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It’s “sharing the housework” when the husband does the laundry–but not when he mows the lawn

December 11, 2013

From The Atlantic, yet another nag-session that husbands ought to be more like wives:

Despite the dramatic changes in gender norms in the last few decades, there is one domain where men have steadfastly refused to make tremendous gains: Chores. Wives who are primary breadwinner in the house? Hardly unusual. Husbands who are passionate closet-organizers? Rarer specimens.

Right–because men care so much about organized closets.

[H}ere are three facts about housework and married couples that should probably drive the discussion:

  1. There’s less and less housework to do: The amount of housework has declined by 23 percent in the last half century, according to the American Time Use Survey, which is the gold standard for measuring how we spend our days. Some of this decline might be dirtier houses. Much of it is new technologies, like better washer dryers and vacuums, that save time.

  2. Men do more of it than they used to: They’ve more than doubled their share of housework since the 1960s.

  3. But women still do most of it: 18 hours a week for mothers vs. 10 hours a week for fathers in the 2011 ATUS.

Notice what counts as “housework”: Welding the Swiffer and running the washer and drier.

Notice what doesn’t count: Any and all work outdoors. Mowing the lawn doesn’t count. Putting in the lawn doesn’t count. Climbing up onto the roof to fish dead leaves out of the rain-gutter doesn’t count. Checking for broken pipes under the house during a winter freeze doesn’t count. And for that matter, neither does painting the place, rewiring the light fixtures, hanging pictures, getting the cable channel-changer working right, putting in a new set of kitchen cabinets, or assembling the Ikea furniture and that etagerie above the john in the bathroom that came in a box in 20 pieces with 100 different-size screws and the directions loosely translated from Chinese. Funny–no “new technologies” have been invented that do that stuff.

Uh-uh. What counts as “housework” is cleaning. And husbands aren’t doing their fair share, we’re told.

The American Time Use Survey suggests that men do 35 percent of total household tasks, by time. But only 2 percent of commercials for home-cleaning products show men doing the actual cleaning. Mr. Clean is a fine mascot, but as an aspiration for men, his influence is as real as his skin.


So, yes, we could all do with slightly dirtier houses, and nobody ever died saying their only regret was they didn’t buy enough ceramic tile cleaner. But maybe, now that women are out-earning us in bachelor’s degrees and (often) in marriages as well, we could stand to do oh-just-slightly more than 35 percent of the dishes.

Right. Let’s produce some TV propaganda showing male actors sweeping, mopping, and loading the dishwasher–so as to serve as an “aspiration” for husbands.

But notice that it’s never an “aspiration” to propose to wives that they get out there after the blizzard and shovel 85 pounds of snow off the sidewalk.

H/T: Ann Althouse

Posted by Charlotte Allen

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