Another Gender Feminist Myth Bites the Dust

A new study adds to what we already know about men and women’s division of labor around the house.  In the process, it continues to undermine the gender feminist narrative thereon. 

As the bio of the lead author of the study attests, April Bleske-Rechek “is a psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where she directs the Individual Differences and Evolutionary Psychology Lab.”  She and her colleagues wanted to know why men and women do or don’t do certain tasks around the house and yard.  Such an inquiry necessarily confronts the gender feminist myth that “women work a second shift.”  That is, women do paid work during the day and, when they come home, are saddled with a second shift of childcare and housework.  Meanwhile, the men in those relationships are too lazy to do anything but come home from work, crack open a beer, put their feet up and shout petulantly for their dinner.  Inquiring into why men and women actually do what they do, assumes that the two choose their own activities based on their own interests.  That assumption contradicts the gender feminist notion that all choices are dictated by men.

In order to depict men as abusive and irresponsible, the gender feminist paradigm prefers to ignore what men actually do when they’re not earning a living.  So, activities like auto maintenance, yard work, house maintenance, etc. show up in feminist narrative rarely if at all.  Doing so makes it much easier to pretend that women are hard done by their male partners and therefore that domestic life is unfair to women.

None of that of course bears even casual scrutiny and never has.  A quick trip to the website for the Bureau of Labor Statistics and its American Time Use Survey will disabuse any open-minded person of the accuracy of the gender feminist mythology on how and why chores are divided up at home.  In fact, it’s done so during the entire time the “second shift” narrative has existed.  For one thing, when hours spent by men on paid work and domestic duties are combined and compared with women’s it turns out that the two are statistically identical (5.84 hours per day for men; 5.89 hours per day for women).  Generally, men spend more time on paid work and women more on children and housework. 

The same patterns appear in countless other sets of data like those of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and analyzed by Dr. Catherine Hakim, then of the London School of Economics.  Hakim has also conducted her own surveys of people in OECD member countries that demonstrate a distinct preference on the part of men for resource provision, aka, paid work and, on the part of women, for domestic duties. 

For anyone with even a nodding acquaintance with evolutionary psychology, none of that comes as a surprise.  For countless millennia, men and women have divided the duties of survival, with men generally “bringing home the bacon” and women caring for children, hearth and home.  Gender feminists seem to believe that that division of labor (a) was imposed upon unwilling women by heartless men and (b) would be jettisoned by women if given half a chance.

So it’s interesting that those countless datasets show, not a readiness on the part of women to cast off their chains and joyously enter gray workplace cubicles on behalf of an employer who neither knows them nor cares if they live or die, but a cleaving to ancient sex roles by both men and women where possible. 

So much for the “second shift” theory.

What Bleske-Rechek adds to the mix is the attitudes the sexes have about the various chores done around the house.  Naturally, individuals tend to do the chores that most appeal to them and those tend to be divided along sex lines.  Plus, they tend to do the chores the other sex doesn’t like and wants them to do.  Women tend to avoid changing the oil in the car; men don’t like to bake and tend not to.  Men like to mow the lawn and do so; women prefer doing the housecleaning and do.

[T]he majority of women wanted their partner to have more responsibility for tasks such as vehicle maintenance and minor household repairs, and the majority of men wanted more responsibility for those tasks. Indeed, 1 in 4 men, but zero women, stated a preference for full responsibility for tasks like home repairs, plumbing, and vehicle maintenance. On the flip side, about 1 in 4 women preferred to assume full responsibility for the baking and home decorating.

People 60 years ago knew this stuff quite well.  An adult in 1962 would be appalled to learn that today we pay academics to tell us this information.  He/she would be even more appalled to learn that the information is now imparted to us in the breathless tones usually reserved for discoveries of things like the Higgs Boson and, perhaps, life on Mars.

Beyond that though, what Bleske-Rechek and others reveal is that men and women, far from being bitterly at each other’s throats, still tend to divide up the chores equably.  They do so on the basis of the preferences expressed by each and each tends to conform to the preferences of the other as well as his/her own.  In other words, they get along.

Of course they don’t always.  When one poaches on the territory of the other, sparks can fly.  That often happens when fathers try to take on more of the parenting duties than mothers like.  Maternal gatekeeping (control by mothers of fathers’ interactions with their children) is a well-known phenomenon and a potentially quite destructive one.  Fathers’ active interest in their children has been a fundamental part of human evolution for about 500,000 years, so conflict over the appropriate levels of childcare by Mom and Dad are all but inevitable.  Mom assumes she’s the primary parent and may see every effort Dad makes to play a part in his child’s upbringing as a threat to her supremacy. 

Still, most couples find an acceptable balance between paid work and domestic chores and, on the domestic front, a balance of those tasks as well.

It’s taken us decades to unlearn the perfidious teachings of gender feminism and we’ve still come nowhere near to completing the job.  But the work of people like Bleske-Rechek continues to help.

 

1 comment

JB

Excellent update/recap.

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