Category Archives: covid19

Post-Lockdown Femininity Fears: The Return of Revenge Dressing!

by Ellie Gibb

Ditch the joggers, switch off the X-BOX, put down the pint and slap on some lippy. Is that how you do it?

Is it just me or did living, working and studying from home make me more “laddish”? And living with boys throughout lockdown did not help!

Stay at Home De-Feminised Fashion.

Fashion has long been a product of the social climate. Nowhere has this been more apparent than during COVID-19. The pandemic has opened the market for a new stay at home fashion. Never has loungewear, jogging bottoms and pyjamas been so popular.

According to City A.M. – London’s most-read financial and business newspaper – In 2020, loungewear sales rose 1,303%.

Every day I was noticing a blurring between my feminine and masculine side. I had always been a bit of a tomboy and embraced gender-bending practices. Yet when I was stuck inside with boys, I was violating these gendered norms even more. This act of “Garfinkeling”, whereby I was undoing gendered expectations in the privacy of my home was empowering and relaxing.

At the time I was a woman in a man’s world, literally!

What about when lockdown ends…is this still acceptable to act like this?

Consciously Reclaiming Femininity.

When “freedom day” came on May 17th 2021, I asked myself have I forgotten how to be a woman? And how do I “do” gender properly?

I had spent months inside gaming, wearing pyjamas and dragging myself out of bed to the desk.

I had no care in the world surrounding what I was wearing. I did not need to stress about looks in my own home. My housemates were used to my sloppy side and so was I.

For the first time in my life there was zero anxiety about what to wear. What was expected of me, or what I was supposed to be conforming to.

I was not alone here as in 2020, clothes sales slumped 25.1% as no one needed new or fancy clothes (see below).

Your clothes say a lot about you. They are status symbols. They define you and they are a significant part of your identity.

I had not been out in months. So now I need to use my wardrobe to reclaim my femininity! I wanted to “dress like a girl” and be glamorous for the first time in months.

Now was the time to impress and put on the best and most authentic performance. Let’s show the world that I can be feminine!

This initial moment was huge and of heightened importance. It represented a “magnified moment” in my lifetime. Want to learn more about moments like these? Check out this link: ‘Barbie Girls Versus Sea Monsters’.

You are Actually Going Out…It is NOT on Zoom!

After comfort dressing for months in the confines of my home, fashion had been the last thing on my mind. In fact, fashion had been non-existent for a long period of time. My wardrobe remained untouched. As a result, the anticipation of freedom created a sense of anxiety, specifically amongst women (see below).

I don’t usually wear high heels, dresses or make-up…but I felt the need to. I was left asking ‘Why was this? Why do I have the desire to “dress myself up”?’

Yet everyone was doing it as in 2021 online searches for high heels and dresses were up by 197% and 176%.

Post-Lockdown Revenge Dressing.

“Revenge dressing” was made famous by Princess Diana in 1994. Her jaw dropping “revenge dress” was worn at the Serpentine Gallery. She wanted to hit back at Prince Charles’ infidelity and show him what he was missing.

Yet, a new trend of revenge dressing was emerging due to COVID-19 restrictions being lifted. The pandemic has given a whole new meaning to revenge dressing. Post-lockdown statement outfits were bolder, brighter and better than ever before.

After all the talk of freedom day, my femininity fears peaked. I had to be the best and most glamorous version of me.

Everyone began treating the walk into Turtle Bay for bottomless brunch as their first red carpet appearance!

But this left me asking… am I now over-“doing” gender?

Most importantly, I concluded that no I am not overdoing gender. I am a woman reconstructing gender, transforming femininity and hybridizing my identity. I am in control of who I want to be. I can reclaim my femininity by dressing to impress whilst sipping my cosmopolitan. But then I can return home to my jogging bottoms, my pint and my home comforts.

Goodbye lounge pants…for now!

Further Readings:

Evans, C. & Thornton, M. (1991). ‘Fashion, Representation, Femininity’, Feminist Review, 38(1), 48-66.

Muse (2020). 2020 Fashion: A Year in Review. Muse. [online]. Accessed 4 May 2022. <>

Pomerantz, S. (2008). Girls, Style, and School Identities: Dressing the Part. New York & Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

West, C. & Zimmerman, D.H. (1987). ‘Doing Gender’, Gender & Society, 1(2), 125-151.

Woodward, S. (2007). Why Women Wear What They Wear. Oxford & New York: Berg Publishers.

