These Things I Assume To Be True   3 comments

Household work is not the sole responsibility of either the male or female partner in a relationship.  Any gender linkage to job roles should be cosmetic, not causal.

More generally, it’s not the sole responsibility of either partner in a relationship.  Sorry for the assumed bias in the previous statement.  Down with 8!

If someone is a stay-at home person, household work (including child care, if relevant) will be a major part of your time contribution to your relationship’s underlying logistics.

It is commonly the case that people assume the previous statement, but not the ones immediately prior.

There exist gender-linked preferences to certain types of housework.

The jury is still out on the correlation vs. causation aspect of the previous statement, however, it is staggeringly likely IMO that the relationship is one of nurture, not nature, with the obvious exception of breastfeeding.

In other words, two X chromosomes don’t automatically prejudice you to dislike taking out the garbage or mowing the lawn.  An X and a Y chromosome don’t automatically prejudice you to being bad at doing laundry or the dishes.  However, the fact that the male adult saw the previous generation’s male adult mow the lawn while the female adult did the dishes may factor into the current generational male getting some level of satisfaction out of mowing the lawn that he doesn’t get out of doing the dishes.  This is because people (self included) are generally creatures of habit, or they’re stupid, and in either case they’re riddled with biases and self-examination is an ongoing job, no matter how hard you work at it… and really, who’s going to be thinking about self-examination when it’s time to mow the lawn?

If you avoid some household chore out of some belief that you are bad at it or don’t like it, pretend for a few minutes that you’re not a 5 year old and try it with an open mind.  Eat your vegetables, you might like them.  If you still don’t like it, tough.

Men ought to change diapers, when they’re full of crap.

Men ought to clean a toilet, if it hasn’t been cleaned recently.

Men ought to vacuum the house roughly half the time, if both adults work.

Oh, and women, by the way, ought to take out the garbage, if it’s full.  Really.  You get a pass if it’s the only chore your dumb husband will do, of course.

Women ought to mow the lawn, if it needs to be cut.  Ditto previous qualifier.

Unless, of course, you’ve decided to divvy up those chores ahead of time.  Even then, you should be careful the distribution is fair, given your other responsibilities.

Generally, if you’re both working… dividing up the household logistics, from who pays the bills, arranges for service for the cars, does the routine chores, deals with the children’s education and social demands, and so on, is a joint duty.  You’re going to have to work hard at this guys, since you probably don’t see all of these duties going on unless you really pay attention to them.

Corporations need to stop making advertisements that suggest that men, as a class, are incapable of any of the above, or that women, as a class, have some magical inborn competency, or vice-versa.  You’re part of the problem.  You’re also deeply, gravely insulting.  My wife can use a monkey wrench and isn’t afraid of a spray bottle full of Roundup.  I can mop a freaking floor.  I don’t even use a mop, I do it the old fashioned way, hands and knees and scrub until it’s actually really clean.  All you commercial women with perfect teeth and faux dirty floors that you turn sparkly with one sweep of a mop, I’d kick your ass in a “clean the floor” competition.  Twice on Sunday.

Yes, I realize you need to advertise to your market to get the biggest return on your dollar.  I also realize that in a practical sense, many of these gender-linked chores mean that your target market for your cleaning supplies is going to also be gender-linked, suggesting you should market the way you do.  Stop anyway.  You can do it.

Seriously, cut it out.  Feel free to trumpet your own horn while you do it.

There are men who are like me.  My wife will attest that I do at least a halfway decent job of helping out around the house; while we currently live in a state that we both regard as little better than squalor, we’re both willing to admit it’s a time-limited problem, not a gender-based one.

I delude myself into thinking that my wife spends more time on the school-related functions because she works part time and thus knows the kids’ teachers better than I do.  The truth probably is more along the lines that she does it (at least partially) because she’s facing a lot of societal pressure to be a perfect mother in addition to the previous factor.  Acknowledging that this is at least possibly the case is something that we all need to do.

I freely admit that I have a difficulty with this whole gender-bias thing, and I’ll claim that I actually actively try to deal with it.  My father was a stay-at-home dad for periods of time that exceeded the periods when my mother was a stay-at-home mother.  Dad cooked, Mom baked.  Dad cleaned the house.  Dad did watch sports on Sundays, but both parents were disciplinarians when they needed to be.  I don’t come from the same world from which most of my peers do.  I don’t even recognize some of the pressures that people talk about having to deal with in their lives.

