Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich joins the show to explain his pushback to the county's affordable housing goals. Plus, Montgomery County residents are getting heated about a comprehensive review of school boundaries.
A new study shows that teenage girls are spending nearly twice the amount of time each day cleaning, cooking, and running errands as boys. This mirrors a wider trend of women sharing households with men doing significantly more chores than their partners. We explore these persistent gaps, why they exist, how children learn about gender roles at home, at school, and online, and learn how some households are splitting up domestic work more equally.
Produced by Mark Gunnery
- Deborah Roffman Sex education instructor, Park School of Baltimore; Author, "Talk to Me First: Everything You Need to Know to Become Your Kids' 'Go-To' Person about Sex"
- Gary Barker CEO of Promundo, coordinator of the MenCare campaign; @Promundo_US
- Kate Haulman Associate Professor History at American University; Co-curator of the "All Work, No Pay" exhibit at Smithsonian National Museum of American History
Why Do Boys Get A Pass When It Comes To Household Chores? The Same Reasons Men Do
KOJO NNAMDIWelcome back. This is a question for parents. Do you think about gender when you're assigning household chores? Although many parents and teachers say they aim to raise children equitably, there's a persistent gap in the time boys and girls spend doing chores at home. It's a fact that mirrors an adult trend, where women are still doing around twice as much housework as men. Today, we explore these gender gaps, learn about how to change those patterns, and hear about how these dynamics play out later in the workforce.
KOJO NNAMDIJoining us in studio is Deborah Roffman, sex education instructor at the Park School of Baltimore and author of "Talk to Me First: Everything You Need to Know to Become Your Kid's Go-To Person About Sex." Deborah Roffman, good to see you again. Also in studio with us is Gary Barker. He's the CEO of Promundo, where he coordinates the MenCare campaign. Gary Barker, thank you for joining us.
GARY BARKERAll right.
NNAMDIAnd Kate Haulman is an associate professor of history at American University, which carries the license for WAMU. She is also co-curator of the "All Work, No Play" exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. Kate Haulman, thank you for joining us.
KATE HAULMANThank you for having me.
NNAMDIDeborah, I'll start with you. A recent study from Pew shows that boys age 15 to 17 have, on average, an hour more free time per day. One reason is that girls are spending twice the time doing daily household chores that boys are. You're in the classroom with young people every day, teaching sex education. Does this surprise you at all?
DEBORAH ROFFMANWell, it's interesting. I went right to the source this morning and opened up this conversation with two of my seventh grade sections. And I posed it in a very general way. I said, this is the finding, what do you think contributes to that? And they had all kinds of ideas about why boys might have more leisure time and men might have more leisure time. They did not mentioned chores, which was fascinating to me. They did mention...
NNAMDIWhat did they mention?
ROFFMAN...makeup, you know, and grooming. And I think that's part of the bigger picture, is that girls feel they have to be perfect at everything, and they have to look perfect. When they spoke about their own families, there was a real mix, and some of it was definitely gender-typed around chores. And it was interesting to hear that if there were no girls in the family, the father sort of adopted -- I mean, sorry, if there were no boys in the family, the fathers adopted the girls and trained them to do the kind of chores that they would do with their sons.
ROFFMANIn one family, there was an older brother and a younger brother. And the older brother was described as, like, just not interested in helping out at all. And the younger brother does, and even sort of picks up the slack from his older brother. So, it was really -- oh, and in one family, there was a brother who said, I don't want any parts of that. So, the default option was his sister. So, the father engaged the sister in the kinds of roles that -- in other words, we decided she was the default option.
ROFFMAN...for boys' chores -- quote-unquote “boy” chores.
NNAMDIGary, you run an initiative called MenCare that works to combat both the different treatment of men and women and men's violence. What do you see as the difference in expectations for how boys and girls help out around the house, and what's the reason for the gap?
