Want to be a male ally? Clean the house.
June 12, 2019 6:43 PM   Subscribe

"But a growing awareness among women hasn’t been enough to fix the problem. The thing many people don’t want to acknowledge, and the thing stopping us from making more progress toward housework equality, is the resistance of men. Men remain unwilling to do their fair share of housework and childcare: they are oblivious, willfully ignorant, or pathologically indifferent to the stress and suffering of the women around them."
posted by Lycaste (130 comments total) 90 users marked this as a favorite
 
As a (cis, married) male who identifies as a feminist, I’m 100% on board with this. When our first daughter was born, I spent the first three years as a stay-at-home dad. Even now, while we both have jobs, my wife is the breadwinner, and I do my best to do plenty of the cooking and cleaning and child rearing.

And yet! My wife still feels a lot more pressure (social, internal) to take on the bulk of the child rearing and housekeeping duties. She is much more wracked with guilt over letting things lag, or leaving me alone with the kids than I am doing the same. We talk about it a lot. And I’m committed to equality. I’m also committed to both of us having some much needed alone time to de-stress. But I have to practically push her out of the house and she stresses about being a bad mother when she goes. So it’s hard, is all. Even when you’re less oblivious, to find a truly equal partnership.
posted by heyitsgogi at 7:00 PM on June 12 [16 favorites]


I had no sense of discipline before my wife got a full time job and I left mine to stay home with our two-year-old. I learned to actually wash the dishes instead of leaving them in the sink overnight. I learned that keeping up with the laundry (dirty diapers!) was much more pleasant than having to play catch-up. I learned that it was annoying to make dinner on time and have your spouse come home late. It was super eye opening and changed my views on gender roles enormously.
posted by rikschell at 7:01 PM on June 12 [31 favorites]


I consider myself *extremely lucky* to have a partner who *enjoys cleaning*, because (although obviously, I’ll do it) I *don’t*. I actually didn’t know if this was possible, and it appears to be.
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:12 PM on June 12 [3 favorites]


It is difficult to convince a man of another's stress and suffering when his discretionary time depends on not seeing it.
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:22 PM on June 12 [154 favorites]


This is one of the reasons why I'm so cynical about feminist men. It's not that I don't believe that men can be feminist, or that I want them to stop calling themselves feminist. (I prefer it to the alternative.)

It's that when it comes down to it, too many men don't follow through. It's easy for men to say that they believe in equality, but it's much harder for them to behave as if they do, because working towards equality means giving up privileges. Sometimes it's as obvious as giving back the extra leisure time that you're stealing from your partner.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 7:27 PM on June 12 [84 favorites]


I dont have the energy for a rage right now, but thank you for this post. Ill just share the most recent "ally" meme I cam across recently
leftist men: god i hate women and femmes
posted by FirstMateKate at 7:48 PM on June 12 [11 favorites]


For one, I'm always amazed to read these articles - at no point in my 25 years of adult life have I been able to assume my (female) partner would do the domestic work, it's always been essentially my job with them helping if they felt like it. That said, I have noticed the social expectations at work - specifically often in addition to it being my job to do the housework, it was also my job to soothe my partners' sense of failure for not doing it. I'm not saying that the article doesn't accurately portray the social norm (I'm pretty isolated, so how would I know), nor am I saying I don't benefit in other ways from the patriarchy, but it's just alien to me. Seriously, I can't even imagine what it'd be like, not doing the dishes and suddenly they're just done - if I don't do the dishes, then there are dirty dishes in the sink until I do.
posted by memetoclast at 7:50 PM on June 12 [4 favorites]


I’ve never once had to pick my dog’s socks up off the floor, and she’s always happy to clean the dishes.
posted by sallybrown at 8:04 PM on June 12 [49 favorites]


[A few things removed. Let's skip glib "here, I solved this intractable social problem with one easy trick" stuff in here. Unrelated, let's also try not to gatekeep people out of talking about their diverging experiences in thoughtful ways.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:17 PM on June 12 [14 favorites]


at no point in my 25 years of adult life have I been able to assume my (female) partner would do the domestic work

This sparked me to look up whether younger men were doing more of their share. For the USA at least, based on this 2017 survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics the answer is a resounding NOPE.
posted by schroedinger at 8:30 PM on June 12 [23 favorites]


memetoclast, comments like yours arent helpful. i know you think its benign, but it isnt. not only does it accomplish the obvious derailment, it recontextualizes the idea to be on an individual basis rather than a systemic blight. you physically carrying out the act of dishwashing is nothing like the subjugation, oppression, and commodification of womens bodies for labor.
posted by FirstMateKate at 8:35 PM on June 12 [68 favorites]


FirstMateKate,I did try to caveat that I wasn't speaking to the social norm, but in looking solely at the big picture it's possible to miss a good deal of diversity. If that's what the world is really mostly like (and I believe that it is), then it's clearly unacceptable - and here let me stand as proof that it's really quite possible to be otherwise: the very description of such a world is weird and alienating to me.
posted by memetoclast at 8:51 PM on June 12 [5 favorites]


I talked myself out of writing a comment at the top of the thread saying “gee, I really hope, once again, this topic post isn’t full of men saying they do all the housework and expressing wonder at anything different. As though every bit of media we’ve ever watched doesn’t reflect women doing almost all of it, and being beaten or denigrated when they don’t do it, or don’t do it well enough.” But then I thought, “Nah. Maybe this time it will be different.”

I mean, unless you’ve never watched an American tv show or movie in your life, I don’t see how you can miss this. Food needs to be obtained? The woman’s going to get it or make it. Something needs to be cleaned? Unless you’re John Travolta cleaning brains out of the back of a car, probably women are doing it. The article cites study after study showing the stats. Claiming “If you say so, but I don’t see it” just seems disingenuous. I get that some people’s personal experiences are different. But #notallmen-ing this issue (for the millionth time) just sucks.
posted by greermahoney at 9:04 PM on June 12 [91 favorites]


Describing how actually, in your house, you, a man, do the housework is just as much a #NotAllMen comment as a “well, I personally don’t harass women” is in a thread on sexual harassment. The linked article includes statistics and is a discussion of societal trends. Multiple men running into this thread to do “but not ME” does not erase the issue (although it does messy up the thread!)
posted by sallybrown at 9:04 PM on June 12 [85 favorites]


I do a crappy job at keeping up my half. When I do manage to do so the number of chores or tasks that are the acceptable minimum seems to increase to eat more leisure time. I feel like I'm doing a horrible job supporting my spouse and even when I do an okay job for a while the internalized patriarchal bullshit kicks in and makes her up her game. On the super rare occasion I'm doing more than she is she feels guilty or like she isn't doing enough.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:25 PM on June 12


Yeah, as a husband who does 110% of the housework, I know enough to otherwise shut up and listen because even if the breakdown in my house is this lopsided (note: it probably isn’t), my wife did all the breast feeding for two years which means our respective shares of the domestic work will even out in ...oh about 2119 or so.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:28 PM on June 12 [14 favorites]


I can easily believe that there are many nonstandard lovely cis dudes here on metafilter dot com, but they are a tiny fraction of the whole.

One thing I don't see addressed is the element of competition. A woman whose house stays clean and whose life stays organized is a figure of envy (and yeah resentment) to other women. If she comes to your house, you worry that she might judge you for dusty baseboards or catbox smell.

If men felt that same pressure, if they would feel shame that other dudes would judge them for dusty ceiling fans or out of control kids, they'd do more.
posted by emjaybee at 9:31 PM on June 12 [27 favorites]


Single man here. Straight men and women are trained in these things completely differently during our dating years.

If my apartment is cluttered with books and papers, it's somehow charming. If there's a pan on the stove with old onions and garlic, it's a good sign: I know how to cook. Guys with dissembled bikes or electronics in the living room blocking the sofa have a cool hobby. Even pizza boxes and dirty bongs on the coffee table are tolerable--it's like, well, what do you expect?

Meanwhile women have to worry about being seen as slobs, or men worrying that their hobbies/clothes/makeup will take over the house.

Same thing with suggesting you go out to dinner. Even if everyone's paying for their own meal, still a nice suggestion from the guy and potentially a negatively seen one from the lady.
posted by smelendez at 9:33 PM on June 12 [16 favorites]


One thing I think the article could have touched on is that women bear the social stigma of a dirty house more than men. I felt my former mother in law was judging me but not her son on the state of house. But maybe I was more anxious that I should have been.

(The good news for me is that I read this article while my husband did the dishes so I've got that going for me even though I'm still more stressed about housekeeping than he is. But at least he's an orphan so no judgemental in-laws.)
posted by vespabelle at 9:37 PM on June 12 [23 favorites]


As a divorced man, I know the article is true. I had a full-throttle philosophical commitment to equality in these matters, but the philosophy didn't always translate to real-world work. I did some of the necessary household tasks, but "oblivious" is how I was toward some of the other necessary tasks. That's not why we're divorced, but I could have made life a good deal easier on both of us before that.
posted by bryon at 9:53 PM on June 12 [10 favorites]


My dad did his share of the housework and then some. He's very very detail oriented, and things like vacuuming and dusting wouldn't have happened if he hadn't done it himself (or, as we got older, made the kids do it). When he went out of town the house kind of fell apart; my mom would just leave a lot of the cleaning for a halfhearted whirlwind fix-up before he got back. I spent my teens in shouting arguments with him about the state of my room - to the point where even now, in my 30s, there are phrases you can say ("this bedroom is out of control!") that trigger automatic, overpowering rage. But I fully internalized the idea that making sure the house stays clean is men's work.

Imagine my surprise when my husband's expectations about who would do the housework didn't match mine! We both just sort of reckoned the other was going to be on top of it and it took us a few years of bickering about who was supposed to be doing what to realize we both just weren't going to budge. Eventually we realized we really needed to get a cleaning service to come every two weeks because without it our house got into a gross state. So a team of two people comes and does the stuff we both grew up assuming our partner was going to take care of. Our marriage is lucky we can afford it.
posted by potrzebie at 10:00 PM on June 12 [13 favorites]


Agree with vespabelle that stigma seems like an important factor here. It was a blind spot for me (a cishet guy still negotiating various related learning curves) for entirely too long.

Of course, not too long ago a man doing the "woman's work" of housekeeping was also heavily stigmatized in many US cultures -- as it still is today, certainly, in various US and non-US cultures. I have no data on this, but it's my impression that the stigmatization of men for doing housework has lifted considerably in recent generations, in a way that the stigmatization of women for not doing housework has not.