Hell, if I was a Stay-at-Home Dad and somebody started giving me a ribbing because my wife brought home the bacon, I’d probably look at them like they grew a second head.  I certainly wouldn’t be feeling any sort of shame, in the slightest (except maybe a little sympathetic shame for the moron with two heads).  It sometimes requires me to stop and think about people who do have to deal with this sort of situation simply because it does bother them.  My family and upbringing isn’t like theirs, I have no right to wave my hands and say, “Well, gee, just get over it.”  Yes, they probably should get over it, just like everybody should get over external validation as a mechanism by which they judge their worth.  That’s a human problem, I’m not thinking it’s going away anytime soon.

I have friends who have reversed “traditional” roles, I ought to ask them how they feel about these situations, as they certainly have occurred.

Thus, there’s undoubtedly plenty of occasions when my wife does do stuff because of socially-imposed gender roles, or I wind up doing them without noticing it, and since I’m preconditioned not to see those influences, I might miss ’em.  Yes, we all need to be alert to this sort of thing.

And we probably ought to be careful to preface commentary about gender roles with a nice, solid statement about the way we think things ought to be, before we start talking about how people might cope with things the way they are.  Leastwise, unless we want to come across like some boneheaded advertiser, assuming that the context that is is also the context that should be.

Post sponsored by solidarity with some of the feelings expressed at the above-linked blogs, plus this one.  For the most part, commentary worth reading.

(edited to add) – so tempted to remove a link in that last paragraph (“plus this one”).  The blog owner locked the comment thread and ate a bunch of my time when the lock burned my last comment.

Very irritated at the moment.


Posted June 16, 2010 by padraic2112 in parenting

3 responses to “These Things I Assume To Be True

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  1. Nice post! I followed the “discussion” at ScientistMother.
    I would have some choice words for a lot of the people who left comments, but I will leave it to people’s imagination.

    Bottom line is I agree with you. People divide labor many different ways, and should be left alone to do as they see fit. I don’t need anyone implying that my husband does not care because the chores are not divided in some
    blogosphere preapproved way or because he doesn’t go on advocating for “chore equality” wherever he moves… Life is hard, and chores are hard, and people should be free to divide them stereotypically or not if they so choose… And should be free to not discuss it or justify it to the world.

    This whole vitriolic dicussion on chores and gender in the scientific blogosphere has been very disappointing to me… Sigh.

    Thanks for your post again, I enjoyed it.

  2. No problem 🙂

    I get the underlying point. I’m not trying to detract from the problem. But that’s not an excuse for bad science on a science blog, even if that science blog isn’t a sociology blog.

    There’s a statistical disparity between articles about housework/work balance between women’s publications and men’s publications. I’m not arguing that’s not the case.

    What I’m asking is, “What does this actually tell us?” You know, the sort of question someone who was a sociologist would actually ask.

    Not much. It’s a proxy measurement of disparity, and a pretty poor one for anything other than a very gross general observation. There is no discussion of the causality for this correlation. There is no additional measure brought in that could provide a useful insight into what this observation actually means, and what (if anything) we ought to do about it.

    So some women have heard that they have to give up their home life for their work life. That’s not a particular newsflash for men, we’ve been told that for so long that even though I came from a non-traditional household I always pretty much assumed that it would be at least likely that I would be a breadwinner (if not the only breadwinner) and thus I’d have to eke out whatever time with my kids I could out what’s left after work. In fact, one could argue that men don’t talk about it much for the same reason that fish likely wouldn’t talk about the water. It’s there. Work/Life balance problems are an accepted facet of our universes (which is one reason why people who are steeped in “traditional” gender roles just assume that the woman is going to do something, of course). We all grow up assuming that we’re going to have to work, and that we’re probably going to be enjoying it only a very little, unless we are very lucky.

    Women get mixed messages about how they can have it all… all the way through their birthing until they actually have kids to juggle, and onwards! I’ve learned (through my interactions with my female peers growing up and my sisters taught me) that motherhood is a sticky pickle of a social institution, and the best way I can help anybody go through that as a partner is to give them the options to tackle that problem the way they want to. Right now, that means my wife works part time. That’s her decision.

    Is it a cop-out on my part? Maybe, honestly I can’t say. Maybe what’s best for everyone in society is for us to hammer away more directly at these things. It’s the best I can do, right now.

