The assigned resources for this module focus on women’s experiences of care work in Canada. You will listen to a podcast, and then read four short articles. First, you will listen to Season 2, Episode 23 of the Secret Life of Canada on “The Nanny”. In this episode, Falen Johnston and Leah Simon Bowen study historical and current research on women’s care work in Canada. They focus on gendered and racialized ideas about care labour, asking: who has taken care of Canadian children? While this is a popular podcast, the hosts draw upon academic, peer-reviewed research from leading academics in their fields, interview academics about their research, and provide a list of references and further reading.
As you listen:
- Notice the ways that gendered and racialized ideas about care labour has shifted at distinct historical junctures
- Pay attention to the discussion of Dr. Mary Jane McCallum’s research on the role of residential schools in training Indigenous girls to perform care work in white homes
- Identify what the West Indian Domestic Scheme of the 1950s entailed for migrant workers
- Note the importance of caregivers’ political organizing for their rights
- Pay attention to the discussion of the Live-In Caregiver program and Dr. Ethel Tungohan’s research on the activist work of Filipina caregivers
Find the episode here or on your podcast app.
Next, read this short article by Simran Dhunna about changes to policies around migrant women’s care work in Canada. Dhunna shares workers’ own accounts of abuse and exploitation within this system, shining a light on the invisible work that keeps the Canadian economy functioning.
As you read:
- Note that, like Tungohan, Dhunna points to the importance of migrant women’s activism in securing protection and rights
- Pay attention the reasons Dhunna explains care work is undervalued — does this resonate with your own experiences?
- Reflect on potential solutions: what do you think the government should do differently?
Find the article here
Next, you’ll consider women’s experiences of oppression and resistance in precarious jobs in Naomi Klein’s article “Can a McJob Provide a Living Wage?”. The article documents the first fashion mall retail union in Canada. While this article is from 1996, many of the issues Klein identifies still ring true in the current neoliberal marketplace, in which women and marginalized folks are overrepresented in temporary, part-time jobs. Today, people who work in the “gig economy” face similar working conditions. Klein’s article describes how women resist their working conditions.
As you read:
- Reflect on the gender dynamics of service work in your own experience. Does Klein’s article resonate for you?
- What does Klein mean by “McJobs”? Can you explain this in your own words?
- Think about how COVID-19 has exacerbated the situation of precarity for service workers.
Find the article on eclass under “Assigned Resources”
Finally, read this short article on Arlie Hoschild’s concept of “emotional labour”. In this article Hoschild explains that care work, including the work of reproducing children, childcare, and housework, is different from what she calls “emotional labour”. Emotional labour is “the work of managing one’s own emotions” that is required in the service industry. Often, women are expected to perform the emotional labour of making people feel good while doing their jobs.
As you read:
- Note how emotional labour is different from care labour.
- Put a definition of emotional labour in your own words.
- Reflect on ways you have performed emotional labour and care labour in your own work history.
Find the article here.