September 29, 2017 • Sarah Jean Gosney
I like to keep up with what the feminists are saying. And today they are saying that “Women Aren’t Nags–We’re Just Fed Up”.
The article goes on to talk about “emotional labor,” a feminist term used to indicate typically female responsibilities and talents: conflict resolution, household management, cleaning and homemaking, etc. The complaint in the article, and by most feminists I hear from regularly, is that men do not pull their weight in the home when it comes to “emotional labor.”
The real issue of the article is not whether men should have to pick their socks up off the floor or learn to braid hair, but the incredible frustration that both the author and her husband face on a daily basis. Both the author and her husband work (typical modern American couple). The author feels that she is expected to do the above tasks and wishes her husband would help without delegating. But the interesting fact is that the husband does actually share the workload quite a bit:
‘My husband does a lot. He does dishes every night habitually. He often makes dinner. He will handle bedtime for the kids when I am working. If I ask him to take on extra chores, he will, without complaint.’
Seems like the exact setup that any feminist would want from her husband, right? But read the next line of the article:
‘It feels greedy, at times, to want more from him.’
Our author isn’t satisfied, but her husband is sharing a significant part of the household chores. So what is really going on here?
‘[…]I was the manager of the household, and that being manager was a lot of thankless work.
If I were to point out random emotional labor duties I carry out[…] he would take it as me saying, “Look at everything I’m doing that you’re not. You’re a bad person for ignoring me and not pulling your weight.’
The wife feels that her job is thankless. And her husband feels attacked for both being told he’s not thanking her, not doing enough, and for the fact that he too does many thankless jobs, yet he’s not complaining about it.
Now this problem cuts both ways; I’ve seen it with my own parents. Where there is no clear gender divide, who is responsible for each task becomes muddied, which poses problems for deciding how the job will get done and which person should be doing the job automatically and which person would be going above and beyond by doing that task. My mom is constantly frustrated by cleaning up after my dad in small ways, and my dad is constantly complaining that we expect him to be “Mr. Fix It” when things go wrong around the house.
When there is a clear gender divide, it is understood who does what. The support from each spouse is equal, and the thanks is implicit. It is very easy to tell when you are fulfilling your obligations, and it’s very clear when you’re being fully supported. (This is the same reason hierarchy functions in most societies, but that is a topic for another day.) Without this delineation, your entire home and financial life can easily devolve into a constant battle.
The author even admits that gender roles seem to be an unstoppable force:
‘I can feel my sons and daughter watching our dynamic all the time, gleaning the roles for themselves as they grow older.’
And this is the way of nature. Despite the author’s multiple attempts to explain and share emotional labor with her husband, she still can’t seem to make any headway. She comes to the conclusion that men need to get with the program, but she really reveals the fact that gender is hard-wired and cannot be totally deprogrammed.
You do not have to go all or nothing (the husband never cooking, the wife mowing the lawn), but if you are having issues with this push and pull in your household, you can have a discussion with your SO and establish that you will complete the feminine tasks and him the masculine (and if it needs to be stated what these are, do it). If you want to deviate from this, let the exceptions be obvious and explicit, for example, the wife will mow the lawn because she works from home. Let the smaller tasks fall into their gendered categories.
Gender roles can help you bring harmony into your home. I hope you use them to your advantage!
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