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Coronavirus is a disaster for feminism

In order to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, the global quarantine has equated everyone: the residents of developed, developing and low-income countries. Sweden is an exception here, where educational institutions still operate. It is said that the state trusts the high level of responsibility of its citizens. And regardless of the level of development of the institutions called to help women, today women are left alone to overcome a number of problems. The topic is covered by The Atlantic in the article “Coronavirus is a disaster for feminism.” Before referring to the content of the article, a short episode from the daily life of Armenian women’s coronavirus routine…

 

Armenian women post their daily events on social media, telling how they can combine online work, childcare and homework, cooking, feeding, and using a thousand  tricks to keep children from getting bored.

 

During a lesson on Zoom the day before, one of the women in our group shouted, “Wow, wow, wow, the milk has spilled on the gas stove,” and then one of them left the class  to help a child to join the online lesson…

 

While most men complain of boredom, looking for good movies or online games to kill time, women’s “engines” have gained new momentum to face the challenge and overcome them.

 

In Quarantine’s day, many remembered world-renowned scientists and writers, who made a discovery of global significance.

 

Enough already. When people try to be cheerful about social distancing and working from home, noting that William Shakespeare and Isaac Newton did some of their best work while England was ravaged by the plague, there is an obvious response: Neither of them had child-care responsibilities, writes The Atlantic.

 

Shakespeare spent most of his career in London, where the theaters were, while his family lived in Stratford-upon-Avon. During the plague of 1606, the playwright was lucky to be spared from the epidemic—his landlady died at the height of the outbreak—and his wife and two adult daughters stayed safely in the Warwickshire countryside. Newton, meanwhile, never married or had children. He saw out the Great Plague of 1665–6 on his family’s estate in the east of England, and spent most of his adult life as a fellow at Cambridge University, where his meals and housekeeping were provided by the college.

 

For those with caring responsibilities, an infectious-disease outbreak is unlikely to give them time to write King Lear or develop a theory of optics. A pandemic magnifies all existing inequalities (even as politicians insist this is not the time to talk about anything other than the immediate crisis). Working from home in a white-collar job is easier; employees with salaries and benefits will be better protected; self-isolation is less taxing in a spacious house than a cramped apartment. But one of the most striking effects of the coronavirus,  as the author of The Atlantic article, Helen Lewis, fears, will be to send many couples back to the 1950s. Across the world, women’s independence will be a silent victim of the pandemic.

 

Purely as a physical illness, the coronavirus appears to affect women less severely. But in the past few days, the conversation about the pandemic has broadened: We are not just living through a public-health crisis, but an economic one. As much of normal life is suspended for three months or more, job losses are inevitable. At the same time, school closures and household isolation are moving the work of caring for children from the paid economy—nurseries, schools, babysitters—to the unpaid one. The coronavirus smashes up the bargain that so many dual-earner couples have made in the developed world: We can both work, because someone else is looking after our children. Instead, couples will have to decide which one of them takes the hit.

 

Many stories of arrogance are related to this pandemic. Among the most exasperating is the West’s failure to learn from history: the Ebola crisis in three African countries in 2014; Zika in 2015–6; and recent outbreaks of SARS, swine flu, and bird flu. Academics who studied these episodes found that they had deep, long-lasting effects on gender equality. “Everybody’s income was affected by the Ebola outbreak in West Africa,” Julia Smith, a health-policy researcher at Simon Fraser University, told The New York Times this month, but “men’s income returned to what they had made pre-outbreak faster than women’s income.” The distorting effects of an epidemic can last for years, Clare Wenham, an assistant professor of global-health policy at the London School of Economics, told me. “We also saw declining rates of childhood vaccination [during Ebola].” Later, when these children contracted preventable diseases, their mothers had to take time off work.

 

In Armenia, too, the gender gap in the workforce is particularly high in the 25-49 age group. According to research by the National Statistics Committee, this is mainly due to women’s family responsibilities: pregnancy, childbirth, childcare, household workload, etc.

 

The picture is the same all over the world. Single parents find themselves in a more difficult situation, while the schools are closed, how can they work and take care of themselves? The article cites UK statistics, where a quarter of families are run by a single parent, more than 90 percent of whom are women. Closed schools make their lives more difficult.

 

The problem is the same in our country, we would not be wrong to say, more complicated. For comparison, in 2018 in Armenia the heads of the  majority of households were male – 65.7%, while the share of female-headed households was 34.3% (37.7% in urban areas and 27.8% in rural areas).

 

Ebola has had other negative consequences for women. School closures affected girls’ life chances, because many dropped out of education. (A rise in teenage-pregnancy rates exacerbated this trend.) Domestic and sexual violence rose. And more women died in childbirth because resources were diverted elsewhere.

 

The author of the article emphasizes that the world should not make the same mistakes. What many do now will affect millions of women and girls in the future.

 

The coronavirus crisis will be global and long-lasting, economic as well as medical. However, it also offers an opportunity. This could be the first outbreak where gender and sex differences are recorded, and taken into account by researchers and policy makers

 

Read full article here: The Atlantic

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