Is there such a thing as free choice?

 As we talked about the history of women’s housework in class, it became ever more clear to me that even in the increasingly progressive, egalitarian world we live in, in which more women have careers than ever before, the female role in the house has not changed very much. Today being Thanksgiving simply gave me another opportunity to witness this issue – that females are maintaining their housework responsibilities, even if they are also climbing the corporate ladder.

After reading Belkin’s, “When Mom and Dad Split it All”, I started to wonder if there will ever actually be free choice when it comes to gender norms in parenting roles, or will families forever be somewhat restricted by the more traditional male and female parenting roles that have existed in society? In Belkin’s article, parents attempt to allot equal housework and childcare responsibilities to mothers and fathers, thus generating “equal parenting”. Even though some families were able to maintain this equity in parenting, the majority could not. I even witnessed this today on Thanksgiving – even though all the fathers in my family attempted to lend a helping hand, in the end it was the mothers who did the majority of the housework – cooking, baking, serving the table, cleaning up, looking after the children, etc. In the majority of situations, men may have good intentions, but women end up doing more of the housework, which is what led me to asking – do we actually have free choice? Or will women always end up doing more labor in the house? Is this because women just have a lower tolerance for letting dirty dishes accumulate in the sink? Are women simply better at cooking? Or born with the ability to bake pies? I don’t think so! These questions all demonstrate the impact of the culturally constructed notions of women’s roles in the house, which helps us understand how we are limited in our free choice when it comes to gender roles.

Belkin, Lisa. “When Mom and Dad Share It All.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 15 June 2008. Web. 29 Nov. 2013.

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2 thoughts on “Is there such a thing as free choice?

  1. lucilearn

    I agree with you, there is no natural abilities to cook or clean ! I just think that the equal division of housework is still a complicated issue in our societies for two reasons. First, changing habits is a long way to go : when we are younger, we see our mothers do the most part of the domestic work, and this idea becomes “normal” to us, we do not even notice it anymore ! So this is going to take several years, several generations maybe, to reach the point when our children will see a perfectly equal sharing of the tasks in the household. The second thing is that, following this slow and implicit mental integration of an unequal sharing of tasks, men can have a hard time to change things, even if they want to. When they try to help, or to do things by themselves, they are always controlled by a woman, who is going to make sure that it has been done correctly. This is what Belkin showed when the woman in the first couple made a list to her husband to be sure he would not forget anything. We are used to women running the household to such an extent, that I think that we can consider that women are responsible, just as men, of the difficulties in changing society. They have to learn to let go, to accept that their partner can do things, maybe in a very different way than they would have done, but still. If we want things to change, women have to work hard too.

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  2. nickmancino

    I agree it’s very hard to equally allot child care duties between husband-and-wife. Other non-childrearing duties and responsibilities must be accounted for and executed while simultaneously carrying for the child. All these variables add up. These, plus unforeseen circumstances that inevitably come into play create a climate where true equality is the goal and not the end-all to parenting. Your family’s Thanksgiving day festivities are very much similar to my own experience. The only difference is the women in my family have the men do certain “little things” like, “Stay out of the way and monitor the football game on TV.” And most importantly: “Watch the cakes so the kids don’t stick their fingers in them.” When it came to food preparation I was the exception to my family’s rule. I was the “helper”who actually cooked and participated in preparing the meal. I enjoyed cooking so much that I almost went to culinary school instead of the military. Now cooking is an invaluable skill I use regularly and hope to use when I have a family.

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