Tag Archives: gender roles

Changing (who bakes the) Roles

By Erica Zaiser

A recent article in The Independent discusses the issue of sharing housework in a marriage. Despite the fact that husbands do much more housework than they did 50 years ago, statistics in the UK show that women still do more housework than men. However, given the increase in women working full-time, inequality in household chores has become a larger strain on marriages. This is supported by recent research showing that divorce rates are lower in families where husbands do housework.

One study looking at young unmarried people’s ideal and expected participation in housework and childcare sharing, found that young women expected to end up doing more housework than their husbands. However, men wanted to and expected to split household chores equally. Additionally, there was a difference between people who ideally wanted a career oriented partner versus a family oriented partner. Both men and women looking for a career oriented partner desired to participate more in household chores while those looking for a family oriented partner desired less involvement in household chores and child rearing.

This discrepancy between men and women’s expectations and desires for chore sharing may shed some light on why equality in the home has been slower moving than expected. The authors suggest that this type of research can help promote changes in attitudes towards men’s involvement in household chores. It also provides some evidence that in order for change to occur men need to follow through with their professed desire to be involved in housework but women also may need to change their expectations of doing more work, as men also seem to want equality.

Read more: Men want equality, but women don’t expect it: Young adult’s expectations for participation in household and childcare chores.

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Ideological dilemmas and depression


Tim Lott’s recent article ‘Men are suffering a depression epidemic…’ in the Daily Mail argues that one of the causes of men’s depression is the fluidity of the roles they are ‘expected to play in modern life, both professionally and emotionally, and as fathers and husbands’, which ‘can lead to a lot of painful doubt about what the role of a man actually is’. That is, men are ‘expected to be strong yet sensitive, successful but not materialistic, caring yet masculine’. Whether it is fair, as he does, to blame women for this is a moot point. However, the article does provide an interesting example of how ideological dilemmas may affect mental health.

Billig et al (1988) first introduced the concept of ideological dilemmas in a book with the same name. Their aim was to make a contribution to the debate surrounding the nature of ideology by questioning the notion that ideologies are always constituted by integrated and coherent sets of ideas. Although they did not deny that ideologies could conform to this classical Marxist definition, they argued that a different kind of ideology existed. These ‘lived’ ideologies are the beliefs, values and practices of a given society. In other words, these ideologies are a society’s ‘common sense’ ways of doing things. Unlike their Marxist counter-parts, these ideologies are often characterized by inconsistency, fragmentation and contradiction, which do not provide clear and concise ways for people to think and act. Billig et al (1988) provide numerous examples, such as the dilemma between ‘many hands make light work’ and ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’, or, ‘look before we leap’ and ‘he who hesitates is lost’.

Edley (2001) argues that the concept of ideological dilemmas can also inform our understanding of gender and gender relations. One such example is the dilemma of work versus family. That is, how do mothers and fathers fulfill their career aspirations as well as their parental obligations, and also find time to develop their own relationship by having quality time together away from the demands of children and work? In addition, men are today, confronted as never before with mediated messages that invite them to openly confront their emotions, be sensitive, caring and feel comfortable seeking help, whilst at the same time they are expected to be appear powerful, strong and self-reliant (Gough, 2009). It is these ideological dilemmas that Lott and MIND identify as often leading to men suffering depression.

Men are suffering a depression epidemic too… and some of it is caused by women

MIND – Men’s mental health

Ideological Dilemmas: A Social Psychology of Everyday Thinking

Gender fatigue: The ideological dilemma of gender neutrality and discrimination in organisations