New study finds married men do less housework than live-in boyfriends
The age-old stereotype that women do more housework than men has gotten more credibility with a George Mason University study co-written by sociologist Shannon Davis.
The study of more than 17,000 people in 28 countries found that married men report doing less housework than men who are live-in boyfriends.
This study was recently published in the Journal of Family Issues by Davis and co-authors Theodore Greenstein and Jennifer Gerteisen Marks of North Carolina State University.
According to Davis, the key finding of the study is that it suggests the institution of marriage changes the division of labor. Couples with an egalitarian view on gender—seeing men and women as equal—are more likely to divide the household chores equally. However, in married relationships, even if an egalitarian viewpoint is present, men still report doing less housework than their wives.
“Marriage as an institution seems to have a traditionalizing effect on couples—even couples who see men and women as equal,” says Davis.
While the researchers did not follow cohabitating couples over time to see if their division of housework changed after marriage, their study provides a “snapshot” in time of couples all over the world.
“Our research suggests that couples across many countries are influenced by similar factors when deciding how to divide the housework,” she says. “It’s the way the society has defined what being married means, the institution itself, that affects behavior.”
I find this study very interesting, but not surprising. I am a feminist as is my partner, and so are most of our friends. Yet, I recall when I got married, all of a sudden, I really ceased to be a separate person. It took me years to get used to the fact that a simple change of householding arrangements made most of the world see me in an entirely different way. People would be astonished that we still maintaied entirely separate bank accounts (at the time). More astonishing to people was that I did not take his name. It remains a source of perpetual astonishment to me that women still do this - in fact, it seems to me, that most women still do this; why one would erase one's own identity in favor of someone else's is bizarre to me, especially given all the baggage that goes along with it societally. If I were a man, I think it would be less of a problem for me, beause all the nonsense that goes with it is absent (other than people simply failing to believe that you've done it. The one couple I know where the man took the wife's name, no matter how many times they explain it to people, people simply write it out of their minds. Of course, that's a general human mental failing, I think. I note that with my DS, simply because he has longish hair and wears pink tackies (sometimes), almost all white people assume automatically that he's a girl - and will persist in calling him "she" even if he corrects them (neither of us do usually, because after all, who really cares? Especially pre-puberty?).
So, back the the real question though: I know that people really love and are tied to their notion of highly differentiated gender as "natural," despite the scientific evidence - most people will take bad anecdotal evidence over it all the time - and truthfully even scientists aren't immune, cf. Dr. Carol Tavris excellent book The Mismeasure of Woman. But this study is one of many that really belies the psychology of how women get stuck with the dishes, as it were. How do we move beyond this - and as a rabbi, a question we need to ask: with the agunah question looming over us still, maybe it's time to reevaluate what marriage is; How it's done; Perhaps we need a new seder nashim, with commentary.