Gender Inequality and Social Change among American Families
Gender, Inequality, Social, Change, American, Families
The Article ‘Housework: Who did, does, or will do it and how much does it matter?’ attempts to understand gender inequality and social change in the American family. Many women come home from work to the ‘second shift’, they take care of children, housework, and cooking.
According to the article, by April 2010 there appeared to be more equality with respect to housework. This is attributed to the fact that women started to decrease the time they spent doing these activities, thus is looked as though men were doing more. Another reason for this apparent increase is that houses started to become larger and more complicated to manage by one person alone.
Currently, wives’ and husbands’ time allocation may be more similar, but mothers’ and fathers’ work pattern remain quite different. Children change the composition. Although housework can be left undone childcare cannot. If a researcher was to study inequality they may want to focus on childcare activities and what might motivate men to share in these activities.
The more women participate in the workforce, and achieve high status jobs, the more men may be expected to share in household and childcare duties. This is a step away from the traditional breadwinning identity many men have had.
This disparity in responsibilities is not limited to household chores and childcare. Gerson (2010) states that young men have doubts about striking a balance between earning and caring-with the increased fear of not having the ability to support their family. Although men may be in favor of an egalitarian balance between breadwinning and caretaking, their strategies may be quite different.
Many men are feeling the stress of priority for their jobs while also being involved in their relationship with their spouse and children. Gerson (2010) reports that men tend to stress their economic responsibilities; men of all backgrounds prefer the breadwinning role as a fallback. Some are reported to view breadwinning as a privilege while others see it as an obligation. This results in care giving taking a backseat.
The heavy time investment required to sustain the financial rewards that accrue at work make it hard to balance work with the rest of life for many men. Economic uncertainties have resulted in the work week extending more than 40 hours a week in many professions. These increasing job demands have made it hard to achieve a work-family balance.
Breadwinning men are drawn to marriage and its benefits, unlike self-reliant women who are often skeptical of marriage. Overall, men benefit form marriage, with happy and healthier lives.
Gerson (2010) states that most men feel justified in leaving mothers as the default caretakers because they assume their own market advantages mean their work needs to come first. This is true even with the rise in women’s income.
Interestingly, neotraditional men stress how their earnings substitute for time and other forms of care; believing that being a good spouse and father means putting financial contributions as a priority. Neotraditonal men may find value in women’s work as a source of income, protection from boredom, and an avenue of personal and social esteem (Gerson, 2010).
Men often place women’s jobs in a different category than their own. Viewing a partner’s career as less essential helps men discount the cost women bear by putting work on the back burner. Placing women’s work second allows men to affirm a two earner arrangement without undermining their own roe as breadwinner.
It also serves to hold women responsible for domestic work, even if she holds down a job. Self-reliant women define equality as their right to seek independence while breadwinning men use the language of choice to distinguish between the spouse’s option to work and their own obligation to do so (Gerson, 2010).
Gerson (2010) also reports that some men are wary of the institution of marriage, they are reluctant to assume economic responsibility for another adult and find a vision of personal freedom more appealing. Many men reported postponing marriage until they have financial stability. Others report wanting to ‘experience’ the world and freedom before settling down.
Bianchi, S.M., Sayer, L. C., Milkie, M.A., & Robinson, J. P. (2012). Housework: Who Did, Does or
Will Do It, and How Much Does it Matter? Social Forces; a Scientific Medium of Social
Study and Interpretation, 91(1), 55-63. http://doi.org/10.1093/sf/sos120
Gerson, Kathleen. 2010. The Unfinished Revolution: Coming of Age in a New Era of Gender,
Work, and Family. New York: Oxford University Press.