Gender is playing a major role in the media and the home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Several sources have reported that COVID-19 affects men at a higher rate than women and have explicitly drawn gender into the pandemic discussion. The United Nations has released a statement calling for women leaders to lead recovery efforts while other outlets have merely commented on the increased infection rates for men. However, there are other gendered consequences of the pandemic.
In Malaysia, the Ministry for Women, Family, and Community Development recently released a series of images to provide tips for women dealing with the virus and family matters. In one of the now-removed images, the ministry told women, “don’t nag your husband”. The project also encouraged women to dress nicely and continue to wear makeup if they remain at home. Many took to calling out the ministry on their blatant misogyny through Twitter.
Though the offensive image has since been removed alongside a tepid apology from the ministry, it best represents the pervasive reach of misogyny. Even during a global pandemic that is affecting the very fabric of society and forcing nations to completely restructure day-to-day life and usual business practices, women are still held to a higher standard than men and expected to put extensive effort into their appearance, even if they have no plans or are unable to leave their house due to mandates to remain at home.
While women usually bear the domestic burden of child and home care, these demands have only grown more difficult due to the closing of schools and other public places to combat the global pandemic. Domestic responsibilities, typically attributed to women regardless of their status, have only grown more strenuous, and violence against women has significantly increased due to women now being forced to shelter in place across the world without a means for escape, according to emerging data.
Now more than ever, we need to band behind women. This pandemic has caused insurmountable heartache and pain and we must acknowledge this without allowing women to be sidelined and further marginalized. COVID-19 has increased everyone’s strain and anxiety all across the world and has, in many ways, further intensified the everyday misogyny that women endure. We must ensure that strides towards equality are not eroded in the midst of panic and continue to acknowledge the sacrifices women make and the suffering they endure every day of their lives, especially within the domestic sphere.
If you or someone you know is the victim of domestic violence, click here for more information on hotlines in operation during the pandemic, both in the US and internationally.