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Monday, April 24, 2006

Equality, Nature and Culture

I find this article about a study on women's attitudes to housework carried out for Discovery Home and Health site fascinating. Not for any stupid sexist reasons, but because it rings true and has implications:

The Independent daily reported that "even in an age when women are making economic strides and excelling in the workplace, the one thing that gives the majority a sense of empowerment is a good go around the house with the vacuum cleaner -- followed by some cleaning and dusting."

The online study, commissioned by the Discovery Home and Health website, found the average British woman between 18 and 80 spent nine years, two months and 25 days of her waking life cleaning and tidying.

But 59 percent of the women interviewed would have it no other way and said "cleaning makes them feel in control of their lives", while 60 percent said they found it "mentally therapeutic".

Here's the link to the Independent article. The most noteworthy thing is perhaps the point made that whereas "20 years ago housework was seen by many as a sign of female subjugation" nowadays women seem to be freely choosing this activity, moreso, they may even feel that they *need* it.

This takes me directly to one of my more recent theses:

"At the core of the fertility and dual-labour-market transition lies a gender one. Hunter gatherer societies already had a dual labour market, although since this was gender-driven there was only one single fertility regime. Essentially there was a division between 'gathering' (which was principally female or young child oriented) and 'hunting', which needed training (or energy/resource investment) and was male. The transition from this earlier homeostatic regime to the modern fertility longevity trade-off one has been marked by a steady evolution towards gender equality. Modern labour markets are essentially based on formal equality of the sexes in the presence of biological asymmetry. In the long run this is not sustainable and will surely have consequences which are going to be important, but which are, at this stage, difficult to foresee"

Now this gender asymmetry may find *some* alleviation in more equality inside the home (although this will not change the reproductive biology part) but if years of adaptive evolution (whether social or cultural) have lead women so need to undertake certain roles, then remedy may be hard to find. As I say, there will be consequences, even if at this stage what these consequences will be is hard to foresee.