Think again: Blue collars guys and housework/childcare

They do it.  That is, they are better at sharing the housework/childcare than the high-income earners.  And 20% do more than their wives. 

The following remarks on based on the work of the distinguished historian of marriage, Stephanie Coontz.  She is interested in challenging the popular misconceptions in our society about marriage.

Increasing numbers of working class women now — in a downturn where 82 percent of the job losses have been among men – have become their family’s sole wage-earners, it’s true. But their husbands, very often, are holding their own at home just fine. For while the stereotype has long been that working class men won’t do “women’s work,” Coontz said, the truth is that in recent years they’ve had a better track record than the most high-income men in sharing domestic duties. Twenty percent of these men, in fact, actually do more housework and child care now than their wives. “These people have been doing it for some time and they’re much more ideologically committed to doing it,” she said. “I think your worst offenders” … “are in that top 5 percent.”

5 thoughts on “Think again: Blue collars guys and housework/childcare

  1. It occurs to me that feminists who teach working class students, as I certainly sometimes do, perhaps should adjust our beliefs about the role models the students may have.

    A second thing this might mean is that 20% of working class women may experience more equality in the home that many academic profs do. That might make a difference to how they view feminist profs.

    In short, this might be a lesson about generalizing from one’s own (classed) experience.

    What do you think?

  2. Thanks, Jender. My heart did not leap up in gladness at the thought of the mistakes I may have been making.

    I did get to thinking. If 20% of husbands do more than ‘their share,’ mightn’t that change the attitudes and discourse in the whole community on that topic? At least to some extent. And since that seems to me easy to imagine, it might give one a way of thinking about how white feminists can miss out on what’s going on with women of color. That is, it isn’t just issues, but also their framing and their relative importance that we need to think about. That isn’t exactly news, but this might help give one a model of the difference.

  3. Gail Collins’ history of women in America argues (a bit between the lines) that strict gender roles work as a luxury in this country: in tough situations (at the bottom of the economic ladder, during recession, right after a war, out on the `frontier’, etc.), strict gender roles break down, in both directions. Pretty much everyone living in tenement apartments in the early twentieth century, for example, did both care work and paid work, because that’s what it took to survive. Ideas about women’s work and men’s work were, generally speaking, a luxury enjoyed by the more comfortable parts of society in more comfortable times.

    I don’t think this had much of a lasting impact on people’s views on gender roles, though. The androgynous, pragmatic culture of the Depression and World War 2 gave way rapidly to the strict gender roles of Betty Friedan’s prosperous middle-class suburbia.

Comments are closed.