Housekeeping is an arena that houses gendered behavior even today, despite the increasing trend where both the man and the woman of the household work and ‘bring home the bread’. The common myth that men just cannot see the dirt has been busted by a study published in Sociological Methods and Research. This new study attempts to understand the interplay between individual preferences and gender expectations in housework.

Researchers showed hundreds of participants random photos of a cluttered living space. Both men and women found a messy room just as messy and a tidy room just as tidy. On average, men tidy up for 10 minutes every day, but cleaning consumes a third of women’s 1 hour 20 minutes of household chores daily. Why, then, do women clean more? Respondents participating in the study were randomly told whether the messy photo depicted either “John’s” or “Jennifer’s” room. Participants – regardless of gender – held “Jennifer’s” room, even the ‘tidy’ version, to a much higher standard and were more likely to judge “Jennifer” negatively. This suggests that women bear the burden of cleanliness more intensely than men.

Because women and men appear to see the same mess, one hypothesis for the observed difference in cleaning times is that women may more strongly anticipate being judged by their peers, especially by other women. This could cause a cycle of prejudice. Alternatively, women may find cleaning less unpleasant, or perhaps use cleaning as a means of procrastination, where men might not do so. Hopefully future studies will further investigate these questions, as well as confounding factors like work, family, and economic class.

Managing Correspondent: Rhea Grover

 Popular News Article: Men do see the mess – they just aren’t judged for it the way women

Original Scientific Article: Good Housekeeping, Great Expectations: Gender and Housework NormsSAGE Journals

Image Credit: “Cleaning” by John Paul Goguen is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0



2 thoughts on “Dirtiness is perceived by all, cleanliness is pursued by women

  1. Women are judged, for cleaning, cooking, raising kids, etc etc etc. The list is endless. We are far from gender equality.

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