Domestic drudgery or domestic bliss?

// 24 April 2006

Nearly 60% of British women are happy to spend a good portion of their lives cleaning their homes, and say it helps them feel in control of their lives, according to a survey by the Discovery Health and Home TV website.

The Independent runs with the story with disappointingly little analysis. The reporter says that it indicates that modern woman has “made peace with doing domestic chores” and suggests that it signals the end of the drive to split housework equally between partners.

Where 20 years ago housework was seen by many as a sign of female subjugation, the tide appears to have turned. Nearly six out of 10 (58 per cent) defended their role in the home and said they “felt depressed if their house was a mess”, while 59 per cent said “untidiness and clutter made them feel tense”….

In spite of the feelgood factor around housework, 57 per cent of women admitted that cleaning exhausted them, particularly as 71 per cent also had a job.

One-third of all women claimed “cleaning gives them more satisfaction than sex”.

The first question to ask about this is how was the survey carried out – could it have been, perhaps, an online survey of visitors to this TV channel’s website? In which case, you have a very specific set of people who are already interested in “the home” to the extent that they’re prepared not only to watch a TV programme about it, but also to seek out that TV channel’s website.

Now to the conclusions of the survey. 60% say they like doing the housework, but another 60 odd % say it exhausts them and 70% have a job? Where are the numbers on how many women wish their partner did more around the house?

Nearly half of those interviewed (46 per cent) described themselves as “cleanaholics”, while 46 per cent wished they could “cut down on cleaning”.

Eight out of 10 respondents compared the cleanliness of their home with other people’s, while 70 per cent feared they would be thought “lazy” if their homes were untidy.

The story this survey tells is not one of empowered women deciding there’s nothing they like to do more than clean. The story is that we have a long way to go before we really ditch those 1950s social conventions.

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