Gender Equality: Spouses Sharing Housework Equally


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Growing awareness towards raising and maintaining gender equality is one of the most debatable and evocative topics, countries particularly developed ones practice for the last decades. Nevertheless, there are still a lot of controversies in response to alteration of people’s attitudes to women’s role in public sphere and largely in private sphere. That was one of the pivotal reasons I have started to investigate the ways women’s view of gender equality and their behavior in domestic sphere that could be regarded compatibly or incompatibly, although they have achieved certain level of equal opportunities in labor market. A lot of reasons stay behind this issue which had been researched and analyzed in scientific articles where authors gave diverse causes starting from education, full-time employment going to traditional or cultural ideologies. All those abovementioned reasons stated in articles have been structurally supported as a result of in-depth investigation across various cultures and countries. To find out challenges women face in shifting their domestic roles more compatibly to gender equality ideas and difficulties in achieving joint responsibility between spouses I needed to understand how femininity and masculinity is constructed in society and how both men and women perceives and accepts gender ideologies in modern world. Being more precise, whether several changes in androcentric views or beliefs especially in public sphere have also influenced to private sphere where women are considered to have significantly more amount of domestic duties and responsibilities in comparison with men. I use the term “androcentric” referring to be focused or centered on males. I will attempt to analyze causes of those perceptions concerning household work that are reckoned to be on female’s shoulder and how it affects married women’s consciousness. “I have argued elsewhere that women’s entry into the labor force may be less threatening to men than the prospect of joint responsibility for domestic labor” (Kane and Sanchez 1994 in Kane 1998: 618). “Therefore, as long as women continue to carry the burden of housework and child rearing, men may approve of their working outside the home” (Kane and Sanchez 1994, 1081). It is clear example of men’s precaution toward household work, where they are not willing to lose their dominance and start to engage in domestic activities such as cooking, cleaning or childcare. It is much easier for them to share somehow equal rights and opportunities at work rather keeping egalitarian approach in domestic sphere.

“Women, too may have reasons to feel more comfortable advocating equality in the workplace than equality at home. Because of their subordinate status, they may find it easier to criticize inequalities in the arena less threatening to men” (Kane and Sanchez 1994, 1081). According to Kane and Sanchez, due to close, interpersonal ties of the family women may start to believe that men will feel pressurized by the criticism of domestic inequality, however, they claim that “criticism of work-related inequality disparages more distant and less specific men” (Kane and Sanchez 1994, 1081). Despite the possible assumption that males beware to lose their superiority in domestic sphere, women also do not seek to contend and diminish household work disbalance. In this paper, I will try to deliberate aforementioned issues concerning challenges women confront shifting their domestic roles to gender equality ideas, influence both society and tradition constitute into women’s image in domestic sphere.

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It is very significant to emphasize not only how gender equality is acknowledged but also how gender ideology shapes society’s beliefs and attitudes regarding gender roles both in traditional and egalitarian families. “Gender ideology is set of attitudes and beliefs regarding gender roles and the nature of gender relations, which can be measured in family surveys by batteries of questions about gender role-sets” (Aassve et al. 2015, 839). A lot of studies reveal direct and indirect link between gender ideologies and how it influences to division of work in private sphere. Greenstein states that consequence of shared values within couple gives the result of housework division, “more egalitarian gender ideologies will lead to a more equal division of housework” (Greenstein 2000 in Fahlén 2016:1415). Firstly, let us draw attention how egalitarian family concept defined and understood in scientific articles. Kumagai clarifies it as a power to make decisions in a domestic sphere should be shared equally among wife and husband in an ongoing activity (Kumagai 1979, 315). Egalitarianism requires a brief discussion concerning principles of equal opportunities particularly in domestic sphere. It is essential to accent what kind of factors illustrates egalitarian values and attitudes in private sphere. In any society, regardless of developed or developing country, majority of people perceives predominant indicator of egalitarianism as a certain characteristics of people, specifically women’s such as education, full-time employment or whether she has a sufficient level of literacy since it directly impacts on division of household activities between spouses at home. For the last decades, we observe how women’s gender role attitudes have been shifted specifically in labor market which led to direct influence to their egalitarian perspectives. Traditional gender role attitudes and behavior as well, have been shaped to certain extent as a result of women’s strive to acquire certain role in social, cultural or professional sphere. Boehnke also supports the point that “higher education provides exposure to egalitarian ideas, as a consequence, gender stereotypes tend to be questioned” (Boehnke 2011, 60). It is very important to concentrate attention to one of the most vital element which is women’s diminishing economic dependence on their husbands which opened the door for much more equal rights both in private and public sphere. This significant shift amended society’s specifically men’s perception concerning to women’s role in domestic sphere especially when it pertains to household work or childcare which had been considered to be on the mothers’ shoulder for hundreds of centuries. Achieving economic independence and having sustainable career opportunities altered women’s attitudes toward seeking gender equality in any society and becoming more persistent in their perspective by reaching satisfactory level of opportunities with men.

