Men, Women & the Housework Enigma

By Purcell, Tom | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, September 16, 2007 | Go to article overview

Men, Women & the Housework Enigma


Purcell, Tom, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Get this: Married men do less housework than fellows who cohabitate.

A study by George Mason University and North Carolina State University found the following:

Cohabiting men do more housework than married men.

Cohabiting women do less housework than married women.

Cohabiting men do less housework than cohabiting women.

And married men, the sexist Neanderthal oppressors, do less housework than EVERYBODY.

Shannon Davis, an assistant professor of sociology at George Mason and the study's lead author, summed up her findings:

"Beliefs about this egalitarian notion of women and men sharing equal responsibility for paid work and household tasks matter differently for cohabiting men than it does for married men."

I'm no sociologist, but I think I know why. Men generally cohabitate so they can get the goodies of marriage (you know) without the hassles (commitment, in-laws, binding legal contracts).

Men may not be the sharpest knives in the gender-identity drawer, but the cohabiting ones are smart enough to figure one thing out: If they pretend to have an egalitarian view toward housework, they're going to get a lot more of the goodies of marriage.

But men hate housework. We're not good at it. We don't care if food is rotting in the refrigerator or a spider's nest has formed behind the dresser. We only care if women care. That is why, says P.J. O'Rourke, we clean our place about once every girlfriend.

And that's what is missing in the housework study. It overlooks a very important consideration:

Men and women are different.

Michael Gurian, author of "What Could He Be Thinking? How a Man's Mind Really Works," told me why. After examining decades of neurobiological research -- he analyzed radioactive and magnetic imaging -- he was able to show how the male and female brains are different.

Take listening. One brain-imaging study shows that men listen with only one side of the brain, whereas women use both. Women wouldn't believe how many other things we use only half a brain to do.

Another brain study shows that women can listen to two separate conversations, whereas men can barely follow one (particularly if it involves feelings or the spring sale at Bed Bath & Beyond).

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