Why the class mother’s getting a raw deal

2018-01-28 06:01
Gayle Edmunds

Gayle Edmunds

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School’s back and work’s in full swing. The year got going when the Time’s Up campaign was launched internationally by Hollywood’s female power brokers. To build on the momentum of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, we must all scrutinise and rewrite the social scripts we are confronted with daily in our own lives. Time’s also up on these.

In a workshop earlier this month, a facilitator talked about these social scripts that we are all bombarded with and expected to act from – how these scripts are different for boys and girls, for women and men. Spoiler: women are getting a raw deal.

We all need to start editing these scripts for discrimination and tearing them up when they offend fairness; we all need to start writing our own scripts and helping our children do the same. We must all – men and women – walk the talk of equality.

One of the most pervasive and damaging social scripts if you have children in school is the concept of the Class Mum – not the Class Parent, but always the Class Mum. I have asked around – it isn’t just my school, all of them only have Class Mothers and, glaringly, most of the fathers aren’t even on the WhatsApp group that dispenses a constant stream of instructions and reminders. Fathers – not all, but the majority – are exempt from yet another form of unpaid work. What on earth is this teaching our daughters and our sons?

A report put together by the UN shows that women carry out at least two and a half times more unpaid household and care work than men. Unpaid care and domestic work is valued at between 10% and 39% of a country’s gross domestic product (GDP). As a comparison, in South Africa, according to Brand SA, tourism contributes 7% of GDP.

This got me thinking about all the unpaid work just the mothers on my school WhatsApp group do. Perhaps the biggest oxymoron out there is that of women who don’t work. Sure, they don’t go to a place of work and get paid for it. But, make no mistake, they work – not nine to five, but 24/7. They are burdened with all the drudge chores of life – shopping, dentist appointments, covering schoolbooks, cooking and booking plumbers – the list is endless.

This week, note all the work that must be done to make your life run.

If you are a woman, you are most likely owed a small fortune for work done. If you are a man, you just might hang your head in shame – and next year offer to be the Class Father.

If we are to smash the toxic stereotypes that limit all of our children’s potential – we all need to call time’s up on arbitrarily assigning unpaid work based on gender.

Follow me on Twitter @GayleMahala.

Read more on:    gender equality

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