Just yesterday I posted a blog piece entitled, Women Still Do the Majority of the Housework. I talk about how even after all these years it is usually the women who contribute to the home in this way. In my post I write,
"In many homes men are no longer the sole "bread winners." They aren't the only ones "bringing home the bacon." We are way past the 50s but even today, we see commercials with women so eager to purchase floral scented fabric softeners and the least harsh liquid soap that isn't damaging to the hands. Where are the men in these ads?"
I explain that it is these gender roles/norms that we hold onto with a fist so tight, that is skewing our logic. It is the fathers and mothers, but the fathers especially; that need to set an example for sons and daughters. Boys and girls learn how to participate in the home by the dynamic between their mothers and fathers. Same sex couples have the same responsibility to exemplify that equal work is equal work.
When I posted this blog on another forum, I received a slew of responses. One man pointed out that while women often do the majority of the housework, men in turn do the majority of the yard work. He brought up an interesting point.
For years and years it has been the tradition that men do the "work" while women tend to the "easier" household chores. Why is this so?
Once upon a time, women were rarely allowed to work outside of the home, even if there were no children to take care of. Being that men were the "breadwinners", it was as if it was their duty to work outside and women work inside. Some men were insulted when women wanted to work. Some women felt it was their obligation to work in the home and felt insulted if "radical" women said otherwise. Some women would have thought it absurd to participate in yard work/fix-it work. I think that is strange logic.
My point is that some are very dedicated to gender roles. For instance; some women believe that it is the man who should pay for dinner. Especially if it's a "first date". This bothers me immensely; it always has. Even before I called myself a feminist. Why are we so insistent on this tradition? I imagine it also stemmed from when men were working outside and women inside. Men, took care of the money and gave women allowances. So, perhaps all these years later, paying for dinner is still considered a man's job. I call it unfair. If a man simply wants the company of another woman, he shouldn't have to pay for dinner and a movie to do it. I'm veering a little but I imagine you see my point.
Another commenter on my post stated that yard work is something that is usually reserved for the weekends while housework is done every day. This of course varies from home to home.
Some of my married friends have expressed frustration that they work all day and then come home to clean and take care of the kiddies. Their husbands work, come home and take care of the kiddies. For men housework is often missing from the equation.
It's important to note that there are stay at home dads now a days. It doesn't happen as often, but it does. And there are men who participate equally in the home. My issue is that it doesn't happen as often.
If men are out there mowing the lawn and putting hammer to nail, does this mean they are equally assisting the home? Not necessarily. Should equality be measured by the duration of work? The number of tasks? The intensity of the labor? What do you think?
Honestly, it may be impossible to split the work load 50/50. Even with the best efforts someone will always end up doing a bit more. When the numbers are vastly different, there is a problem. Not only is an ill proportioned work load unfair but it is likely to cause some resentment between the two parties. Household matters can definitely take a toll on a relationship. It speaks to a larger issue. It's not just about the extra exertion but also it accounts for how one member views the other. How one perceives the role of man and woman, mate to mate.
If a woman were to do the majority of the yard work while the man does the cooking and cleaning, does that mean they are equally assisting the home? Not necessarily. Mixing up gender roles is healthy. It encourages the understanding that there is no such thing as a "man's job" or a "woman's job." This understanding is vital. But again, couples must decide what "equal" means to them. And ultimately this on going dialogue results in communication about patriarchy. Even couples who do not consider themselves to be feminists; are actually having a discussion about the influences of male power.
I remember once, speaking to a male friend of mine who's wife was out of town. He said he wanted to clean up the house before she got home. Another friend and I said, "aaaww." That's an example of how low the bar is. If a man wants to help out it's as if it is a grand act of kindness and selflessness. If a woman were to say that she wanted to clean the house before her husband returned, there would be no "aaaww." In fact it might be surprising that the woman had not maintained the house while her husband was away.
In my own relationships I have noticed that it has been I, that is most often compelled to clean things up daily. Isn't that somethin'? Again, I think this speaks to how we have been raised. When men raise boys, I don't know how important it is to them that their sons witness them share the household chores. I don't know how important it is to mothers that their children they witness equal work.
There is an old (yet not so old) joke (often taken seriously) that if you want to get a woman into bed, then do some dishes. It's manipulative so I detest it. But it is another example as to how women often do more in the home. If men show that they are willing to do some house work without being asked, then some women are suddenly in the mood for sex.
There is a stereotype that "bachelors" do not know how to fend for themselves. Food and tidiness is a challenge for some. While some think it funny, I think it representative sexism. Why don't we ever hear about the struggles of "bachelorettes"? Interesting ay?
I can tell you right now that I hate cooking. I hate cleaning. I'm not a skilled cook and I suppose I'm better at scrubbing and organizing, being that my mother is a perfectionist and made sure I knew how to clean her house the way she liked it. I saw my mom cook and I saw my dad eat. That's how I was raised. How about you?
I've been in homes where the husband does all the cooking AND the yard work. I've been in condos where yard work and fix-it work was not necessary but the woman does the cooking and cleaning. I've been in homes where both parties are equal slobs. It differs.
But the fact remains that gender norms exist and they aren't going anywhere any time soon. Men often do the huffing and puffing and grunting work while women often do the tedious, messy and racing around like a headless chicken work.
So yes, men do the majority of the yard work. But I maintain that many women work harder than their male counterparts. While this may garner a woman complaining or bragging rights, it does not equate to any kind of victory. There is no joy in emphasizing how wives and girlfriends are still viewed as "the little woman".
A woman who complains or brags about the fact that they do most of the house work is not a victim. She is most likely a woman who is not speaking up for herself. A woman who has not sat down with her partner to discuss the way the home is run. If she is speaking up for herself and nothing has changed, then it may be time to rethink some things. Counseling? A break? A break-UP?
Men may not feel the need to speak up about how they are doing most of the yard work because it is often expected of them. After all, is it fair to ask women to do the heavy lifting and the pushing of a lawn mower? Of course it is. Men are sometimes stronger than women and perhaps that adds to the misguided belief that men should stick to yard work. It's easier to lift a dish than it is a brick. Well, unless a woman truly doesn't have the strength and is likely to injure herself, I don't see a reason why men and women cannot teach each other how to work a lawn mower or get the stain out of a shirt.