Neglected relaxation: Gendered leisure

“Heaviness” and “Lightness”

If social functions can be divided into “heavy” and “light” sections, with no doubt, laws and policies can be treated as “heavy” social safeguard measures due to their mandatory penalization or punishment. Women’s rights are not allow to be violated in most countries under certain laws, for example, Article 2 of Women’s Rights and Interests Act in China says that women enjoy  equal rights in political, economic, cultural, social and domestic life. Laws and politics regulate the rule of gender equality from a national political level. Such progress of human’s social civilization leads to a reduction of the burden on women’s legal status. However, the burden that we cannot see, as light as a feather, and even beyond moral judgment is still weighing on women. These intangible social expectations and public awareness which accumulated in our long human history, seem hardly to be regulated and measured but show an unbearable burden in reality.

Neglected gendered leisure

When focusing our attention on leisure, we will notice that it is also gendered. As a branch of domestic life, leisure always plays a positive role in life satisfaction, so that the inequality in leisure is often neglected and seldom criticized.

Leisure opportunity and types. Women who are emancipated from family and entering into the work market start to take part in economic activities. On the one hand, income and social status of women has been improved greatly. On the other hand, taking care of children and the elderly and most housework are still women’s responsibility. In this way women become “dual workers” and lack the necessary leisure time and freedom to choose leisure activity. Besides, physical strength-consuming sports such as marathon, rock climbing etc. are labeled as “Male only”.


Leisure space and facilities. A survey shows that home is an important leisure place for women, and women are more likely to use nearer space to join leisure activities while man’s average leisure spaces are relatively further [1]. From this we can see an unbalanced leisure space use situation. Meanwhile, numbers of women’s toilets, breast-feeding rooms, and game rooms are usually insufficient to satisfy women’s needs.

Social relations in leisure. Influenced by expectations of social roles from the public. Women would pay much more attention to fostering emotional relationships with others in leisure. As the mother in a family, leisure with family members are their interests and source of satisfaction. By comparison, men have more freedom to do leisure things by themselves and pay more attention to the quality of leisure.

Transition of gender’s role in different life stages of leisure. There is an interesting phenomenon, before retirement, expectations on men in the workplace are much higher than those on women, so, unfair treatment for women is not uncommon in the workplace and women have to take dual responsibility in work and housework at home which are treated as subsidiary works. After retirement, expectations on men drop sharply. Responsibility of maintaining relationship between generations falls on woman. Leisure time and content changed enormously between genders. Leisure suffered huge unfairness after retirement.


Degendered leisure

We might as well think about this: when gender labels are ripped out and everyone receives an equal expectation of leisure from the general public one day, the scope of leisure would extend both ways to both sides of gender, life satisfaction would be improved. Is this the life we are hoping for or not? —-showing who we really are and living in a free status which belongs to ourselves.

Note: the phenomena mentioned above are mainly based on China’s situation.

[1] Xu X X, Chai Y W. Gender difference in daily leisure behavior of Beijing residents. Human Geography, 2012, 21(1): 22-28.



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