Sister Writes launched the Work Issue on November 19, 2019, at a packed event at Burdock in Toronto. Why did we devote an entire issue to women’s work?
Women’s work is unique because it is not always clearly defined. There tends to be more emphasis on paid labour, rather than the invisible work associated with housework, parenting and caregiving. Many women are working a double day. This is not always valued or recognized.
This issue of Sister Writes pays attention to women’s experiences of work. Its authors are a hotel waitress, adult video store clerk, kitchen designer, Ramen restaurant server, cram school recruiter, translator, fish store worker, engineer, mother, employment seeker, nude model scout, nanny, telemarketer, car radiator assembler, bottle collector, potato chip factory worker, erotic club bartender, office temp, and barista. These writers do work that help make Toronto function, but their stories and capabilities are often overlooked, minimized, or simply go unspoken. This issue shows that women’s experiences of work matter, rally for better work conditions, and give these writers a platform.
Each story is unique in subject matter and style, but there are common threads that tie these prose pieces together. The women in these stories often felt inadequate, compromised, underpaid and undervalued but still managed to demonstrate resilience and to take pride in surviving challenging work situations.
The idea for this issue goes back a decade to the first Sister Writes workshops I facilitated at a women’s agency in Toronto’s downtown west end. At that time, we were a fledgling creative writing program and I, being a young writer and novice teacher, relied heavily on my listening skills. This turned out to be a good thing. As I listened to women each week, work gradually emerged as a key theme, one that resonated with every woman in the room.
The stories in this magazine are written by talented writers who find meaning in their work, battle injustices, and have wisdom. Why write about women’s work? So that we have a better understanding of what needs to be done to make work life better, for all women. By shining a light on women’s working lives, we open the door for change.