    ‘Cause, you know, one of the ways to help eliminate well-established social disparities is to change the power equation. So rather than decide for someone whether it’s better for them to work or not, or stay home or not, or be a homemaker or a working parent… I think we ought to let them have the authority to make the decision, and back that up.

    The fact that some people frame part of this discussion as, “Your home chores are cutting into your lab time” does reflect a framing problem, but I don’t really think it’s the symbol of pervasive sexual disparity that some people are making it out to be. Because the subject of that sentence, contextuallly, is about 1/20th the importance as the object. If your PI is telling you that you’re not working yourself to death enough, the “why” is a cosmetic detail.

    There certainly isn’t enough information to warrant anybody saying “you need to do *this* to address *that*”.

  3. And I have to admit, I’m really pissed off that someone sends out a blanket call for men to join a discussion, and then decides to yank that discussion because she doesn’t like what I’m saying, and then reframes what I’m saying as her final comment (unfairly, in my opinion).

    Since I’m no longer allowed to comment on her last reply there, I’ll do it here:

    > You’re engaging in critiquing the validity or
    > reality of issues

    No, I’m critiquing the validity of your proxy measurement to accurately give you a descriptive picture of the problem domain, let alone a predictive one. That doesn’t imply the underlying problem doesn’t exist. A critique of method is standard fare in science.

    > you criticize the methods that individuals use to
    > advocate for change

    Yeah, absolutely. Because I don’t see an actual method here. I don’t see an attempt to engage men in this dialogue you’re talking about. I see an attempt to convince one particular man to do so. That’s not a method, it’s a an attempt at public shaming, something that falls under one of those “traditional social norms” that I’m not particularly fond of.

    Here’s your opening paragraph:

    > You have stated on your blog that you believe
    > that gender equality in science is a good thing.
    > Yet you rarely talk about some of the balancing
    > issues or the parental issues.

    There’s an implied thesis here. You’re saying that talking about balancing issues or parenting issues will de facto lead to gender equality.

    That’s a pretty strong claim. You don’t have the evidence to back it up. You even back away from it in the comments. Just fess up, you overstepped.

    > WITHOUT providing solutions.

    This is an interesting shift of evidential burden. This isn’t my hypothesis. This isn’t my thesis. This isn’t my area of study.

    You’re talking about a social science problem. You’re a scientist. And yet you’re not using the tools you’ve learned, as a scientist, to suggest a solution that is linked to the observations you’re making. You don’t have a hypothesis. You’re stabbing in the dark, hoping to effect change.

    To be clear, that’s not necessarily a bad idea. Maybe we don’t have the correct tools to expose this problem to predictive observation. Maybe stabbing in the dark is the best thing we can do. Maybe the risks of stabbing in the dark are small enough, and the advantages are great enough, that taking a shot isn’t going to hurt anything.

    Maybe, just maybe, I agree with all that… which is why I wrote the above post, perhaps?

    However, if you’re taking a non-scientific approach to the problem, stop using declarative language (which you agree with me earlier, you ought not, and then you did here, multiple times, in your final comment). Admit that’s what you’re doing. And if that’s what you’re doing, stop digging through literature to give you some sort of excuse to handwave around that you’re basing this whole thing on science. Because you’re not, you’re guessing.

    > You need to go read Stephanie’s Constructive Criticism.

    Since you’re cutting me off from replying, and you don’t provide a link, I have no idea what “Stephanie’s Constructive Criticism” is. It doesn’t show up in your blogroll, and there’s no match on Amazon.

    That said, I’ve read more logic than most people, and I know exactly what constructive criticism is. That’s actually what I’m trying to provide. The fact that I don’t have my own solution doesn’t mean that yours stands up to scrutiny.

    And really, if you’re telling me that I have to come into this discussion having read all the relevant literature, done a review, established my own thesis, defended it… then basically what you’re telling me is that you reserve the right to reject anything I say unless I do a dissertation on gender equality issues. Okay, that’s a pretty strong goalpost for me to kick a freaking ball through. I’ll pass, I already have a full time job, graduate school, my own research to do, my own kids to spend time with, my homeowners association to assist, my neighborhood disaster recovery plan to write, and at some point somewhere sometime in the future, my own freaking spare time to do anything that’s not already highly prioritized on my list.

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