This film is about “invisible work”, especially in the context of a traditional household (wife, husband, kids).
Invisible work is mostly the managing of all essential tasks that keep a traditional family afloat (doctor’s appointments, school duties, house supplies, etc) combined with unpaid house work, which usually falls into the woman’s responsibility.
Although there has been much progress, we are still far from gender equality. This films aims to discuss the burden of inequality and the toll it takes on women´s authorship, creativity and liberty.
This film builds on the theme of the imbalance of the division of household tasks, which fall predominantly on women, in the context of a traditional family (mother, father and children)by focusing on the precarious sharing of duties and the way in which this overload compromises their freedom and creativity.
A study conducted by the Francisco Manuel dos Santos Foundation, entitled “Women in Portugal, Today”, concluded that Portuguese women always, or almost always, feel tired. The reason for this exhaustionmay be due to the fact that they are still principally responsible for the unpaid housework, even though both partners in the couple work. The disparity worsens when younger children are a part of the household.
While men have begun to accept their part of the household chores, it will take 5 to 6 generations for a balanced distribution to be reached.
And beyond the simple execution of household chores, there is ongoing management work: it is generally up to women to plan these tasks and organize the family agenda.
This is called the “mental burden”, and it translates into the passive behavior of the man, who expects the woman to constantly tell him what needs to be done and when: to pay attention to what food there is in the refrigerator, to plan the meals, make sure the children have their vaccinations up to date, to make sure that the clothes are washed, serve the food and insist that they eat, and that they monitor their screen time.
This type of work, routinely and apparently invisible, is often unappreciated. At the same time, it also contributes to an effective overload in women’s lives, leading to potent, and common, mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, insomnia and low self-esteem.
Taking on this management is sometimes so strenuous that many times the woman chooses to take care of all the tasks herself, gives up “asking for help”, and develops automatic behaviors such as picking up clothes from the floor, watching what the children eat, and lowering the volume of television. This attitude allows for the companion to dismiss responsibilities with a simple: “You did not tell me what to do.
The overload of household work in professionally active women has another perverse affect: these women give up on having time for themselves. The breaks between chores are only for resting, to “disconnect” for a few moments. They don’t have time to transcend the day-to-day routine, to work on body and soul, to find feelings beyond those of the others that she has prioritized: the kids, the husband, and those of keeping up appearances connected with the world of work. These women are missing a space of freedom and creativity.
Virginia Woolf said that a woman, in order to be free to write, needed to have financial independence and a room for herself. Today I think that a “mental room” would suffice, a space of refuge from housework, from the mental overload. This work, categorized by Simone Beauvoir as Sisyphean:
“Few tasks are more like the torture of Sisyphus than housework, with its endless repetition: the clean becomes soiled, the soiled is made clean, over and over, day after day. The housewife wears herself out marking time: she makes nothing, simply perpetuates the present. Eating, sleeping, cleaning – the years no longer rise up towards heaven, they lie spread out ahead, grey and identical. The battle against dust and dirt is never won.”
Nowadays, although women have already overcome many of the obstacles that diminish them in relation to men, attitudes towards the kind of work that is appropriate for men and women, the devaluation of unpaid work, such as housework, and the issues surrounding raising children are still hostage to traditionalist and conservative paradigms.
The roles that women play – daughter, wife, mother – are linked to a set of informal, though empirical and invisible, behavioral definitions that are transmitted from generation to generation, impose themselves in family responsibilities, and invoke feelings of guilt or inadequacy associated with, for example, cleaning the house, feeding or raising children, which men generally do not seem to feel as intensely affected by.
Subjected to the eternal repetition of her days, the woman, unconsciously, loses the pleasure of living. We are what they allow us to be, and what we allow ourselves to be. And only by adjusting this condition to the condition of man can the woman find a space closer to her creative freedom.
The somewhat controversial nature of the narrative I propose, in relation to what women want, led me to choose drawing to better illustrate these ideas. I believe that through animation, I am able to create a more expressive and convincing image of this condition, its conditioning effects, its implications and the way they are paralyzing, often without the woman realizing it.