Ways men opt out of housework and childcare by “helping out”

  • take on weekly or monthly tasks, and think it’s equal to their wives daily tasks (even when wives also have weekly and monthly tasks)
  • take on tasks that require very little time or hard labor, like mowing the lawn.
  • take on a “project” that could be fixed by a professional, and work on it little by little but never really finish
  • create chores for their children, i.e. delegate rather than doing
  • do housework only in tandem, i.e. never on their own or without help.
  • volunteer on their own for some disliked task. For example, cleaning the toilets without asking. unfortunately, this tends to be seen as very loving and exceptional. Often it will be used as an excuse not to do anything else
  • enthusiastically volunteer to do things often, then conveniently “forget”, “make plans”, or have some sort of weird parameter to get started. When wife or child does it instead, claim they were going to do it, really!
  • pick a jurisdiction they already enjoy, like “take care of dog” or “the yard”
  • do something really badly, so that someone else has to do it for them anyway afterwards
  • “tidy up” a mess they made
  • pick up or organize clutter, however the often stressful, emotional, and time consuming task of de-cluttering is left undone or for someone else
  • meticulous keep clean a space that is only theirs, i.e. their study, their garage.
  • create tasks that aren’t needed, like “organize the toolbox” or “rearrange the bookshelf”
  • do tasks that require prep work that their wives will do for them (i.e. grilling the food, but not planning, purchasing, seasoning or preparing the sides)
  • take control of “finances” but do very little, perhaps the taxes. this is also used as a way to control their wives often
  • use their time with their children to play or dole out discipline/lessons, but very little time on feeding/bathing/dressing or organizing their lives. this is also away men can create a “fun parent/mean parent” dynamic
  • make lists of what needs to get done, discuss what needs to get done with their wives, act very invested in the housework, take on a “manager” role in the housework, but do very little of it
  • tell wives that what little is done in the house, by either of them, is “enough” and that he “doesn’t care” what the house looks like (this is a l i e). i.e. doing little and then making an emotional appeal that it’s fine, co-opting the emotional labor his wife does for him, but actually it’s very manipulative
  • getting involved with children’s after school activities, i.e. being a coach, organizing a concert, etc. often a thing he already enjoys. often does very little of the organizing/plan making. often makes little effort to create time for his wife’s personal interests

pay attention to your fathers, brothers, uncles, grandfathers, boyfriends, husbands actions. you’ll start to see these constantly 

Yesterday I responded to a comment by @insanitybytes22, in which she suggested things wives and mothers can do to help men as an olive branch instead of blaming men for every marital breakdown. I appreciated her saying so.

But I remember my wife often saying how exhausting it was for her to have to tell me what to do all the time. It’s why the sexiest thing a man can say to his partner is “I got this,” and then take care of whatever needs taken care of.

I always reasoned: “If you just tell me what you want me to do, I’ll gladly do it.”

But she didn’t want to be my mother. She wanted to be my partner, and she wanted me to apply all of my intelligence and learning capabilities to the logistics of managing our lives and household.

She wanted me to figure out all of the things that need done, and devise my own method of task management.

I wish I could remember what seemed so unreasonable to me about that at the time.
It is important to recognize that when we speak of housework we are not speaking of a job like other jobs, but we are speaking of the most pervasive manipulation, and the subtlest violence that capitalism has ever perpetrated against any section of the working class. True, under capitalism every worker is manipulated and exploited and his or her relation to capital is totally mystified. […] The difference with housework lies in the fact that not only has it been imposed on women, but it has been transformed into a natural attribute of our female physique and personality, an internal need, an aspiration, supposedly coming from the depth of our female character. Housework was transformed into a natural attribute, rather than being recognized as work, because it was destined to be unwaged. Capital had to convince us that it is a natural, unavoidable, and even fulfilling activity to make us accept working without a wage. In turn, the unwaged condition of housework has been the most powerful weapon in reinforcing the common assumption that housework is not work, thus preventing women from struggling against it, except in the privatized kitchen-bedroom quarrel that all society agrees to ridicule, thereby further reducing the protagonist of a struggle. We are seen as nagging bitches, not as workers in struggle. Yet, how natural it is to be a housewife is shown by the fact that it takes at least twenty years of socialization, day-to-day training, performed by an unwaged mother, to prepare a woman for this role, to convince her that children and husband are the best that she can expect from life. Even so, it hardly succeeds. No matter how well trained we are, few women do not feel cheated when the bride’s day is over and they find themselves in front of a dirty sink. Many of us still have the illusion that we marry for love. A lot of us recognize that we marry for money and security; but it is time to make it clear that while the love or money involved is very little, the work that awaits us is enormous. This is why older women always tell us, ‘Enjoy your freedom while you can, buy whatever you want now.’ But unfortunately it is almost impossible to enjoy any freedom if, from the earliest days of your life, you are trained to be docile, subservient, dependent and, most importantly, to sacrifice yourself and even to get pleasure from it. If you don’t like it, it is your problem, your failure, your guilt, and your abnormality.
—  Silvia Federici, Revolution at Point Zero

Participatory democracy begins at home. If you are planning to implement your politics, there are certain things to remember.

1. He is feeling it more than you. He’s losing some leisure and you’re gaining it. The measure of your oppression is his resistance.