BARKERI mean, I think you highlighted it that it's a mirror or what we see adults doing. So, around the world, we know that men are doing a third of the household work, compared to women, so women doing three-and-a-half times more on average. Women's time use on that has gone down. Men have been really slow to pick up. And we still use verbs like help, it's her plate, it's her job that I'm helping out with. So, I think what our sons are doing, and this is what we're grooming them to do, is kind of to follow the same thing. So, I think, you know, how do we shift that dynamic that says we expect you, as our sons, to be doing half the work from the beginning?
BARKEROur data, you know, from across 40 countries where we've done household surveys on this find that, not surprisingly, the thing that drives change is when dads do this work. When daughters see their fathers do it, they're more likely to expect male partners to do it. When sons see their fathers do it, they're 1.5 times more likely to do it when they grow up. So, it's so obvious to us that our sons and daughters are following what we, as men, get is sort of a free vacation. So, if you look at US data or kind of around the world, even when you add up our paid work as men with unpaid care work, men are working, on average, 30 minutes to an hour less per day than women are.
BARKERI don't make a lot of friends and guys don't ask me out to go to the bar when I cite that data, but I think we need to acknowledge that. We get sort of two weeks free Netflix watching every year because of the extra care work that women do. That won't make me popular, but I think we need to say that, and men need to own up to it and figure out what we do about it.
NNAMDIIt could make you popular with one gender, (laugh) but not with the other.
NNAMDIKate Haulman, young people are learning these norms from somewhere, often from behavior they see at home. You study the history of women's labor in the US from the colonial era to today. Can you give us a sense of the discrepancy between adult women and men's household chore load today, as it looks from a historical perspective?
HAULMAN(overlapping) Sure. It's historic and fairly intractable. I mean, Gary talked about shifting the dynamic, but you're talking about something that goes back at least a couple of hundred years. It hasn't necessarily always been that way. You know, in the colonial era, when the household was more a site of production, as well as consumption, there was a little more -- I mean, everybody worked in the home. Nobody was essentially working outside the home, and no one was working outside, necessarily, for wages. That begins to shift in the 19th century.
HAULMANAnd then what our exhibit really shows across time is that work in the home is, in fact, work. It is unpaid, largely done by women, historically free, at least for some women, enslaved women, and therefore invisible. And has been enduring and has endured even as women have made gains in the paid workforce. So, what we see is great continuity over time. The exhibit ranges from the early 19th century, really, to the late 20th century.
NNAMDIHere's Greta in Stafford, Virginia. Greta, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
GRETAHi, Kojo. I have a one-year-old son, but I'm already thinking about things like this. Because when I was in college, I actually had a couple of male roommates. And they didn't know how to do laundry, they didn't know how to run a dishwasher. And they turned to me to do it for them, expecting me. In fact, when I met one of their parents, the mom and dad both turned to me and said, so how's our son been eating? How have you been feeding him? (laugh) And it was just appalling to me.
GRETAHe put dish soap in the dishwasher, bubbles went everywhere for -- I thought I taught him out to run the washing machine, but it turns out he was only doing a rinse cycle and wondering why his clothes were stained blue every time they came out. And it just -- gender norms aside, it should affect how somebody's able to function on their own as an adult.
NNAMDIYep, heard that story before. Thank you (laugh) very much for your call. Gary, many men say they want to be an equal part of home life and raising children. So, why do you think men still are not doing an equal share of domestic work?
BARKERI mean, one is we need to expect it of men. And I think that example that Greta just gave of, you know, why didn't, from early on, did we say to our sons, you need to know how to do this. You don't walk out into the adult world, and I feel ashamed as a parent if you don't know how to do these things. So, I think one is that it's easy to fall into this kind of learned incompetence. And it's comfortable for us as men, right? If I kind of sit back and a woman will change the diaper of my newborn daughter, it becomes easy for me to say, well, I don't know how to do that, and it's kind of messy, anyway, and I don't want to.
