Why Do Women Still Do Most of the Housework Even in Those Households Where Both Partners Are in Full-Time Employement?

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Topic: Why do women still do most of the housework even in those households where both partners are in full-time employment? Alexandra Fletcher

Submitted as a Introduction to Sociology
Date Due: 9th May 2011
Tutor: Dr. Danika Benison
The rights of women have changed dramatically since the 1950’s. It began with obtaining the right to vote in 1908 and since then Governments have enacted Equal Employment Opportunity Acts and Anti- Discrimination laws to protect women against gender discrimination. With all these official rights one would think that equality between men and women had arrived or at the very least was not far off. But the private domestic homes of couples has shown that, despite these advances, little has changed in the division of labour between men and women. Sociological studies have shown that women in couples in Australia still do the lion’s share of the housework. Data collected from an Australian survey in 1992 found that married women employed on a full time basis (30 hours or more per week) had an average workload of 59.5 hours per week and that the average workload of married men was 57 hours per week (Bittman & Wajcman 2004). This is occurring despite their contribution as co-providers economically in the relationship. This essay will analyse some of the reasons that women still do most of the housework even in those households where both partners are in full time employment.

To understand the reasons behind the apparent division of labour between men and women in the domestic home it is imperative to address its historical beginnings. The industrial revolution changed the meaning of work for everyone. Traditional agricultural work structures were replaced by a wage labour system that measured the value of work through remuneration. The type of work that existed in offices and factories became the primary domain of the male. Subsequently, the unpaid domestic work became the domain of women. Not only was there a division of labour but the creation of a value perception towards paid and unpaid work. Women’s domestic work was valued as a lesser contribution due to its inability to yield revenue in a society that now focused on remuneration. Currently, we can see in modern households of dual income couples that women are not only doing more of the household chores but they feel more responsible for the home maintenance (Horschild, 1989). It seems that the perception of the home as the woman’s domain still exists and can explain partly why women are still burdened with the “double shift”. Additionally, the attitude towards work value can further explain men’s level of contribution in domestic unpaid work. To explore this further we must examine how these attitudes have shaped men’s and women’s identities.

In numerous studies on women’s feelings towards housework there is a prevailing sense of responsibility towards domestic tasks (Dempsey 2000; Helms, Walls, Crouter & McHale 2010; Horschild 1989). One reason for this comes from the cultural construction that homemaking and caring for others represents women’s femininity (Dempsey 2001). This creates a psychological emotional tie to domestic work that contributes to the persistence of it being seen as women’s work. This attitude is not only perpetrated by men but by women themselves who struggle to hold on to their identities without it. Berheide (1984) stated that “household work is an occupation where work and family roles are to all intents and purposes indistinguishable” (Dempsey 2001). One needs only look to the post-feminist backlash towards the ‘Superwoman’ construct that was created as a result of the Feminist movement in the 70’s. This aspiration saw woman juggling and accepting their double workload as they pushed out into the paid workforce in order to escape their “imposed” domestic domain. The stamina and endurance that was required to maintain this “double...
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