Series Explores Labor Through a Gendered Lens

A panel run by the student staff of the Women’s and Gender Center (WGC) and composed of local professors and activists met on Tuesday, Nov. 27 to discuss forms of work, such as domestic and emotional labor, that are underrepresented or lacking from the discourse on equal representation of women as a part of their Labor Intensive Feminist Education series.

The event was the second in a series of six total events. The first event, which took place earlier in the semester, was a panel featuring transgender artists who talked about the field of art as work and the intersection between art and gender.

Tuesday’s panel featured trans activist Cecilia Gentili, the assistant director of public affairs at the Gay Men’s Health Center (GMHC), an organization focused on HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and advocacy. The series organizers chose to keep the names of other panelists, who are in sex work, confidential. Panelists discussed sex work and they reflected on gendered language and stigma surrounding it. The panel particularly highlighted the ways that the value of certain types of work is determined in gendered ways, with jobs that are predominantly viewed as “masculine” work being considered more valuable that “feminine” work.

The panel also examined other inequalities faced by women, such as the wage discrepancy, and how it impacts women in the work force.

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, women earn on average, 80.5 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts, even after the passage of the Equal Pay Act that prohibited wage disparities. This fact has inspired young women to push for more reform that guarantees equal pay.

These inequalities also inspired series’ organizers Theo Peierls ’20E and SabriAnan Micha ’19 to initiate the Labor Intensive Series with the hope of exploring why it is the case that jobs, such as sex work, are often stigmatized as “women’s work” and subsequently valued less than other jobs.

For Peierls, a major objective of the Labor Intensive Series is “to get people to think about what types of work we value and what part of that is based in not valuing the work of women.”

Series organizers intend to lead, conversations on whether these occupations should be considered work. Feminist interpretations deem that this work should be compensated because of their importance in raising future generations.

The next event in the Labor Intensive Series is LinkedIn headshots. The Women’s and Gender Center will bring in a professional photographer to take photos for students to use as profile pictures for LinkedIn or other work-related photos. This event will be free and open to the public and take place early in Spring 2019.