If that's accurate, the absence of any concomitant improvement in men's overall contribution to domestic labor (per schroedinger's comment above) is illuminating. It seems like this lack of progress particularly illuminates the extent to which this inequality in domestic labor is rooted more in misogyny than in any (other) attribute of masculinity.

(And the centrality of misogyny of course is not in any way a new observation, but it seems worth restating here, since there are obvious implications for what any male-identified would-be "ally" needs to be allied against.)
posted by shenderson at 10:09 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


women bear the social stigma of a dirty house more than men

I think it's even stronger than merely stigmatizing a dirty house: women are expected to maintain the sort of decor that magazines need professional set dressers to produce. Couches with matching cushions. Artwork on the walls. Decorative pebbles in the bathroom sink. (I saw that one in real life. I felt bad spitting toothpaste onto them, so I took them out of the sink. I guess she scrubs them periodically? Or maybe she only does it in the guest bathroom which doesn't get used much?)

Back when I was single, I owned literally no furniture, not even a bed. (I slept in a hammock lag-bolted into the wall studs.) For me, a man, it was seen as somewhere between an impressive feat of minimalism and a weird but tolerable quirk. I imagine that were I a woman, it'd all but disqualify me from dating.

One of the ongoing conflicts between my wife and me is our slow negotiation of where between no furniture and decorative pebbles we can find a mutually acceptable compromise. Even knowing intellectually that I'm going to be shielded from most of the consequences of a less-than-magazine-worthy home, it's hard for me to overcome my strong intuition that this sort of stuff has zero to negative value.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 10:19 PM on June 12 [7 favorites]


Related.
posted by Tiny Bungalow at 10:48 PM on June 12 [2 favorites]


I read this earlier, half-wondering if I'd see it later on metafilter, and this? This makes me scream-into-a-pillow angry
It is also hard to organize around because women’s disproportionate housework persists because of the refusal of husbands and boyfriends to participate in these activities; they just don’t want to do it, and since their wives and girlfriends are doing it for them, they see no reason to.
Absolutely pathetic.
posted by lesser weasel at 11:00 PM on June 12 [11 favorites]


It isn't unreasonable to want your home to look nice. You spend a lot of time there. Personally, I like having plants and art on the walls. I prefer an aesthetically pleasing home over one that isn't.

I'm bristling a bit because we're talking about home decorating as if it's some petty and frivolous thing that women are forced to care about. Well, yes and no. Our tastes are shaped by our culture, and women receive different messages than men - some of which, like pebbles in the sink, can be ridiculous. But that doesn't mean a hammock bolted to the wall is the 'neutral' option, either. We're equally as influenced by our culture. Living in a minimalist bachelor pad isn't escaping the script through virtue of male privilege; it's following a different script.

Recognizing that might help you respect your wife's preferences more.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 11:52 PM on June 12 [44 favorites]


You know, one of the sore points in my slowly-deteriorating relationship was that my partner, a modern cishet male who "takes on his share of the work" (his words), never bought a single pack of diapers since our 2nd kid was born. It was always me running out to the store to get diapers. I told him this bothered me, in no uncertain terms, during at least 5 different arguments. In my eyes, this showed a lack of commitment to our kid and our relationship. He was indignant and told me he loved the kid more than anything in the world and that I got it all wrong. The kid is almost 1,5 years old. He still hasn't bought a single pack of diapers.

My mind boggles at the cognitive dissonance, but as someone wrote upthread, you can easily not see things if your leisure and comfort depend on not seeing it.
posted by gakiko at 11:57 PM on June 12 [25 favorites]


It’s also not the case that the housework/childcare hours women are putting in over and above men are all OTT trying to make the place look good for Instagram. The kind of work men are dodging in many households is the basic stuff - getting meals on the table, cleaning to a basic standard, ensuring children are fed and dressed and out of the house for school.
posted by Catseye at 12:00 AM on June 13 [45 favorites]


I agree with Catseye that home decor and furniture is a bit of a derail, since those are mostly one-off purchases that last years or decades, and the article's more about regular quasi-Sisyphean household chores.

But it is also "interesting," and something I've honestly never fully considered, that single women often need to spend a lot more time and/or money just to have a basic "respectable human being" living space than single men do.
posted by smelendez at 12:18 AM on June 13 [15 favorites]


John Travolta cleaning brains out of the back of a car, probably women are doing it

Now I want to see a crime show where the men are captured because they either did a half-ass job of cleaning up or none at all because they thought the female crime partner would do it.
posted by LizBoBiz at 12:32 AM on June 13 [91 favorites]


My husband was always better and more conscientious about chores than me. He likes the house neat and tidy. But when people are coming over he's like hey, whatever, and I'm cleaning the house for two hours because I think people will judge me if it's not spotless and and devoid of dishes and clutter. After I pointed this out he now joins in, but he just straight up doesn't feel any external pressure to have the house clean, he doesn't feel like it reflects on him the way I do.

I will say this for the army, my dad is a neat freak and never shirked chores, and everyone ex army I know is like that.
posted by stillnocturnal at 2:08 AM on June 13 [8 favorites]


Yeah, as a husband who does 110% of the housework, I know enough to otherwise shut up and listen

Umm....
posted by Dysk at 2:09 AM on June 13 [70 favorites]


What is the solution? How do we get (hetero) men to start participating? Presumably it starts from childhood, but if Dad is in the picture (and the relationship is hetero) how do you effectively teach a boy to take on his fair share if his own father won't? Especially if one lives in a culture that doesn't encourage positive behavior? Like any issue of privilege, things have to change systemically. We can't just hope that individual men will start seeing the light. But in that way we're STILL needing men to participate (ideally initiate!).

I'm not envious of straight women in that respect--my partner options are not limited to men so I'm not faced with the prospect of trying to find the diamond in the rough. Relationships outside that hetero sphere can end up breaking into one partner doing most of the home labor, but the research shows on a whole they're more equal in its distribution, or at least the distribution is more negotiated and less likely to just settle into a toxic dynamic.
posted by schroedinger at 3:35 AM on June 13 [1 favorite]


Actually, I wonder if anyone is studying not-hetero* relationships to see specifically how the partner dynamic differs, specifically how the division of labor got set up, and how that can translate to heterosexual relationships. Asking questions like: what were expectations going in and how did those develop? What are the specifics of the negotiations? How do they handle resentment? Etc.
posted by schroedinger at 3:49 AM on June 13 [8 favorites]


cishet father of a boy here, checking in.

I try to do my part by being uncomfortable with how little my father did around the house, doing more around mine (as much as I can! while being respectful of established systems! without complaint, cookie-seeking, or resentment!), and hoping to inculcate in my son a similar idea of being uncomfortable with how little his father did around the house. I have only brothers and no close female cousins, so I have no personal experience of the mother/daughter dynamic of forced learning about housework; my wife has only sisters and no close male cousins, and part of her idea of Good Parenting is ensuring the children learn about chores and, in age-appropriate ways, pull their weight. So my wife is teaching my son the things she learned when she was a kid. She's teaching me, too, much as it shames me to admit it; there are lots of things I just didn't learn when I was a kid.

I have no idea how to achieve systemic change. Maybe curriculum reform, treating laundry and dishes and cleaning as skills that are as essential to modern life as reading&writing?
posted by Fraxas at 3:53 AM on June 13 [3 favorites]


Men's and women's houses are held to really different standards. This recent article (paywall, contact me for a copy for academic discussion) uses Mechanical Turk data to assess gender differences in both assessing cleanliness levels (answering the question, does he really not actually see the dirt?) and gendered responsibilities (e.g., does the gender of the person who lives in the messy home affect perceptions of the mess). They showed photos of messy and clean rooms to about 600 people and asked them a series of questions about it. They found:
  • There are no gender differences in perceptions of mess, or perceptions of urgency in cleaning up said mess. Men see the dirt.
  • If respondents thought a clean room belonged to a woman, they thought it was dirtier than if it belonged to a man and that visiting her home would be uncomfortable and she would be a bad host. This demonstrates that women are held to higher cleanliness standards than men.
  • If respondents thought a dirty room belonged to a man, they thought it was dirtier than it was if it belonged to a woman; however, they did not think this would negatively impact their comfort level in his home. This shows that men do not suffer the same social consequences as women for having a messy home.
As to the question of what we are to do to make this better in the future: on an individual level, men do more housework as adults if they grew up in homes where fathers did housework. So there's one concrete things that men can do at home, although it depends on them not only giving up their own privilege now but also future privilege for their sons. On a policy level, paid paternity leave would probably go a long way here. Unfortunately, both of these solutions depend on families that have sons. They also push the change to some nebulous future date. I don't know about you, but that's not good enough for me. My own solution has been to remove men from my personal life, but that's not going to work for everyone.
posted by sockermom at 3:55 AM on June 13 [107 favorites]


One of the delightful things about the role-reversal that my husband and I have done in this regard (I am primary bread-winner, he is primary home-maker) is when people approach me about something domestic (cooking, cleaning, child-care) and I divert them to him, they are too embarrassed to mention the same non-issue to a man - so the judgmental (and it's ALWAYS judgmental) comment or question gets dropped.
posted by Toddles at 4:03 AM on June 13 [34 favorites]


My children hold me to a much higher standard of housework than their father, post divorce. They don't recognise that he immediately went to rely on his mother and then his new girlfriend to do all his new housework and rewrote his 1-2 meals a week into "he did most of the cooking". They apparently deleted from memory he decade I had no household help, and now see the regular part-time help we have for the 5-people household as solely responsible because a Magic Fairy buys groceries, organises the house, calls the plumber, electrician, vet, doctor, pays bills and does the morning routines when everyone else is asleep.

I was talking to a friend yesterday about some truly chauvinistic and indulged adult men we know, and took a hard look at my sons. They are comparatively decent to the majority of young men their age - they can cook, do laundry, pay bills, childcare etc - but I don't make them do that very often because I feel like well, they have their own lives. Then I think hey, Free Bloody Rent and Food, they should be making me breakfast in bed every morning and cleaning the kitchen too.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 4:10 AM on June 13 [20 favorites]


I read the subreddit AmITheAsshole and there is a persistent thread of dudes who are SURE their wives are full of shit with imbalanced housework (and they do as much or often more), trade off, find that indeed their wives do more work and want to trade back. (There's another one which I can't find where the guy kicks his wife out of the house and then freaks out at the work it takes to take care of his twin toddlers.)
posted by jeather at 4:39 AM on June 13 [40 favorites]


It doesn't seem long since this was on the blue. Checking out the data linked above by schrodinger again (Table 1, first three columns) we can see a few things. Sleep and leisure, added together, broadly equate. Men work a hour and a half longer than women, women spend about the same more than men in household work and caring. You are then amongst the small stuff, data wise.

