Professor Melissa Milkie on housework and gender norms

December 20, 2017 by Kathy Tang

Sociology Professor Melissa Milkie was recently featured in an article by The Toronto Star discussing the gender roles and expectations around household work. The article reported on the persistence of a gendered division of household chores and the guilt many women feel when they do not live up to their own housework standards. In explaining the guilt, Professor Milkie pointed to strong cultural gender norms. Professor Milkie is the chair of the Graduate Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on culture, gender and family, the intersections between work and family, and health. Her research has used time use studies to analyze the division of household labour.

We have posted an excerpt of the article below.

Household chores still a source of guilt for some women

Brandie Weikle | Dec. 14, 2017

...I became curious about the mixed feelings women report on this issue when I posted a recommendation on Facebook recently for a cleaning service I had just started using.

This simple little review elicited a surprising amount of response — interestingly, all of it from women. Some of that feedback indicated that, in addition to doing a declining but still disproportionate amount of household chores (3.6 hours daily on unpaid household tasks compared to 2.4 hours for men, according to Statistics Canada’s most recent Time Use Survey), women still take on an extra helping of guilt when they can’t keep up.

Melissa Milkie, a professor of sociology at the University of Toronto Mississauga whose work centres around gender and family, says that’s because our culture still has “strong and ‘stuck’ norms of femininity and masculinity,” despite the fact women are more likely than ever to work outside the home.

“Employed women continue to be held to high, sometimes impossible standards of a warm, welcoming, organized, clean and beautiful home,” says Milkie.

Sure, plenty of women I know, mostly middle-class professional moms, say they’ve happily embraced using a cleaning service and easily see the logic in outsourcing lower-paying tasks so they can devote more time to higher-paying tasks or free up hours to spend with their families. So do their male partners, who also don’t want to spend the entire weekend cleaning. But many women still trip over deeply ingrained messages that it’s indulgent to get someone else to do some of your dirty work...

Read the full article here.