Saturday, February 10, 2007


In college I remember hearing a quote attributed to Toni Morrison that went: "Women love their sons and raise their daughters." I thought that was so true! Why is it that girls/women always seem so functional and responsible and boys/men are cut so much slack? Yes, blame it on those soppy, soft-hearted mothers. They loved their sons and raised their daughters.

Then I heard a radio piece recently about how, on average, girls do two hours more housework each week than boys do. The reporter of the story attributed this to leftover sexist stereotypes where women’s domain is the home. They interviewed moms, their daughters, and their sons. Everyone agreed that it wasn't fair, but they all just said that was the way it turned out.

In college I would have agreed that this was due to sexism. Now that I am the mother of sons, I have to defend mothers and say that we are not to blame. Now I know the sad truth: it is not sexism, it is just that boys have zero interest in doing things that you ask them to do. Zero. Ask them to do something practical and watch as their eyes glaze over and their body goes slack. Ask a girl, and they will be interested and give it a try. They may not be thrilled, but they want to be helpful. I see this all the time when I work in my son's classrooms. The girls enjoy the idea of doing the work, doing it neatly, and getting it done. The boys could care less.

In the end, it is just a whole lot easier to ask a girl to do something. With boys it is like pulling teeth. There is so much resistance that it often ends up taking more time than it is worth. It's not that it can't be done, but it truly is tempting not to bother. The basic fact is: you are going to have to work harder to get boys to do the same number of hours of housework. That seems to me to be a much more sensible explanation for why girls tend to do more housework. The idea that it all stems from ingrained sexist attitudes seems more remote. Now that I have sons, I truly believe there are innate differences between the sexes. Our job is not to make things the same, but to make them equal. I’m all for fairness and equal shares, but boy is it an uphill battle.


Mom said...

You described the differences in temperament between your two sons. Now you've just described the difference in temperament between men and women. Ask a man to do something novel, exciting, active, dangerous and he'll be interested. Ask a woman to do something calm, helpful, tidy, and she'll be glad to do it.

kerry charlton said...

My 13 yr old son is calmer and happier with chores, and now quicker at tidying his room than his 16 yr old sister. she seems panicked by all the other much more exciting things that her life holds, and can barely imagine being able to do those and chores!
She plans to always use paper plates when she leaves home.