It’s not just the myth of believing that the colour pink, dresses and dolls are exclusive to women, as are the colour blue, cars and mechanics to men. It is the old and present male chauvinist belief that domesticity is a female thing.
A recent survey conducted on couples from thirteen countries reveals a patently obvious truth: we women feel more attracted to domesticated men, who are capable of understanding that domestic chores are not the domain of one gender group.
A team of experts at Oxford University came up with this assertion, revealing that we do not want partners “to look after” like in the old days, but husbands that share household duties as well as raising children.
The team from Oxford University consulted 13,500 men and women between the ages of 20 and 45 about issues such as gender, domestic chores and the bringing up of children. Based on the answers, each country received a score on the “equality index”.
According to the survey women in less egalitarian countries ended up between 20 and 50 per cent less likely to settle down with a man.
And it is because women don’t want a married life in which they bear the brunt of household responsibilities; they also contribute to the common good, participate in public life and feel that it is unfair that in the private sphere they continue to be the ones who contribute most.
They want to end this perception about “traditional women’s work”, the report says.
So it is logical and understandable that where husband and wife form an equal society in the home, which includes household chores to the bringing up of children, there is better harmony in the relationship and a better understanding about each other’s problems.
In Latin America, things don’t happen the same way. At this moment in time, although women provide fierce competition for men in the workplace, their prestige recognised, countless numbers contribute as much or more money to their families as their partners, in the household many men remain reluctant to do their bit with domestic duties.
Until the middle of last century everything was clear to men and women: the men went out to work and economically maintain the family. The women, now “mother-wives”, loving and obliging, ruled in the home.
For the family, life followed an order: The men owned the public sphere and the women saw to that other sphere, that private sphere where the man would come home to rest, newspaper in arm.
Although a good number of men understand that it’s an issue of justice to help out the spouse when both are away working, they pretend not to notice really because household chores are tedious, and there isn’t much creativity involved in washing plates and cleaning floors; what’s more, it’s physically tiring.
But household work is vital for the existence of all human beings who need to be fed, dressed and to live in a clean environment suitable for satisfying important needs.
Men as well as women need it. However patriarchal organisation, which imposed a gender division on tasks dividing the economy into unpaid reproductive activities (with less social appraisal), and paid, productive activities, is a tradition that is still in practice and is reflected in the collective psyche of many societies.
I had the pleasant surprise to read a little while ago that the first Housewives’ congress is to take place. Not a bad place to start for those of us who still have so much to change.
Various surveys conducted in Cuba and internationally show that the time taken to carry out domestic tasks is much more than the eight hours in an average working day. It begins from the moment you wake up and doesn’t end until you go to bed.
As a result of this, many countries are changing legislation with the eventual aim of social security for those who carry out this work, be they housewives or domestic servants.
It’s also being considered in order to legislate the distribution of assets accumulated during the marriage, in the case of divorce.
Although there is no doubt that if this were an easy hurdle to overcome, it would be resolved already.
Sometimes there is acknowledgement of progress in the projection of women as working people, yet the ground gained (or not gained) in domestic education, in equal partaking in household duties is not measured with the same yardstick.
That’s what is so important about the recent Oxford University study in putting such a relevant topic at the heart of the public agenda.
*The author is a Cuban journalist, Master in Sexual and Reproductive Health.
(Translated by Jose Stovell – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)