[Note: The conversations have been edited for clarity, length, and grammatical mistakes. They have also been edited thematically, however the dates of these utterances are noted above each section.]
7 May 2020
Alice: Women make up the majority of students going into art history.
Eli: And yet the directors of galleries and museums are mostly men.
Alice: How has gender factored into your experience dealing with everything in the last six weeks (related to COVID or not)?
Kanwal: Garima Kothari, a “Masterchef” finalist as well as a celebrated chef, was found beaten to death inside her apartment on Sunday in New Jersey. Five months pregnant, the woman was beaten to death by her husband, who later comintted suicide in the Hudson River. According to many sources, domestic violence has risen through the roof during quarantine, due to the fact that many women were already living in difficult relationships. Women are always doubly affected in crises due to their gender which determines their inherent subjugation in heteronormative patriarchial relationships.
Alice: Would you say that this is COVID-related?
Kanwal: As per many sources, abusive relationships have worsened during COVID because there is no respite. People do not get to leave their homes and are forced to live with their abusive spouses 24/7. Hence, it makes the situation much worse than it is. The same goes for kids who experience violence domestically.
Olivia: Someone I know explained the many reasons for his dilemma of whether or not his children will go back to school when it is possible. One of the motivations under discussion for reopening schools is that for Social Services, it is really tricky right now because some children experiencing abuse are often identified through schools.
Varda: This week we got a survey from the Quebec Government via our daycare person. The majority of the daycare and school staff are women. She has high blood pressure and diabetes. She is high risk. But now, because the government is forcing daycares to open from the 19th, she will be obligated to open the daycare and put herself at risk. So, when we got the survey, we decided we are not going to send our kid back until and unless there is a vaccine, or until there are zero percent infections in Montreal. Care/education industries being gendered is putting women, especially those with underlying health issues, in a very difficult position right now. As education seems to be the first industry to open, they have no choice but to comply with government orders.
Eli: The anxiety from COVID is happening. Working in health services myself, my experience dealing with people is that general anxiety and what's going on in the world has affected everyone. Basically we are all going through a collective trauma so it’s bound to make us tired. We just need to give ourselves a break, and realize that it's okay to not be in the best of mood or have the most energy. Speaking of gender, I am also seeing it in Health Services where most of the employees are women. Or a great percentage. And they have been on the front lines obviously since the beginning of COVID crisis. A lot of the managers are pushing women to keep putting ourselves at risk, and keep doing long hours, whereas most men are working on the administrative side.
Alice: If you think of frontline health and service workers, a disproportionate number of these workers are women. In hospitals, it is still predominantly female nurses and male doctors.
Ashley: In addition to caring for children, a lot of us have parents that are aging. I have often felt that it becomes very gendered, supporting aging family members. And also when we think about personal support workers they are predominantly women and racialized and they are also at risk. And what does it mean to be in that kind of position where you need that personal support work?