A Woman’s Work is Never Done: Exhaustion and Alienation

A Concluding Coda to the Special Issue


  • Roxanne Douglas University of Exeter




Alienation, Exhaustion, Women's Work, Domestic Work, Capitalist World-System, Modern World-System, Gender, Gender Inequity, Pleasure


This concluding coda to the “A Woman’s Work is Never Done” Special Issue focuses on themes of exhaustion and alienation in women’s work. This coda builds on the Introduction and papers in the issue to examine how women’s labor often negotiates between and beyond the world-systemic wage relation, yet, women of course still operate within the capitalist world-system. Here I bring together the papers in this Special Issue to consider how, if  “a woman’s work is never done” at the same time as there being “no such thing as an easy job” in our current world-system, this system of exhaustion and alienation can be mapped onto the gendered enmeshment of work with non-work, especially around care, pleasure, and emotional investment, which alienates us from those very same things in our current capitalist formations. I demonstrate how this enmeshment is thought through in literature by comparing the lyrics from c. 1629’s “A Woman’s Work Is Never Done” with Kikuko Tsumura’s recent bestseller, There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job (2021), to frame the key themes that have emerged in this Special Issue, using Audre Lorde’s theorization of the erotic as a form of unalienating activity and energy.


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How to Cite

Douglas, R. (2024). A Woman’s Work is Never Done: Exhaustion and Alienation: A Concluding Coda to the Special Issue. Journal of World-Systems Research, 30(1), 171–194. https://doi.org/10.5195/jwsr.2024.1239



Women in World-Literature: A Woman’s Work