Is Domestic Labor Women’s Work?

Text and photos by Elio Delgado

HAVANA TIMES, January 11- “A housewife doesn’t work” or “women are the ones who know how to do that”, are common expressions in Cuba. That could be caring for the children and elderly, sewing, cooking, cleaning, washing and caring for livestock.

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Social expectations and demands, the assigned and assumed roles by men and women, and what is permitted for persons of one sex or the other, are determined by customs and habits propagated in the home, families and daily life.

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And it is in that daily life that the values, concepts and ideas are formed that motivate people to act; that is, the things that are passed on from generation to generation.

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Women do the “invisible” work that is only noticed when something isn’t done. However, the natural state of affairs is that everything is done. It doesn’t matter how many hours, days or years it takes to do so.

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That’s why when we look at a farm woman her face shows the passing of the years, of hard work and of much responsibility. Of a person that has keep together a house, a family, a job, for a price that is silenced by concepts of the time and the place in which she has lived, where the cliché is: “she’s a hard working woman.”

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The material conditions of women in the Cuban countryside have improved substantially over the last 50 years, but in respect to the role of housewife, the stereotypes remain, something that women themselves must strive to change. And the only way such a change might occur is with a major effort to educate the new generations.

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