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28.2.05

Housework Expectations

Amanda at Mouse Words points out this letter in response to an article about men's failure to do their share of the housework, written by a man who does split the work 50/50 with his wife:

While there is no question that across the board the situation could not be defined as equal, I would hazard a guess that significant progress has been made in terms of fathers' active involvement in meeting their children's day-to-day needs. Characterizing this entire "generation" of fathers as a "lost cause" is as insulting as healthcare professionals who assume I do not know my children's medical history, daycare providers who refuse to address issues to me and instead wait to see my wife, whom they see far less frequently, or individuals who practically give me a gold star for correctly stating my children's birthdays.


Amanda is caustically dismissive of the writer's complaints, arguing that he shouldn't be demanding a cookie for doing the work he should be expected to do. I quite agree that men deserve no praise for doing 50% of the work, but I don't see this writer as asking for a cookie. All he's asking is that people complaining about men's laziness make their generalizations a little less sweeping (though it does seem that living in a relatively progressive social circle has led him to inflate the proportion of men who do take responsibility).

I also think that fixing the sorts of stereotypes that he reports could do some good for those families that don't split the work 50/50. We're strongly shaped by others' expectations of us. If service providers were to project the assumption that men do their share of the work, and act put out when that assumption isn't met, it would create more social pressure on men to live up to it.

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