Today in essentialist claptrap

There’s a fair bit of media coverage of a study from UWS about “career” women and attitudes to housework, apparently all generated from one AAP stringer’s summary.
A slender pale-skinned woman, hair styled and made up, wearing a 50s style dress with pearls, high heels, lacy apron and rubber gloves, poses in front of kitchen cabinets holding a sponge in one hand. One leg is lifted up and she is holding her dress in a coquettish display.Sample headlines (and the pic chosen by the SMH to plug the piece):

  • Career women enjoy doing household work
  • Housework not a dirty word
  • Majority of Working Women Like to Perform Household Tasks
  • Working Aussie women refusing to share workload at home
  • Some career women still enjoy doing household chores

[insert usual caveats of not mistaking journalistic spin for what the researchers actually wrote]

Results found most would rather do the cooking and laundry themselves than get someone else to do it.

Eighty-five per cent of them said that they didn’t want their partner to help out with the laundry, as they caused mistakes like mixing delicate clothing with jeans.

However, nearly 50 per cent made it clear they would pay for a cleaner if they could afford to and 18 per cent said they would be happy to have some else to do the ironing.

What about scrubbing surfaces? Vacuuming? Cleaning toilets? What did these career women (all apparently from the east coast of Oz from households earning >90K p.a. say about their feelings on these more strenuous tasks? The articles don’t say.

Apparently some of the respondents said they do get pleasure from housework, but there’s no detail in the media reports to tease out whether that pleasure comes from the process or from the result. Gee, a clean tidy house – I wonder whether career men just might possibly also get pleasure from the fact that the housework that ensures this pleasant environment has been done (by elves perhaps)?

The study itself may be far more rigorous and interesting than how its being spun. But the spin is pretty repulsive.

TMI time: I do housework badly because I hate it. I enjoy cooking when I’m in the mood, but I’m not the only cook in the house. I buy clothes I don’t need to iron, and only iron other people’s clothes in a rare timecrunch crisis. I want the elves.

Categories: gender & feminism, relationships, work and family

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22 replies

  1. LOL! The elves!
    The media has lost all claim of “truth” or even “newsworthy”. There is a reason why it’s called “churnalism” now. If “most” women would rather do the laundry than have someone else do it, where do this “50% would pay for a cleaner if they could afford to” come from? Do when like household chores or not?
    Modern news: we say something, you interpret it whichever way you like.

  2. So, in summary. Women do the housework because when men do it they fuck it up?
    Women find satasfaction in a clean living environment – who doesnt???
    That is pathetic.
    I remember my mum letting us screw up our chores and then making us do it again.
    Doing it badly was no way of getting out of it, and Ive never tolorated it in a flatmate or partner.
    And Mary, Im SO with you on the “no buying clothes that need ironing” thing! My partner irons my special clothes for me, when he wants to give me a treat.
    And yes, this is my smug face 🙂

  3. Elves for me too please.
    I am terrible at housework and if a piece of clothing can’t go in the cold, normal wash cycle with everything else then it doesn’t come home with me. My only concession is to occasionally put something in a mesh bag before chucking it in. Oh, and I only do my own laundry, as does everyone else in this house, including the 9 yr old.

  4. My chronic pain conditions probably make me hate housework more than your average woman does, but good Lord Almighty – I hate housework. I hate doing the dishes (water up my sleeves, itching hands from the dishwashing liquid, sore feet, sore guts from standing), I hate washing or vacuuming the floor (sore back), I hate dusting, I hate scrubbing the bath out, I hate sweeping up leaves, I hate folding up my clothes and putting them away, I hate washing up clothes (hanging them out is worse, my guts!). Thankfully I live in a group situation with understanding people who know I have pain issues. I have a set of chores I am able to do (cat area maintenance, my own washing, keeping areas neat and tidy) and I do what I can when I have the spoons.
    The media spin on that article makes me want to vomit, though. I’m not enjoying this backlash to feminism, yo.