Will a woman’s work ever be done?  Not when it involves doing housework and doing gender

by Paula Lovelock

Finding myself living in a London house-share with four guys in the mid-1990s, it only took a few weeks before I went on strike with the cleaning.  I explained to them that our kitchen was becoming a health hazard and that I wasn’t prepared to work full-time and maintain basic hygiene in our three-storey semi.  Their answer was it wasn’t that bad (your stockinged feet would get stuck to the floor) and we couldn’t afford to hire a cleaner.   I hired a cleaner.

Looking back, this has become interesting in many ways.  I have never really analysed why it was me who felt obligated to deal with the housework issue in one way or another.   I had little money to spare.  But these men were all wealthy, ex-public school professionals who could easily afford to hire a cleaner.  I had to wonder if my female presence combined with my efforts at keeping us out of squalor just felt natural to them.  Why get a cleaner when there is a woman in the house?

It seems unlikely that they just didn’t see the dirt.  When participants in one experimental study were shown pictures of an untidy room, there were no gendered discrepancies in perception; both men and women evaluated the level of mess and degree of urgency to clean it similarly.  However, when the gender of the occupant of the messy room was known, moral judgments emerged, with female room dwellers held to a higher standard than men (Thébaud et al., 2019).


To investigate how these gendered notions of housework have evolved, the classic sociological paper on ‘Doing Gender’ provides insight into the way gender is constructed through our daily performances.  The authors, West and Zimmerman (1987) detail the influential sociological work of Goffman (1977) on symbolic interactions in our social lives. These practices cumulatively come to shape the broader structures of society that categorise us by sex. The model of ‘gender displays’ elaborates the socially approved conduct that rewards ‘deference’ from women and ‘dominance’ by men.

However, while Goffman sees these performances as optional, West and Zimmerman disagree.  They view that people are made ‘accountable’ for their performances in their socially approved sex categories of ‘women’ or ‘men’.  Through consensus of expected, ‘appropriate’ behaviour, people are kept in order.  In the patriarchies of the West, men top the hierarchy.  So, while gender is enacted at an individual level, these interactions are institutionally inscribed.  As a result, apparent ‘essential’ differences continue to segregate women and men in normative ways. The gendered division of labour appears to be normal and natural.  So, the fact that women’s work is never done is accepted, even useful, in maintaining the status quo.

My 1990s experiences seem fairly unremarkable according to research from the decade prior.  In one study on the housework attitudes of heterosexual married couples, Berk (1985) found wives did the majority of housework and childcare, even if employed outside of the home.  Staggeringly, in this example, both husbands and wives felt this to be a fair arrangement.


By the mid-1990s, research in Western societies continued to find that women performed disproportionate levels of housework, despite patterns of increased paid employment (Brines, 1994).  Such studies refer to doing housework as symbolic displays of femininity in the service of maintaining gender relations.

So, have things changed much for women since then?

It seems not.  Recent studies assert the life dissatisfaction experienced by women who work longer hours than their male partners, while continuing to do the majority of unpaid labour in the home (Flèche et al., 2020).

Indeed, YouGov statistics in February 2020 show that the majority of housework was being done by women, with over half saying they have sole responsibility for the laundry and cleaning bathrooms.  While this is clearly a very generalised depiction, it highlights how women continue to conform to gendered expectations of housework.

However, it seems the Covid 19 pandemic has made more visible the chasm of gender inequality in housework in the West.  Brigid Schulte, social policy director at a US think tank, cites the “breadwinner/homemaker” model that operates in our culture (Gross, 2020).  This is expressed through the stereotypical gender performances that sustain the inequality of domestic labour, despite the unfairness in task distribution.  Interestingly, she cites research on housework between same-sex couples that reveal that there is more harmony in their decisions over the division of household chores.  This can probably be explained by the absence of gendered assumptions over ‘male jobs’ and ‘female’ jobs.


The evidence illustrates that the dynamics over allocation of tasks between genders have broader impact.  The actions we take in our social contexts are both a cause and effect of social organisation and a means of perpetuating and legitimating gendered divisions.  Whether it is challenging partners, siblings or incredibly lazy and entitled housemates – for women, doing gender requires work on top of doing housework.  Perhaps that work can be consciously channelled in new, resistive ways.


