If you consider all the time and energy that feminists have put into railing against gender stereotypes and the traditional division of household labor, you would expect that people would have gotten the point.
In fact, they have gotten the point. They have learned to ignore the rantings of feminists. As it happens, most people still divide household chores by gender. For all we know gender stereotyping might have a rationale that goes beyond social construction. Perhaps it has something to do with the biological difference between the sexes. Perhaps it has to do with economic efficiency. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that members of one gender are more competent at performing certain tasks.
Slate reports on an Indiana University study:
If an actual glass ceiling breaks in a couple’s home, which partner sweeps up the shards? According to a new study from Indiana University, most Americans would give that duty to the woman. Study participants who read sample marriage scenarios assigned more chores in general—especially traditionally “feminine” chores such as cleaning, cooking, and child care—to women, even in scenarios that described straight couples where the woman earned more money than the man. Nearly 75 percent of participants thought women in straight couples should be the ones to buy groceries, cook, do laundry, and clean the house; nearly 90 percent thought their male partners should do the auto work and outdoor tasks.
Note that the study does not specify the gender of the respondents. This suggests that couples agree to the normal division of household labor. Does this mean that the feminist project of gender neutering all Americans is failing? We can certainly hope so. Does it mean that, however successful the campaign to gender-neuter everyone’s language, people are going through the motions. Just think of all those texts that use the generic feminine pronouns or that ban the word “man” are any variant. Could it be that these texts are manifesting a syntactic affectation?
Anyway, the unfortunate IU researchers not only discovered that gender roles are not a social construct. They discovered, to their added chagrin, that even in relationship between people of the same gender, household chores were still divided according to masculine and feminine characteristics.
Gendered housework stereotypes run so deep that even members of fictional same-sex couples got assigned certain chores over others based on how feminine or masculine their interests were. A man who likes shopping and rom-coms, for instance, would get stuck with washing dishes and grocery shopping, while his basketball-playing, guns and explosions–loving husband got to breathe the crisp fall air as he mowed the lawn.
Of course, some have argued that it’s not about gender. They believe that it's about who is the breadwinner. The person who is not working outside the home or who is working less than the other will be assigned more household chores. Feminists believe that once men and women are equals in the workplace they will divide chores equally at home. In fact, they have produced some pseudo-scientific studies demonstrating their point. Still, it’s an illusion, but don’t tell your neighborhood feminist.
Anyway, Slate tells us that the research has shown that breadwinner status does not count for very much either:
The authors of the study were taken aback by the results; they expected income to play a larger role in housework division. “Most research on housework suggests that couples divide housework along different axes; for example, lower-earning partners do more housework than higher-earning partners,” study author Natasha Quadlin told the Huffington Post. “Instead, our findings suggest that [gender] is by far the biggest determinant of Americans’ attitudes toward housework.”
Female breadwinners were still expected to do more household chores and child care than their lower-earning male partners; 75 percent of participants said the straight female partner should take care of laundry while only 57 percent assigned it to the lower-earning partner. The only aspect of child care that a slight majority of participants assigned to men was discipline.
In scenarios involving straight couples, participants had gender outweigh gendered interests when it came to divvying up chores: Women who loved sports still had to do more feminine chores than male partners who baked cookies in their spare time. Among gay couples, lacking a traditional mold in which to shape household labor division, participants’ brains shorted out and defaulted to other recognizable stereotypes: They tasked the more feminine partner of either gender with meeting the physical and emotional needs of children.
To be fair, the author of the Slate article finds this all to be very upsetting. She does not like the fact that gender norms are far more deeply entrenched than she would like. In itself this tells us that feminist zealots have no real interest in allowing reality to intrude on their illusions. Thus, we are grateful that she is reporting them fairly. That she draws the wrong conclusion—well, nobody’s perfect.