In contrast to egalitarian attitudes regarding existence of equally shared household responsibilities among spouses contradict with Hansson’s standpoint where he claims that women’s ever-increasing involvement in education and labor market do not necessarily ensues to more egalitarian values where both wife and husband engage in domestic responsibilities and tasks (Hansson 2011, 185). “Household remains primarily “women’s work” despite substantial change in women’s employment patterns and in attitudes once thought to undergird the sexual division of labor” (Brines 1994, 652). Aforementioned sentiment concerning how women have gained certain level of equality due to their economic independence which is growing is not always considered as important as men’s employment in labor market. The reason behind it stems from the both cultural and traditional ideologies in people’s mind seeing men in the role of breadwinner in family. Although changed attributes of modern society have extremely influenced to people’s perception about gender equality issues both in private and public sphere, traditional viewpoints or cultural assumptions still frame women’s image in domestic sphere. According to Baxter, if any of the partner has the most economic power that is husband who generally earns more, he will have the least involvement in domestic labor (Baxter 1997, 222). Men particularly the ones who work long hours and have tough schedule avoid any household work starting from cooking finishing in childcare. On the one hand, it could be supported by their long hour working conditions, however if woman also has full-time job even with regular overtimes, it would bring about several conflicts between spouses. First reason is the men’s strong perception regarding household work which should be considered women’s responsibility. Secondly, wives who are employed in full-time job feel a big pressure by society’s traditional beliefs regarding their role at home and being ideal homemaker at the same time. These inadequate reasons support and justify men’s perspective in this regard. Women naturally are more willing to make concessions when confronting with obstacles specifically when it is directly related to their family (husband, children). Therefore, they do certain sacrifices particularly when it comes to their professional career. For instance, it is not rare to see the women who forego to work or at least move to part-time job due to her so called domestic responsibilities and tasks. Various reasons are hidden behind it is that in majority of the cases it is due to lack of spouse support they need in number of circumstances. Furthermore, women feel very strong family ties, particularly mothers who have sons do not seek to struggle on this occasion as their consciousness and feeling of caregiver do not allow them to contradict against their husband. Men’s status as a breadwinner makes situation even more challenging for women, as they lose opportunity to gain something in professional sphere due to stereotypical reasons such as men earn more, consequently they have much more contribution in supporting their family financially. In contrast to women’s sacrifices in relation to their employment due to abovementioned reasons, men’s career is much more prioritized which leaves wives with no choice except be reflected to their domestic roles and child caring as well. Schwartz states that eradication of breadwinner belief will bring about egalitarian family (Schwartz 1994 in Cha 2010:326). At the beginning significance of egalitarian approach in families and the way how it shaped people’s perception regarding household duties have been mentioned. Nevertheless, further investigations also revealed that we do not have put accent only on this issue, since there is strong cultural assumptions and traditional beliefs that have huge impact on people’s perceptions and even modernism could not able totally shift people’s standpoints in respect to sharing equal activities and opportunities both in public and domestic sphere. Therefore, by eliminating perceptions about men’s breadwinner role will not entirely modify this issue since further actions have to be continually implemented.

Methods and Analysis of the Data

I have conducted two interviews by aiming to find out both contradictory and similar standpoints in order to create link with the literature I have investigated for the last few months. I have dedicated two days in a row 27th and 28th November 2019 to have a semi-structured interview with married women which took place in Baku. From the beginning of this research, I attempted to find informants who have tertiary education, high level of literacy and with currently employed status. Interviewing these type of respondents will aid me to make comparisons how and in which level old and traditional beliefs shifted for the last decades. I was fortunate to find two women with abovementioned criterions although they have not had vast experience in married life as both of them were young with age range of 30-35. Nevertheless, I have observed quite contradictory views throughout the interview process. Before analyzing two standpoints, I want to mention that both woman are happy in their marriage, at least it is what they said. One of the informant strongly claimed that in order to maintain harmony in family, woman has to come round if there is necessity due to differentiated nature of men which is totally varies with woman. I have given more accent to the questions where I could disclose women’s perspective where both wife and husband are employed, but only woman is engaged in household work or man has least level of involvement in domestic labor. First interviewee’s standpoint was quite traditional, as she reflected to the situation from her husband’s perspective, where he works overtime and come back to home extremely tired and even sometimes he goes to another work (personal business) and comes back late night. Therefore, she does not feel any necessity to share domestic labor with her husband. In contrast to second informant who actively keeps gender equality ideas in her family with her husband which was clear example of egalitarian family. From her viewpoint a wife is not obliged to do all the household staff and follow old stereotypical thoughts, therefore both of the spouses in their family have certain level domestic duties. It is significant to mention my personal observation while interviewing her, as far as I understood her husband is more open-minded concerning gender issues compared with my first informant’s husband. However, we cannot draw conclusion only by judging their husband’s nature and perspective. When woman chooses facile position in married life particularly in domestic labor, men are more likely to avoid household duties as no one asks or pressurizes him to be involved in certain domestic responsibilities. In the case of child care, both interviewees’ opinions were differed from each other. One of them stated that in nurturing child or children mother has to dominate, since fathers are afraid to hurt feelings of their child. This statement made me contemplate about one important thing that I often observe. Fathers do not want to be exhibited as a “bad parent” in front of their children, as a consequence women take this responsibility even being aware that her son or daughter will be aggrieved. From my first informant’s standpoint, it is better to bring up child by her own in order to avoid being accused in the case when something went wrong with child’s behavior. It made me contemplate about stereotypical beliefs that shift women’s attitudes and behavior which was quite similar with the literature I have mentioned in my paper, where women’s consciousness and family ties have huge impact on them particularly when they make some sacrifices in favor of their family.

In child nurturing issue, second informant showed absolutely non-traditional approach by eradicating all stereotypical perceptions compared with my first interviewee. She strongly emphasized the importance of both parents’ participation in child rearing process by giving examples of challenged situations she confronted and got big support from her spouse, therefore their children feel free to approach to their parents and they do not experience cumber to share their problems. These model of approaches in her family are quite similar with egalitarian families from Western countries where women have achieved considerable level of equality in private sphere. In addition, I have seen emotional side of both participants and felt that sometimes they can be biased due to several reasons, maybe at that time they endure certain conditions in their life which unintentionally influence to their train of thought. Nevertheless, overall I did not feel any cushion in respect to their transparency in the interview. 

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