by the strictures of flawed ideology about the inferiority of women.


Do you know what else I see women doing on social media? Lifting weights...and not just 2-lb. hand weights...hundreds of pounds on barbells, going for beautiful, tough hikes, reading, thinking, and having their voices heard day-in and day-out by their friends, family, and acquaintances through online media. Women fought 100 years ago for our voices to be heard, and now, we've achieved that in a lot of ways. What's next in that fight?


There are no more women left in the running for President of the United States. What a shame? But, perhaps we're getting closer. This article about how the most successful countries during the Coronavirus 2019-2020 pandemic have been led by women. Women are not only working and managing their homes...they're also teaching their children while balancing otherwise very complicated lives. What else? Essential workers...how many of them are women? Just like during other world crises, women have stepped up and proven their importance. I read online that 91% of nurses are female. And I also found online that in 2017, of doctors under the age ofo 35, more than 60% were female.


I think that soon enough women will make the world their place, but I'm left to wonder what the books will say when people study the role of women during the COVID-19 pandemic. What are you doing? I'm contemplating my contribution.

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