Seems to me that you could interpret that in more than one way.
posted by StephenB at 4:54 AM on June 13 [2 favorites]


And if you do a chore, DON'T ANNOUNCE TO ME THAT YOU DID IT.
posted by geegollygosh at 5:10 AM on June 13 [43 favorites]


Over the last ten years, equality of opportunity. This article draws from the European 2005 Working Conditions Survey, and more specifically the subsample of fathers with children under the age of three analysis of paternity leave is related to their greater involvement in childcare and housework. Zero-inflated Poisson regression analysis, controlling for working conditions, family circumstances, level of schooling, and women's empowerment in society and duration of leave housework. Such use of parental leave appears, then, to be an effective mechanism for promoting greater gender equality in the domestic domain.
European Men's Parental Leave and Their Involvement in Child Care and Housework
Gerardo Meil
Journal of Comparative Family Studies
Flight. 44, No. 5 (SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER 2013), pp. 557-570


Anecdotally, my husband taking a month of parental leave after I went back to work was the thing that kicked him over from "well-meaning but typical liberal dude who thinks he's a feminist but *waves hands at all of the above*" to actual fully functioning adult who truly does an equal share, including mental and emotional labor.
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:18 AM on June 13 [15 favorites]


It's funny - I grew up with a father who did his share, or at worst very close. He did all the laundry, he cooked probably about 1/3 of the meals, he did all the yard work, he did all the weekly grocery shopping, he did a pretty decent amount of the cleaning. He also cared for my mother during the twelve years that she spent dying of a degenerative disease.

I live with male housemates who don't do their share. I'm a lazy person too, so the house is always a mess, but I spend a big chunk of my weekends on various house-related stuff and they...don't. No one but me has ever cleaned the refrigerator, cleaned the stove, cleaned the washing machine, dusted/vacuumed/mopped the downstairs, cleaned the pantry, cleaned closets or cabinets, washed walls, etc.

They both think they do a lot because they...take out the trash and recycling, and wash most of their own dishes. I don't do any trash/recycling, ever, because it's the one chore that they'll do unprompted - and both of them see this as lazy unfairness on my part. The kitchen trash is full! Why don't I change it? Why don't I ever take out the recycling? Well, it's because I am too busy cleaning the microwave and cleaning the litter box.

It is definitely a source of ongoing bitterness to me, but I bought the house with one of them and get along well with both, so my occasional fantasy of living with women and living in a clean house is going to stay a fantasy.
posted by Frowner at 5:39 AM on June 13 [6 favorites]


My ex-husband was so good at avoiding any responsibility, that when I left him, our young adult children felt him so incapable of taking care of himself, that they each spent several years living with him because they felt he couldn't manage on his own (even when he had a 6 figure job in IT). They grew to appreciate me much more for everything (and I mean everything) that I had taken care of when they were growing up, and since, whenever they hit a snag. Dating post-marriage didn't change my opinion of men. I was in a mixed group therapy session when one guy cheerfully boasted that he would deliberately do chores badly so that his wife wouldn't ask him "to help" anymore. And then I met the man I live with who literally does all the household work. I work fulltime, he's retired and he even cleans MY cat's litter tray. He keeps track of when my meds are running low and refills scripts or asks me if I'd like him to make a doctor's appointment. He has learned my preferences in groceries and how I launder and store different types of clothing. I try to remember to notice and thank him, not just for the daily stuff, but the other things (like making sure my bathroom is stocked with toilet paper). As an autistic person, his attitude and behaviour have given me so many more spoons but sometimes I feel uncomfortable that I'm not pulling my weight, even though he has much more free time. I am not saying "not all men" but I wonder how an aspie like me ended up with someone who gives a shit about cleanliness and nutrition and budgeting. He is far from perfect (likewise) but if he can see that the cat has kicked litter on the floor, why can't other dudes, and if they do, why can't they fond a dustpan and broom and sweep it up? The only hypothesis I have is a endemic lack of respect for women that is still "normal", like slut-shaming, glass ceilings, gender jokes. I also kind of feel that metafilter's emotional labour threads gave me an education in equity, which meant I would rather have spent the rest of my life alone than doing a double shift, with the comorbid aspie burnout/shutdowns.
posted by b33j at 5:48 AM on June 13 [24 favorites]


But it is also "interesting," and something I've honestly never fully considered, that single women often need to spend a lot more time and/or money just to have a basic "respectable human being" living space than single men do.

Similarly, single (and non-single) women are expected to spend a lot more time and money on grooming and fashion than their male equivalents. These are unfair expectations with financial and stress consequences.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:53 AM on June 13 [19 favorites]


But it is also "interesting," and something I've honestly never fully considered, that single women often need to spend a lot more time and/or money just to have a basic "respectable human being" living space than single men do.

Ever visited single-gender floors or halls in college dorms? This stuff starts very early.
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:59 AM on June 13 [4 favorites]


I am all in favour of announcing that one has done a routine chore and then receiving praise for having done it. My partner and I both do this, and it's honestly really nice to have one's work seen and acknowledged in that way. (I am a woman, in case that matters.)

For those looking for more statistics, here's a Statistics Canada report on time use by gender.

When paid and unpaid work are combined, the difference in time spent working is not enormous, and time spend on housework seems to be trending more equal over time. While there is still room for improvement, it seems unfair and incorrect to paint this as a great moral failing of men as a group. Perhaps I'm biased by the fact that most men I've known well have been conscientious about doing their fair share, but it bothers me to see men painted with such a broad and unkind brush.
posted by Kilter at 6:05 AM on June 13 [2 favorites]




This is my own personal When I Am God Emperor Of The World, and probably won't ever happen, but I really think schools should bring back Home Ec as a compulsory subject, but do it properly this time. Girls and boys all have to do it. It's not "how to make rock cakes and sew an apron." It's "how to do a basic household budget, cook simple meals, clean an oven, make a chore schedule, clean a toilet, do laundry properly." How to be a functioning member of a functioning household, basically. Hell, you could even specifically address how to make sure that labour is fairly distributed.
I feel like that would do a lot not just to have people reach adulthood knowing how to do those things, but also with a basic awareness that these are things that need to get done and you are going to be responsible for doing them. Even for parents who really want to raise their kids with that understanding, all kinds of things make it difficult and get in the way. At least if you made it a part of standard education, you'd be raising people with a baseline awareness that a lot of us grow up without now.
posted by BlueNorther at 6:18 AM on June 13 [28 favorites]


A friend's son is going to be looking after the family's home for a long stretch. He is...not experienced with maintenance routines, and is oblivious to mess. His girlfriend is quite the opposite. It's taking everything I have not to tell her to just RUN AWAY from playing house together. I am that sure she's going to end up doing the work, and that this (lovely, humane, charming, sweet) young man is just going to coast in comfort on her labor. Because love. Because internalized shoulds. Because "I just didn't notice" still gets a pass as a result. *Shakes younger self* Not my house, not my kid, not my problem...but my son is his good friend, and he will learn from seeing how his buddy handles things.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:18 AM on June 13 [5 favorites]


I'm sorry that the truth, which is backed up by data both qualitative and quantitative, over long periods of time, is uncomfortable to hear. Maybe us ladies should quit clatching in our sewing circle and get back to sitting politely and quietly and waiting for things to just naturally become equitable over time? Would that be more comfortable for men?

It's far more unfair to have lived a life of 36 years where I have never once had an equal partner at home simply because of my gender, than it is to have to hear about the fact that you are privileged, or to hear negative things about people who share your privilege. Personally, even though I am a woman, I have a heap of privilege that I carry with me wherever I go. Confronting that and thinking about it has not been fun or easy, but its necessary. And sometimes it has required hearing things about people like me that paint me with a broad brush, as it were. Too bad. Moreover, it has required that I now push back on other people like me who don't get it yet. That is really hard. Recognizing the privilege is step zero. It's really frustrating that some people just can't be reached because their privilege is too comfortable for them to contemplate questioning.

"I'm in this photo and I don't like it" is not a suitable reason for opting out of justice and equity.
posted by sockermom at 6:25 AM on June 13 [55 favorites]


The comments from the cis men in this thread, along with the overwhelming research that shows over and over again that the majority of men do not pull their weight, is why I’m still single and probably will stay single forever.
posted by a strong female character at 6:39 AM on June 13 [41 favorites]


He is...not experienced with maintenance routines, and is oblivious to mess

Research has shown men are not oblivious to mess. They see mess. They just assume someone else will clean it up.
posted by a strong female character at 6:41 AM on June 13 [40 favorites]


There was just a hilarious example of this on the "Am I The Asshole" subreddit. The poster, who had felt that he and his wife had an even split of household duties, accepted a dare from his wife to swap for a week. The rest is classic.
posted by prefpara at 6:43 AM on June 13 [11 favorites]


Oops, I missed that this had already been linked - sorry!
posted by prefpara at 6:46 AM on June 13


After reading all the domestic labor threads on metafilter I resolved to try and do what I felt was 70% of the housework figuring it might work out to actually be close to 50%.
posted by srboisvert at 6:53 AM on June 13 [8 favorites]


I don't keep up to my partner, I have no illusions as to who is doing the lion's share of housework. She is used to taking things on and doing them herself (raised two sons without any desire to have a father/husband involved, tends to lead projects, and is used to accommodating others' shortcomings by picking up the slack).

I also work in an environment where the ratio of women to men is 8:1 and the majority of the women are married with children. I'd say to a person these women do the vast majority of the housekeeping. I also see little to no sign that they are teaching their male children to have different expectations. My partner does not have high expectations of her sons and they do not contribute much during visits.

20 years ago I think I'd have considered myself a pretty reasonable person, fairly feminist. I can laugh at that now, it's not comfortable but I'm as much a product of my time as the next person. And these roles seem intractable at times. I think I have grown a lot in the past 10 years in large part due to my friendships with women, both at work and otherwise, and *especially* in terms of the time I spend with older (60+) women who have largely given up on having a male partner. There are studies that indicate this is possibly better for a woman's health, and I believe those studies are valid.

