The Daily Gamecock

Column: 'Women's work' should not exist


When my parents first married, they had two years of newlywed bliss, followed by four years in which they had three children. What is notable about these four years, in which the house was crawling with tiny, screaming babies, is that my dad was deployed for almost half of it. My mom was a “housewife” for 14 years before she finally went to work in a career she loved, and with my father's deployments, she did a fair amount of it by herself. However, when my dad retired, it only took three weeks of taking care of the house, raising our puppies and cooking dinner for him to begin to feel taken advantage of.

Women have, in the last decade or so, achieved a greater rate of college graduation than men, producing more working women than competitive working men. In 2010, in two-income households, nearly one fourth of wives out-earned their husbands. So why is it that househusbands are still a rare, nearly laughable occurrence? In a New York Times article, David Brooks confuses social conditioning with genetic predisposition, citing evolutionary psychologists who argue that men are incapable of being nurturing enough.

First, psychologists are not geneticists. I call this phenomena centuries worth of cultures impressing on men the idea that strength and virility cannot coexist with kindness and gentleness. This idea that gender roles are imbedded in genetics demonstrates a complete disregard of all the literature that supports the idea that class roles and gender identity are socially forged structures with little to no genetic basis.

But househusbands remain exotic enough to attract media interest. Both AMC and the Australian production company Playmaker Media produced TV shows following the lives of stay-at-home dads. For a stay-at-home mom to get a TV show, she either has to be married to someone famous, have an extreme amount of children, or be a little person. Stay-at-home dads just have to be dads. Boston College’s Center for Work and Family recorded that, of the 85 percent of fathers who take time off of work following the birth of their child, the majority only spend a week or two at home. A large portion of this is due to the fact that only 10 percent of private-sector employers guarantee paid paternal leave, so I can’t say it’s the father’s fault. But the fact that only 10 percent of private-sector employers guarantee paid paternal leave says plenty on its own about the attitude of America towards paternal childcare.

It only took three weeks before my dad was being quite the “diva,” as we called him. He felt taken advantage of and taken for granted. He thought it was unfair that he had to take care of the puppy all day, because it was hard for him to do both that and the things he liked to do. He was annoyed when he was in the kitchen cooking and my mom or us kids were relaxing in the other room following a day at work. Society has not only trained men to believe that their value is found wholly in providing financially for their families, but it has also entirely blinded them to the trials of housework. It’s seen as “women’s work,” and because our society places women below men, then all that work is both beneath a man and probably significantly easier than whatever a man might do with his day. That’s why you don’t see a lot of male secretaries, elementary school teachers, nurses and primary caregivers.

My dad had absolutely no concept of what it took to run a house. He had to take care of three dogs while my mom was at work. My mom had to take care of three children while my dad was deployed for months. My mother has been thanklessly cooking dinner for 14 years, and it was three weeks before my father started pouting. But this isn’t my dad’s fault. Let me repeat, this is not my dad’s fault. He’s an awesome dude and a great dad. This is seldom the fault of an individual man. It’s the fault of a culture that continues to reinforce gender norms that are no longer essential to the preservation of society.

Let men stay home with their babies. Let men be gentle and nurturing. Let men feel pride in a clean house and a delicious dinner. Let working women earn the same as working men, and let’s see the 50-50 sex ratio reflected in all walks of life, including who takes care of the house and kids. 


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