  5. I hate hate hate all cleaning tasks (with the exception of washing clothes, but like others here, I simply chuck everything in cold wash and let it go. I don’t iron and I simply pull clothes from the clean clothes basket).
    I love cooking, but that doesn’t feel like work to me (although that applies to me only, of course). Doing the dishes afterwards though? That can wait until tomorrow/next week/next month. 😛

  6. The revolting thing is that this stuff gets chewed up and spat back out at us as “it has been conclusively proven that women really like housework and don’t want men to do it” in later online discussions.
    I fall into the category of “like the results”. I find an ordered space helps me think, but we have gradually sorted the flat to the point where maintaining it takes comparatively little input. Have also been known to use housework to procrastinate with, but I know I’ve seen boys do that too. In fact, even Betty Friedan noticed that men do that too.

  7. Hey, my husband was told by someone he knows I would be a ‘bad mother’ cause I publicly admit to hating housework with the fire of a thousand suns and he shouldn’t be trying to have kids with me.

  8. My husband had a [redacted] say that to him too and responded to him with ‘That’s why I married her’.

  9. I wonder if anyone ever looks at feelings and power dynamics when they do these studies.
    Are women more likely to shun the housework where they feel equal with their partner, and not like his nursemaid? And what about childless households? Are women less likely to give in and do the work when they’re not facing the tiring constant mess and franticness of raising kidlets?
    I don’t iron my own clothes, and I only found about warm washes a few years ago, because even my Mum doesn’t let any clothing in the house that may require special care. Needless to say I don’t do them either.
    I love cooking, hate dishes, like vacuuming, hate mopping etc. I feel satisfied by a clean house, but it doesn’t mean I like doing it.

  10. Put me down for some elves too please, Pref not Drow.
    kind of funny, but that quote above describes me quite well. I’m kind of crap at lots of house work, (I aim for a standard that would not threaten Fanny Price’s health, fairly sure i get there) but have tickets on myself re cooking, laundry, floors and surfaces. Just wish i could resist the clutter. i do not iron, even during the cricket.
    I have given up on net bags and now use old cotton rice bags, five kilo size.

  11. Put me down for some elves too please. I use the fact that I have to ask him to do his share as an excuse to give him all the chores I hate. My chores + management bonus adds up to the same amount as his chores I figure. It helps that I quite enjoy grocery shopping, which takes a while, so that counts hugely towards my chores done each week.

  12. I only like cooking and nothing else at all. Partner could do without all of it as far as I can tell (but can’t avoid ironing his business shirts, and he does a better job than I would with them). We are busy with paid jobs and children and can afford it so pay someone to do the housecleaning every fortnight (cleaning franchise owner couple). We and the parttime nanny do vacumming around this as we like to be able to actually sit on our carpet. I do almost all of the laundry in exchange for less paid work than partner. It seems to generally work but only cause we can pay someone else to help us out.
    As for the “articles”, based on what my friends and acquaintances say those headlines are, shall we say, inconsistent.

  13. Having lived alone for many years (and now not) I have grown to be a pernickety about the level of sanitation in my . . . tenemos. I like to see housework as being basically a question of physics, biochemistry, time-in-motion studies and ultimately an offering to the gods of neat ‘n tidy-clean-pleasing to behold. It seems pointless to hate doing something I cannot avoid I may as well make it as efficient and as pleasing to do as possible. I really enjoy for instance making the bed, and mostly do it before I climb into it at night. It soothes my soul to have things looking as beautiful as possible. Chaotic, smellly, neglected messes become visual monsters that eventually wear me down. But it can be easily proven I am not anal retentive and my level of cleanliness is primarily borne out of the desire not to end up with the plague or some sort of hideous fungal infection.
    I have lived with a bloke for the last 12 months to whom all of the above concepts may as well have come down in a capsule from outer space to remain sealed away for ever. Aside from railing against my apparent choices in life to either a)live in squalor or b)be a some sort of domestic slave, my living arrangements and the phenomena of just how grim the lives of some men might be without women have caused me wonderment, rage and a furiously held belief that I will not put up with it. I really could do without all the associate and often unexpressed rage frankly but I will keep kicking against the pricks at large. It is un be fucking lievable.

  14. I like a clean house, but it is a pain in the arse getting there. Just as I didn’t enjoy childbirth/caesars but I was prepared to do it to have my children.

  15. Eighty-five per cent of them said that they didn’t want their partner to help out with the laundry, as they caused mistakes like mixing delicate clothing with jeans.
    Preferring to do something yourself on account of the other party screwing it up is not the same as deriving pleasure from doing it.