BARKERBut if the world says to me, you've got to do this, there's no choice, and we start early on, you know, I think to plant these seeds, we get around it. The other is to look at what the workforce looks at men. We get paid extra, as men, by one, when we become fathers, but when we don't take time off to actually be involved fathers. Our wages are higher. The workplace says to us, don't really tell me that you do any care-giving activities. I think that you're a more responsible man if you are a father, and so will often -- you'll be the guy who gets the promotion.
BARKERBut we don't get any support at work to take that time off. Mothers never have, but certainly to acknowledge how much men look to other men. And we don't get, wow, you're really involved. Oh, you took off from that meeting to go pick up your child and take them to sports practice. Try to find a workplace that supports that. So, I think we're products of the world around us.
ROFFMANIt says those things to women, too, of course. But you said look around, what are other women doing? And women sometimes will make the adjustments and make different choices. And that contributes to not only inequity in the home, but gender and equity, the pay gap in terms of paid work, as well.
NNAMDIDeborah Roffman, home is not the only place kids are learning about gender roles. How does both traditional media and, today, social media shape how children understand gender roles in chores?
ROFFMANI think the stereotypes that our kids are exposed to today are really beyond stereotypes. They're caricatures of stereotypes. And you have to wonder, post the 1970s, when there was supposed gender revolution, I have an amazing picture of my husband and I wearing the exact same clothing, and striped pants, horizontally. It's really kind of bizarre-looking, big brown and white stripes.
ROFFMANHere's what I think happened. Marketers took a look at that and had apoplexy, because you don't stand to make as much money unless you have two completely different marketing niches. If everybody can wear and do anything and everything, then there goes market share. And what I've seen since then is the genderization of almost everything in children's lives. So, the first sign to me -- which just really horrified me -- was that I was in a toy store and I found that you could buy a prince frog bingo set and a princess somebody bingo set. Now, I don't think anybody at this table grew up -- I mean, we used the same papers and core. You didn't buy. It wasn't -- didn't -- and see, this way, you have to buy two.
ROFFMANAnd I think the sexualization of children and teenagers is more obvious to us. The invisible part is, you know, I made up this word. I don't know what else to call it, genderization, turning things that have nothing to do with gender into something that has a gender meaning.
NNAMDIAnd you make a distinction between traditional media and social media. Indeed, you say that in terms of social media, the preoccupation of young people with social media is an issue beyond gender.
ROFFMANOh, absolutely. I mean, like, who decided that it was okay, for example, for middle school kids, that it was a good idea, in fact, for middle school kids to have access to social networking? These are kids who cannot see past the screen in front of them. They have very limited ability to think about what's going to happen if I push send, and what might happen if that happens, and what might happen if that happens. They're just not capable of it, cognitively.
ROFFMANAnd yet, through marketing, we are now being encouraged to think of even young children as short, adult male or female consumers. We now have five-year-olds who have their own personal iPhone.
NNAMDIHere's Claudia in Fairfax, Virginia. Claudia, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
CLAUDIAHi, Kojo. I just want to make a comment. When I was growing up, my father never -- he never taught me how to drive, or he would isolate me for all kind of like car-related issues such as learning how to change a tire or being involved in that part. And he would always look for me to help with the kitchen and to help clean the house, and his family, too.
CLAUDIANow, as a mother of a boy and a girl, I make sure that all the chores are equal. And when the time comes, I will definitely make sure that my daughter knows how to change a tire, how to drive and how to learn all the skills to be independent and take care of herself.
NNAMDIClaudia, thank you very much for your call. There are a lot of approving nods around this table to what you just said, so thanks for sharing that with us. Kate Haulman, young people learning lessons about gender from culture is not a new phenomenon. You co-created an exhibit about women's domestic labor that’s currently on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. It's called "All Work, No Pay." Can you tell us about that?
HAULMANAnd the subtitle is -- the post colon is "A History of Women's Invisible Labor in the Home." So, we really just wanted to make the invisible visible, and museums are a great way to do that. So, using costume, mainly, and objects tracing through from the late colonial period, really to the late 20th century, the persistence of women's unpaid and therefore invisible work in the home. And we wanted to also say that this is a shared experience, in some ways, for women, but not all the same, right. Because women's pay highlight differences of race, class and ethnicity, so that when you have some women -- typically women of color -- doing domestic work for typically low wages, those women that are also doing the unpaid work in their own homes, and so endure what, I believe, Angela Davis called the double burden, almost a double invisibility.
