My first stint in activism took place in my sixth grade home economics classroom. The idea of taking the class pained me all year. I knew what the subject matter entailed: cooking and learning to sew. Two things that Hollywood, and general observations, would correlate inside my twelve-year-old brain as “housewife duties.”
I simply have never wanted to do the things modern society has equated as a woman’s “social norms.” Twelve-year-old Lindsay had no desire to be good at cooking, sewing or raising children. Twenty-two-year-old Lindsay tends to assent. So, when my home economics teacher tasked us each with sewing our own pillows as our first project of the term, I naturally protested.
I did something entirely out of scope with my personal morale; I purposely did terrible on the project. If I could prove not all girls were good at sewing by intentionally making a terrible pillow, well then they may as well have handed me the Profile in Courage award right then and there.
Now, I find myself in the middle of a global pandemic and seemingly to be the only woman in America unable to sew my own protective mask at home. I question 12-year-old Lindsay’s logic more than ever. I also find myself questioning 12-year-old Lindsay’s idea of gender roles.
COVID-19 has brought us to full capacity as citizens of a postmodern world. Modern society was the “white picket fence” era of culture. Emphasis on the white. Status quo was the way to go, and a certain class of citizens were destined to rise. But, today we find ourselves rightfully encapsulated in diversity. Postmodern society says “screw you” to all societal norms.
The events taking place right before our eyes will fill the text in the next generation’s history books or tablets. The products of this pandemic have provided a paradigm shift into a new way of thinking about everything from what it means to serve on the “front lines,” to how we view our dependence on a global supply chain.
Even complex new age theory, such as gender roles, will see a remodel. For example, the virus shaping our world has expanded our idea of what it means to be an “American hero.” Now, not only do we picture a young man, risking his life in a foreign country, defending our freedom but also the nurses risking infection to treat patients and stop the spread of a virus.
The Kaiser Family Foundation reported as of March 2019, 88% of nurses in the United States were women. This suggests a whole new breed of superhero will be composed around an unanimously underrepresented gender in that department. A new generation of growing Americans may not play “war,” but “hospital” to exemplify their courage.
With statistics such as the aforementioned, as well as acknowledging the fact that millions of Americans are now homebound in the aspect of work and all other life activities, I’m curious if that same group of budding Americans will grow up with different ideas of family structure.
American anthropologist Peter Murdock inserted four primary functions of the nuclear family that have been widely followed and taught. Basically, reproduction, shelter and instilling values were responsibilities obligated primarily for the modern family. Theories that feminist sociologists have largely disagreed with on the basis that they widely disadvanatge women.
Research is not yet available to scale the effect COVID-19 will have on the nuclear family, let alone a woman’s role in it. But, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that our view of women in family will change as a result of this pandemic, maybe giving them a more advantageous role.
Hundreds of thousands of kids, like me, who were/are raised by mothers who are nurses, will see their role in a different light. And will likely have time with dad or secondary caregivers more than ever.
There is yet to be any specific data available as to the percentage of homebound workers by gender due to COVID-19, but according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, men are more likely to file for unemployment than women. This could possibly leave our nation's youth predominantly in the care of males, something our society has never seen before.
Following suit with lack of data, I lack a concrete idea as to just how much gender roles will change in wake of this pandemic. But, the logic behind believing they will is ever present. Maybe this is the event that truly obliterates the glass ceiling. Perhaps it is true there would have never been a Renaissance without the Black Plague. Maybe these terrible and unfortunate situations do in turn breed real change. Maybe, but only time and emerging data will tell.
As for me, I’ll be waiting in self-isolation watching sewing tutorials on YouTube.