Dear ladies and gentlemen alike (because I want both of you to read this):
Let’s talk a little bit about the history of feminism.
I’m not going to go into too much detail, don’t worry—I’m just going to cover a few of the basics, mostly regarding what happened during and after the world wars.
With most of the men away at war, women were expected to hold down the work force back in America. This forced the government to find ways to encourage women to leave the house and go to work, offering things like affordable childcare to make it easier for them.
And the thing about all this is, a lot of women enjoyed working. They liked being able to leave the house, do something productive, and be amongst a group of their fellow adults for a while. So when the men came home from war expecting their jobs back and the government began to actively dissuade women from seeking work, a lot of women weren’t happy about it.
And, thus, we enter into what many people refer to as the second wave of feminism, concerned with women’s rights to vote, women’s rights to reproductive health, and, yes, women’s right to work outside the house.
Now, the second wave of feminism most certainly got sh*t done, as you might be able to tell by the fact that many women nowadays work outside the home without thinking twice about it. And that is awesome. That is something that we should be proud of our feminist predecessors for—because they most definitely kicked ass.
But, at the same time, I submit to you today the opinion that they didn’t quite get far enough with their goal.
The second wave of feminism is over. We are currently in the third (some might even argue fourth) wave of feminism, concerned with things like rape culture, objectification, and, again, reproductive health.
And the average woman experiences a certain set of expectations about her role as a woman in society even today. Typically speaking, a woman is expected to have a full-time job that pays the bills adequately, have a husband who she satisfies both emotionally and sexually, and have children for whom she is the primary caregiver. On top of all of this, when she gets home from work, she is expected to be the one who cooks the dinner, does the dishes, scrubs the floors, keeps up the laundry, helps the children with their homework, knows where everything is kept in the house, mops, sweeps, vacuums, dusts, and just generally takes care of household chores.
To this day, the house is typically a woman’s domain. Her job is to keep it tidy and orderly, but, at the same time, she is also expected to work a full-time job outside of the house.
Now, this setup might have made sense back in the early days of the second wave of feminism, when men worked outside of the house and women worked inside the house. It was a flawed setup, sure, sending many women into a depression because they didn’t feel like they had a sense of purpose in their lives (to read more about this, check out Betty Friedan‘s “The Problem That Has No Name” in her book, The Feminine Mystique), but it was a setup that at least had a logical structure to it.
Nowadays, it doesn’t make sense.
The argument that I hear used to protect this setup (when an argument is offered) is that there are certain chores that are “women’s chores” and certain chores that are “men’s chores.” Women do the laundry and the cooking and the cleaning because of some weird natural law that I don’t think I entirely understand—because I think that if I was a natural cook, I wouldn’t burn cereal the way I do. Men, meanwhile, work full-time jobs, and after a long day of work, they’re tired. They just want to rest.
Except women also work full-time jobs. Don’t we want to rest too?
And yet, our society continues to adopt this idea that “women’s chores” are the property of women, and if a man does them, he is merely “helping out.”
So by this logic, when a man washes the dishes that he dirtied, he is “helping his wife out.”
When a man cooks his own meal, he is “helping his wife out.”
When a man helps his own children with their homework and just generally does fatherly things with them, he is “helping his wife out.”
None of this makes any sense to me.
After all, if you live in a house and are a full-grown, able-bodied individual, why shouldn’t you be able to do a few chores around the house now and again? Why are all of these chores thought of as “women’s work,” when men also have to eat and sleep and wear clothes? And why are women just expected to do these chores without payment, rarely even receiving a “thank you” for the full-time job they are performing alongside their other full-time job?
This distribution of chores, this idea that women take care of the house and work while men are only really expected to work, just perpetuates this idea that women belong in the home. Maybe they’re allowed to leave it to work full-time jobs now, but they still have to come back and do everything that they were expected to do beforehand; they just have to do it in less time and with more stress on their shoulders now.
And, really, doesn’t it make more sense that both parties take on these chores?
So, ladies and gentlemen (and I hope you both made it this far into the article), this is what I suggest: Let’s end the idea that when men do anything around the house, they are “helping out.” Let’s end the idea that whenever a man does the dishes or cleans the kitty litter, he deserves a “thank you” that a woman doing the same job wouldn’t get. Let’s encourage both men and women to put in equal effort to keep their houses from crumbling, especially if both parties are working full-time jobs as well.
Because we are far too advanced a people to still be leaning on these outdated ideas of “women’s roles” and “men’s roles.”
Author: Ciara Hall
Editor: Leah Sugerman
Copy Editor: Sara Kärpänen
Social Editor: Callie Rushton