2. A great many American men are not accustomed to doing monotonous, repetitive work which never issues in any lasting, let alone important, achievement. This is why they would rather repair a cabinet than wash dishes. If human endeavors are like a pyramid with man’s highest achievements at the top, then keeping oneself alive is at the bottom. Men have always had servants (us) to take care of this bottom stratum of life while they have confined their efforts to the rarefied upper regions. It is thus ironic when they ask of women-Where are your great painters, statesmen, etc.? Mme. Matisse ran a military shop so he could paint. Mrs. Martin Luther King kept his house and raised his babies.

3. It is a traumatizing experience for someone who has always thought of himself as being against any oppression or exploitation of one human being by another to realize that in his daily life he has been accepting and implementing (and benefiting from) this exploitation; that his rationalization is little different from that of the racist who says, “Black people don’ t feel pain’ (women don’t mind doing the shitwork); and that the oldest form of oppression in history has been the oppression of 50 percent of the population by the other 50 percent.

4. Arm yourself with some knowledge of the psychology of oppressed peoples everywhere, and a few facts about the animal kingdom. I admit playing top wolf or who runs the gorillas is silly but as a last resort men bring it up all the time. Talk about bees. If you feel really hostile bring up the sex life of spiders. They have sex. She bites off his head. The psychology of oppressed peoples is not silly. Jews, immigrants, black men and all women have employed the same psychological mechanisms to survive’ admiring the oppressor, glorifying the oppressor, wanting to be like the oppressor, wanting the oppressor to like them, mostly because the oppressor held all the power.

5. In a sense, all men everywhere are slightly schizoid-divorced from the reality of maintaining life. This makes it easier for them to play games with it. It is almost a cliché that women feel greater grief at sending a son off to a war or losing him to that war because they bore him, suckled him, and raised him. The men who foment those wars did none of those things and have a more superficial estimate of the worth of human life. One hour a day is a low estimate of the amount of time one has to spend "keeping” oneself. By foisting this off on others, man has seven hours a week-one working day more to play with his mind and not his human needs. Over the course of generations it is easy to see whence evolved the horrifying abstractions of modern life.

6. With the death of each form of oppression, life changes and new forms evolve. English aristocrats at the turn of the century were horrified at the idea of enfranchising working men-were sure that it signaled the death of civilization and a return to barbarism. Some working men were even deceived by this line. Similarly with the minimum wage, abolition of slavery, and female suffrage. Life changes but it goes on. Don’t fall for any line about the death of everything if men take a turn at the dishes. They will imply that you are holding back the revolution (their revolution). But you are advancing it (your revolution).

7. Keep checking up. Periodically consider who’s actually doing the jobs. These things have a way of backsliding so that a year later once again the woman is doing everything. After a year make a list of jobs the man has rarely if ever done. You will find cleaning pots, toilets, refrigerators and ovens high on the list. Use time sheets if necessary. He will accuse you of being petty. He is above that sort of thing (housework). Bear in mind what the worst jobs are, namely the ones that have to be done every day or several times a day. Also the ones that are dirty-it’s more pleasant to pick up books, newspapers, etc., than to wash dishes. Alternate the bad jobs. It’s the daily grind that gets you down. Also make sure that you don’ t have the responsibility for the housework with occasional help from him. “I’ll cook dinner for you tonight” implies it’s really your job and isn’t he a nice guy to do some of it for you.

8. Most men had a rich and rewarding bachelor life during which they did not starve or become encrusted with crud or buried under the liner. There is a taboo that says women mustn’ t strain themselves in the presence of men-we haul around 50 pounds of groceries if we have to but aren’t allowed to open a jar if there is someone around to do it for us. The reverse side of the coin is that men aren’t supposed to be able to take care of themselves without a woman. Both are excuses for making women do the housework.

9. Beware of the double whammy. He won’t do the little things he always did because you’re now a “Liberated Woman,” right? Of course he won’t do anything else either….

I was just finishing this when my husband came in and asked what I was doing. Writing a paper on housework. Housework? he said. Housework? Oh my god how trivial can you get? A paper on housework.

—  The Politics of Housework, Pat Mainardi, Redstockings, 1970

Men are slowly incorporating to housework and family care, but most of the time from a “helpful“ attitude, and not co-responsibility .

The co-responsibility or the division of responsibilities is defined as “ the balanced distribution of the household chores, child rearing, the spaces of education and work, allowing its members the free and full development of their options and interests , improving the physical and mental health of women and helping to achieve a situation of real and effective equality between the sexes ”. (Source:  Servicio de Asesoramiento para Planes y Medidas de Igualdad en las Empresas “Herramienta de apoyo nº8. “Corresponsabilidad y planes de igualdad”)

In this essay the classical Marxist position that housework is ‘non-productive’ is challenged for the first time. Dalla Costa points out that what the housewife produces in the family are not simply use-values but the commodity ‘labour power’ which the husband then can sell as a ‘free’ wage labourer in the labour market. She clearly states that the productivity of the housewife is the precondition for the productivity of the (male) wage labourer. The nuclear family, organized and protected by the state, is the social factory where this commodity ‘labour power’ is produced. Hence, the housewife and her labour are not outside the process of surplus value production, but constitute the very foundation upon which this process can get started. The housewife and her labour are, in other words, the basis of the process of capital accumulation. With the help of the state and its legal machinery women have been shut up in the isolated nuclear family, whereby their work there was made socially invisible, and was hence defined - by Marxist and non-Marxist theoreticians - as ‘non-productive’. It appeared under the form of love, care, emotionality, motherhood and wifehood […] one cannot understand the exploitation of wage-labour unless one understands the exploitation of non­wage-labour
—  Maria Mies, Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World ScaleWomen in the International Division of Labour, pp. 31-32