Film ‘Fair Play’ Highlights Unappreciated Care Work in Families and Communities

Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s video, depicting a family’s argument over dirty dishes, goes beyond the mundane chore, instead highlighting the often unappreciated care work in families; in fact, it forms the core narrative of her film ‘Fair Play’, which highlights issues of domestic duties.

When Jenifer Siebel Newsom set out to create The Great American Lie, she was immersed in care economy research. But, after Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election, she shifted to a documentary about the gendered perspective on social and economic immobility.

But when Eve Rodsky approached her about making a film based on her best-selling book Fair Play: A Game-Changing Solution for When You Have Too Much to Do (And More Life to Live), she leaped at the opportunity to make the film she had always envisioned.

In February 2020, the two began conversations. The epidemic then occurred. Due to COVID limits, the production had to make adjustments, such as relocating meetings and interviews to Zoom, but the plot did not change. Instead, the undervaluing of care work by society became much more apparent.

A research by the Kaiser Family Foundation revealed that due to the epidemic, women assumed increased family caregiving obligations, and over half had to take unpaid sick leave to care for a kid whose school or daycare was closed (and the numbers were greater among low-income mothers and those working part-time jobs). But as workplaces shuttered, males also gained a first-hand understanding of what full-time caregiving entails, even though women bore the majority of the responsibility.

Newson states, “I knew it was permeating care work and the subconscious of these fathers in novel ways.” “Maybe they had left home as the principal breadwinner and were unaware of caregiving duties. I realized I had the chance to cultivate additional empathy and compassion.”

Fair Play, a new documentary created by Hello Sunshine and The Representation Project, will be released on July 8. It follows four families with children as they strive to combine caregiving at home and includes interviews with Melinda Gates and Katie Porter, a representative of the United States. Newsom thinks the film will build upon her past works, such as Miss Representation (2011) and The Mask You Live In (2015).

“Our video continues the discussion about how destructive limiting gender stereotypes and standards are to society as a whole,” says Newsom.

Newsom, who shares four children with California Governor Gavin Newsom, negotiated the production process while experiencing comparable stresses as the families she observed.

“It was insane to make this picture while juggling such a heavy workload as a working mother,” adds Newsom. It improved my compassion.

Compassion for the Latina farmworker who must leave her children home alone for 10 to 12 hours per day to provide them food and shelter. There are similarly weighty stories, as well as lighter times. Rodsky describes her husband’s discovery of a beer can and jacket on the family’s front lawn. The jacket and beer can were still there when she returned from work, when she also expressed breast milk for their child.

Newsom says, “The film is inviting to all couples in a fun way.” “We attempt to demonstrate the importance of unseen care work to society. It is the glue that binds families together. That is what holds communities together. The unseen labor that women, particularly women of color, have historically performed is the backbone of our economy.”

Nonetheless, this work is largely unpaid and unsupported. There is no government-paid family leave policy.

Notwithstanding the progress women have made (Kamala Harris is the Vice President, after all), they continue to be stereotyped as the natural carers of the family.

“We are still in this position because patriarchy and values that have been institutionalized have not been recognized at the federal level,” adds Newsom. There are not enough women in leadership and moms in leadership pushing and shining a light on all things that have been devalued in our culture, and there are not enough men of conscience who perform care work themselves.

Newsom feels Fair Play will assist in changing this. It is a particularly pressing issue since the overturning of Roe v. Wade could push more women into unwelcome caregiving circumstances.

“My aim is that this video encourages more fathers to provide care for their sons at home,” adds Newsom. “And that these fathers, if they are also employed, bring these principles into leadership and workplaces and parent out loud.”

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