The Current Second Shift and What We Can Do

July 17, 2013

 

Today, women still do the bulk of the housework, and women who work outside the home put in an additional 2.6 hours of housework on top of their job every day. According to Think Progress, “on an average day, 19 percent of men did housework–such as cleaning or doing laundry–compared with 48 percent of women. Forty percent of men did food preparation or cleanup, compared with 66 percent of women”. So what needs to change for women and men to share the care and upkeep of their home more equally?

Equal Pay for Equal Work 

 

According to Jane Hood, “the more the wife is recognized as a coprovider, the more household roles will be shared” (169). If women are being recognized outside the home, then they also gain recognition inside the home. It makes sense: if women earn comparable salaries to men, then men are more likely to see them as their equal. If men see them as equal, they are more likely to share the burden of domestic labor.

 

Demand Truth in Media

 

It can be hard not to compare your life to the lives you see on the television. If we continue to let them feed us the message of the “happy housewife”, we will continue to measure ourselves against her – and continue to fall short of the ideal. Don’t let them get away with it! Don’t consume media that doesn’t reflect reality. Boycott products with particularly offensive adds.

Recognize Alternative Family Structures

Not all families consist of a breadwinner husband and a wife. Some families consist of two wage earners, and some families consist of a wage earner wife and a “house husband”. Some families are single parent. There are too many different ways to organize a family than I can list. Obviously not all of these can or will fall under the “ideal” male breadwinner model. We need to make space for them. Recognizing family structures different than our own opens us up to rethinking traditional, gendered assumptions about housework.

Recognize all women’s work

The most radical thing we can do is to recognize that women’s work is real work. Spending your day caring for kids and husbands and laundry and cooking is difficult! Doubly so if you are expected to come home and do it after completing a day of paid work. Recognizing housewifery as a legitimate job makes women’s work visible.

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