  16. Yes, I wonder if the researchers had asked – if you could get them to do it the way you do it, would you be happier for them to do it? Or you could do what I do and just not buy stuff that needs special handling (as suggested by more than one person above).

  17. Re: “I remember my mum letting us screw up our chores and then making us do it again. Doing it badly was no way of getting out of it.”
    Ooooo, good one. Very smart.
    Works very well with kids. With husbands and boyfriends, though: ends up looking like nagging. Of course it all depends on who defines what. A lot of times husband and boyfriend will for example insist that x be done a particular way, like a specific dish, and that’s just “perfectionism” or “asking for quality”, but if a woman does it, it’s “nagging.” I think in some cases we cannot win because we are defined not by what we do or by what something we do is really like, but by how we are interpreted as we do the thing in question.

  18. @dylan agh #10,

    I aim for a standard that would not threaten Fanny Price’s health…

    I meant to comment at the time, but I love this phrase. It has haunted me for days now.

  19. There are some times when I do actually enjoy my housework. (As someone else already said, it has more to do with me procrastinating about other projects, so I throw myself heart and soul into my housework.)
    But mostly, I prefer my housework when it’s done by some one else.
    The reason I do the bulk of it, is because -as I have been told-I am an anal retentive control freak. Yes, I am that insane woman who irons her sheets, but I do it because I LIKE it.
    I loathe cleaning the bathrooms though. Children clean theirs and the husband cleans ours. I also hate mopping. But the kids love using the steam mop. (So I kind of have elves. Though they believe we are cruel parents who pervert child labour laws and stay awake nights thinking of awful things for them to do. My children never complain that they are bored! They know better.)
    These kinds of studies always leave me shaking my head. My answer to the questions would change on a daily basis anyway. I don’t know any woman on the face of the earth who LOVES doing her housework. Maybe a day or two here and there when one gets the cleaning bug, (nasty little parasite) but otherwise, we do it because we bloody well have to.
    And that headline….”Working Aussie women refusing to share workload at home”….in what alternate reality? Who ever penned that little treasure was clearly smoking crack. Gotta love the accusatory tone of how we are at fault for the housework imbalance because we refuse to share.
    As my mother once said, If I dusted I would have no where to write messages down. (In her opinion having a husband and children meant never being able to find a pen when you needed one. And we can’t steal her fingers. )

  20. Although you’ve probably seen this anyway, and apologies for the Self Promotion(TM) but in the Poor Dude Cleaning with a Mop post, I posit that if house cleaning were as highly regarded as male-coded pursuits like maintaining engines, there would not be this rubbish about “men would clean more if women weren’t such perfectionists who are never satisfied.” Because housework is coded female it is assumed there is no skill whatever involved, so anyone with a preference for how things should be done is ipso facto just obsessive or delusional. (Ladybrain!!)
    Men in the armed forces, for example, are taught to clean and lubricate engine parts with great thoughness and care, because it’s understood that not to do so may cause trouble, expense and even loss of life. But that’s OK, because the activity is coded male, so the similarity to “housework” isn’t noticed. It’s forgotten that the care of houses, clothing and bodies, badly and carelessly done, will cause trouble, expense, and yes, in certain extreme cases, even loss of life – certainly illness and lack of quality of life.

  21. That comment makes it sound like I’m quite the brilliant housekeeper – ha ha – not!!…but dear God people, leaving crusts of ancient food on the “washed” dishes and cutlery isn’t so hard to avoid. And I just had to explain to a grown adult why you can’t just upend the study wastepaper basket into the recycling bin even though it may well contain some paper and plastic. Do I sound bitter? Moi…?

  22. Men in the armed forces are also taught how to iron, wash clothes, basic sewing, how to clean , how to make beds, how to fold clothes, how to keep their possessions orderly and tidy, how to polish brass etc.
    The hard part is getting them to continue to do it after they shack up with a woman. In their case it’s not that they can’t or that they can’t do it well enough, it’s because they won’t.
    (From my observations over the past 14 years, soldiers who have been single for longer- and lived off base- seem to be much more likely to take on their share of the household work. I even know a few who do the majority of it because they are the anal retentive ones. )

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