While most half hour comedy tropes can be dismissed as tired rehashings of antique male/female stereotypes, one recurring sitcom and beer commercial theme bears out statistically: men still don't do their share of housework. AM I RITE LADIES? (uproarious laugh track)
But it doesn't have to be this way, the pudgy average husband wearing an adult-sized hockey jersey splayed out on the couch while his out-of-his-league sexy wife pauses to wipe sweat off her brow as she hand scrubs a pan that was until recently filled with cheesy chip dip. No. In fact, if the jersey wearing man were to simply change jobs, he'd be much more helpful around the house, at least according to new research.
Elizabeth McClintock tracked thousands of people from 1981 until 2009 and found that married men did 25% more work around the house if they worked in a traditionally feminine field like nursing or teaching or rom com protagonisting. Married women, on the other hand, did less housework if they worked in traditionally "masculine" jobs. Single people did the same thing regardless of their gender or working environment — came home and took their pants off and drank until they cried themselves to sleep.
But what's most interesting about McClintock's research isn't that men who work around women tend to be less-jerky about housework, it's McClintock's suspected reasons for the uptick in helpfulness. She reasons that they're already working debasing feminine jobs, so where is the all-important MAN FEELING coming from if not their paycheck? Why would they follow up a hard day ladying around by subjecting themselves to the indignity of doing what women have been expected to do since forever? To keep their wives from leaving them! Men, McClintock surmises (and I'm paraphrasing here), may feel emasculated by their lady jobs and less valuable as partners because they're not providing for their families in the manliest way possible (Dick Factory foreman) and so when they come home, they do more housework so their wives don't divorce them. Oy. Vey.
While the research is fascinating, McClintock's conclusions seem a little... off. First of all, she found that women who work in more feminine fields also tend to do more housework, so we can't attribute men's sudden surge in helpfulness to their egos feeling hurty. Something else must be at play.
I've got a better idea: maybe increased vacuuming and dish washing and toilet bleaching from men isn't a product of damaged ego, but increased empathy. It seems more like men who spend the day around women might be more inclined to help out around the house because they ostensibly spend the day talking to women about things they may not talk about with their wives. They hear their housework frustrations and minor marital complaints. Oh yeah! Women — people! Just like men!