Quick Review of “Chore Wars” (TIME’s August 2011 Cover)

Some of the frustration Susan Bordo expresses in Unbearable Weight toward the feminist lack of organized anger today came out for me when I read the cover story in TIME Magazine’s August 2011 issue.  Essentially, this article encourages wives to stop complaining about their husband’s lack of effort around the house.  According to a national survey average, it looks like men and women “work” the same number of hours each week.  What the author of the article fails to acknowledge, however, is that the “work” described in the survey is still incredibly gendered.  Her interpretation of the survey is based on the average hours of work across the nation—all women versus all men.  As a result, women (who only work 20 hours outside of the home, according to the survey) shouldn’t complain about housework because the time they spend on housework and out-of-the-house work is equivalent to the average man’s out-of-the-house work.  Assuming all women work 20-hours-per-week, the author fails to acknowledge the lack of monetary value in housework, or the inner conflict many women experience when their homes are not organized, cleaned, and livable, or especially the many women who work as much as their partners but who feel more intense pressure to live up to the wifely standards set by generations before them.

About taylo206

I am an Assistant Professor of Composition, Rhetoric and Professional Writing at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
This entry was posted in Feminism and Queer Studies, Public Rhetorics. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Quick Review of “Chore Wars” (TIME’s August 2011 Cover)

  1. J. H. Adams says:

    First off, I agree with what you’re writing here. To assume that women only work twenty hours a week out of the home and therefore have plenty of time to do all the housework is pretty horrific since it implies that a responsible woman will deliberately choose a part-time job so that she might do her other job by maintaining the house. This magazine article sounds positively reprehensible.

    Despite that, however, I couldn’t help having an immediate response to this phrase: “the lack of monetary value in housework.” Is that true? Isn’t the upkeep of a house a monetary investment of sorts, even if no direct financial profit is discernible? We often pay people to do housework — custodians, janitors, maids, etc. — both in the house and in our public buildings. Are they then being paid for something without monetary value, getting something for nothing, in other words? For that matter, is value predicated upon readily visible monetary returns? (I’ve been reading Marxist criticism. Does it show?)

  2. taylo206 says:

    Thanks for writing, JHA. I agree that housework is valuable; possessions need to be taken care of if you want them to keep their value, and that makes them valuable even in a financial sense. What I’m frustrated about is the same thing you are frustrated about–the decision to ignore the fact that many women share a relationship to housework that is obligatory and guilt-ridden. And when those women decide to work a regular workload outside of the house (because let’s face it, that kind of work really is more profitable than caring for one’s possessions), they face a different kind of pressure than men. Again, I don’t mean to categorize men and women here–or claim that all women experience the same guilt I do when my home is not clean/organized. I just wish the article would address some of those concerns: the minor amount of profit in housework, the guilt, and the cultural pressure women face when they are expected to stay home. I see gender at work in powerful ways here, and I wish the article would have addressed that!

  3. J. H. Adams says:

    Have you noticed that we’re both responding to the magazine article as though it were an essay being submitted to a class we’re teaching?

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