Thursday, January 8, 2009

Feminism and the Environment: Continued

Wow! A lot of people had some really great things to say about this topic the other day, and frankly, I'm super jet-lagged, so I'm going to let you guys do more of the talking.

I think there are a couple points that came up that are pretty valid that I'll try to discuss over the next couple days:

1) It's okay if work gets distributed along gender lines, so long as both parties are doing roughly equal work.

One of the actually kinda cool things about living alone, is that by necessity, you end up doing both the traditionally "male" and traditionally "female" work. I've cleaned the toilet, and I've also been responsible for unclogging it. I've set up my electronic systems, and decipher strange Swedish diagrams to put my furniture together. I research my own mutual funds, and I do my own taxes. These are all things that my dad was responsible for when I was growing up ... actually I'm not sure he would have ever unclogged a toilet! But he did everything else. And now I know how to do all of that. Do I love doing all that stuff? Not always, but I do value the fact that I can do all those things on my own, just as I value that I do know how to cook, even if I don't really enjoy it.

So it occurs to me that actually the trend towards delaying marriage may be the best thing that has ever happened to our society. Because, frankly, most of my guy friends know how to cook and clean for similar reasons ... there was a long length of time where they lived alone or with other guy roommates before they moved in with their girlfriends.

Anyway, like I said, I do it "all." I mean, I clearly don't do it all, as I let a lot go and pay for other stuff (like meals a lot of the time), but there is no work split on gender lines. Any work in my household is probably done by me. So there's no real question of anyone doing an unequal share of work.

But when you are in a relationship, it's easy to fall into unequal work patterns. It's also easy to perceive unequal work patterns where one doesn't exist, because it's much easier to comprehend the work you're putting in for the household versus someone else.

In my personal experience, with my parents work was split generally along gender lines and I think my mom did end up doing more work than my dad. However, in previous relationship history, work was probably fairly equally split (and not along traditional gender lines), though I think we both often perceived ourselves to be doing more work than the other!

Now, most data still suggests that maybe household work isn't coming out roughly equal in the wash, and that women tend to put in more work in the household than men. Even when those women have a full time job. Do you think that data is valid? Do you see that manifesting in your life? Do you think it manifests in your friends and neighbors?

And if women do put in more time into the household, how much of that is self-imposed? Do we feel the need to have a cleaner house than men do? Do we feel the need to cook more complicated meals when a simple one would suffice? And if we do have higher standards, is it really fair to expect someone else to meet them?


Joyce said...

I don't know if really young women experience this, but a lot of women do feel that the way the house looks reflects on them. so they have less tolerance for messiness and dirt. My husband is capable, and mostly willing to clean, but I could swear he doesn't see the dirt until it's really bad, far beyond where it would drive me crazy. He also feels no compulsion to clean for comapany. Women always clean for company.

ruchi said...

Yes! I totally agree with this!! Personally, I can live with a lot of messiness, but I hate the idea that people will think I'm a big old slob, so I do feel a compulsion to clean for company so that people don't think I'm a pig.

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

This is a great discussion. For me feminism is all about choice, and whether you work or not, have kids or not, your choices include sustainability vs. consumerism.

I laughed though at your musings on the differences between men and women:

"Do we feel the need to cook more complicated meals when a simple one would suffice? "

This works the opposite way in my house. I'll make pasta or a stir fry, or baked chicken with boiled potatoes and leeks, or whatever. hubby cooks less often, but when he does, it's a masterpiece - every kind of veg has some kind of sauce, etc. He's a much better cook than me... and also washes all the dishes, all the tiem!

Joyce said...

My husband tends to turn cooking into an art form, too. I'm just about getting something reasonably healthy on the table without spending the whole day on it. My theory is that he doesn't have to do it unless he wants to, and then it's a pleasurable experience for him and not a chore. If we divided the cooking evenly, I'll bet his style would change.

Jennifer said...

