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(en) US, FIREBRAND* #2 - WHAT IS THE THIRD SHIFT ? By Hannah Leah

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Wed, 8 Dec 2004 08:48:10 +0100 (CET)


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The concept of housework as a woman's "second
shift" is long established. Sociologist Arlie Russell
Hochschild coined the phrase in 1989 when she
published a study on the home economy and found
that most women were coming home from their jobs
only to begin their second shift as homemakers. She
found that this workload amounted to an extra
month of work every year. In response, progressive
women and men have begun to examine gender
roles and change their perspective of housework to
establish a balanced distribution of housework.
More recently, the concept of the "third shift" has
been evolving as yet another span of time devoted to
what I will loosely term "invisible" work. How this
invisible work manifests varies depending on the
source. I encountered the phrase for the first time
while reading The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf. For
Wolf, the third shift is understood as the hours and
dollars spent on appearance. She wonders what
women could accomplish if they weren't compelled
by the beauty industry to spend hundreds of dollars
and hours each year trying to measure up to the ideal
woman presented in the mass media. In essence, the
third shift is a symptom of the corporate market of
dissatisfaction. She asserts that women are
oppressed by this standard of beauty manufactured
by the cosmetics, diet, pornography, and plastic-sur-
gery industries. Corporations bombard women (and
more recently, men) with, often unattainable,
images of beauty that create feelings of insecurity
and inadequacy. These feelings lead women to
spend more money and time on appearance than
men. For many women, this lost time could have
been used for spiritual, emotional, or creative
enrichment of self and/or community. Wolf stated in
her thesis, ''I contend that this obsession with beau-
ty in the Western world - which has intensified in
my lifetime - is, in fact, the last way men can defend
themselves against women claiming power.''
If you are talking with Michele Bolton, author of
The Third Shift, this lost time is defined as the hours
women spend contemplating their roles
as breadwinner, mother, and homemaker, rather than
using the time to pursue personal goals or contribute
to the community. Quite often these psychological
shifts are characterized by regret, doubt, and guilt
related to sacrifices made to face three challenges:
the "task challenge" where women simply struggle
to earn a living or strive to succeed at work, the "iden-
tity challenge" characterized by the often conflicting roles
and expectations a woman plays while neglecting to
develop self identity, and the "balance challenge" refer-
ring to the struggle to fulfill relationships with family and
coworkers. The book defines the third shift and offers
some practical tips to overcome the "psychologically
relentless" challenges that come with it.
Online learning is also being touted as a manifestation of
the third shift in a report by Cheris Kramarae in The Third
Shift: Women Learning Online. Kramarae describes the
workload students shoulder throughout their lives as they
extend their education in order to compete in a weakening
economy. Because 60% of the 500 people interviewed
were women over age 25, her report focuses on the strug-
gles working women face while trying to balance online
learning with their work and family. Much like the women
described in Bolton's book, they struggle with the psycho-
logical aspects of the overworked, but they also make
more concrete sacrifices such as sleeping less or allotting
little or no time for amusement or rest.
Maxine Molyneux and, later Ananya Roy, speak of com-
munity work as unpaid work by women in developing
nations. Community work in those nations is often syn-
onymous with women's work. A prime example is docu-
mented in "City in the Sand", a film that records one day
of a woman's life as she volunteers in the government's
health clinic, supervises seven community kitchens run
through the volunteer work of women, makes house vis-
its, organizes mother's knitting groups, all in addition to
her wage-earning work as crochet seamstress. In the U.S.,
this kind of social responsibility work is often called
activism or volunteer work and is taken on by men and
women as a third shift. Usually this kind of work is char-
acterized by the goal of improving the quality of life for
various populations or improving the state of the earth.
In the end, progressive women and men who share
household and family responsibilities and still make time
for social responsibility or continued education, and those
who lose time to psychological stress or the beauty myth,
all clock in for the third shift. Wherever your time goes,
it's important to acknowledge this and spend time leading
yourself back to simplicity and sustainability. Creating
sustainability has become vitally important to human sur-
vival: the practice of sustainability begins with creating
careers, educational goals, and mental environments that
are nurturing for the individual and the environment. For
ideas, visit The Simple Living Network at
http://www.simpleliving.net/.
=======================
* The Firebrand Collective identifies itself as anarchist-communist.


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