Staying with People Who Slap Us Around: Gender, Juggling Responsibilities and Violence in Paid (and Unpaid) Care Work


*Labour Studies and Social Work, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario Canada, L8S 4M4, e-mail:


Little is actually known about women's occupational health, let alone how men and women may experience similar jobs and health risks differently. Drawing on data from a larger study of social service workers, this article examines four areas where gender is pivotal to the new ways of organizing caring labour, including the expansion of unpaid work and the use of personal resources to subsidize agency resources; gender-neutral violence; gender-specific violence and the juggling of home and work responsibilities. Collective assumptions and expectations about how men and women should perform care work result in men's partial insulation from the more intense forms of exploitation, stress and violence. This article looks at health risks, not merely as compensable occupational health concerns, but as avoidable products of forms of work organization that draw on notions of the endlessly stretchable capacity of women to provide care work in any context, including a context of violence. Indeed, the logic of women's elastic caring appear crucial to the survival of some agencies and the gender order in these workplaces.