Divisions of labour

overcoming fear of the blank page

In the ‘Boring but important’ section of The Week this week, there’s a story about India’s push to provide a toilet for every Indian household by 2012. Currently, dry toilets are ‘serviced’ by people who are considered untouchable. Plenty of work has been done by organisations such as Sulabh International to provide different job opportunities for these shit clearers, but plenty more needs to be done.

Also in the same section was a statistic that says Australian adults are spending more time at work and with families; as a result, men are spending less time on housework, while women are spending more.

The progress in sharing housework that was recorded from 1992 to 1997 has now stalled.

I can’t understand why, in a modern age, the division of housework is still a point of contention between men and women. Surely everyone wants to live in a moderately clean home and each person should work to their strengths. Don’t like a stinky toilet – clean it! Can’t stand doing dishes – leave it to your partner. Take out the garbage instead.

Sometimes I think the fundamentally patriarchal nature of male-female relationships in western society means that things like housework will continue to be a sticking point. Housework will always be seen as ‘women’s work’ as long as women continue to be encouraged to value aesthetics over function.

(Of course, I hardly need to add that all people are encouraged to value aesthetics in ‘feminine’ things, such as women’s personal appearance and domestic lives. When viewing men and manly things, they should desire strength and a sense of humour.)

(I also don’t need to add that most of the shit lifters in India are women, in spite of the fact that women in slum areas of India have little or no access to toilets for their own use.)

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Nat Newman

Nat Newman is an award-winning writer of short stories, content, podcasts, feature articles, drunk text messages and, soon, a novella.


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