Women’s Work by Megan K. Stack
Megan K. Stack has been a finalist for the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in international reporting. She was a war correspondent for the Los Angeles Times; she made a career of immersing herself in cultures and conflicts, observing and analysing what she found. Stack brings a wealth of skills to her latest project, and she sacrifices her own privacy in pursuit of an illustrative and in-depth case study.
Women’s Work is an investigation of the essential labour that is overwhelmingly undertaken by women around the globe to keep humans alive: care-giving, home-running and all that they entail. It is also, necessarily, an interrogation of how women and women’s work are valued. As Stack acknowledges, she writes from a position of immense privilege – she is an educated white woman in a legally recognised heterosexual relationship who has been physically and financially able to fulfil her desire for children and to continue her career. Yet even Stack cannot escape the confounding ethical, logistical and emotional dilemmas that confront every care-giver attempting to make care-giving and paid work coexist – which, for most people, is the only option.
It’s easy and convenient to dismiss this subject, but there’s no dismissing this riveting book. The people Stack writes about are unforgettable; the places she evokes are tangible. Her insights are shocking, often disarming, and, frequently, both. Stack’s breathtakingly honest examination of her own choices and experiences, and the effects of these on the women she employs – and of their choices upon her family – raises important questions about how the inescapable work of home and family can and should be done, and, most crucially, by whom.
Like Annabel Crabb’s The Wife Drought and Anne-Marie Slaughter’s Unfinished Business before it, Women’s Work is an important book that is already generating discussion, offering hope that these issues will, sometime, become impossible to ignore.