More about sharing domestic tasks - Livre d'Or

Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes. * Blogroll * Strange words * More links * Bookies * Microblog * Recent comments * Humans only * Second degree * By topic * Cool posts * Writing * New post


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

More about sharing domestic tasks
Monday, 23 October 2006 at 07:50 pm
Previous Entry Next Entry

Go back and look at the poll I posted a few days ago. I mean, totally, it's an LJ survey, it means nothing at all. But look at just how many women do the majority of the housework, and there's always a good reason for it; they just happen to be the one more bothered by dirt, or they're better at housework than their partner, or their partner works long hours so they have more time... In each individual case, it's of course nothing to do with gender, but I think there's something going on beyond just random chance here.

I know full well my friends list is not a representative sample! But I think it's a pretty good bet that we are more enlightened and egalitarian than a truly representative cross-section of society. The fact that nobody checked the box for women doing more housework because it's women's work is definitely heartening (and in line with what I expected when I made the poll). As are the examples of people who split things 50:50 or where the male of the household does the majority. (It's unhelpful that I don't appear to know enough partnered men to be able to make a useful comparison of men self-reporting!)

I don't think it's deplorable for a specific woman to be doing the majority of the housework. If the male partner earns more, works longer hours and is less interested in housework than the female, that doesn't mean that he personally is sexist, and it is entirely sensible for the woman to do most of the housework in this kind of situation. But if such a high proportion of couples just happen to fall into this pattern (and remember, most of my friends are educated, professional, liberated women), one needs to consider whether sexism is an indirect cause. I have a feeling this imbalance would have been bigger a few years ago, but I have a feeling it would also be bigger if I repeated the poll in a few years' time when a higher proportion of my peers are parents.

The numbers aren't good enough to conclude anything very much. But they do point in the same direction as what I've picked up anecdotally: everybody in my social circle and even most people in wider society believe in theory that gender is irrelevant to who does the housework. But in practice it ends up being the woman far more often than would happen in a genuinely equal society. I'm going to copy over the comment that I made on the (friends locked) post that started me off posting this poll:
There are some men who do exactly 50% of the housework, carefully measured out. Which really means 50% of the easily measurable work, not the pre-work that you need to do to be able to do the chores which have specific labels. That's getting more and more common, and in the kind of circles we move in it may even be the norm. There are very, very few men and the great majority of women who do at best, 50% of the explicit housework plus all the other stuff that doesn't get recorded, or at worst, absolutely all the housework. Very, very few is not none. But it's one of those perception things, I think.

If you prefer qualitative stuff, there are some interesting stories in the comments to my poll. Also, have a look at the discussions on the_alchemist and verlaine's journals here and here. They're not specifically about gender, but I think they're a good background to why theoretical gender equality doesn't always play out in practice.

I don't have any suggestions for what can be done about this, mind you.

Whereaboooots: at home
Moooood: cynicalcynical
Tuuuuune: Metallica: Creeping Death
Discussion: 11 contributions | Contribute something
Tags: ,

Previous Entry Next Entry

Contribute something
View all comments chronologically

hatam_soferet: default
Date:October 23rd, 2006 07:50 pm (UTC)
14 minutes after journal entry
My Mummy says it's a biological thing - that women are programmed to be better nest-builders on account of their offspring being more likely to survive that way. Which was rather depressing, really.
(Reply to this comment) (Thread)
adrian_turtle: default
Date:October 23rd, 2006 10:28 pm (UTC)
2 hours after journal entry
There are an awful lot of housekeeping activities that women are not biologically programmed to be better at, nor to care more about, than men. They may be taught from childhood (as your grandmother presumably taught your mother) that it's their job to be good at such things. But that's different. When tidiness is framed as military polish rather than housekeeping, people call it masculine.

I think a lot of distinctions come down to "what do you define as domestic tasks?" It really is not the same for everyone. Some people think of cooking as part of it, or the most important part. Some people eat out a lot. Or love to cook, and thought of *unpleasant* domestic tasks. I noticed different ways of thinking about domestic tasks, even in Livredor's small survey.

