14 Jul 2010, Comments (18)

A poor dude cleaning with a mop / puts all Heaven in a strop

Author: Helen

I rarely read the AGE Sunday magazine these days, and the last time I dipped into it it, it exceeded all expectations for Terrible. Blue Milk and Eglantine’s Cake have already written about the article by Sarina Lewis on “The Invisible Men”: Men are actually doing more domestic work now than women, did you know? Not just that, but they don’t get any appreciation for it!

Well – not quite. Now, I’m not saying a food writer can’t write convincingly about gender politics. Look at Crazybrave Zoe and Twisty at IBTP. But unfortunately, it doesn’t look as if Lewis will take this topic to their level of excellence.

Yet figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics bear out a startlingly even spread of domestic and professional labour: a 2006 study into how Australians used their time found that men spent a combined average (over seven days) of 11.44 hours per day performing professional, childcare and domestic tasks. And women? They came in at a combined average of 11.35 hours – nine minutes less than the men.

All credible studies, from the ABS (including more up-to-date information), the Australian Institute of Family Studies and HILDA surveys, tell us what we already know: women still do the bulk of domestic work, whether working or not. Notice how Lewis slipped the “professional” in there? That’s not part of the domestic load. It’s paid work which goes on the CV and contributes to your superannuation.

And as you begin to take on more of the domestic load, even where your share – minus Lewis’s numerical massage – is less than half, guess what? It’s tiring! Which is a bit of a shock. And kind of demeaning, because it is ballbreaking for men to do housework, which is coded female. So we get sad, sad pictures like this

bizarre image of a very dapper young man in beautiful suit holding a mop and looking poetically sad, oh how low he has sunk

…Why is he “holding” the mop like that? Is the ignominy of it all so crushing he has to appear entirely bemused by it? Is he a store dummy? Why is he wearing a nice suit to do the housework?

And this (from the Daily Mail in the UK)

Bad woman sits reading newspaper while her poor, poor male partner does the vaccuuming around her. Abuser!

Gah! You can see how hellish life has become for these poor, poor men! And according to Lewis, not a word of appreciation!

“There is a legitimate desire from men to be acknowledged,” says Jones, who suggests that the modern man’s role in society is vastly different from that of his father…Feelings of neglect arise, they say, when the stresses and strains of their lives – now as complex as those of their wives – go unnoticed.

Ok, about the appreciation thing. It goes back to the same principle as referring to the bloke’s contribution as “help” – the notion that the woman still owns the domestic load with a limited potential to delegate, rather than the man taking on an equal share of the responsibility, including the planning and remembering component. I’m not against partners giving each other appreciation, of course, it’s wonderful. But it’s assumed, to some extent, that a mature adult will perform certain tasks on a fairly regular basis. As far as women getting more appreciation: really? We still assume, even in 2010, that a mother is going to do various boring household tasks without being thanked for it – apart from the ritual “thank”fest and Hallmark card on Mothers day. Or as Rebekka said here, “they’re kidding, right?”

Expecting recognition for day-to-day housework is an indication that you believe your role in that housework constitutes a heroic act above and beyond the call of duty.

Guys, welcome to our world. Yes, you may find it frustrating and annoying at times. We certainly have.

Comments (18) »

  • Tim says:

    Well said.

  • ThirdCat says:

    fark, I love that photo with the mop…if he is lusting that much over just an ordinary kitchen-aisle mop, what’s he gonna do when he sees the enjo?

  • Ann O'Dyne says:

    oh Thirdy – I laughed!
    He does look a bit soliloquy and
    his thought balloon says “is this an enjo I see before me?”

    but really, Lewis sounds like she might be Bettina Aren’ts cousin or something.

  • Helen says:

    You mean this is not a SAD photo but a pensive gazing at the mop with love photo?

  • Kath Lockett says:

    I read that article and scoffed as well, Helen because I remember using those very same stats for my book (WLB for Dummies).

    I often comment to Love Chunks that because he’s the house-chef he gets all the lavish praise from his two girls (Sapph and myself) and our friends at dinner parties, but *no-one* opens up their drawers, sees the clean undies there and gushes, “Oh WOW Kath, this is faaaabulous” do they?

    Oh and the mop guy? He’s soooo about to go in for the wet, open-mouthed snog….

  • Mindy says:

    Maybe mop guy has been dating stick thin models and has just made a mistake.

    I love the hard done by look on the guy vacuuming while the woman reads the paper. Of course the implication being that she’s been there all day, while he’s been hard at work.

  • Cristy says:

    You know I think that my poor partner bears the brunt of my frustration over this issue. I often realise that I don’t express appreciation over his contributions to the household work because I fear making it seem special or heroic.

    (Mind you, I also avoid mentioning when things have fallen by the wayside for fear of drawing attention to my own lack of effort…)

    There must be a balanced approach somewhere.

  • Sarah says:

    I like how you included “the planning and remembering” parts — I don’t have a male partner, but I have had male roommates for many years and I so often have had to play “mother/organizer/delegator” to them. Since they’re roommates, I can force them into taking an equal share of the chores, but since they’re dudes, they can’t possibly remember to clean their dishes until I remind them.

  • genevieve says:

    Ripper headline, Helen!! and well noted content.
    I have sidestepped most of this for many years by hiring cleaners at various points – once it was a male and female team. And of course they were awfully efficient because it was their (hic) job.
    Still want my three husbands for the gardening work though.

  • Link says:

    Ah, very timely piece for me, thank you, as I have in the last weeks had words with LOML about taking more responsibility for doing his washing, shopping, cooking, cleaning as it became apparent I would be left to do it all. It’s not so much the doing of such things that is burdensome, it’s being the only one who is thinking that such things need doing.

  • paul walter says:

    That second photograph, of the helot toiling under the gaze of a forbidding and indolent domainatrix, a fearful emmanation of the “Castrating Mother”, was something else again to behold.
    Why is he not sitting down watching football, while the blond, cutely made up, serves him a cup of tea?

  • paul walter says:

    As for the first photograph, surely unrequited love.
    No sensitivity from you folk at all, is there?

  • paul walter says:

    “Dont want to be
    beast of burden…”
    All those grocery bags carted miles into the giant carpark to the four wheel drive, and who has to carry them, six steps behind Gloriana?
    you guessed it!
    We are such putzes for women…

  • Helen says:

    Do they not have shopping trolleys where you live, Paul?

  • paul walter says:

    Fortunately, they have women, too.

  • […] Helen at Blogger on the Cast Iron Balcony has masses of sympathy for all the poor dudes who have to do some housework. […]

  • paul walter says:

    Of course the set would look better if the photos were right way up.

  • […] on the topic of equitable domestic load-sharing – and Sarina Lewis again. You may recall I had a go at Lewis on the subject of domestic load-sharing before. No, I haven’t finished with the poor woman […]

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