I’m Perfectly Happy With Gender Roles, Thank You Very Much

Don't let those dishes pile up. (Credit: Bob Hoge)
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I came across another one of those “men suck, women are angels” articles the other day; you know the type, the author whines about how the female is responsible for domestic chores while the husband is basically inhaling a six-pack and watching football. The latest: “Men urged to train themselves to notice household chores: study,” appeared on the France24 website Thursday, and urged dudes to be better:

Women looking at an unclean surface may see something to be wiped whereas men may just observe a crumb-covered countertop, researchers argue in the journal Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.

Sounds like a groundbreaking study. (By the way, there’s an easy solution to crumbs on the counter. Swipe them to the floor and let the dogs take care of them. It’s like magic.)

But it got me thinking. How much truth is there to all this? Are men really domestically useless? The study claims the beard-growing sex isn’t seeing the world as it really is:

They say data gathered during the pandemic, when both men and women spent time at the domestic coalface, throw up two important questions — why women continue to take on most housework and why men believe it to be more equally shared than it is.

Full disclosure: I had to look up “coalface”; never seen that word before. Apparently, it means, “doing the work involved in a job, in real working conditions, rather than planning or talking about it.” They continue:

According to a survey of US households during the pandemic, 70 percent of women said they were fully or mostly responsible for housework, and 66 percent for childcare, roughly the same proportion as usual.

Okay, okay, I get it, bros are buffoons. Except, guess what…? Despite myriad versions of this article being printed every year across women’s magazines and talk shows, it’s not the full story. First of all—how do you describe domestic chores? Many people would point to laundry, cleaning, child care, and the dreaded dishes.

Don’t let the laundry pile up! (Credit: Bob Hoge)

It would be fair to say that my wife is more involved in those chores than I am. I do dabble in these domains periodically, but they’re neither my passion nor my forte, so I’d be lying if I claimed I took care of 50 percent of the load.

But are those chores all there is to running a household? Who takes care of the lawn? Me. When there’s a toilet running, does my wife or one of my daughters open it up and fix it? Nope. Who organizes the family’s important files, takes care of the accounting and pays the bills, and deals with the nightmare that is today’s tax return? I’ll give you a guess.

When there’s a spider or a possum (yes, it’s happened twice) running around the house, where do all eyes turn? To me. I capture or kill the sucker and domestic bliss proceeds. (Although my eldest daughter is very proud of herself today for dealing with a spider on her own.)

Eek! Possum in the house. (Credit: Bob Hoge)

I’ve been married for years and have never once seen my wife change a single lightbulb. Internet problems? “Daddy, daddy, fix it now!” Need some tech help? Don’t go to mom, because she’ll just come to me.

None of this is meant to denigrate my spouse—she’s a trooper and does amazing things. But to imply that because I’m not as involved in the dishes I’m therefore somehow of secondary importance is B.S.  And here’s a dirty little secret I found out about: not all women actually like it when you help out. Shhhh.

How do I know this? A few years ago I decided to face my fears of the kitchen and actually learn to, you know, cook. I got pretty into it, and I’m a decent chef now if I do say so myself, but I noticed I was making some miraculous messes producing my culinary creations. I thought to myself, I don’t want to be one of those guys they rag on in Cosmo; I’ll actually clean up! (Admittedly, this was a radical idea to me at the moment.)

It happened a few times before I realized what was going on… “Well, that’s not really clean, is it,” my blushing bride would point out. Or, “Bob, that is NOT we arrange things in the dishwasher.” As if such a thing mattered in the slightest. You put it in, you press “play” or whatever the button says, it gets clean. But I still got, “who put these bowls in the wrong drawer?!”

I belatedly came to the conclusion that my assistance was not particularly wanted or needed—in fact, I was threatening her domain. It would be like if she came out while I was standing on the ladder hanging Christmas lights (yes, that job is mine) and started telling me how it should be done. When I’m under the sink fixing a leak, I don’t really need your opinion—thanks so much, now beat it.

It would be unfair to say that my assistance was never appreciated; if she’s had a long day at work and the dishes have stacked up and I take a gander at them, it can definitely take a load off her. But she’ll still find the one spot I missed on that one bowl.

As a modern dad, I also changed diapers, many diapers—as my friend, colleague, and new father Brandon Morse might be doing now at this very moment. (Read his beautiful article about what it means to him to become a new father.)  I HATED IT, but I did it. Did I change as many as Wonderful Wife? Probably not. But I coached T-Ball and Little League—even though baseball is not my sport—so there.

My point, is different couples share responsibilities in different ways. I know of some households where the guy is the master chef, and the kitchen is his domain; I know of some in which the male likes cleaning more than the female.

If you have a bum spouse (of either gender), I can’t help you; but I can tell you that the constant moaning about how men don’t do their fair share is often garbage. (Speaking of garbage, who takes that out? Yup; you know.) I do plenty around here, and all you have to do to understand the importance of dads is to look at the plight of those who were raised by single mothers.

I do feel that men are under attack these days, and sometimes it’s valid (I’m looking at you, Harvey Weinstein), but more often it’s not. The number of dishes I wash does not quantify my contribution to the household.

I like gender roles, and I’m stickin’ with ’em, and if I see another article like that in some lame magazine, I’m going to use it for firewood.


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