‘I’ll be late tonight’ is an autobiographical project, inspired by my experience of living as a housewife in a gated expatriate residence in Russia. This isolated housing community, hosting expatriate families from different countries, had a patriarchal social structure. Men typically were the breadwinners and women, who quit their jobs in their own countries to support their husbands’ careers, were housewives. Worldwide, it’s estimated that 84% of the expatriate spouses are women. It prompted me to question why women are more likely than men to give up their careers to follow their husbands. For many women in the community, just as for me, the shift to becoming housewives was related to becoming mothers.
I found that, in many respects, the culturally diverse expatriate community, where whiteness was the norm and where women were defined in narrow roles as housewives and mothers, was a reflection of the power structures in capitalist society, that fuses together gender, class and race.
In the expatriate community, men dominated the senior corporate jobs, while their family related responsibilities were largely fulfilled by women. Given the strong societal expectations that women are primarily caregivers, capitalism assigns the unpaid domestic and reproductive work largely to women, preventing them to participate fully, as peers, in the labor market.
Living in the expatriate community as a housewife and stay at home mother, I felt conflicted towards feeling privileged and the compromises I made by giving up my personal aspirations. I found the whole experience of being economically dependent on the spouse, disempowering. The societal perception on being a housewife is negative. The pressure of perfection and of projecting the image of success, extending to femininity, home and an idealized nuclear family, made me examine my own constructed identity in relation with others.
Making this work was therapeutic and a self-reflective journey. It made me question my own privilege, gender roles and power in social structures. In turn, I hope to get the viewer to reflect on their own biases, beliefs and perceptions.
All images and text © Roxana Savin
Book By Roxana Savin
By Roxana Savin
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