Sunday, May 22, 2005

Off Topic

I apologize in advance for my soap box.

I am often appalled at the stories that our media determine to be "news worthy." Well, last night on the San Diego NBC's 11:00 news a public interest "news" story really pissed me off. It was about how women keep their homes. Basically, there are a few different styles of home making compared to notable TV moms like Rosanne and Debra Barone. The piece also included interviews from several local women and talked about why they keep their house the way they do. What pissed me off, is that this discussion was not limited to at-home women, for whom keeping up the house is their part of the family "deal." This story talked about all women, especially those who were working moms. Then the news reporter wrapped up the segment by saying that you could take their on-line quiz to find out "what kind of women you are."

My beef is this: when both adults in the household work, why should there be any difference in whose job it is to keep up the house? Why in 2005 is it still the woman's responsibility to clean, cook, straigten and most likely take on most of the responsibility for keeping after the kids, including bath time, bed time and play time? I think its because we are perpetuating the cycles we grew up with.

Our generation represents the first one in which most of our moms worked outside the home. However, due to cultural expectations, the house work was still "women's work." This was exactly how it was in my house. My mom worked along side my dad, but was also in charge of everything related to the house and kids. Yes, my dad worked really hard, but so did my mom. Yet, somehow she still was responsible for almost everything else. My brother and I helped out, but we did stuff when we were asked. I don't really recall being completely responsible for anything.

I think one of the most important things a two-working-adult family can do is show the kids from the very beginning that no job belongs to just one person. I know it works, because I have a friend whose household was structured this way. In college, he was the only guy I knew who knew anything about cooking. And I don't mean, knowing how to grill a burger - not that this isn't a good skill to have - but I mean really understanding about spices, marinating, and cooking. He made some of the best stir fry from scratch as well as Jack Daniels ribs - he taught me tons about cooking! I asked him about this one night and he told me that growing up there were three chores at dinner time: cooking, setting the table and washing the dishes. Each member of their 4 part clan had one job each night, with one person having the night off. Then they rotated. Not only did this keep the total work for each person down, but they all appreciated the work the others were doing. Consequently, now he has no problem doing his share. Its automatic and its expected. I think if we work hard and put in the effort to teach this to our children, each generation will move farther and farther away from these now outdated gender-roles.

This story wouldn't have bothered me nearly as much if it was about how we, meaning all people, keep our homes today. How some are messy, neat or functionally neat. And included a statistic about how today X% of women report that they are still the party primarily responsible for the home environment. It stinks, but at least the whole focus of the story wouldn't have been about the expectation that women keep up the home. I very much wanted to insert a link to the story and quiz, but unfortunately I couldn't find it on their website - maybe this means someone came to their senses about this story and decided that leaving it off the website was the first little step in stopping these misperceptions.


The Stitchin' Sheep said...

Can I get a little Amen!?

A friend of mine at my kids' playgroup was talking about this subject the other day. Her brother-in-law is the stay-at-home parent while his wife works. His mother (my friend's mother-in-law) was feeling sorry for him, basically complaining that he has to do all the housework. That the wife comes home from work and barely lifts a finger. Yet, somehow, my friend's husband doing the same, and expecting his stay-at-home wife to do everything is perfectly normal and acceptable. See the double-standard here? Disgusting.

Nonnahs said...

I don't really know what to add here that would be all that constructive. All I can do is echo your frustration. Women are still, for the most part, relegated to not only the housekeeping duties, but sadly, many times, the "childkeeping" duties as well- even when she works full time outside the home. It's completely ridiculous. What happened to the concept of equal division of labor? Clearly this concept is lost on many households in America. Now, that said, I have no room to complain at this point- My boyfriend and I live together, and I think we both do about an equal portion of the cleaning, cooking, etc. (I know I am lucky and and I thank my lucky stars all the time.) But I see it all the time with other couples I know where the female of the house is not as lucky. And that "news" story just proves the point. People like to poo-poo on the feminist movement, but clearly we still have a long way to go! I think you should write an editorial to the station or something!