NNAMDIThe exhibit includes artifacts like a board game called “Mother's Helper.” What are some of the ways boys and girls have learned about household work over the years that could shed light on how we got to this point?
HAULMAN“Mother's Helper” is a Milton Bradley board game I think first put out in 1969. And it was owned by one of the staff at the museum, who then donated it to the museum, and it's in the exhibit. And on the front -- the premise of the game is the children in the house -- and the cover of the game features three of them -- follow the mother around, doing chores throughout the house in order to earn the title of mother's helper, or best mother's helper.
HAULMANNow, on the front, it features the mother in the kitchen. There are also two pets, I believe, a cat and a dog, two girls, one running down the stairs with a laundry basket, the other standing in the kitchen, and a boy holding a broom, which is interesting. What's missing -- well, what's missing? Dad, (laugh) mother's helper. Where is dad? And so, in exhibit, we say, dad must be out doing paid work, quote-unquote, "real work."
NNAMDIGot to take a short break. When we come back, how do expectations about gender affect both boys and girls in your life? 800-433-8850. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. We're talking about the early beginnings of gender equity, or inequity, with Deborah Roffman, sex education instructor at the Park School of Baltimore and author of "Talk to Me First: Everything You Need to Know to Become Your Kid's Go-to Person About Sex." Gary Barker is the CEO of Promundo, where he coordinates the MenCare campaign. And Kate Haulman is an associate professor of history at American University and co-curator of the "All Work, No Pay" exhibit at Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
NNAMDIGary Barker, your organization Promundo advocates what you call equitable, nonviolent fatherhood. You work with boys and men -- millions, over the years -- and have developed a curriculum called Manhood 2.0. What does the work of critically examining gender roles with boys and men look like for you? What is Manhood 2.0?
BARKERI mean, essentially, what we try to do is get boys and men to say, how's that manhood going for you? (laugh) You know, we've had a lot of conversation about toxic masculinities in the last couple years, which often puts off a lot of men, who think, you think all men are bad. And what we try to say is, let's find the positive in it, and let's hold up -- Kate just gave a very good example of the board game that we laugh about, thinking about the models that it presents. But we kind of hold up to get guys to think about, how are you brought up in the home?
BARKERGo home and look at who does the care work. Go home and talk about these issues, or see them or practice the kind of care work you've never done before. Let's practice relationship communication and really try to hold up -- do a little bit of cognitive dissonance, so they say, huh. Some of this stuff just doesn't work. I don't get to be the full person I want to be. And within a group setting, where we model what does healthy masculinities do?
BARKERSo, essentially what we're trying to do is we've gone a lot of calling men out for the harm that some men do. And this is trying to call men in to say, what does a healthier, better, full-hearted idea about manhood look like, and how do you find it for yourself, as well as find a peer group that reinforces that? So, that, in a nutshell, is, you know, trying to sort of hammer away at patriarchy kind of a group education session at a time with teachers and coaches and the rest.
NNAMDIHere now is Elliott in Columbia, Maryland. Elliott, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
ELLIOTTSo, yeah. What I was trying to say was that I think some of the information could be skewed, because myself, I was raised by just my mother. And what she would do is on Saturdays and Sundays, is turn on the music, and we would both get up a clean, you know. Coming up, what she would do is she maybe would show me how to cut the grass and wash the cars, make sure that I took the trash out. And then once I was done with those chores, she would maybe have me wash the dishes or something like that.
ELLIOTTTo say that if a father would do some of these chores around the house that his son would do, I don't think it's necessarily just based off of one parent. I think it's based off of both. And being a millennial myself, you know, I'm 30 years old, I feel that once I raise my own children, I will have -- either if it's a boy or a girl -- I will still have them doing some of the same things that I did as a child. Like, I wouldn't not let my daughter cut the grass just because she's a female. Would I want her to do it all the time? No. But just to put that in her head or to show her that she can do it, she doesn't need anybody to do it, I would let her do it.