Interestingly, my husband and I have a VERY equal relationship. Not really something we've talked about or strived for... but BOTH of us cook, both of us clean, both of us take out the trash. We usually do these things together, too... I find us an oddity among people I know.

I did have to teach my husband many of the "woman's" tasks like how to cook, garden, and do laundry. And, likewise, he taught me how to safely use powertools, drive a nail, and other such things. We enjoy doing all of these things together now, and learn from each other every day! It's much more fun to do anything together. We may not have a huge community of other people to pull from for sewing parties, preserving parties, etc... but we have us, and that's two!

We are both young, and both lived with roommates prior to living together. We've just sort of made up our lives as we go along, though, and have realized we like it best TOGETHER!

(Full disclosure.. he does tend to do most of the laundry as he starts it when I'm gone, and I tend to do most of the gardening and random house repairs, as I'm home more! But other than that, it's pretty even.)

Leon1234 said...

Hey, how are you doing?

Leon1234 said...

Hey, how are you doing?

Farmer's Daughter said...

My husband and I allocate our work at home by a simple rule: I'm home more. We both leave in the morning around 6:30 (except when clamming he leaves earlier). I get home around 3-4 on most days, and he gets home around 6. So, for example, when I got home today I started a fire in the woodstove, did some homework from work (which I ALWAYS have), and started making supper. When my husband got home, I continued cooking while he brought wood into the basement. Right now, we're both sitting on the couch doing nothing.

In the summer, I'm home pretty much most of the day, so it makes sense to both of us that I do more of the housework at that time; going grocery shopping and to farmers markets, doing the laundry, cleaning, etc. That way, when my husband gets home, we can both relax together. It makes me feel better, like I'm pulling my own weight, since I'm not getting paid over the summer (although we both get paid about the same salary regardless of the fact that I work less hours and less days). When I'm at school, my husband does more around the house. It's a fair deal that we're both okay with.

As far as cleaning for company, I would be mortified if someone just dropped by and there were dishes in the sink. Ed, on the other hand, wonders if people think we don't eat since I won't allow one dirty dish in the sink when people come over. I wonder if there's an evolutionary link there? I'd better be careful, that's dangerous territory!

Anonymous said...

I find that men ARE generally more mess-tolerant. I have two friends, male and female, both roommates and best friends. What the woman considers "messy," her male roommate considers having the appearance of being "lived-in." While he would save dishes to do in loads, she preferred to wash them all by hand as they were used. As a result she would often jump in and do all the cleaning at once, just to have it over and done with. This used to be a point of conflict between them, until he realized it was her own preference, tried to adjust a bit more to accommodate her, and stopped becoming offended if he noticed her cleaning in his wake, even if it was just to fold a blanket he had recently left draped over the sofa.

He has been known, though, to try to put more of his finances towards food and repair services than she, to make up for his other shortcomings, and this has been a cause of great relief for her on many occasions.

Jennie said...

I was just recently thinking about how I do "most" of the work around the house, and wondering do I really. . . I feel like to truly know we need to have a tally sheet in the kitchen (put one mug in dishwasher, check). And that just gets tedious. And in the past when I've said I do more work to my husband he gets offensive and starts naming all the things he did that month (or year). I've slowly lowered my clean threshold since I don't want to spend my whole life cleaning. But yeah, my mom will come over and be like, when was the last time you cleaned the toilet! Another unfortunate thing about my husband and some of my girlfriends partners is that they don't mind helping around the house but you have to tell them when it's time to do so, and then one just feels like a nag.

One other thing I wanted to mention is that I've read that children need to see both parents (in a dual gender family) doing all types of chores because even if Sally sees that mommy changes the car oil all the time she'll start to see that changing oil is something mommy's do. While some may thing showing men/women in non typical gender roles is a plus I think we need to show children how diverse each individual is, and like you said, that one person can do all the chores.
This is a great discussion to read, thanks for the topic.