And deeper studies can reveal the pernicious damage of privilege, the reason real equality is precisely a self-interest proposition in an important way. Men are becoming irrelevant. By the way this issue, this discussion, prompted me to finally stop lurking and open an account. If we don't figure out our "humanity" in this century I just don't think we'll get any further.
posted by elkevelvet at 7:18 AM on June 13 [3 favorites]


This interview with the always insightful Silvia Federici touches on this and a lot of related issues, social reproduction work like domestic labor and childcare are highly resistant to automation but people (mostly men) keep talking about robots taking “everyone’s” job, etc etc
posted by The Whelk at 7:20 AM on June 13 [6 favorites]


Did anyone see "Jane the Virgin" recently--Chapter 92? The setup: The Villanueva house has always been a house of ladies (grandmother, mother, daughter), and now at this point grandmother Alba has remarried Jorge and Jane is still living in the house and quietly bristling at seeing her grandmother wait on Jorge hand and foot so he doesn't have to do a thing, AND then her little son Mateo is seeing this as an example of life. However, when Jane quietly asks Jorge to do a few things (and to be fair, he does the same to her) it turns into this giant drama where we're told offscreen Jorge was offended and objected to it, and Alba got really mad and ended up saying that Jorge does a lot for her too like making sure her slippers are out.

Sigh. Yeah, yeah, I know, "I choose my choice," etc. but I still think Jane had a point about role modeling. And Jorge lived alone for years and now he can't deal with the dishes?
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:22 AM on June 13 [5 favorites]


They just assume someone else will clean it up. Yup, a strong female character, we agree. What I still fail to understand is the ability to be indifferent when the mess is pointed out, its stakes and consequences explained, the stress and suffering explicated over and over and there's still no change in behavior. It makes Donegan's last paragraph--"Men need to..." and "Men should..." ring hollow. People who refuse to care aren't going to step up out of a nebulous sense of duty or from an idea of fairness. Refusal to care is a central aspect of the problem.
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:32 AM on June 13 [9 favorites]


I lived with various men in my roommate years who would for real just drop garbage on the floor of the house and walk away from it. It was insane. I guess their parents (mother) had just cleaned up after them their whole life? To the point of picking up their empty soda cans from the floor? To get them to clean a bathroom would have been an act of god. "Oblivious" and "privileged" are the words but they barely describe the mindset.
posted by pilot pirx at 7:34 AM on June 13 [3 favorites]




It doesn't seem long since this was on the blue. Checking out the data linked above by schrodinger again (Table 1, first three columns) we can see a few things. Sleep and leisure, added together, broadly equate. Men work a hour and a half longer than women, women spend about the same more than men in household work and caring. You are then amongst the small stuff, data wise.

Seems to me that you could interpret that in more than one way.


Just in case anyone wants to check for themselves in an easy to read graph.
posted by FakeFreyja at 7:40 AM on June 13 [3 favorites]


So, I'm a gay man. I have no dog in this fight except that fuck straight men need to get it together.

My brother has a serious girlfriend. This is his first one. He usually kept a neat apartment. His girlfriend started spending a lot of time there, and one day I'm on the phone with my mother and she says she was over at my brother's place and that it was a mess and that she didn't understand why SHE wasn't cleaning up.

So, yeah.
posted by Automocar at 7:43 AM on June 13 [3 favorites]


I also see little to no sign that they are teaching their male children to have different expectations. My partner does not have high expectations of her sons and they do not contribute much during visits.

Why don’t these men want to act like adults who can take care of themselves? It’s interesting to me that in an era in which we often discuss masculinity and stereotypes about men, so many men accept being cleaned up after like little children. They don’t want to be emotionally dependent on friends and family members because of the Strong Independent Man expectations but they are happy to be as helpless as little babies when it comes to their homes and meals. The way I hear my friend’s boyfriend bitch about what he does and doesn’t want for dinner, he sounds like a child expecting to be fed via the “zoomy airplane” method. Why isn’t it embarrassing and emasculating for a man to say “I can’t figure out how to work this very basic laundry machine”?
posted by sallybrown at 7:46 AM on June 13 [27 favorites]


In answer to the commenter who asked about non-het relationships and domestic labor here are a few links. I don't have time to provide any summaries at the moment but I might be able to chime in later. Basic answer--things are more equitable, at least until kids come along.

My personal experience as a queer woman is that it's just been dependent on personal tendencies: One female partner has a much higher messiness tolerance than I do, so I ended up doing more of the work (or nagging her). The other female partner has a very low messiness tolerance and ended up doing more of the work (and surprisingly not minding it -- I checked in often about that because I felt guilty).
posted by mkuhnell at 7:49 AM on June 13 [5 favorites]


Refusal to care is a central aspect of the problem.

Of course men refuse to care or change. They get to have someone clean up after them for free, and if their servant complains, all they have to do is throw a fit like a toddler and she’ll shut up and get back to work. Men don’t care about women’s feelings, so the fact that she’s hurt by his actions doesn’t matter. This situation is ideal for men. It would only make sense for them to put in effort to change if they thought of their women partners as full human beings deserving of respect.
posted by a strong female character at 7:50 AM on June 13 [20 favorites]


Why isn’t it embarrassing and emasculating for a man to say “I can’t figure out how to work this very basic laundry machine”?

Because the issue is power and inequality, with ideology developing from there. The goals are to not do work and to control others, so naturally-occurring ideology will never challenge this. Similarly, if you're a highly-paid faculty person who can't figure out the 2018-model copier with the light-up instructions, that doesn't mean you're dumb, whereas if a secretary has to be taught how to use the fax machine from 1995 that gets used once a year for a particular purpose, she's irretrievably stupid.

Secondly - and in expansion on the first point - because feelings and housework are defined as "the work that belongs to inferior people". It's not a sign of failure for a superior person to be unable to do the work that is customarily done by inferiors.

Cis men don't, in general, feel bad that they can't cook, clean or mend, any more than faculty feel bad that they can't refill the coffee machine, or George Bush feels bad that he can't buy groceries.

It's not about affect from their end; it's about power.
posted by Frowner at 7:53 AM on June 13 [52 favorites]


I mean, for that matter, a rich woman who was accustomed to servants wouldn't feel bad that she couldn't cook or clean; she'd feel that cooking and cleaning were degrading tasks best suited to the lower orders. [ETA - consider white woman slaveowners, white women in colonial India, elite women of any imperial power, etc.]
posted by Frowner at 7:55 AM on June 13 [5 favorites]


The Statistics Canada report had this gem buried in it too near Chart 14: "When women participated in leisure as a primary activity, they were more likely than men to simultaneously do unpaid work or be in the company of their children. Nearly 20% women in Canada performed housework and/or caregiving at the same time as leisure activities in 2015, compared with 6.0% of men. Also, among those whose youngest child was under the age of 16, 53.5% of women did leisure activities with their children, as did 46.5% of their male counterparts. Previous research demonstrates that when leisure is done in combination with housework and/or child care, it tends to be more fragmented and less relaxing and restorative."
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 8:07 AM on June 13 [19 favorites]


It's interesting for me to ponder how to raise my kids to be better than previous generations, especially because Mr Corpse and I have gender roles that reinforce this crap: he's the breadwinner, I'm a housewife. It works for us but I don't want my children to think that this is how it has to be. I have a son and a daughter and I try to make sure they're both learning the basics and also to give a crap about housekeeping and that I hold them to the same standards (adjusted for age).

One thing I've started doing is praising myself in front of them. Our front door latch recently broke, and we were all acting as if any one of us might be the person to fix it. But then I pointed out that it was ridiculous to think that anyone other than me would do it. I said what I was going to do to fix it, what store I would walk which bit of hardware to, and then after I fixed it I pointed it out to everyone. I literally patted myself on the back. I do it with humor, but I mean it.

I also loudly acknowledge when Mr Corpse or a younger Corpse goes to the store for groceries, fills the gas tank, or cleans the bathroom. I am going to do my best to make sure we don't have invisible fairies -- usually me -- coming in to do all the household work.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:07 AM on June 13 [10 favorites]


I wonder if the article was talking specifically about the UK? The data in America seems to say that men spend a whopping 0.09 hours more in sleep and leisure, while the rest of the day is spent in various forms of labor.

Is the sentiment that men should stop working as much and come do housework instead? That seems a little bit of chair shuffling rather than solving anything of note.
posted by FakeFreyja at 8:09 AM on June 13 [1 favorite]


Why don’t these men want to act like adults who can take care of themselves?
@sallybrown

I think we are working against powerful, deeply entrenched attitudes. One single parent (in the case of my partner) took the route of raising the two boys and imposing very few housework expectations on them. From what I can tell, the young men are with females who also grew up with few housekeeping expectations. There may be generational things going on in addition to regional/cultural things, with the pervasive gender role thing going on also. Growing up with 3 siblings (a brother and two sisters) I see my sisters doing more meal prep, but a fairly even split on laundry and other tasks. Some kids never do their own laundry till they move out, I think this is handled differently depending on the household you grow up in.

It's been said a few times in this very space: people (not just men) are generally content to ignore things if by ignoring those things they can perpetuate their own comfort. In the long term it's debilitating to all concerned.
posted by elkevelvet at 8:12 AM on June 13 [1 favorite]


I've had two long-term male partners at opposite ends of the emotional/domestic labour responsibility spectrum.
Ex was your classic single golden child waited on hand and foot by mom, transitioning right to living with a girlfriend without ever going through an independent living period and expecting the same level of service. Had to be told to "help" with detailed directions, wouldn't take initiative for any maintenance, and when push came to shove subcontracted everything to paid help - takeout, laundry service and cleaners. I left and swore never again.

Current partner changed my mind by being a freaking unicorn, basically. He cleans and cooks unprompted when there is need. He handles all his family biz -calls, gifts, planning- better than I do my own. He's the king of packing lists and itineraries. Most miraculously, he pays close attention and anticipates my wants and needs, as I do his. It's almost a shame we won't have kids.
As far as I can tell, here's what made him what he is, aside from his beautiful soul:
- Good parental role models: his dad does a fair share of household tasks and expected his sons to do as well as his daughter.
- Bad parental role models: his parents can also be nuts and he had to learn to anticipate their moods as a survival tactic.
- Independent group living: he has lived in a lot of different environments with a lot of different strangers, and thus learned to be an excellent roommate and fully self-sufficient human being.

