Is Covid-19 a feminist issue?

Could you picture a day where all the underpaid and undervalued women necessary to make the world go round went missing- housekeepers, babysitters, carers, grandmothers, nannies? That world is now a reality.

The conversation around coronavirus has broadened over the past few days. Covid-19 is no longer a public health issue, but an economic one too. Closed schools, the elderly at home and limited food available. Given society’s current structure, is the international pandemic becoming a feminist issue?

According to the British government’s figures, 40 percent of employed women work part-time, compared with only 13 percent of men. In heterosexual relationships, women are more likely to be the lower earners, meaning that their jobs are considered a lower priority when issues arise. Being a lower or part-time earner then, are we relying more heavily on women to step up?

Household chores, home schooling and panic buying are all tasks women primarily take on. In Britain today, more than 90 percent of single parents are women. How are they managing to care for their children and parents and still earn?

As the Atlantic has pointed out: “During Ebola, school closures affected girls’ life chances, domestic and sexual violence increased and more women died in childbirth”. Are we heading toward the same outcome?

The coronavirus crisis will be global and long-lasting, economic as well as medical. This pandemic should remind us of the true scale of that distortion. In a statement last week, Tina Tchen, the CEO of Time’s Up, called providing paid sick leave “key to unlocking deeply entrenched gender, racial and economic disparities,” noting that “the majority of our healthcare and public health workforce are women, who are on the frontlines of the fight to stop the spread of the coronavirus.” Here is hoping for change.

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