ELLIOTTAnd the same with my son, just because he's a male doesn't mean he can't wash dishes and fold clothes, right. These days, it's more of a teamwork instead of one parent doing one thing. And I think it's really based on tradition. You know what I mean?
NNAMDII'm really glad you used the term these days, because, Deborah Roffman, over the past few years, there have been cultural changes in how we talk about gender, sexuality, consent and more these days. Have these broader changes affected the young people that you work with?
ROFFMANI think what we have to remember is no matter what it is that we're talking about sort of out there, these gender inequities have been part of our culture, who we are, not forever, but I would say since the invention of agriculture. Because that's when property ownership -- which never had been in the realm of possibility before -- property wasn't worth something. You had to move in a second if the land didn't support you. So that what we're talking about here really are not traditional gender roles. They are patriarchal gender roles. And if you think about that phrase, patriarchy, there's a built-in inequity there.
ROFFMANYou know, I often meet parents who say, oh, we're raising our child in a gender-neutral fashion. The truth is, you can't do that. Most of what we communicate to our children and to other people about gender is unconscious. So, there are amazing studies about how newborn babies are held differently, spoken differently with, played with differently. And if you look at the preferences for boys versus girls, you can see, for example, boys are encouraged to reach for things out there in the world. And girls are encouraged more to verbalize.
NNAMDIYou talked about babies. Jessica Tweets in: please address the fact that people have gender reveal parties, as though genitalia as seen on a sonogram should dictate the colors and preferences and futures of their unborn child. How is this still a thing, and how do people not see that this sets up inequality?
ROFFMANI want to talk about my father for a second. My father was born in 1908. My clearest image of him growing up was of him standing at the kitchen sink with a dish towel over his shoulder. There was...
NNAMDI(overlapping) My clearest image of my father was never seeing him standing at the kitchen sink, ever.
ROFFMANExactly. Exactly. So, how did my father get to be that way? And I believe that it is because much of his formative years were spent in the Depression years. He was the oldest child in the family. He felt an absolute commitment to give back, in any possible way that he could. And so the point I want to make is that we're never going to change what's unconscious, but I think we can short-circuit these harmful gender messages by looking at values instead of trying to raise the right kind of boy or the right kind of girl -- whatever that means -- but the right kind of human.
ROFFMANAnd if we could emphasize, name -- regardless of our children's gender -- values like empathy and accountability and respect rather than all these double standards we have, I think that points parents in the right direction. And it also helps kids recognize what's out there that is quite the opposite of those values.
NNAMDII want to talk about the workplace for a while, because, Kate Haulman, gender dynamics learned in childhood plays out in workplaces, as any break room with “wash your dishes, your mother doesn't live here” signs will suggest. You've spoken about how emotional labor is unequally divided up in the workplace. What is emotional labor, and what are some of the unspoken expectations around it at work?
HAULMANEmotional labor is a term that feminists first coined to talk about the kind of also often unseen invisible work that women do and kind of are expected to do in terms of helping to manage other people's feelings and emotions and make sure everyone is doing okay and is connecting with one another. And everything is functioning smoothly with respect to people's emotional lives. And you see it in families, women doing a lot of emotional labor. And that has transferred into the workplace, as well.
HAULMANSo, the exhibit kicks off with, you know, the sign you see in break rooms, “your mother doesn't work here, pick up after yourself,” which references domestic labor, the idea that women do the cleaning, even in offices. But in office spaces, too, it occurs informally, emotionally. But also, think about who tends to organize the activities, the going-away parties, the welcome parties, social events in an office facilitating connection, checking in on people. That tends to be women, which is unfortunate, because men get kind of cut out of that equation, and they might enjoy that, as well.