Not sure how you can bottle that and sell it, but he's given me hope that equalitarian cis relationships are possible.
posted by Freyja at 8:12 AM on June 13 [5 favorites]


Is the sentiment that men should stop working as much and come do housework instead?

No, but maybe let’s try that for a change! Even if the problem was that everyone worked exactly the same hours but men’s hours were all spent on paid work while women's had a higher proportion of unpaid work, there’s some pretty obvious problems with that.

I have no idea how the US compares to the rest of the world on this, maybe you all really have achieved some sort of equal-working-time utopia. But for oh so many of the rest of us the ‘second shift’ still applies. The big 2007 European study on this, as reported by the Guardian:
A "lifestyle divide", in which women take on the burden of domestic duties, creates a vicious circle as they are then less able to work the long hours needed to win top jobs. They then earn less and are reinforced as responsible for household tasks, says the Europe-wide research.

The divide also leaves women with a longer working day, despite earning less, according to the study. The average working week for a woman in Europe is 68 hours, including paid and domestic work - longer than the average of 55 hours for a man in full-time employment.
posted by Catseye at 8:24 AM on June 13 [12 favorites]


Things must be very different in Europe because in America women spend 14.79 hours per day in sleep and leisure, compared to men's 14.88.
posted by FakeFreyja at 8:26 AM on June 13 [1 favorite]


Things must be very different in Europe because in America women spend 14.79 hours per day in sleep and leisure, compared to men's 14.88.

I'm sorry, I may have missed it in thread - which study are you citing? The BLM stuff you linked upthread does not seem to have it.
posted by corb at 8:30 AM on June 13 [1 favorite]


Regarding the comment about paid versus unpaid labor, and if you put them together the discrepancy really isn't all that much. That may be true, but in my experience, that is really pointing out another inequity. When the male in the household chooses to put more hours into his job versus household labor, the necessary household and childcare work still needs to be done. As the woman picks up those chores, she is then putting less time into her own career, which can have negative consequences in her life. This is not conjecture, I work in academia and I both see this happening with my colleagues, AND have colleagues who research the question of equity in professional careers. So those graphs are not exactly reassuring to me that we're making progress at all.
posted by TheFantasticNumberFour at 8:36 AM on June 13 [25 favorites]


I'm sorry, I may have missed it in thread - which study are you citing? The BLM stuff you linked upthread does not seem to have it.

It's on there. The series have to be selected in the table above the graph. You can mouse over for exact numbers.

edit: oh, you mean what study is being cited. It's the 2015 American time survey conducted by the bureau of labor statistics.
posted by FakeFreyja at 8:36 AM on June 13 [2 favorites]


The series have to be selected in the table above the graph. You can mouse over for exact numbers.

The study you show says: 9.81 hours for women's "personal care, including sleep" and 4.98 hours for 'leisure, including sports', so I can at least see how you came up with those numbers. The problem is that it has no data that I can see about how precisely it's broken down. What, precisely, counts as 'sports'? If a woman is running an hour a day because there are incredibly unforgiving body standards for women, is that 'sports'? If a woman spends time doing makeup because there are beauty standards that are different for women, is that 'personal care'?
posted by corb at 8:45 AM on June 13 [10 favorites]


My entire married life has been a series of thinking I was doing my share and realizing I wasn't doing my share.

Keep trying, dudes. Keep listening. Keep asking how much leisure time she has and how she gets to use it. Count the hours.
posted by straight at 8:49 AM on June 13 [4 favorites]


The study you show says: 9.81 hours for women's "personal care, including sleep" and 4.98 hours for 'leisure, including sports', so I can at least see how you came up with those numbers. The problem is that it has no data that I can see about how precisely it's broken down. What, precisely, counts as 'sports'? If a woman is running an hour a day because there are incredibly unforgiving body standards for women, is that 'sports'? If a woman spends time doing makeup because there are beauty standards that are different for women, is that 'personal care'?

Well yes I suppose you can read the numbers that way, or any other way you choose. I guess any time study becomes useless if you assume the data all represents secret labor that's being covered up.

I'm just saying that however you interpret it, labor is being done pretty much the same amount of time by men and women. If the issue is paid versus unpaid labor, that is a fair and important issue. But if that is the case then articles that basically say "get up off your lazy ass and actually do work" are missing the reality of the situation. Everyone is working and from a population level standpoint no one is lazy or not pulling their weight. It is an imbalance in the type of labor performed rather than quantity. The solution is a trade of labor, not anyone picking up slack.
posted by FakeFreyja at 8:52 AM on June 13 [2 favorites]


Just a quick show of hands, how many of us are ostensibly performing paid labor right at this very moment?

any time study becomes useless if you assume the data all represents secret labor that's being covered up
That seems a bit hyperbolic. But it is true that what we decide to count, and how we define the things we count, matters very much.
posted by sockermom at 8:55 AM on June 13 [20 favorites]


In the white collar world, dudes who have a partner at home to manage the house are kind of notorious for "staying late at work" when they don't really need to. So yeah, they are performing paid labor, I guess. But they ain't forging steel beams.
posted by soren_lorensen at 8:58 AM on June 13 [20 favorites]


Is the sentiment that men should stop working as much and come do housework instead?

Hours working at paid employment counts the number of hours you are in the workplace.

Hours doing housework is not hours spent at home but hours actually doing housework.

Some jobs, you spend 100% of your time at work doing work. Some not so much.
posted by straight at 9:00 AM on June 13 [7 favorites]


Didn't someone upthread have something to say about assuming one gender lies about how much labor they actually do?
posted by FakeFreyja at 9:01 AM on June 13


Imagine if no one vacuumed, or washed the windows, or picked up the various detritus that accumulates around the house.

Yes, just imagine ...

I mean, has she been to my house? We're making a new cat out of the rolling tumbleweeds of cathair on the stairs.

seriously: house of 3 women, 1 man - and he's the only one who vacuums, or does dishes without being asked to. Class can totally trump gender, and many men today aren't their (grand)fathers. But mostly this thread inspired me to go thank him for all that he does around the house to keep it from going (completely) to pot. Everyone deserves thanks for reproductive labour.
posted by jb at 9:07 AM on June 13 [2 favorites]


Oh, cool, so since someone says that the household labor is already basically equal, and that men exist who do chores, that means there’s not a problem and women should shut up and get back to work.
posted by a strong female character at 9:13 AM on June 13 [39 favorites]


I have no idea how the US compares to the rest of the world on this, maybe you all really have achieved some sort of equal-working-time utopia

Not even kind of.

I am a SAHM at present. Let me break down the things that I am expected to do on a weekly/daily basis.

Drive him to work and kid to school - Daily, 3.5 hrs - Weekly: 17.5
Meal plan nutritious, tasty, keto-compliant meals for the family. Weekly: 1hr
Food shopping for the family: Weekly: 2.5 hrs, including travel time to the supermarket and stores we can afford.
Wake the family up in the morning, get them moving, check on people to make sure they're out of the house on time. Daily: 30m Weekly: 2.5hrs
Walk the dog: Daily: 30m Weekly: 3.5hrs
Ensure all animals & birds are fed and watered: Daily: 15m, Weekly: 1.4 hrs
Cook dinner: Daily, 1:30 Weekly: 10.5hrs
Cook breakfasts & lunches on weekends: Daily: 2hrs Weekly: 4hrs
Make lunches for everyone for the week: Daily: 15m, Weekly: 1.08 hrs

We're at 43.98 hours a week - more than a full work week - and I have not yet begun to clean. I should add that on all 'non work hours' time I am still expected to clean, because I am the stay-at-home person who's not working, so I don't actually get the weekends a more traditional working person might.

All rooms vaccuumed - and yes, this is daily because a large part of our house is not carpeted and we own pets - Daily: 45m Weekly: 3.25hrs
Rooms mopped/carpets washed 1-2 times a week: Weekly 3.5hrs
Bed made daily, sheets changed 1-2 times a week: Weekly: 45m, .75hrs
Sink empty daily by the time husband comes home, requiring multiple loads of dishes from these semi-gourmet meals, hand washing of non dishwasher safe items, and trying really hard not to use cookware/dishes for myself during the day: Daily: 1hr Weekly: 7hrs
Trash taken outside, trashcan light scrub if needed: Daily: 10m Weekly: 1.16hrs
Counters scrubbed down after each meal is cooked: Weekdays: 15m Weekends: 45m Weekly: 2.58hrs
Laundry sorted, completed, and folded: counting only the actual time of loading, changing, and folding and not the mental load to keep track of when it's all going off: Daily: 45m Weekly: 5.25hrs
Toilets scrubbed: Weekly: 30m, .5 hrs
Windows washed so you can't see dog nose prints: Weekly: 45m, .75hrs
Cat litter: Weekly, 1hr

We're now at 69.72hrs of workweek by task, with no days off.
My husband, comparatively, has a 40 hour workweek. Which means I am working literally 30 hours a week more than him, and that's before you add on extras or things that happen infrequently, or having to be 'put together', or the emotional labor, or even the financial management, or the dealing with the kid's school stuff/helping with homework/emotional management.

And, as is not uncommon, my husband feels since 'he does the work', that he has no real obligation to help and will if he wants to, but no expectations can be placed on him for this. There is maybe, by my count, 3 or 4 hours a week he spends doing chores of any kind, which still leaves me ahead of him by a whopping 25.72hrs.
posted by corb at 9:22 AM on June 13 [87 favorites]


And of course, corb gets no lunches or coffee breaks with coworkers every day, no weekends, no sick days, no PTO, no promotions, no retirement contribution matches, no health benefits, no on-site gym, no free snack machine or cappuccino maker, no snazzy resume to leverage into new/better jobs, and of course no pay.

No pay. That was the big one for me when I was a SAHM. In theory my ex and I had shared bank accounts and in theory he appreciated all that I did, and agreed I had equal claim to "our" money, but he definitely didn't act like it. He made huge financial decisions on his own all the time and would yell at me for buying chicken at the grocery store without permission. No pay. That's a biggie.

