Gender, Contingent Labor, and Our Virtual Bodies

  • Desi Bradley
Keywords: intellectual labor and work,


As a full-time graduate student, teaching associate, mother of two preschoolers, and household business manager, I find myself perpetually having to defend the notion that any of the myriad tasks that monopolize my daily schedule actually qualify as work.  This is primarily due to the fact that my work is, in all cases, unpaid.  In the domestic realm many of these time drags are invisible hygiene factors: you only notice them when they’re missing.  That these tasks go unnoticed is, in a sense, a mark of success.  As a graduate student, the fact that the economic exchange is reversed by tuition compounds the issue, resulting in the perception of my work as privileged leisure by friends and family outside the academy.  Those closest to me don’t see my rising debt load or the overall irony of my situation. I am investing significant funds, both in tuition and lost wage potential, toward the achievement of a degree that holds ostensible value in the job market, and yet my labor does not appear as real work.  What is more, my time to invest in student work is subsumed by the demands in the domestic realm.