By the University of Glasgow Centre for Gender History: Anna McEwan, Christine Whyte, Eliska Bujokova, Hannah Telling, Hannah Yoken, Lynn Abrams, Mairi Hamilton, Maud Bracke
Many have observed that the COVID-19 global pandemic affects men and women in different ways.
Women are hit particularly hard as they tend to be more vulnerable economically, and carry a heavier burden in terms of unwaged and waged care roles. Moreover, conditions of lockdown have created situation in which women find themselves trapped in unsafe home situations or unable to access birth control or abortion services.
The Centre for Gender History at the University of Glasgow, one of the leading research institutes in its field, has produced a collective essay, reflecting on the gendered dimensions of the current crisis from the vantage point of our own research, and drawing inspiration from other feminist scholars and current debate.
One area of expertise in the Centre is the historicisation of care as work, and the ways in which care cuts across formal and informal economies. Our expertise in gender and early modern economies in Europe reveals a variety of care arrangements in the private and public spheres, which were less determined by gender than one might expect. This suggests that the deeply entrenched and seemingly universal association of women with care roles, which has resurfaced in the current crisis, is by no means natural or inevitable, but rather specific to the late-modern era. Other research in the centre is exploring the different, though still deeply gendered, care arrangements under socialism.
Furthermore, the Centre is a leading research institute on histories of masculinities, and our approach to historical masculinities, in relation to male violence, mental health, and patterns of leisure, may help us to better understand gendered vulnerabilities in the current crisis.
An intersectional approach to gender, race and nationality status underpins the scholarship of many Centre members, for instance in research on gender, kinship and the legacies of slavery and imperialism in Sierra Leone, a country hit hard in recent years by pandemics; and in our activism, for instance in our support for refugee women campaigning groups.
Finally, research at the Centre highlights the long history of attempts by various socio-political actors at limiting women’s reproductive agency, and points at the intensified control over women’s bodies during social crises such as our current times- but also at the power of grassroots campaigning in expressing bodily autonomy and agency amidst such conditions.
Follow the work of the Centre for Gender History on Twitter @GUGenderHistory
Image credit: Poem chalked on steps steps in Glasgow during the COVID-19 pandemic – Stephen Kelly on Twitter.