I have a friend who has a friend who became a SAHM on the condition that her husband pay her $1500 cash every month + contribute money to her retirement account at the same rate as she was doing while she was employed (including employer matching). I think that STILL wasn't enough to make up for her lost opportunity costs from the gap in her resume, but that lady was on the right track.
posted by MiraK at 9:33 AM on June 13 [72 favorites]


I have a friend who has a friend who became a SAHM on the condition that her husband pay her $1500 cash every month + contribute money to her retirement account at the same rate as she was doing while she was employed (including employer matching). I think that STILL wasn't enough to make up for her lost opportunity costs from the gap in her resume, but that lady was on the right track.

The retirement thing is huge, too. When someone decides to stop working in order to stay home and do uncompensated household labor, they are no longer paying in to Social Security, or a 401k. There is way more at stake with this decision than a monthly money in/out calculation.

And if the marriage fails? Hooboy.
posted by soren_lorensen at 9:41 AM on June 13 [21 favorites]


[FakeFreyja, you need to cut it out and let the thread be.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:42 AM on June 13 [9 favorites]


Yeah. I should add three things:

First, that while I am able to make any expenditures for food, etc, that I think necessary, our budget gives me - because I 'don't work' - literally 1/12 the discretionary spending that my husband gets for the same time period.

Secondly, that also doesn't take into account the way women often are forced by heteronormativity into making their 'leisure time' actually 'catering to the male partner time'. For example, I spend a lot of time watching TV with my husband that he would think of as 'leisure time', but I think of as "investing time in the relationship time". Leisure time isn't leisure if it isn't self-selected.

And third: my husband, for everyone who's about to be like 'well that's a conservative system that would never fly with my radical feminist dude self', has a stated political position of anarcho-syndicalist and a long history of anti-imperialist organizing and mutual aid all over the damn place, some of whose responsibilities have also often been done by me.
posted by corb at 9:46 AM on June 13 [36 favorites]


And third: my husband, for everyone who's about to be like 'well that's a conservative system that would never fly with my radical feminist dude self', has a stated political position of anarcho-syndicalist and a long history of anti-imperialist organizing and mutual aid all over the damn place, some of whose responsibilities have also often been done by me.

Haha. In the field, we call them manarchists. (Keep scrolling to the household part.)

(I used to know one of the people who put together one of the "are you a manarchist" quizzes - I think there are several - and she got a lot of shit for it. It really, really made men mad.)
posted by Frowner at 9:50 AM on June 13 [25 favorites]


I considered tracking the hours that I spend on housework to show it to my male roommate, to try to impress on him the amount of work that I do. The problem is that it's by nature hard to track - I do a lot of things here and there, that take a few minutes at most, but add up to a significant deficit by the end of the week. It's obvious I do much more, if I simply pay attention to how often I'm cleaning and he's just hanging out, compared to the other way around, or if I simply pay attention to who does what tasks.

Then there's just the mental load of keeping track of things like: Are we running out of toilet paper? We both use it, but I can't rely on him to replace the roll, to notice that we're running low, or to do something about it if we are. He might, now and then, but I can't trust it if I want to be able to wipe my ass.

I do not believe for a second that studies showing that men and women have equal amounts of leisure time. Not when I have run into this gendered breakdown of labor time and time again, not when I have seen it wreck my own family, not when I see it constantly reinforced by our culture/media, not when there are plenty of studies showing the opposite, not when there are serious methodological limitations in how leisure time is counted in studies that do show a more equal division of labor - e.g. what dorothyisunderwood posted about women's time spent with children being counted as leisure, which deserves a lot more attention from people saying "but but it's equal, stop trashing men."

This is not a made up problem.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:58 AM on June 13 [26 favorites]


Queer here. I've spoken before about how my partner and I break down labor.

In regards to the study FakeFreya linked, here's the definitions for each category. This shows the breakdown in each category. In terms of household activities, women spend more time on housework, food preparation, and household management. Men spend more time on lawn and garden care, exterior/interior maintenance and decoration, and vehicles.

Also, it's useful to compare the employment data. When you compare unemployed men to unemployed women, they spend less time on household activities, less time caring for other people, and more time in leisure and sports. And when you look at average time spent in activities per day by employment status for married mothers and fathers, the differences are striking. Unemployed mothers spend 2.63 hours per day on caring for household members, while unemployed fathers only spend 1.46 (and the majority of women's time is devoted to physical care, while the majority of men's care is devoted to play). The pattern is repeated in many categories: unemployed mothers spend 1.57 hours on housework to fathers' 0.58. Unemployed mothers spend 1.7 hours on food prep and cleanup to fathers' 0.71. Unemployed mothers spend 3.89 hours on leisure and sports to fathers' 6.44.

In fact, unemployed fathers do less housework, food prep, physical child care, and household/childcare related travel than mothers employed full time. So it can't just be that men are working more, because men who aren't working also do less.
posted by brook horse at 10:29 AM on June 13 [55 favorites]


Men spend more time on lawn and garden care, exterior/interior maintenance and decoration, and vehicles.

And those things are much less frequently needed to be attended to.
posted by agregoli at 10:33 AM on June 13 [10 favorites]


Thanks very much to the OP for this thread. BELIEVE WOMEN. If you can't think of something constructive to say and you're of the masculine persuasion, consider focusing on LISTENING. And thank all the feminine commenters for their emotional labor in trying to convince you if you seem to be wrong-ended.
posted by kalessin at 10:37 AM on June 13 [18 favorites]


And those things are much less frequently needed to be attended to.

A little clarification here, my phrasing was a bit poor. First, all of this data is how many hours per day a person spends on an activity on average, not necessarily how frequently they do it. Second, I was just comparing which categories women spend more time per day versus which categories men spend more time per day. Some of them are very small amounts--exterior maintenance is 0.09 for men to 0.02 for women. So that doesn't necessarily mean men are spending most of their day doing exterior maintenance, just that they do it more than women. I was comparing the ways in which who does what work is still gendered, rather than the overall time spent doing each task each day.

In terms of household activities (not overall activities), women spend the most time per day doing housework (0.85), food prep (0.83), and household management (0.13). Men spend the most time doing food prep (0.36), lawn and garden care (0.25), and housework (0.23). Not that this negates your point, I just wanted to clarify the data.
posted by brook horse at 10:51 AM on June 13 [1 favorite]


And thank all the feminine commenters for their emotional labor

Also thank also those of us who have zero truck with 'feminine' because that codified set of expectations re: being just naturally good at and attracted to housework and childcare, and/or sweetly not complaining about it, is what gets us into this shit in the first place.
posted by Catseye at 10:55 AM on June 13 [16 favorites]


I think all this concern about quantifying the data is a bit annoying. How accurate to the decimal point does it have to be to be a valid problem? Listening to women should be all it takes, funny how that's not a priority.
posted by agregoli at 11:27 AM on June 13 [24 favorites]


It's not that I don't believe that men can be feminist, or that I want them to stop calling themselves feminist. (I prefer it to the alternative.)

I've put feminist and ally in the pile of words I will acknowledge if you ask me directly but I will almost never self-identify as because it's so often a prelude to a bunch of (sometimes predatory) bullshit. Only exception I make is as an actually... to derail bro misogyny/bullshit claims about what feminism is, which I thankfully pretty rarely am exposed to.

I guess I have just well, actuallyed you with a third option and I apologize, but I would like my fellow dudes to stop asking for cookies. Please subscribe to my newsletter.

Listening to women should be all it takes, funny how that's not a priority.

I guess arguing about the metrics is easier than acknowledging that the underlying issue is that the problem isn't percentages, it's that one half of the partnership is unhappy with the deal. You don't have to have a perfectly balanced housework division. You have to have an arrangement that everyone agrees to and is happy with and isn't only accepted because of cultural bullshit. You could 50-50 that time with stopwatches and it would still be unfair bullshit if the woman got stuck with a bunch of shit she hated doing because of sexism. Haggling over the time sidesteps confronting the idea that maybe you're in a relationship where your spouse resents you but feels she can't speak up about it because of what society has declared the right place for her.
posted by phearlez at 11:38 AM on June 13 [18 favorites]


Or that she HAS spoken up about it, multiple times, and you couldn't be bothered to change your behavior.
posted by agregoli at 11:41 AM on June 13 [22 favorites]


Secondly, that also doesn't take into account the way women often are forced by heteronormativity into making their 'leisure time' actually 'catering to the male partner time'. For example, I spend a lot of time watching TV with my husband that he would think of as 'leisure time', but I think of as "investing time in the relationship time". Leisure time isn't leisure if it isn't self-selected.

I have never seen this point made, though I have experienced this, and now I want it printed on T-shirts
posted by FirstMateKate at 11:53 AM on June 13 [42 favorites]


Also among that leisure-but-not time is the various child support/socialization type duties. PTA membership, coordinating playdates, etc. It's an interesting/infuriating look into how sexist systems can be self-perpetuating. There are a number of other moms who, no matter how many times my wife forwards their message to me or has me respond to their scheduling attempts, will direct their next request or even their answer back to her. The best solution we've found for some of that still blows - she ends up cc:d on every email or text, whether she has anything to add beyond "yes that's fine" or not. Some of that is surely very sensible I don't know if this sude is a gross horndog self-defense, but the result is the same.
posted by phearlez at 12:12 PM on June 13 [1 favorite]




The retirement thing is huge, too. When someone decides to stop working in order to stay home and do uncompensated household labor, they are no longer paying in to Social Security, or a 401k. There is way more at stake with this decision than a monthly money in/out calculation.

And that's the number one reason I refuse to stop working full time. Having a clean house now won't help me bolster my long-term savings.

Nothing drives me around the twist like all those articles that breathlessly detail how much money "the household" can "save" when a woman stops working (because her dry-cleaning, commuting and lunch-out-every-day costs are apparently luxuries, not necessities, and the man's a terribly good sport to let her have her expensive hobby-career). Because none of them include how much money "the household" is losing when one person's 401(k) contributions dwindle, their salary trajectory stalls out and their social security benefits are smaller as a result.

It's amazing how thoroughly both American women and men are socialized to systematically devalue women's time. Its only apparent use is as a household resource; heaven forfend she take any of it for herself or do a cost-benefit analysis on whether the way she's spending her time is ultimately benefitting her in the long run.
posted by sobell at 12:44 PM on June 13 [40 favorites]


Did anybody post this recent study yet? Single mothers still spend less time on housework than married/partnered mothers.
posted by nakedmolerats at 1:10 PM on June 13 [15 favorites]


Secondly, that also doesn't take into account the way women often are forced by heteronormativity into making their 'leisure time' actually 'catering to the male partner time'. For example, I spend a lot of time watching TV with my husband that he would think of as 'leisure time', but I think of as "investing time in the relationship time". Leisure time isn't leisure if it isn't self-selected.