HAULMANI mean, kudos to Elliott and to his mother. I was thinking about, and per Deborah's comment, part of it is treating children and adults as people, as humans with a range of abilities and inclinations and interests, rather than as immediately as gendered beings.
NNAMDI(overlapping) Gary Barker, do you have advice for men who want to increase gender equity in their workplaces? What about for employers?
BARKERYeah. I think a lot of men already want to do the right thing. And I think part of, you know, what we need to do is -- so, we've done surveys in the US and otherwise, finding that, one, three quarters of men want to do everything to be involved with newborn children. So, they want to take leave. They want to be involved. We also find that most men want to speak out around sexual harassment and other workplace gender discrimination they see. They're worried about what other men think.
BARKERS,o whether that's at the workplace, you're worried about your boss or your coworkers, you're worried about whether if you speak up, you're seen as not one of the guys anymore. So, I think we have to shift a little bit that since somehow men don't want to do this stuff and to say whether we heard, you know, Elliott put it so articulately in terms of what he learned at home to say, how do we free up men to be that part of themselves, that we can do this stuff?
BARKERSo, I think it also helps us to look, as men, not as we're walking deficits who can't live up to what mothers as super parents can be, but to say our sons have this within us, us as adult men have this within us to be these kind of, you know, care-giving connected -- you know, contrary to popular belief, we can worry and remember about birthdays, and we can (laugh) worry about whether a new staff feels comfortable here. But how do we send those cues, that all of us kind of have to shape that world that men can do this, and we need men to do it?
NNAMDIHere's Linda, in Bethesda, who wants to look at another aspect of this. Linda, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
LINDAHi. This is a fascinating conversation, and I was just thinking about, you know, definitely, I can relate to the emotional labor aspect of the conversation. But also, there's another part where women are sort of just considered -- they're the ones who take care of parents. I have a younger brother, and my father is ill. And I just recently moved him into the house, and I'm taking care of him. And I love him and I love having him close, but it's a lot. It's like having another job And, again, unpaid labor. There's another -- you know, I manage his medications. I'm now managing his financing and determining meals and...
NNAMDI(overlapping) Where's your brother?
LINDAMy brother (laugh) is not participating. And I think it just sort of -- and, you know, that's a whole other story. But just from the aspect of my father, it's interesting to see -- you know, I've had some of these conversations with my dad. Now that he's living with me, we talk about this. And, you know, he's becoming aware of just how it was sort of a default thing. He expected it from me in ways that he didn't expect it from my brother.
NNAMDI(overlapping) From your brother. And we're running out of time very quickly, but, Deborah Roffman, care to comment on that?
ROFFMANWell, I think a lot of it has to do with what you were saying before, about invisibility. So, what that means to me is that what women do doesn't count, right? So that you don't have to pay them. You can just take them for granted. And I think that's a large part of what your caller was speaking about.
ROFFMANI think that one of the ways that -- one of the things we can do in relation to boys in particular is just something that I do in my class, is I have them list stereotypical characteristics of males and females, or what are assigned to us because of our biological sex. And this is what comes out about boys: strong, stupid, wild, destructive, slobs, tough, unemotional, dangerous, careless, immature, etcetera, etcetera. And also in charge, by the way. That's the privilege. I can be bad, but I'm going to still be in charge.
NNAMDIAnd we've got about 30 seconds.
ROFFMANThis is the answer that I -- this is the response that I always hope for. I cross my fingers, and I hope that a boy is going to say, this really makes me mad. Right? This is so utter demeaning, so dehumanizing. And even though -- and it's clear that we devalue the work of women and things that are attached to -- we demean boys and men.
NNAMDIAnd I'm afraid that's all the time we have. Deborah Roffman, thank you for joining us. Gary Barker, thank you for joining us.
BARKERThanks for having me.
NNAMDIAnd Kate Haulman, thank you for joining us.
HAULMANIt was my pleasure. Thank you.
NNAMDIThat's it for today's show. Tomorrow, starting at noon, we'll discuss accessibility issues that families are facing in our region. It all starts tomorrow at noon. Until then, thank you for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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