How do we expect men to do more housework if we present it as meaningless work?

Jan 16, 2022

“We need to stop telling women they just need an ‘equal partnership’ at home” wrote professor Bobbi Thomason in The Harvard Business Review this week.

The conclusion in the much tweeted article was that these EQUAL MALE PARTNERS willing to split household shores 50/50 are BLOODY hard to find.

Over the last 40 years female employment has risen to almost male levels. BUT inside the home work sticks to old patterns. In the UK men self-report doing eight hours of housework per week and women 13.

The problem I have with how we often discuss these matters is the following:

How do we expect men to do more housework if we present it as SHIT work?

In all the MILLIONS OF ARTICLES written about the need to find that EQUAL MALE PARTNER housework tends to be presented as “the boring shit that just needs to get done”.

And SURE..there are often more inspiring tasks than unloading a dishwasher… but to be fair most jobs in the world contain elements of “boring shit that just needs to get done”.

This is true if you are a full-time parent, a janitor, or a B2B e-commerce manager…

So… why are we so hard on housework?

bell hooks (who we also talked about in December) discusses how feminist attitudes to work are still very shaped by the biases of white middle class women.

In the 1960s white feminists assumed that the most pressing problem was the need to get women working outside the home. White feminists were so blinded by their own experience that they forgot that a vast majority of women were ALREADY working outside of the home.

Working class women and women of colour might not have had the CAREERS that the white middle class feminists were dreaming of.

But they certainly had JOBS.

It was therefore hard for them to identify with the feminist problem as presented to them: “YOUR PROBLEM IS THAT YOU ARE FORCED TO FOCUS TOO MUCH ON THE HOME”.

To many women of colour being able to focus more on (their own) home actually sounded more like ECONOMIC LUXURY…

And certainly not like oppression….

However feminism largely adopted the idea that a CAREER was the road to freedom and HOUSEWORK meaningless stuff standing in your way.

The other year when Canadian rightwing intellectual Jordan Peterson sold 5 million books telling MEN they needed to “clean their rooms” feminists largely mocked him.

Not to defend Jordan Peterson (in any wider sense) but why did we decide that a man SUCCESSFULLY telling other men to do more housework was a bad thing?

I’m not sure I got that particular memo…

Here is Jordan Peterson on housework:

“If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another…. Making your bed will reinforce the idea that little things matter and if you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right”

And here is bell hooks the leftist feminist on housework:

“By learning housework, children and adults accept responsibility for ordering their material reality... Since so many male children are not taught housework, they grow to maturity with no respect for their environment and often lack the know-how to take care of themselves and their households. They have been allowed to cultivate an unnecessary dependence on women in their domestic lives and as a result of this dependence are sometimes unable to develop a healthy sense of autonomy. Girl children, though usually compelled to do housework are usually taught to see it as demeaning and degrading. These attitudes lead them to hate doing housework and deprive them of the personal satisfaction they they could feel as they accomplish these necessary tasks.”

Yep.

Jordan Peterson and bell hooks are saying the same thing.

Which is:

  1. Make your f***ing bed

  2. Housework is important work and learning to think about it differently is key to thinking differently about ALL WORK.

Happy Sunday!

Katrine

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