Caring implies neglecting oneself to deal with what is necessary. The word comes from the Latin Cogitare (cogitus) which means to think. When we take care of others the important thing is not only the action but the attitude since whoever requires care is in a position of vulnerability. According to the UN, care is a human right and therefore the ability to care for others must be supported physically, intellectually, morally and socially, as well as economically.
According to these same guidelines, children, young people, the sick, elderly and people with disabilities need care, while those who have the appropriate skills to take care of someone are cognitive adults in good physical health.
Throughout life human beings tend to adapt to different roles requiring different approaches. The adaptation process influences the skills developed in order to act accordingly. One of the decisive experiences in this process is the ability to take care of oneself and of the other – a continuous learning process that manifests various favourable human attitudes such as decision making, maturity, respect, self-esteem, responsibility and even love. In other words, behaviour conducive to our health and that of others.
Historically, along with domestic work, the task of providing care to those who need it has fallen to women. Children, the elderly and the sick generally depend on women who contribute significantly to the welfare of families, and as a result, to society in general and the national economy through unpaid work. This inequality between the sexes demands a review of public, state and institutional statutes, but above all an urgent raising of consciousness amongst individuals in everyday life.
According to data from the Labor Survey and Social Correspondence (ELCOS, 2012) 70% of this care work in Mexico City is carried out by women and just 30% by men. This allows us to affirm that domestic and unpaid care work is like an invisible tax that is applied disproportionately to women. According to the National Survey of Use of Time (ENUT, 2014) in Mexico City, women spend 39 hours a week on this type of work while men spend 15 hours. * (ILSB, A.C.)
If we take into account that the majority of people in charge of care do not have specialised training, it makes sense that negative emotions of those in the role are to be expected. Feelings such as frustration (73%), irritability (61%) , depression (57%), loneliness (35%) and guilt (30%), as well as changes in health ranging from back pain, insomnia and other conditions derived from stress-inducing situations, combined of course with a lack of social recognition.
We urgently need to treat the issue as an act of democracy and not one of philanthropy. The first step is to look at domestic activities and care with an approach that will lead to the full and equal integration of women in the exercise of their autonomy, in parallel with integrating men into domestic and care work. Women have managed to open up spaces for themselves in culture, sports, arts, politics and community participation, while men have not yet managed to integrate themselves fully in household chores. This precipitates the double and triple working days that women and girls undertake, that is to say, women create the free time that men need to participate in political and public life and decision making. We quote here Marta Ferreyra, gender specialist,
“… Share the responsibilities of care and attention of beings that require it, because that, far from being a weakness, is what gives us the best image of what we can be as a society”
It is not by nature that women carry out household chores therefore we must urgently reflect on culturally accepted gender precepts and transform these cultural mandates to understand that it is sociocultural influence and not irreversible biology nor a natural function that demands women detach themselves from their procreative physiology. Biology and social identities must each be put in their place. Only with a change of mentality can we generate transformation.
From private to public, from households to state policies. Up until now these issues have not been considered a public problem, nor has it been considered urgent to encourage gender equality through labour policies. Marta Lamas proposes,
“Transform the mandates of masculinity and femininity to establish more equitable relationships, creating the possibility of fair human relationships, until now unexpected”
Let’s rethink the activities at home, let’s talk about our feelings and concerns, let’s put aside cultural and market stereotypes, break with the male prejudices of providing without complaining and the female ones of a maternal nature. Trust that a more equitable and fair world for all is possible.
With thanks to the Simone de Beaouvoir Leadership Institute, A.C. and especially to Sub-Director Valentina Zendejas who has put the issue of the importance of reconciling care with co-responsibility and transferring it from the family to the public realm, on the table.
BARRAGAN Lucía y ZENDEJAS Valentina (2015) El impuesto oculto que pagamos las mujeres. Animal Político.
GUEVARA B., ZAMBRANO de Guerrero, A. y EVIES, A. 1. Cosmovisión en el cuidar de sí y cuidar del otro. Enfermería Global. 10, 1 (1). DOI
MENDOZA Christian Aurora y ANDION Ximena. Hacia un sistema de cuidados para la Ciudad de México. Instituto de Liderazgo Simone de Beauvoir, A. C.
URRUTIA Elena (1976) Del trabajo invisible al trabajo visible. FEM Publicación Feminista Trimestral, (Volumen I, número 1), Nueva Cultura Feminista S.C
El trabajo de cuidados: una cuestión de derechos humanos y políticas públicas (2018), ONU Mujeres, México.