After decades of feminism,
why are women STILL doing the majority of all the housework?
With schools and offices across the globe shut down as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and men and women along with their children forced to isolate at home together, the age-old question of housework, sexist gender roles and the burden of care placed on the shoulders of women, is back in the spotlight.
From headlines asking if the virus will usher in a ‘return of the 1950s housewife‘, to articles highlighting why the likes of Shakespeare and Newton could break new ground whilst in a lockdown thanks to their free passes from childcare or household management, the feminist struggle for equality within the home is one that no-one can escape.
No better time then, for a book highlighting just how entrenched, intricate and prevalent housework roles are in every woman’s life, no matter her advantages.
In her introduction to The Home Stretch: Why It’s Time to Come Clean About Who Does the Dishes, Sally Howard precludes her analysis on the endless and exhausting household cares women around the world seem to be almost automatically burdened with, by stating:
Second wave feminism gave us the insight that household labour is invisible in two ways: as an expression of male privilege and as work. But they – we – left the job half done…Our challenge, and it’s a moral as well as a feminist one, is to bring politics back to the kitchen sink.
An argument backed by the facts that in the UK, the average heterosexual British woman spends at least 12 more days in household labour per year than her male companion, whilst in the USA, young American men are now twice as likely as their fathers to think a woman’s place is in the home.
Exploring a wealth of data gifted by social science research leads, statistical investigations, pop culture and a very personal journey involving her husband Tim and their only child Leo, Sally is unafraid to exit her own boundaries, and take a peek into a wide variety of domestic arrangements. From spending a day in the life of a cleaner, to meeting Swedish latte papas, she lays bare the societal expectations and gender presumptions impacting women everywhere.
Whilst this book is inevitably born of privileges many women will not have the luxury of identifying with (Sally is a white, middle-class woman with a career and income of her own, and options of hiring a cleaner, help and the support of a husband available to her), it will nevertheless inspire many ‘a-ha!’ moments of universal insight and shared experience.
Insights and a sharing surely needed for this unique moment in history, when the homefront has become the forefront of all our personal and working worlds.