Critical Response essay

Summary

The article explores the question of guilt or inadequacy experienced by women who cannot properly combine their domestic and professional roles. The research bases on the results of interviews with five middle-class women from traditional, heterosexual, two-parent families, who are members of the full-time workforce. The author explores how the interview participants reflect on the discursive themes of accessibility, happiness, and separate spheres in the dialectical dilemma of social roles. In this case, the motherhood is not only a biological phenomenon but also a social construct that depends on factors of gender, economic, and political stereotypes affecting women. Despite this, women often make choices to perform a particular role, and thus the problem manifests itself both at the micro and macro levels. Therefore, the “guilt thing” is a result of an intensive social transformation, and society should revise the common stereotypes and models of women’s domestic and professional roles, reducing the amount of situations resulting in psychological stresses.

 

Critical Response

The question of women in the workforce is one of the most crucial problems of contemporary sociology, gender studies, and management studies. It raises a number of issues, particularly affecting the distribution of women’s labor in the professional and domestic contexts. In her article Jackie Guendouzi demonstrates that the representation of women in the workforce has significantly increased over the past thirty years, but she also shows that such a satate of affairs causes feelings of guilt for the women, because they pay less attention to children and their homework. Nevertheless, women in the United Kingdom are still less involved in the full-time workforce than men because women continue to fulfill their maternal functions. However, the number of women who are member of the part-time labor market is much higher, since women are trying to combine both the professional and domestic responsibilities. The main point of the article is that many women choose to stay at home and make a greater contribution for their children in order not to feel the guilt and social pressure, but, at the same time, the modern industry is increasingly more favorable towards the women workers, who have not yet fully adapted to a changing social environment.

The author argues that motherhood and the feeling of guilt do not only have a biological nature but also some social reasons, and thus women often choose part-time occupation. Motherhood as a social construct lies at the core of social life, where women are sometimes perceived to be the only ones who should worry about children. Eventually, such ideological constructs leads to various stressful conditions when a woman feels compelled to perform both her professional as well as domestic tasks, and is feeling guilty that she cannot fully devote herself neither to neither work nor children. Nevertheless, Guendouzi adds that “current Western models of motherhood are a product of both hegemonic institutional discourses and the discourses expressed by women themselves in their everyday interactions”.

As a result, the model suggests accessibility, happiness, and separate spheres as the most dominant positions in the core of motherhood. For the author, the third position is the most difficult because it provokes a dialectical tension between the idea of “being for children” and the “individual needs” of a person. However, at the same, , Guendouzi proposes the results from everyday conversations of a group of married professional women for proving that this dialectic relationship often depends on personal choice of working mothers. Therefore, the theoretical frameworks of the analysis base on the data that was obtained from the recordings of five middle-class women who are employed as teachers in a British public high school. Besides, these women are all college graduates who have full-time professional careers. The author took the recordings after the interviewing within six months in the staff lounge. The participants could control their conversation, and thus could avoid awkward or stressful topics should they have occurred. Later, Guendouzi reviewed and transcribed the data, noticing there are some recurring themes. The author has limited her research by the theoretical ideas of discursive psychology (accessibility, happiness, and separate spheres) in order to understand the most frequently discussed topics regarding the combination of work duties and family needs.

The article has significantly advanced my understanding of the issue at hand, because the problems of women’s professional and domestic duties combination requires accurate insights based on valid data. The most unexpected idea in the article is that women choose to stay at home not always due to the outer social pressure but also as a independent decision to educate their children on their own. They seem to understand fully the possible negative aspects of this choice.  Nevertheless, the second extract also proves that women are often forced to forgo their individual needs for the roles of motherhood. However, the government also tries to provide some sort of social security to those women who need such protection in order to work full-time or to develop individually (separate spheres). According to Raymond, today “women no longer confront barriers in achieving equal workplace status with men”. At the same time, the social stereotypes that suggest “a working mother = a failed child” are also at play here. Finally, I was surprised by the following paradoxical conclusion: many women associate the workplace with their individual identity, because it proves to be a less stressful environment than their home.

The current problem relates to many other researches that attempt to understand the ways that the influence of home and work environments affects women and their choices. Raymond suggests that the main reason that women cannot fully take part in the full-time workforce is the gender discrimination that leads to a model of motherhood. He argues that men themselves construct these stereotypes about women and their obligations to care for children, causing women to be obliged to this type of behavior. The author mostly examines the problem of sexual discrimination, but the issues of discrimination against pregnant women and those who already have children are also significant in the context of the topic at hand. Following that point of view, Desai, Chugh, and Brief try to understand how the structure of marriage affects the attitudes of men towards women. The authors also notice the significant changes in attitudes towards women, noting the following questioning tendency: “Men in today’s workforce are more likely than ever to work with, around, and perhaps for women”. Little et al. investigate how women navigate the concept of pregnancy in the workplace “to understand the influence of changing social identities on professional image”. Fisher and Briggs demonstrate how mothers resolve the issues of breast feeding in the workplace environment within the perspective of protecting the workers’ rights: “The breast-feeding at work debate as it stands has at its core belief a workers right to work”. All these researches discuss various issues, but their common themes unite a combination of three levels of women’s social identity: self-realization, motherhood, and workforce. Most of the abovementioned authors come to a conclusion that the modern society gradually realizes the inequality between women and men at the workplace, when both genders should change the social stereotypes in order to successfully reach a common understanding.

Therefore, this topic is extremely important not only for women but for men just as well. It reveals the hidden problem of women’s feelings of inferiority and guilt, which they could not cope with their “natural” duties. The core of the discussion is that the men’s part of the society has always constructed women’s social identity in the context of motherhood, denying the possibility of women having a full workday. Moreover, the mentioned interviews with the women prove that women also blame their problems, and thus they often increase and disseminate the stereotypes. This line of research is very important because it demonstrates how complex and ambiguous this problem actually is and that it often seems to be the result of one part of the society. Hence, the issue has both a micro and macro dimension as well micro and macro forces that act on it. The first one is the everyday attitude to women who combine both domestic and professional practices. This impact includes both women’s choice in their motherhood and men’s responsibility to those who decide to work as mothers. The second force is social and cultural stereotypes that pushing women to psychological discomfort. In addition, laws are also important macro factors that may allow women to combine different areas of their private and public activity.

The most insightful thing of the current research is that women often suffer from their social roles, but cannot effectively combat the status quo. Moreover, at some point, women feel that they are exiles their families, because they have no resources for making housework or for education their children after having worked a full day. The social pressure is so crucial that they finally cannot get rid of their universal role of the mother. On the other hand, I do not understand what content the participants invest in the motherhood, since each of them has children of all ages and different outcomes. In addition, I would like to know what their husbands think about this issue. For example, whether they are satisfied with duties of their wives; is it crucial for them that their wives have the full-time workforce; do they know about their women’s stress and guilt because of their division between domestic and professional roles. However, this situation does not connect with my persona experience, but I know about this problem from media.

In conclusion, the situation is still very much prevalent in the modern society, and I agree with the results of the research. Many women work from the early period of motherhood in order to feel that they are useful for the society and in order to earn money for the family. At the same time, after working for a full day, they do not have time anymore either for their children or for themselves. The situation becomes a vicious circle, where it is impossible to get rid of any role of their social identity. At the same time, the study needs some clarification because today many problems are considered at the level of legislation. It is important to extend the frames of interviewing, involving different participants, including single parents, extended families, and single-gender couples. In addition, I would also interview men to complement the research in terms of gender and social identity.

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Critical Response essay

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