In many households, men think like helpers and women think like managers. A gender expert’s new book suggests ways for couples to escape that dynamic.
By Joe Pinsker, June 28, 2022
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One of the exasperating features of everyday gender inequality is that couples can be aware of imbalances in doing housework, state a dislike of them, and yet fall right into them anyway.
The discrepancy shows up most obviously in the amount of time men and women spend on tasks such as cleaning and caregiving, including when both work full-time.
Yet even many couples who pride themselves on a fair distribution of duties aren’t so balanced when it comes to carrying the harder-to-quantify “mental load,” the taxing work of managing a household and anticipating its many needs.
(Same-sex couples tend to be more egalitarian, but can end up in lopsided arrangements as well.)
Today, men in different-sex relationships contribute more than they did in the 1960s and ’70s (a low bar), but often take on a “helper” role under the “manager” role of their female partner, who’s saddled with noticing what must be done.
The job of noticing is a recurring theme of Equal Partners: Improving Gender Equality at Home, a new book by Kate Mangino, a gender expert who works with international nonprofits. Mangino is aware of how American society could be made more equitable among genders—say, with paid parental leave and universally affordable child care. But she recognizes that individual couples have households to oversee now, and offers tactics for couples to bust out of that irksome helper/manager dynamic.