Comment Opinion & Features

Men’s brains aren’t wired to notice housework

It’s considered now to be a major cause of inequality between men and women, and a prime factor in the “gender imbalance” of society.

That is, the fact – recently confirmed by a study at University College London – that women do more housework than men.

In mixed-sex households, women still do the majority of chores. Among 8,500 heterosexual couples studied, 93 per cent of household chores were carried out by the females.

Women, on average, do 16 hours of housework a week. Men, on average, do just six.

So that is the next frontier in the battle of the sexes. Anna Coote, of the New Economics Foundation, says that a huge leap towards gender equality would be achieved through shared housework.

Why, why, why do chaps refuse to do their fair share of household chores?

I could answer that question quite straightforwardly. Men do fewer household chores because they don’t care as much about good housekeeping. They don’t worry as much about having a spotless bathroom, a tidy kitchen or a bedroom where all the socks are properly sorted. It just doesn’t bother them as much if standards aren’t pristine.

Women clean and tidy more because they care more. Anne and Bill Moir summed it all up in their informative and entertaining book Why Men Don’t Iron. Men’s brains just aren’t wired to notice the demands of housework.

Yes, this is a generalisation. A minority of men are household fusspots – running their finger along a ledge to check if it’s been dusted. And the UCL report showed that men who were stay-at-home dads did do more.

But I believe the basic differences will never change: most women will always pay more attention to household standards.

It’s because we are now in an era which denies all differences between males and females, and regards gender as “fluid”, that the essential truth of this situation is denied. And fruitless campaigns to get chaps to don a pinny and do more about the house will continue.

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The movie of Pavarotti, directed by Ron Howard, is a truly moving portrait of the great Italian tenor who died in 2007, aged 71. It’s a documentary which brings you into the world of music, opera, Italy, family, America, the “Three Tenors” – with Carreras and Domingo – faith and food (which Pavarotti relished). The music is stunning, but the insights into the human story are what knits it together. The backroom wheeling and dealing by various showbiz agents on managing the maestro is revealing and good-tempered.

Pavarotti was described at one point as “the most famous Catholic in the world”, and the break-up of his first marriage caused widespread disapproval, especially in Italy. Yet the story is told with such humanity – and his first family were eventually reconciled to him – that judgment is suspended for compassion. The Vatican did not permit him a remarriage in church (it would have been accused of bending the rules for the famous if it had), but the Church did preside over his funeral.

And the sum of his life was that he did so much good, and dedicated so much of his talent to children’s charities. He was also a most engaging and emotional man, with a towering gift which he used to great purpose. His relationship with his own father is beautifully evoked.
The movie, released last month, is still in some cinemas and is available online via Amazon.

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Before the era of Twitter, short poems could say a lot. So for the month of August, I offer a weekly short poem of under 70 words. Here’s Susan Coolidge’s “New Every Morning”, of just 34 words:

Every day is a fresh beginning,
Listen my soul to the glad refrain
And, spite of old sorrows
And older sinning,
Troubles forecasted
And possible pain,
Take heart with the day and begin again.

Susan Coolidge was the author of the popular American children’s books What Katy Did. Her real name was Sarah Chauncey Woolsey and she was a nurse during the Civil War. She remained single and died in 1905. The What Katy Did books are still read.

Follow Mary Kenny on Twitter: @MaryKenny4