It’s all too common for gender norms to dominate the chores in the everyday household. But as same-sex families, particularly marriage, are on the rise, old traditions of feminine verse masculine chores are being replaced.
It’s out with the old and in with the new as The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) describes in their article “Beyond breadwinners: how same-sex couples divide housework.”
The article goes deep into the explanation of gender roles when it comes to housework and how we as a society have been conditioned on what we perceive to be masculine chores and feminine chores and why.
Housework is often understood as a gendered negotiation based on the traditional roles of homemaker (feminine) and breadwinner (masculine). While gender norms have shifted dramatically in the past few decades, theories of housework are still stuck on this 1950s model.
Primarily, the traditional norms of appropriate gender housework still persist in the heterosexual community. However, such gender prescribed norms have been replaced in same-sex couple homes, which resemble a rulebook that emphasizes more on what those in the partnership feel more comfortable in doing.
One argument is that same-sex couples are able to negotiate housework in the “absence” of gender. As the argument goes, one partner does the washing, dishes and vacuuming not because they are male or female but because they prefer these chores, have less money or spend less time at work.
That’s not to say that old standards don’t tend to still seep into same-sex households. It’s not easy to shake off those heteronormative constructs that have been ingrained into our everyday lives while growing up.
Research shows that same-sex couples have more equitable divisions of housework than heterosexual couples, but the partner who engages in more childcare also does more “feminine” housework tasks. However, the question of how to explain these divisions remains.
What can further complicate the strong embrace that heterosexual norms play a role in LGBT relationships can be the very notion of what we have been taught to identify as feminine and masculine, and our absentminded neglect to notice that we can sometimes play into such narrative.
Gay men may engage in baking and lesbian women in using power tools as a way to tap into different dimensions of their masculinity and femininity (such as care or empowerment), not to demonstrate their rejection of either gender identity.
What seems to be promising is that traditional views and coherence to gender norms are dissipating as the older generation diminishes and is replaced by the younger generation, which inevitably takes the place as the new older generation.
Young people today are more likely than older generations to reject traditionally gendered expectations in favour of more equal divisions of paid and domestic work. Yet we know that gender remains a major factor in unpaid divisions of household labour.
To read the full report on how same-sex couples divide housework by The Sydney Morning Herald click here.