What do you mean ‘he helps’?

The other day I overheard a conversation on the tube (subway) between two women on their way to work. One of the ladies was telling the other one ‘how lucky she was that her husband ‘helps’ around the house’. He helps. Wow great… and so utterly wrong!

How is it that in the 21st century, educated women in a wealthy country, on their way to work (which BTW sounded – and looked by the outfit she was wearing – like something corporate), say things like this? I’ll explain what my problem is here, as you’re probably a bit lost. It’s not the fact that he ‘helps’, it’s the utterly misuse of the word ‘help’. By using the word help, you’re basically complying with the principle that this is a woman’s job in the first place, and that it’s ‘nice’, almost ‘noble’, when men ‘help out’. Let’s take this step by step:

– He works, you work; you both work.
– You’re married and therefore share a house.
– You clean, he ‘helps’ sometimes… uh, what?

Did I miss something here? How is this a ‘great’ thing? If anything, you should be sharing house chores, not one (man) helping when it suits him, and the other (woman) taking it as her ‘normal’ duties.

And the same applies to ‘he helps with the kids’ – excuse me? Did he not make the kids as well? Was it not a ‘sperm meets egg’ kind of thing? Was he just ‘helping’ you then too? I am sorry, I honestly mean no disrespect, but I think using this kind of language can only be damaging for future generations.

It’s obviously a different thing if you come to an agreement where one of the two stays home, either with the kids, or simply doing housework – each couple and each family will have their own dynamics and I respect that. But if you are in a relationship where you both work, both contribute for the food, mortgage, rent, household stuff, etc., then why on Earth is it a basic assumption that housework is a woman’s job?

I have to say I am the lucky one. My husband and I share tasks. We take turns cooking, we both do the laundry and the dishes, and even though we don’t do it as often as we should (shame on us!) when we do clean, we also share. Not only that, we each take the tasks that are less pleasant for the other – I do the kitchen, he does the bathroom (and trust me, it’s still no fun). As I work part-time, and do love to cook, the days I am home I take the cooking on, but if I am not up for it I’ll gladly tell him – it’s still your turn, or let’s go out. This being said, last Thursday, there was so much housework pending (as we’d been away), that I only sat down to write at 3pm (having woken up at 7am), and by then had no energy left whatsoever! (Honestly zero clue on how people with kids do it!). So I put my Blogging101 course’s homework aside, and decided to just read interesting stuff.

As fate would want it I came across a very interesting article by Melinda Gates, on this precise subject! It says – and shows – how women around the world do so much more unpaid work than man. The ‘unpaid work gender gap’. Think I am making this up? Here’s a little graphic for you:

Source: Melinda Gates’ annual letter

The gap is clearly deeper in poorer countries, but the fact is that even in America, girls in average work TWO more hours of chores than boys. This is obviously not the boys fault, or an attack by men on women in general; as Melinda Gates puts it, it’s just the ‘norm’. I actually remember growing up that some of my girl-friends who had brothers complained of being expected to do housework while their brothers weren’t.
I seriously think it’s about time we change this. And so does Melinda:

“Unless things change, girls today will spend hundreds of thousands more hours than boys doing unpaid work simply because society assumes it’s their responsibility.” – Melinda Gates

It’s about time we redistribute chores and we stop saying he ‘helps’ and start saying ‘we share’. It’s about time mum’s everywhere start teaching both their sons and daughters about house chores. And if you think this is just rants of a feminist going on about fairness (which let’s face it, it is a little bit), I’ll have you know, we could actually improve our economy by doing so. Yep that’s right! And it’s not me making this up, it is according to Melinda Gates and (clever) economists:

“It’s not just about fairness; assigning most unpaid work to women harms everyone: men, women, boys, and girls.
The reason? Economists call it opportunity cost: the other things women could be doing if they didn’t spend so much time on mundane tasks. What amazing goals would you accomplish with an extra hour every day? Or, in the case of girls in many poor countries, an extra five or more? There are lots of ways to answer this question, but it’s obvious that many women would spend more time doing paid work, starting businesses, or otherwise contributing to the economic well-being of societies around the world. The fact that they can’t holds their families and communities back.”

If you haven’t read the annual letter by Melinda Gates, I strongly advise you to; but if you don’t have the time for it, here’s a short video explain in it all:

So girls, this weekend, put your feet up; it’s time to make up for the lost time.

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