Everyone has heard about the gender gap faced by women around the world. The media frequently highlights the global disparity between the rights of the sexes, but we don’t often stop to reflect on our own cultural expectations.
When this topic is addressed here at home, it is limited in scope and tends to focus on equal pay.
While this is indeed an issue, it is not the main problem. The main problem is our own cultural standards and expectations of males and females.
According to an article published on Salon.com on Aug. 13 titled “Even little kids have a wage gap,” the gender gap starts in childhood. To put it simply, boys are paid more to do less. Girls were likely to be assigned chores 75 percent of the time; boys were at 65 percent. Yet boys were paid more for doing their chores.
The gender expectations behind this pattern reveal themselves: domestic chores such as folding and ironing clothes and washing dishes are considered feminine while mowing the lawn and shoveling the driveway are considered masculine. These outside chores allow for networking and more job opportunities as well. It is also worth pointing out the frequency of these jobs – how often is the lawn cut in comparison to the dishes being washed? How often does the trash need taking out in comparison to vacuuming?
The gender disparity carries on into adulthood, such that, according to a National Science Foundation article published on April 28, 2008 titled “Chore Wars: Men, Women and Housework,” single women of all ages averaged 10 hours of chores a week prior to marriage and 17 afterwards. Men, on the other hand, did eight hours a week before and seven hours after marriage. When children are factored into the equation, the disparity is even more apparent: women log approximately 28 hours per week. Comparatively, men log approximately 10.
Imagine almost any Hollywood movie: how often is a male actor seen dusting while the female is fixing the car?
The inequity we see in the workforce is an extension of the gender gap rooted in our cultural expectations. Even when men and women are responsible for the same job, women earn 77 cents to men’s dollar per hour, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
As a result of these factors and the societal pressure women experience to be held to the same standard as men, women face undue pressure to be Superwomen. They are expected to fill a certain role within the home as a daughter, sister, wife and mother. They are expected to excel at school and within their chosen career path without crossing the boundary and becoming too masculine. These expectations are not flexible or accommodating.
Feminism comes into play here. Yes, women have the right to choose, but they also face backlash from different parties. If a woman chooses to be a homemaker, she is judged for not living up to her full potential. If she chooses to focus on her career, she is criticized for not being feminine enough or not having a focus on family life. And so, the only option left for women is to overextend themselves and to be successful in their careers, be in charge of running the household, be involved at the children’s school functions and so on.
It’s a catch-22, and it will not change until our expectations of children illustrate that, whether male or female, no one is above cooking and cleaning.
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