I live alone, so I don't divide domestic tasks among members of my household. There's no potential for implicit sexism there. The division of tasks is between those I do myself, those I hire others to do, and those that simply never get done. I pay extra for food that is already partly prepared (boneless chicken, or hard vegetables already cut up) because I can't handle the knife work. Ironing usually doesn't get done, except for job interviews and similar special occasions. Some kinds of mending they can do for me at the drycleaners in the town center. Though Redbird sometimes sews buttons on for me, when she visits. Or she lifts things that are too heavy for me. My landlord hires someone to take care of the grass and shovel the snow -- those are important parts of housework, though they don't need to be done daily or even weekly, and I couldn't possibly handle them myself. Those aren't gender divisions, but I suspect they are class divisions. Because I have the money, I can live independently.
(Reply to this comment) (Up thread) (Parent) (Thread)
fluffymark: default
Date:October 23rd, 2006 08:05 pm (UTC)
28 minutes after journal entry, 09:05 pm (fluffymark's time)
What is most noticable in your poll is that 68% of your male friends live alone and only 24% of your female friends live alone. Despite a small and probably biased sample, that's got to be significant somehow. It has nothing at all to do with housework.
(Reply to this comment) (Thread)
shreena: default
Date:October 23rd, 2006 08:58 pm (UTC)
1 hours after journal entry, 09:58 pm (shreena's time)
Re: your quoted comment. I don't understand why the 'pre-work' couldn't be on a rota. I know that some things are more easily measurable than others but it still should be possible to make sure that everything is on a list and divided up, according to whatever system/ratio is preferred. I certainly would do this if I felt I was being short-changed.
(Reply to this comment) (Thread)
cakmpls: default
Date:October 23rd, 2006 10:07 pm (UTC)
2 hours after journal entry, 05:07 pm (cakmpls's time)
What does one do, though, about the fact (my nearly 60 years of living have convinced me that it is a fact) that women in general, on average, do have a lower tolerance for a messy and/or dirty dwelling place than men, in general, on average, do? Is it fair to expect someone to do 50% of work that they don't think needs to be done?

Being a woman and having lived at one time with a man whose housekeeping standards were considerably higher than mine, I say no.
(Reply to this comment) (Thread)
redbird: default
Date:October 23rd, 2006 10:24 pm (UTC)
2 hours after journal entry, 06:24 pm (redbird's time)
I think that to some extent depends on the kind of work. Some of the work that one person may not think needs to be done is demonstrably valuable (e.g., certain kinds of cleaning).

I also wonder how much of that difference is different ideas of what an acceptable level of tidiness is, and how much of it is how long each person is willing to put up with below-their-own-standard conditions. It seems at least possible that the average man and average woman are equally unhappy at untidiness, but that the average woman can wait it out longer. That doesn't necessarily mean he's doing so for tactical reasons: if men are, on average, at home less, they'll be less exposed to untidiness in the home. [Home less largely because most full-time homemakers and stay-at-home parents are male: someone who goes off every day to an office that is cleaned by a professional staff at night may be able to put up with a mess at home longer than someone who is there all day.]

For that matter, depending on the rest of the division of labor, one person in a household might be more directly affected by untidiness or dirt than another: if A does all the cooking, zie is going to be most affected by a lack of clean pots and pans. If B has to get young children dressed in the morning, zie is going to be more affected by whether there are enough clean clothes than household members without that responsibility.
(Reply to this comment) (Up thread) (Parent) (Thread)
beckyzoole: default
Date:October 23rd, 2006 10:31 pm (UTC)
2 hours after journal entry, 05:31 pm (beckyzoole's time)
I think that the results look more unbalanced than they actually are because so many of the men who responded live alone. Take a look at the distribution when you eliminate the "live alone" responses:

TotalI Do ItHalf & HalfOpp Sex PartnerSomeone ElseNo One Does
Male #1451242
Male %36%7%14%29%14%
Female #582685127
Female %45%14%9%21%12%
(Reply to this comment) (Thread)
redbird: default
Date:October 23rd, 2006 10:33 pm (UTC)
2 hours after journal entry, 06:33 pm (redbird's time)
This is one of those cases where problems are interlocked: the inequity in housework to some extent hooks into the inequity in job opportunity and pay rates. That is, if women were, in general, earning as much as men, and as likely to hold full-time jobs, some of the "but you're/I'm at home more" disparity/reasoning would be knocked down.

