Reclaiming Our Time

Categories: Activism

Although it’s not necessarily an Oscar-worthy hit, one movie that I’ve always considered conceptually fascinating is the 2011 film, In Time. This movie transforms the old adage, “time is money” into a dystopian society where one’s wealth is reflected by how much time someone has to live on their own individualized time clock. Those who are affluent can live in leisure without a care for time, while those who live in poverty must constantly rush and work hard in order to gain the time they need for survival.

In many ways, I find the way that In Time frames the intangible importance of time and the inherent privilege that comes with a flexible schedule as critical to understanding a key societal obstacle that women continue to encounter when attempting to organize: a lack of time. In fact, lack of time is one major problem that political scientists commonly cite when examining barriers that women face when running for public office. For one thing, women are compelled to work much longer than their male counterparts in order to compensate for gender wage inequalities. As of 2016, women working full time in the United States were typically paid only 80 percent of what men earned. With this 20 percent wage gap, social scientists calculated that women would have to work an average of 66 days more per year in order to receive the same pay as their male counterparts.

And keep in mind that these projected 66 days are merely a conservative estimate, as they fail to account for the intersectionality of factors such as race (the wage gap varies by race, but is generally further exacerbated for women of color) or the extra effort that women must additionally expend if they wish to receive a promotion. Since colonization, the workforce has traditionally been idealized as men’s domain and the home as women’s.  It was only recently within the past couple of decades that women began to make the necessary political gains that enabled us to participate more broadly in wage-earning jobs. However, because we are fighting against centuries of a male-dominated framework, working women oftentimes must take on more responsibilities and more hours in order to overcome stereotypes and gain career recognition. These added pressures and expectations place further strain upon a woman’s everyday schedule.  

“A women’s day rarely ends right after she leaves work.”

But a women’s day rarely ends right after she leaves work. In fact, for many women, it merely signals the beginning of a “second shift,” a term coined by sociologist Arlie Hochschild, wherein after leaving work, women come home and are faced with domestic responsibilities. These tasks may consist of cooking, cleaning, childcare, or all of the above. And while in several cases, women may have a partner who can help share these additional responsibilities, more often than not (in heterosexual relationships), the weight is disproportionately borne by the woman. As previously stated, although women now have the ability to participate in the workforce, historical expectations surrounding gender roles in both the workplace and the home still persist—placing women as the primary caretakers.

Activism requires a significant amount of time and energy. But where are we going to find that time and energy if we’re constantly working at work, at home, at survival? How can we gain the privilege of leisure that we so desperately need to better ourselves both personally and politically? At this point, my best answer is that we must work together. What we lack in time, we will make up in togetherness. We will work together at our jobs with other women and allies who can support us both professionally and personally. We will choose partners who understand the importance of splitting household duties so that our second shift can become a shared shift. And if some of our sisters don’t have other women, or allies, or partners to lean on, then we will lean in and help them find the time that they need. Or, to paraphrase the immortal words of Representative Maxine Waters, it’s time for us to “reclaim our time.”

Emily Wasek recently graduated from the College of William & Mary with a major in Government and a minor in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies. While in college, Emily served as president of Women’s Initiative in Leadership, an organization dedicated to cultivating the next generation of female leaders. Much of Emily’s previous work has focused on the intersection of women and political progress. Her honors thesis, “A Women’s Place in the State House: Exploring Backlash Effects of Women’s Increased Descriptive Representation” examined whether women’s increased elected presence resulted in a legislative backlash that could increase policies counterproductive to women’s interests. As a research fellow for the Project on International Peace and Security, her white paper “Mobilizing Change in Central America: Fostering Women’s Networks to Combat Gang Violence” analyzed how women’s coalitions could be used to enhance anti-gang policies in Central America.