Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Since everybody else in the blogosphere is either talking about housework or not talking about housework, let's talk about housework.

I'm not, however, going to get into the issue of who does more or what. For one thing, it's just not productive.

For another, so what? Women have only been allowed to vote in federal elections since 1920, and it's been within my adult lifetime that Missouri has repealed some truly disgusting laws. (Did you know that until the nineties, it was not legally possible for a husband to rape his wife? Marriage was considered a lifetime of consent, no matter the circumstances.) It's not shocking to know that we have work still to do.

My issue with these studies is that they are so gender-biased in what they consider "housework". Dusting, laundry, dishes, and cooking are all considered housework, mowing the lawn, car maintenance, and home repair are not. There's a clear divide there between what have been traditionally labelled "men's work" and "women's work".

Now, if you look at Christie and I's domestic life, it'd look pretty gender typical. She cleans more than I do, and I fix more than she does. And we're even more traditional in the housework related program activities we engage in for our hobbies. For both of us, a happy weekend has me in the basement making sawdust and her in her sewing room making scraps. I might be fixing something that's been bothering me, and she might be doing the same, but most of the time we're just doing it for the fun of it.

I wonder about the future, though. I can pretty much count on one hand the number of guys my age I know that are into building and fixing things who don't do it, in some way, for a living. Their aren't too many young guys in the lumber aisle at Lowe's on a Saturday. At the fabric store, though, there are a ton of young women, and they tend to be the cool, edgy types more than the Laura Ashley types you'd expect if it was all about traditional gender roles. No, for these women, "women's work" manages to be transgressive and traditional at the same time.

Are we headed that way with "men's work" as well? I'm sort of thinking maybe not. Based on the incredibly lame methodology of watching a whole bunch of Ask This Old House episodes, I expect we'll see tasks like fixing the dripping faucet and putting up the back fence being taken over by women as well. There are those who would see that and feel sorry for the poor women who have even more work to do, but I feel sorry for the men. I don't know how I could make it through 5 days in cubicle-land if I didn't have the prospect of buckling on the toolbelt on Saturday to look forward to. Very little in my Monday through Friday life is as clear cut as a dripping faucet or rotting deckboard, so to be able to come home and concretely fix that one thing that's been bugging me, that's priceless.

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