A poor dude cleaning with a mop / puts all Heaven in a strop

I rarely read the AGE Sunday magazine these days, and the last time I dipped into it it, it exceeded all expectations for Terrible. Blue Milk and Eglantine’s Cake have already written about the article by Sarina Lewis on “The Invisible Men”: Men are actually doing more domestic work now than women, did you know? Not just that, but they don’t get any appreciation for it!

Well – not quite. Now, I’m not saying a food writer can’t write convincingly about gender politics. Look at Crazybrave Zoe and Twisty at IBTP. But unfortunately, it doesn’t look as if Lewis will take this topic to their level of excellence.

Yet figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics bear out a startlingly even spread of domestic and professional labour: a 2006 study into how Australians used their time found that men spent a combined average (over seven days) of 11.44 hours per day performing professional, childcare and domestic tasks. And women? They came in at a combined average of 11.35 hours – nine minutes less than the men.

All credible studies, from the ABS (including more up-to-date information), the Australian Institute of Family Studies and HILDA surveys, tell us what we already know: women still do the bulk of domestic work, whether working or not. Notice how Lewis slipped the “professional” in there? That’s not part of the domestic load. It’s paid work which goes on the CV and contributes to your superannuation.

And as you begin to take on more of the domestic load, even where your share – minus Lewis’s numerical massage – is less than half, guess what? It’s tiring! Which is a bit of a shock. And kind of demeaning, because it is ballbreaking for men to do housework, which is coded female. So we get sad, sad pictures like this

bizarre image of a very dapper young man in beautiful suit holding a mop and looking poetically sad, oh how low he has sunk

…Why is he “holding” the mop like that? Is the ignominy of it all so crushing he has to appear entirely bemused by it? Is he a store dummy? Why is he wearing a nice suit to do the housework?

And this (from the Daily Mail in the UK)

Bad woman sits reading newspaper while her poor, poor male partner does the vaccuuming around her. Abuser!

Gah! You can see how hellish life has become for these poor, poor men! And according to Lewis, not a word of appreciation!

“There is a legitimate desire from men to be acknowledged,” says Jones, who suggests that the modern man’s role in society is vastly different from that of his father…Feelings of neglect arise, they say, when the stresses and strains of their lives – now as complex as those of their wives – go unnoticed.

Ok, about the appreciation thing. It goes back to the same principle as referring to the bloke’s contribution as “help” – the notion that the woman still owns the domestic load with a limited potential to delegate, rather than the man taking on an equal share of the responsibility, including the planning and remembering component. I’m not against partners giving each other appreciation, of course, it’s wonderful. But it’s assumed, to some extent, that a mature adult will perform certain tasks on a fairly regular basis. As far as women getting more appreciation: really? We still assume, even in 2010, that a mother is going to do various boring household tasks without being thanked for it – apart from the ritual “thank”fest and Hallmark card on Mothers day. Or as Rebekka said here, “they’re kidding, right?”

Expecting recognition for day-to-day housework is an indication that you believe your role in that housework constitutes a heroic act above and beyond the call of duty.

Guys, welcome to our world. Yes, you may find it frustrating and annoying at times. We certainly have.

Categories: gender & feminism, relationships, work and family


10 replies

  1. Nine minutes out of 11.5 hours is noise, not signal.
    Even if all your other good points were not so spot-on, to make a fuss about nine minutes at this level of granularity isn’t on.

  2. That very article is currently sitting at the bottom of my cats’ litter box, where it is getting the treatment it deserves.

  3. the planning and remembering component
    This is the difference. I am willing to acknowledge that some men might be approaching parity in the visible areas of house hold work (vacuuming, washing dishes, playing with the kids) but I seriously doubt that that there’s any equality in the mental burden of the house hold. I love my husband, and he works hard at his job and at home, but he doesn’t know what our daughter’s shoe size is, or whether we have carrots in the fridge.

  4. I think of it in terms of cookies now. Do you get a cookie for doing the washing up? No. Do I say, I’m glad you did that, I wasn’t looking forward to doing it? Yes. Appreciation that he has done a task that needed doing without grovelling thanks. It has taken a while to stop feeling guilty about it, but nothing can stop me now bwahhahahha. Ahem.
    Although I am with Flitter on the planning and remembering stuff. Yesterday he asked me if I wanted him to organise something for dinner. It still rankles a bit that he asks me instead of just doing it. But then again I have come home in the past and said “Oh, I’ve been craving X all day, but I guess we’ll have it tomorrow”. But then so has he…

  5. Expecting recognition for day-to-day housework is an indication that you believe your role in that housework constitutes a heroic act above and beyond the call of duty.

    I like to thank my partner whenever she does anything domestic and I think it is nice when she does the same to me. I think it makes us both feel appreciated. Not that this happens all the time — I live by myself most of the time, and don’t know whether or not I have any carrots in my own fridge 🙂

  6. Told my live-in partner that if I had to project manage him to get him to do housework, I’d count it as having 4x the value of the actual housework, like what happens in professional project management 😉 Who thinks about it more I think I’ll have to live with, as long as he does his share of the work AND the management. And my thinking about it more helps me to be more efficient at the housework (or I like to think it does anyway).

  7. That is an excellent point, Katherine. I’d never considered it that way before.

  8. Feelings of neglect arise, they say, when the stresses and strains of their lives – now as complex as those of their wives – go unnoticed.
    It doesn’t seem too long ago that housework was portrayed as part of the simple life women had, as opposed to the more complex life led by men in the workplace? Actually, it wasn’t, it was whenever I read an article that wasn’t about men doing it.
    Apropos of nothing, please tell me that I’m not the only one who can’t look at the blue picture of the guy and mop without thinking of xkcd’s “porn for women”?

  9. Just to say these comments made me LOL/snerk
    especially the project manager one – Our project manager earns heaps, my future is secure. Oh wait…

  10. @SunlessNick That’s exactly what I thought of too! So, no you are definitely not the only one 🙂

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