Before opening, I want to acknowledge how heteronormative this piece is. Not everyone’s family looks like what I’m describing here, but everyone’s family will benefit from equality.
When I talk about feminism I’m using the Merriam-Webster definition of feminism. That is, feminism is the theory of political, social, and economic equality between the sexes. It’s basic, straight-forward, and should be easy enough to get behind. As Paul Wellstone said, “We all do better when we all do better.”
But what does this concept of “betterness” mean at home within the context of what masculinity looks like in the United States? To get a sense of what is “better” I think we need to get an idea of what we’re starting with first. According to the National Science Foundation in partnership with the University of Michigan, “husbands create seven extra hours a week of work for their wives while wives save their husbands about an hour of housework a week.” Further, in 2005 (yes, this is a somewhat dated study) women did 16.5 hours of housework a week while men did 12.5. From a parenting perspective, women are spending roughly 14 hours a week on childcare compared to 8 hours a week for fathers (this is when both parents are working outside the home and is according to Pew Research).
From a purely practical perspective, we have a ways to go toward creating equal marriages. But is it worth it?
According to me, and BYU Forever Families, working toward equality at home is absolutely worth it! They say “Equal partnership fosters closeness between husband and wife, resulting in a stronger and happier marriage. Spouses feel better about themselves and each other, which makes them more likely to share their thoughts and feelings. This greater emotional intimacy leads to greater physical intimacy, an important element of a happy marriage.” I appreciate that they also offer some common-sense solutions that can help create a more equitable home, whether you are LDS or not.
- Share more routine household tasks
- Work as a team
- Avoid “gatekeeping”
- Talk about how you divide up housework
- Express appreciation
- Avoid making important decisions independently (full disclosure: I am especially guilty of this one because I manage our family finances)
- Share childcare responsibilities
I have to admit to finding it somewhat ironic that such feminist guidance has come from a church that, through the negative influence of some members, made me realize how important feminism was in my life. But I also think that it illustrates how important feminism is in our lives and for the health of our families. Open communication and equal distribution of work are inherently feminist ideals and improve the lives of everyone.