Further Reading:

Brines, J. (1994) ‘Economic Dependency, Gender, and the Division of Labor at Home’, American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 100, No. 3 pp. 652-88, November 1994

Flèche, S. et al. (2020) ‘Gender norms, fairness and relative working hours within households’, Labour Economics, Vol. 65, June 2020,

Gross, T. (2020) ‘Pandemic makes evident ‘grotesque’ gender inequality in household work’ NPR, 21st May 2020, [Online] Pandemic Makes Evident ‘Grotesque’ Gender Inequality In Household Work : NPR

Thébaud et al. (2019) ‘Good housekeeping, great expectations: gender and housework norms’ Sociological methods and research, Vol. 50, No. 3. pp 1186-1214, 2021, Sage, August 2021

West and Zimmerman (1987) ‘Doing gender’ in Gender & Society. Vol. 1, No. 2., pp 125-151, June1987

Has the status of women under COVID-19 improved or regressed?

Shuo Feng

‘In September alone, there were about 865000 women dropped out of the labor market in the United States, compared with only 200000 men. Most of the reason is that the burden of care is too heavy for anyone else to share.

stated the Deputy Director-General of UN women, Anita Batia. She even declared disappointingly: ‘Everything we worked for, that has taken 25 years, could be lost in a year.(Lungumbu & Butterly, 2020)

Women’s status in the workplace

With the development of the society, the position of housework between men and women has changed. More and more women are entering the workplace when it came to the 21st century. Women spent less on the housework because they get more chances to work outside. And under the equal pay legislation, they can get equal pay with the men if they do the same job. So they took the responsibility of getting more payments for the family like the men. In addition, the education rate of women is increasing and there are more opportunities providing for women. Some of the women who have powerful leadership even joining the management in the companies. Overall, woman’s status in the workplace is improved even though there are some situations of inequality in the promotion and discrimination.

The change under COVID-19

However, when the COVID-19 pandemic happened, there are some changes in woman’s status in the workplace. On the one hand, many people face the problem of being dismissed from companies because of the COVID-19 pandemic in American. The unemployment rate and the suicide rate increased sharply because of the economic downturn. Besides, women suffer more pressure than men because according to the Washington Post (Long & Dam, 2020) the unemployment rate of women was about 3% higher than that of men in the US under the Covid-19 in 2020. This indicates there were more women lose the job in the US in the pandemic period than the men. The women have to put more effort into the housework because it becomes difficult for them to get work in this period.

(source: Pexels )


The evidence from the UN

Bhatia said the COVID-19 could bring back the stereotype of women as ‘Housewives’ in the 1950s. The impact of the pandemic on female unemployment is known as ‘she-cession’. This means woman’s status is lower than in previous years, especially in the workplace. During the previous recession or financial crisis in the American, men are often hit harder because men dominated the manufacturing and construction industries (Antonopoulos, 2009). And the unemployment rate in these industries was often the first to bear the brunt. However, the situation of this pandemic is on the contrary. A higher proportion of women work in industries that are seriously affected by the pandemic, such as retail, leisure, reception, education, health and other fields. And when the company chooses to dismiss the women workers, it pays less damage than the men workers. Because only a small number of women can get the management position in the organizations. Hence, the women workers will suffer more unfair dismiss in the organization than men.

The nursing industry for female workers

However, some of the industries such as the nurses in this pandemic need more female workers. And in this global pandemic, woman’s power in the medical system cannot be ignored. For example, it is estimated the percentage of women work for the health care system is about 78% in the US (Drees, 2020). Besides that, there are more than 100000 female doctors and nurses in Hubei, accounting for more than 60% of the total. Among the nurses, 90% of them are female nurses (Mo et al., 2020). These women saved many lives in this pandemic. They afford the responsibility of the work and they are unselfish to help patients, and they even take the risk of getting infected. They are the patients’ nurses but more like their family members. All these women workers are prized by improvements of salary. The public should appreciate these female workers for continuing to work in their position. And with the social status of nurses get improved, it will attract more female workers in this industry.

(source: Pexels )


I think continuing to improve woman’s status in the world is important. After the COVID-19 pandemic, more women were forced to go back to become housewives again. This will not benefit the equality between women and men. However, the position of the nursing industry of women gets improved in this period and women show their power in this specific industry. Society should give more chances for female workers in other industries. In addition, all these phenomena show that gender inequality and unbalanced division of labor are the essences of the problem. In the post-pandemic-era, how to achieve gender equality in the workplace and family is a global common topic.


Reference list

Antonopoulos, R. (2009). The current economic and financial crisis: a gender perspective. Levy Economics Institute, Working Papers Series, (562).

Mo, P., Xing, Y., Xiao, Y., Deng, L., Zhao, Q., Wang, H., … & Zhang, Y. (2020). Clinical characteristics of refractory COVID-19 pneumonia in Wuhan, China. Clinical Infectious Diseases.