The other problem is that these guys often complain about us being boring because our leisure time isn't purely about hobbies and self-improvement (or is, God forbid, sedentary) which gives them an excuse to check out of the relationship. Then again, how can you be someone someone else wants to be in a relationship with once you've internalized that tending to basic adulting makes you unlikable and unlovable?
posted by blerghamot at 1:13 PM on June 13 [3 favorites]


Today in the NYT: Why Women, but Not Men, Are Judged for a Messy House; They’re still held to a higher social standard, which explains why they’re doing so much housework, studies show.
posted by MonkeyToes at 1:31 PM on June 13 [11 favorites]


I think a good rule of thumb for men is to make sure you are doing WAY MORE than your share of the household work, because men are socialized in a way that much of that work is invisible to them, so if they are only doing their share of what they can see they are actually not doing their share of what exists. (Of course men should also be working on learning how to see all that invisible work at the same time, but they shouldn't wait till they can see it to believe that it exists.) Also, if it ever turns out that you ARE actually doing more than your share, it's no more than what women have had to deal with for generations, so suck it up.

I try to do this, and I'm absolutely fine with it ideologically, but it's hard not to get grouchy sometimes and complain (I'm only human). To her credit, my wife does not give me much sympathy and I get over it.
posted by rikschell at 1:52 PM on June 13 [5 favorites]


Seconding, thirding, bajillioning the request to LISTEN AND BELIEVE. This question from AskMe has really striking relevance to this thread: Sexual Needs In A Relationship

It's heartening in that thread to see how many folks immediately brought up the subject of unequal responsibilities and the effect on intimate relationships. I know I don't feel frisky, or even just friendly, after being housekeeper cook nurse therapist, and being responded to as if I'm Mean Mommy being fussy about the house.
posted by twentyfeetof tacos at 2:10 PM on June 13 [22 favorites]


Men spend more time on lawn and garden care, exterior/interior maintenance and decoration, and vehicles.

And here, I wonder what the overlap is on leisure. Like, the guy around the corner from me has a fancy sportscar that I've never actually seen him drive more than backing it out of the garage every nice Saturday to detail it and his other car. I'm guessing some people might think that counts as "vehicle maintanance labor" but it's clearly his hobby and also far less necessary than, say, making sure the laundry is done before everyone is out of underwear or that there is food in the fridge and toilet paper in the bathroom.
posted by TwoStride at 4:38 PM on June 13 [17 favorites]


Just got here. Am I too late to congratulate every man who’s ever outperformed an early-2000s Carl’s Jr. ad?
posted by armeowda at 5:47 PM on June 13


Just in case anyone wants to check for themselves in an easy to read graph

Well yes I suppose you can read the numbers that way, or any other way you choose. I guess any time study becomes useless if you assume the data all represents secret labor that's being covered up.

Or, y'know, you could choose to cherry-pick the "sleep and leisure" findings to selectively quote, versus, say, using the drop down menu to look at "Average hours per day spent in household activities" where lo and behold, women average .83 hours to men's .36 hours to food preparation and cleanup; "Interior cleaning", women .53 hours to men's .16; "Laundry", women .25 to men's .06, so on and so forth.

Men do spend more time than women on "lawn and garden care", "interior maintenance, repair, and decoration", and "exterior maintenance, repair, and decoration" for a grand whopping total of time spent in all of these activities of . . . . . . .42 hours. Less than 45 minutes a day, average.

(Assuming, of course, you want an easy-to-read graph versus actually checking out the tables linked in brook horse's comment, which is giving you the source data for the nifty graphs.)
posted by soundguy99 at 9:36 PM on June 13 [10 favorites]


I wanted to share a bit of a palate cleanser with you all, in the form of a series of commercials I happened to catch on Japanese TV during prime time earlier tonight. They star a group of 5 male actors getting absolutely psyched for a specific brand of detergent and, by extension, doing laundry. The only woman involved is the narrator and there's no shame in their excitement; they're just really, really enthusiastic about getting the laundry done. Also, their in-world group name is the Laundry Lovers Club.

Especially after reading this article and thread, I felt it was a nice bit of timing.

posted by lesser weasel at 7:15 AM on June 14 [7 favorites]


One thing that I also think is playing into a lot of these expectations are actually specifically men's expectations around class performance. I've noticed that the more men get more and more conscious that the actual trappings of a 'middle class life' are slipping away from them and the more economic insecurity increases, the more many try to subconsciously hold onto the aesthetic of the middle class life via middle class wife. Like - I'm not going to claim that gender equality was better in the 80s and 90s, but I feel like there was a lot less expectations that wives and mothers would all be June Cleaver.
posted by corb at 7:49 AM on June 14 [2 favorites]


There was some discussion of what we can do about this problem above. Here's a recent piece about individual actions one can take if they find themselves on the losing end of this bargain: How to stage your own death so your husband understands how much work you do.
posted by sockermom at 7:52 AM on June 14 [15 favorites]


> guys often complain about us being boring because our leisure time isn't purely about hobbies and self-improvement

I saw that show up in the famed Emotional Labor thread, where someone (a woman, sadly) said other mothers in her neighborhood were boring because they talked about household chores and grocery prices.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:11 AM on June 14


I will definitely tell you that separation + divorce is a huge eye-opener in terms of how much of my work came from taking care of another person (as well as myself).

Cooking and cleaning for myself and a kid (half the time) plus being able to live in a smaller place (he needed to be in a house) has opened up hours and hours in my week. And he wasn't trying to make work for me! But another full human being eats food, creates mess, and needs attending and it wasn't in any way 50/50 on that front, so I was mostly taking care of him, myself and the kid.

Now it's just me and 50% of the time, the kid, and a cat. I have time for hobbies, socializing, or naps. It's fucking awesome.

I would need to meet a unicorn for sure to ever consider giving this up.
posted by emjaybee at 9:06 AM on June 14 [11 favorites]


I grew up with my dad cooking and my mom doing pretty much everything else. My dad loves cooking and mom didn't, so it was a good setup for them. Mom worked part time when my brother and I were kids, and despite always having my dad cook and the mentality of chore-splitting that created for me, my brother and I were socialized very differently about housework. I (AFAB) had responsibilities at six that my brother didn't have in junior high. If I did part of something, I got screamed at for it not being perfect. If my brother didn't do something, he'd lie about it and mom would be fine with that.

Since mom died, dad has demonstrated a serious lack of housekeeping capacity. Constant fruit flies, kitchen mess, papers everywhere. It's not clear whether he just never learned to do this, or if it's a mental illness issue, or what, but suffice to say that his living space is a disaster area.

Once shortly after my mom died, I came home from college to find that my dad and brother had just left the laundry hamper full for literally months. Since it wasn't my laundry, I ignored it. My brother - who is younger than I am - screamed at me repeatedly that I needed to do it. I stared at him because he had said something completely nonsensical, explained that it wasn't my laundry and I didn't owe him this. He screamed that yes I did, and when I asked how? he got even more upset but couldn't come up with anything. I don't know who eventually did that laundry, but it wasn't me.

As an adult, my living space is cluttery but not unsanitary. When I've had male roommates, I ended up doing the bulk of the housework because they would just... not. I also recently spent a year living with my now-ex-girlfriend, and honestly had a lot of the same issues that people are describing here with men because her approach to housework was to put it off for absolutely as long as possible, and mine is to get things over with. We also had different priorities, like I need the kitchen to be usable for actual cooking while she didn't, and she hated that I would stack things on the floor as part of my art process despite having her own stacks of crap on the floor, which I repeatedly called her on to no avail when we discussed this. We tried to talk it out and she constantly insisted that scooping cat litter every night was the same amount of effort as me cooking, doing dishes, taking out trash compost recycling, and taking point on laundry. Even bringing into the conversation that I have a disability that impacts my mobility and causes chronic pain, when I explained that what I needed most from her to help manage this was help staying on top of the housework it was a nonstarter because while she wanted credit for being a good partner to me as someone with a disability, she was not willing to take on the work needed for that and as soon as we moved in together she essentially dropped doing the things that she had said she would take point on (all chores that involve stairs, essentially - laundry and everything that needs to be taken outside). So while I see where this is a huge issue that manifests as being about gender for most intimate relationships, I think it's more an ugly power struggle including where gender privilege is not a factor. This was also not a butch/femme issue for us, since she's femme and I'm androgynous / not participating in gender.

I've also had the rather depressing experience of talking to a woman I dated very briefly, who broke up with me because she couldn't deal with her internalized homophobia (her words). Last I heard, she is now essentially on strike in her apartment because her husband won't contribute to housework. It's frustrating for me as a queer woman to know that in a relationship, I will do a ton of housework and emotional labor, and I still end up regularly getting dumped for men who will not do these things at all. I kind of want to ask if straight privilege is worth being a servant in your own home, but I'm aware of how that would go over and also that I'm unusual in that I'd rather be alone than live with someone who won't pull their weight. Cats excluded, of course - I signed up for the cats knowing that they think the balance of housework is kept by them grooming their own butts.
posted by bile and syntax at 10:46 AM on June 14 [17 favorites]


When I've had male roommates, I ended up doing the bulk of the housework because they would just... not.

In graduate school, I lived for a school year in a group house with six men. In November of that year, one of them mentioned how nice it was to have a girl roommate because then everything would always be clean. Five minutes later, I cleaned my last common space for the rest of the school year. When my mom came to pick me up in May, the dust bunnies were the size of actual rabbits.

I don't know whether those dudes thought they could wait me out or if they were legitimately so blind to housework as to not even notice when it wasn't done. I don't really care. Either option suggests that they thought my time and my labor were regarded as resources they were entitled to without compensation and -- more crucially -- without my consent.

It is perpetually astounding to me how women have to continually assert their personhood and their autonomy, on everything from their body to their finances to their time. I know there are also some men in the U.S. who do too. But the breadth and depth and scope of how U.S. culture works to dehumanize women in any possible way is really remarkable.
posted by sobell at 3:47 PM on June 14 [25 favorites]


"Ever visited single-gender floors or halls in college dorms? This stuff starts very early."

