Precarious Minds | Ferocious Souls
Collective action is the answer to precarity.
During those fifty years since women’s movements and the prominent feminists’ outbreak in 1960’s and 1970’s, significant steps have been made towards a more progressive renegotiation of women’s multiple roles. Although gender equality, especially in the public sector, has been established, as far as legislation policies are concerned, women still considered by many responsible for the domestic sphere and the performance of all childcare and household activities. The European legislation protects fundamental rights as women's protection against dismissals during pregnancy or after maternity leave and special benefits for families with many children.
The European Union according to its official role “ensures the law is interpreted and applied the same in every EU country; ensuring countries and EU institutions abide by EU law." However, on the 22nd of February 2018, the Court of Justice of the EU justified the dismissal of a pregnant woman in Spain, who was let go back in 2013. The woman informed her employer of her condition at the time but still received her termination letter.
The decision paves the way for employers
to dismiss pregnant or breastfeeding workers in the context of a collective redundancy if national law allows.
In the meanwhile, the still existing wage gap between female and male labor, instability, and uncertainty constitute a daily routine for young and older female workers, who have “chosen” the challenging freelancing path, or employment in private sector.
Especially in the culture industries and the arts sector the insecurity and uncertainty that female workers experience, not only because of the precarious nature of the immaterial work, but also due to the fact that it is a low-wage (or no-wage) profession, have a significant impact on the private sphere of their family life and in their well-being in general, as they accept gender discrimination and repression in order to secure their employment.
As for the creative side of cultural work, it seems that it is not significantly affected from the economic and social outcome of the crisis, although creativity in work is hard to find in a capitalistic system of competitive economic behavior, in which everything is measured regarding money.
However, creativity, skills and knowledge do not lose their value and meaning and they indeed do not disappear when a creative worker works for someone else, what usually happens is to adjust a bit those characteristics according to the “receivers” demands and tastes.
After all, female cultural workers have to face the wage gap, gender discrimination, instability, fear of unemployment and unpredictable work schedules what is left is the enjoyment of those creative moments during their working hours.
Nevertheless, the lack of recognition of the value of their labor in the labor market, but also in the domestic sphere, and the double burden that they have to carry in order to achieve a balance between their working, family and private life can cause stress, physical and mental implications to a woman’s health.
One of the most common reasons why women working in the market labor leave their professional occupation to stay home is not their inability to maintain both roles and to manage work and family commitments simultaneously, but the non supportive corporate environment of a capitalistic system, which demands “higher productivity, higher commitment and better bottom line results”.
So, lets pause for a moment, re-examine the facts and consider what political philosophers and theorists like Marx and Engels argued, that the only way for women to achieve their emancipation is through the “socialization of housework.” They believed that men and women must share the burden of domestic work and the responsibilities of childcare, and in this way, women would have the chance to enter more dynamically into the paid workforce, claim their rights and independence and flourish.
Then, the next step is to move towards collective action. In other words, according to Clara Zetkin, German radical socialist feminist back in 1999, only if women workers unite and get organized in labor unions they will achieve higher pay and benefits and a decrease of the wage gap between male and female workers. Mainly, Claire Johnston talks about a “sisterhood,” an alternative to the male-dominant labor market.
However, in 2018, bringing women, who work as immaterial laborers and freelance creative professionals into unions, might be considered nonrealistic.
On the contrary, the creation of extended communities,
physical or digital,
between employed and unemployed female workers of each sector of the cultural industries, may result in the self-organization of autonomous “social synergies,” as Maurizio Lazzarato defined in 1996, with no hierarchical structures, within which female laborers will have the strength and confidence to collaborate against
exploitation, labor precarity, and gender inequality.
We can still do this, together!