For that matter, most if not all housework consists of learned skills, and there's nothing about the possession of particular chromosomes or genitalia that's relevant to those skills. But many men (more than women, in this area) still seem to be getting away with the trick of doing something incompetently the first time or two, and not having to do it again.

There are a few specific things around this apartment that cattitude is biologically better qualified for than I am, because back in the 1930s 11-foot ceilings were thought elegant. Thus, he changes most of the lightbulbs, because it's a stretch even for him standing on a chair; if I lived here alone, I'd need to buy a serious stepladder, because I can't reach our ceiling on any chair we own, or would be likely to want to sit in. ("Most" because not all our light fixtures are ceiling-mounted.) For that matter, when I visited adrian_turtle last, and was cooking one night, I asked her to get a couple of things down from a cabinet over the sink; she's not as tall as Cattitude, but she's noticeably taller than I am.

I know someone who periodically complains that her husband and children won't eat most of what she cooks; I have no idea why he's doing so little of the cooking, since he's that particular. Both parents work full-time. (The younger child, at least, is young enough that she may not have learned enough cooking skills yet, even if my friend is trying to teach her.)
(Reply to this comment) (Thread)
cartesiandaemon: default
Date:October 24th, 2006 12:33 am (UTC)
4 hours after journal entry
Yes, that all seems too plausible.

One cause could be, maybe women/men are on average socially (or genetically) programmed to care more about things being clean/organised. And then it reduces to the housemate problem, that even when one who cares less tries, they tend to end up doing less, maybe without them, or either of them, realising.

One approach is to give different jobs to different people, and then try to make time approximately equal. Eg. the "traditional" split might have been one partner emptying bins, gardening, doing finances, and the other doing cleaning, cooking, and household stuff.

That could even balance well if one works more. Though it can horribly backfire -- if one works full time, and the other looks after the children and the house all day *and* all evening *and* all night oops.
(Reply to this comment) (Thread)
Date:October 24th, 2006 02:11 am (UTC)
6 hours after journal entry
I missed the original poll (due to moving) but I have a decidedly non-mainstream arrangement. Both my spice (one male, one female) work, while I'm currently unemployed. I do the majority of the cooking because I love to do it, and a good bulk of the housework simply because, well, I'm home all day. However, because I do the cooking, I "got" to trade off the dish-doing and the trash-taking-out (hate those chores). And there are a couple of chores the other two prefer to do a certain way, and vice versa.

Once I start working again, well, we'll be renegotiating. But negotiation is sort of a way of life in poly arrangements. As long as I get to keep not doing dishes, I'm pretty content ;D
(Reply to this comment) (Thread)
Date:October 24th, 2006 01:42 pm (UTC)
18 hours after journal entry
I also think it is more a learnt thing. I was always lazy at home and still don't do an awful lot only the real neccessary things like taking out the bin, cooking, washing up and put on a wash and hanging the clothes up afterwards. I taught myself how to cook. I was never interested in anything when I was living with my parents. Since I live by myself (actually always flatshare) I look after myself and cook for myself. My flatmate is also for a longer time independant but she still can't cook and clean. I end up doing almost everything. I am always unemployed and try to study for something useful, for a profession. Therefore I am always at home. I have never liked flatshare but one bed room flats in London are too expensive and properly big sized studio flats as well.
(Reply to this comment) (Thread)

Contribute something
View all comments chronologically