Oh man. I went to college at a campus that had ONLY single-gender dorms, and the difference was STARK. The men's dorms smelled SO BAD, it hit you in the face as soon as you arrived, and they were constantly doing terrible things like shitting in the elevators and trashing the bathrooms and so on, and there was always garbage in the hallways and pizza boxes thrown near, but not in, the trash, and they were all pretty fucking disgusting. The women's dorms, by contrast, smelled strongly of fruit (because it was the late 90s when we all used fruit-scented shower lotion and moisturizer from Bath & Body Works) and people not using the trash cans properly resulted in section meetings where the RA for that part of the hallway would emphasize the hard work of our cleaning staff and how we had to make sure our trash was thrown out properly, and if your friend threw up and missed the toilet you felt obligated to clean it up so it wasn't left for the hall cleaning staff, and everyone knew the hall cleaning staff's names and the cleaning staff and security guards were invited to the hall Christmas party and the end-of-year banquet and always given gifts by the dorm (which were always things they liked, like gear for their hobbies or adorable clothes for their new grandbabies or gift certificates for their favorite restaurants, because we knew that shit). The men's dorms didn't invite the staff to their Christmas or end-of-year parties and definitely didn't give them gifts. I'd visit my (male) study partner for an intensive class I had where all the work was partner work, and I knew the names of his hall cleaning staff but he didn't. (Sometimes I was late because I'd stop to chat on my way in and get held up and he thought this was VERY strange.)

It was very stark when the university's janitorial staff, as a group, demonstrated for higher wages. (They didn't go on strike, but they had a march and a teach-in and presented demands to the administration.) There were HUNDREDS AND HUNDREDS of women students there with signs and chants because they knew their cleaning staff and they knew the wages were unfair and they supported these women they considered members of their dorm communities. There were like maybe a dozen male students. They felt no solidarity with the men who cleaned their dorms, largely (I think) because they'd never seen themselves as people responsible for cleaning up after themselves or after other people. Whereas the women felt strongly responsible for the cleanliness and solidarity of their dorm communities and saw themselves in the women who cleaned their dorms and the women who worked security for their dorms, and there was a strong female culture of care and a real peer pressure (and I mean that in a positive way here) to care for and about the community and the living space we shared.

"Similarly, if you're a highly-paid faculty person who can't figure out the 2018-model copier with the light-up instructions, that doesn't mean you're dumb, whereas if a secretary has to be taught how to use the fax machine from 1995 that gets used once a year for a particular purpose, she's irretrievably stupid. Secondly - and in expansion on the first point - because feelings and housework are defined as "the work that belongs to inferior people". It's not a sign of failure for a superior person to be unable to do the work that is customarily done by inferiors."

My dad went to law school when women were really first starting to enroll, and women students either refused to learn to type or insisted they didn't know how, because they knew if they could type, they'd be cast as legal secretaries even if they were hired as lawyers. Insisting they didn't know how to do the secretarial (i.e., inferior) work was crucial to being taken seriously as lawyers when women lawyers were rare.

---

I'm also always really struck in these articles/studies/etc. but the category of "leisure time while doing something else." Almost 100% of my leisure time is while supervising my children. I mean, I definitely have leisure time, but my husband's leisure time is largely undisturbed -- he goes for long bike rides for 2-3 hours, he plays video games without anyone bothering him -- whereas my leisure time is mostly "reading a book while sitting in the living room with my kids and responding to all their needs" even though I'm not actively entertaining them. And to an extent I don't mind this -- I like spending relaxed time with my kids and I don't mind switching back and forth -- but there's a huge variety of leisure time activities I just don't engage in since we had children because it would require uninterrupted leisure time, and I don't really get that. I've pointed it out to my husband, and he hears me, and sees the issue, but we just fall back into the same pattern over and over. Anyway, I've taken up a couple hobbies that involve me leaving the house for a few hours a couple nights a week, which gets the job done, although it's annoying I have to do leave-the-house hobbies to get uninterrupted leisure time!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:02 PM on June 14 [30 favorites]


Oh man. I went to college at a campus that had ONLY single-gender dorms, and the difference was STARK.

I was forced into a dorm that was 85% freshman boys, with one co-ed floor, because it was the only dorm with an elevator and the first floor of the women's dorm "belonged" to the sororities. I, an independent, did not qualify, despite the fact that I was in a power wheelchair and you'd think it'd take precedence?

Anyway, it fucking sucked. It wasn't just the refusing to clean up. It was the actively destroying things. The ceiling of the elevator had to repaired countless times. I had a shower chair that I kept locked to the railing in the disabled shower, and I had someone completely disassemble it. I know it wasn't accidentally broken because some of the screws were missing. My damage fees were astronomical compared to friends' in the women's dorm.

But, you know. Boys will be fucking boys.
posted by brook horse at 8:52 PM on June 14 [8 favorites]


women students either refused to learn to type or insisted they didn't know how, because they knew if they could type, they'd be cast as legal secretaries even if they were hired as lawyers.

Women are also expected to clean up the office kitchens, conference rooms, etc., typically without compensation. However, at a new job I once noticed that the receptionist was always washing the coffee cups people left in the sink during her lunch hour, so I started doing it as well, just because it didn't seem fair. It turned out that this "help" annoyed her because the firm actually paid her extra to do the work after everyone complained that the kitchen was always a mess. Yes, this was enlightened (especially for the times), but I still don't understand why the mostly male staff couldn't wash out their own damn coffee mugs-- and there was actually a dishwasher too!

Anyway, the typing thing happened to me, although not in the same field, and it sucked as did dealing with the inevitable questions on the order of, "But you went to $Ivy, why are you $position?" And then one time I was applying for Congressional staff jobs and learned that a typing test was mandatory. I'm an excellent, um, keyboarder, and zoomed through the exercise but ran out of paper about a minute before the timer rang. The woman managing the tests was very apologetic and offered to let me take the test over. I looked at her key and saw that what I had completed translated to 105 words per minute. Having learned from my previous experience, I told her I was fine with that result and didn't need the do-over. Surprised, she began explaining that it was to my benefit. I replied, "Any job that requires typing faster than 105 words a minute is a job I don't want," and immediately felt badly, since that probably read as insulting her profession, but I didn't want another one-way ticket to the typing pool. No regrets.

I get very prickly, to this day, when the mister wants me to manage his administrivia and find myself admonishing him that "I am not your secretary!" He's gotten much better about how he asks and expresses gratitude, but he still "doesn't know how" to change the toner or send a fax.
posted by carmicha at 9:26 AM on June 15 [1 favorite]


Almost 100% of my leisure time is while supervising my children.

Oh yes this. I had a 2-hour chunk of time playing Crusader Kings 2 on Thursday, which I’m definitely happy to count as ‘leisure time’ but which I was also doing because my napping feverish baby would only sleep while on me in a rocking chair. Likewise I’ve watched a hell of a lot of early-90s-era ER while breastfeeding recently, and yesterday I read half a chapter of a book at our local swimming pool while holding the baby during the older child’s swimming lesson. Leisure time yes, free time no.

And of course, housework gets combined in the same way. Sort laundry while singing to the baby. Vacuum the living room while discussing different conceptions of the afterlife with the 5-year-old. My husband does do a ton of housework, and is probably a tidier and cleaner person than me inherently, but still thinks that if he’s e.g. hanging out laundry, he is hanging out laundry and not doing anything else except maybe listening to a podcast.

I know multitasking is supposed to be a good thing that women are just better at. I increasingly feel this is a sleight-of-hand trick to distract us from how often men get the luxury of only having to do one thing at once.
posted by Catseye at 10:54 AM on June 15 [12 favorites]


I’m as suspicious of “women are better at multitasking” as I am of “men can compartmentalize” - like, even if we accept that the brain is plastic and we’ve developed habits that allow for this stereotype to manifest itself, it’s also a line drawn clearly along gender and happens to justify and reinforce a lot of sacrifice in women and privilege in men. Let’s blow these ideas up.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 3:27 PM on June 15 [11 favorites]


I’m as suspicious of “women are better at multitasking” as I am of “men can compartmentalize”

My experience of this is that "women are better at multitasking" when men want to dump something on us and pretend it’s no big deal, but otherwise men will go on at length about how great they are at multitasking. Men also expect women to compartmentalize automatically and "just think about things from a neutral perspective," which means a perspective that centers them, without all the baggage of reality, and manage everything while men pat themselves on the back for being so great at everything.
posted by bile and syntax at 8:32 AM on June 16 [8 favorites]


I will definitely tell you that separation + divorce is a huge eye-opener in terms of how much of my work came from taking care of another person

This was my 10000000% my experience also. My husband moved out a few months ago and I can tell you that the difference to my life and in turn my now-copious free time was STARK and IMMEDIATE. As our marriage was unraveling, I remember a particularly painful conversation we had sitting at the dining room table, me sobbing uncontrollably as I told him that my life was EASIER when he was gone on one of his many business trips because he wasn't there making so much additional work for me.* And I could say this honestly even though I was caring for the house, the yard, the pets, the children, pumping milk for the baby, getting up three times a night to breastfeed, PLUS doing my actual professional job + a long commute on top of it all. And he...couldn't even finish unpacking his suitcase from where he'd dropped it in the middle of the living room floor in anything less than three weeks' time.

* Think doing the grocery shopping but shoving all the new food into the fridge without ever clearing out the old. Taking literally everything out of the diaper bag to get an item I'd asked for while nursing the baby, dumping it all on the entryway table, bringing me the item (thought process: task done!), and then walking away to do something else without ever putting the contents back. Wiping up a spaghetti sauce spill with our kitchen hand towels, which are now stained forever and just created an extra load of laundry for the person whose job that is (not his!). Coming home from swimming lessons with a bag of wet gear and dropping it on the floor in the foyer to mildew without a second thought (took kid to swimming: mission accomplished!). These are only a few of the many, many situations I could name. And to think that I felt I had it good for so long because he did all the cooking.
posted by anderjen at 8:02 AM on June 18 [11 favorites]


All that is to say, right now I cannot imagine ever wanting to live with a man ever again, for the reasons described in this incredibly astute comment. Date, yes. Have a long-term relationship, most definitely. Cohabitate, absolutely not. I just can't do that "drift" ever again, at least not in my physical space.

Related: Single women and their spaces.
posted by anderjen at 8:15 AM on June 18 [1 favorite]


« Older The Blooming Basalt Towers of North Gorda Rift...   |   Terry Gross + Lizzo Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments